Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Man and His Mission Mark 3:20-30

The Man and His Mission 
(or, "Forget the Duck, Remember the Cross!")
Mark 3:20-30

Introduction: A little later in His ministry Jesus will seize a teachable moment and pose a question to His disciples: “Who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27). That question is at the heart of this passage, and at the heart of Mark’s Gospel. We’ve been listening to Mark, as he tells the story of Jesus, answer three questions: 1) Who is Jesus? (the Christological question); 2) Why did He come? (the soteriological question); and 3) What does it mean to follow Him? (the “discipleship” question). In this passage, he’ll touch on all three questions. The first question is addressed initially. Is Jesus Lord, liar, or lunatic (or something worse)? C.S. Lewis famously addressed that question in Mere Christianity
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. . .  Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God. (Mere Christianity55-56)
He is God the Son, fully man, and fully God. Jesus himself also addresses the second question: Why did He come? He came to build a church that would assault the gates of hell -  He came to bind the “strongman” and set free those he held captive… The issue is sin… Jesus came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves… “…all sins will be forgiven the children of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter…” We often minimize the gravity of our situation. Fallen humans are lost, spiritually dead, blind to the truth, unable to understand the things of the Spirit of God. Aside from that things are great! But God’s grace is greater than all our sin.  The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
         Satan is a liar, and the father of lies. So many times, the enemy would whisper lies in the ears of the sons and daughters of Adam… “God knows the truth about you… He could never forgive YOUR sins… He could never love someone like YOU…” THAT is a lie. Jesus said “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” God showed us His love, He spared not the Son but delivered Him up for us all. God’s grace is greater than our sins. Praise the Lord! And that is…
The Maine* Idea:  Jesus came to rescue us from sin and from Satan, and in so doing He revealed Himself to be the Son of God.
I. Misunderstood by His own: His family and friends did not at once recognize who He was and what He had come to do (20,21).
20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat.  21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, "He is out of his mind." 
       There are a couple of details in the translation here that I am still wrestling with. Did Jesus “go home” or “enter a house”? Did His family hear and come out to “seize him” or was it his friends, or “His own people”?  Let’s look at the second issue first. The ESV translates “…his family heard it…”  Based on the context, it could be referring to his family (3:20a, 31f.), but that is really more of an interpretation than a translation. The phrase is more literally translated by the NASB and NKJV, “…his own people…” It could be referring to people from the town who knew him, or to his relatives, or even to some of the “fringe” disciples who were following Him.  We know from John’s gospel that Jesus’ half-brothers did not initially believe (John 7:3-5). Surely Mary, his mother, knew beyond question His identity (cf. Luke 1:31ff). This is probably more akin to what we’ll see in Mark 6:1-4, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country…” Notice the context, the crowds were getting so big, the ministry so pressing, that “they could not even eat bread…”  Were some getting worried that this was getting out of hand, maybe even concerned for Jesus’ well-being?
       The fact that some want to “seize” him sounds like an intervention!  The word is used in positive contexts in Mark of Jesus “taking” the hand of people He was about to heal. It is also used in a negative sense of arresting John and then Jesus (6:17; 12:12).  Whatever the intention, they did not understand, as of yet, who He is and what He came to do. Ministering to the multitudes in Galilee was part of God’s plan.  We’ve been talking about evangelism quite a bit lately. I would urge you to not be discouraged if your friends and family just don’t seem to understand when the subject shifts to spiritual things.  Some of those closest to Jesus didn’t immediately understand and believe either!
       We’ve been emphasizing this year reaching out to the people around us, the people we interact with on a day-to-day basis: family, relatives, co-workers, classmates, neighbors… God has guided both your life and theirs purposefully, and you are His ambassador right where you are. Do you ever feel misunderstood by your oikos, the people in your sphere of influence? Get over it! Jesus was misunderstood, don’t be surprised if you are! Keep loving, keep praying, and be ready to share your faith, to give a reason for the hope that you have in Jesus. And keep inviting! Statistics tell us that 95% of the people who visit church and eventually come to faith were initially invited by someone they know!  We know the truth, and it is Good News: Jesus came to rescue us from sin and from Satan, and in so doing He revealed Himself to be the Son of God.
II. Hated by the rulers: The leaders were so blinded by hate, they could not distinguish the work of God from the work of the devil (22).
22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "by the prince of demons he casts out the demons."  
       Those bringing this terrible accusation against Jesus had “come down” from Jerusalem. (Jerusalem was south of Galilee, but for the Jews, even though it is built on a modest hill, you always “go up” to Jerusalem, and come down from it!). By the way, remember from the Fourth Gospel Jesus’ words in the upper room,
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you…” (John 15:18-19).
There may be… no, there will be, a cost to following Him. Later He will state it explicitly, “…take up your cross and follow me…” John said in his first letter, “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you…” (I John 3:13).  A great illustration of this is the story of the man born blind in John 9. He is miraculously healed by Jesus. The leaders investigate, they question the man, then they question his parents, then they question the man again. The miracle could not be denied, yet the leaders would not believe. Finally, the healed man is teaching the leaders, “Here is an amazing thing, you don’t know where he came from, yet He opened my eyes!” (9:30). The one who had been blind, sees. The leaders who thought they could see, are shown to be blind!
       Do you experience some “pushback” when you share your testimony or seek to present the gospel? Remember I Peter 4:12…
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”
Don’t be surprised. And don’t take it personally! Keep praying for opportunities to share – keep laser focused on those 8 to 15 people that God has strategically placed in your close sphere of influence… Pray for them, love them, and with gentleness and respect look for opportunities to give a reason for the hope that is in you! After all, Jesus came to rescue us from sin and from Satan, and in so doing He revealed Himself to be the Son of God.
III. Yet, He “so loved the world: Jesus warned that it was irrational—even nonsensical—to imagine Satan fighting against Himself! In fact, Jesus had come to plunder the house of the evil one, setting captives free (23-30)!  He starts with…
      A logical defense: A kingdom divided cannot stand (23-26)!
23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan?  24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.  26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 
       We’ll get more into discussing “parables” in a few weeks in Mark 4, here the word has the sense of an analogy, or an illustration and not the sense of a full-blown parable like the Sower (Mark 4) or the Good Samaritan (Luke 10). Jesus is using a logical argument to refute the charge of the leaders. It was foolish to say that by the devil’s power Jesus was casting out demons—that would mean Satan was fighting against himself!
·        The Kingdom of God is overwhelming the domain of Satan (27)!
27 But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. 
       Jesus is contrasting the illogical argument that He was empowered by the devil. The word “but” that begins v.27 is a strong adversative, “on the contrary…” Not only was Jesus not in league with the enemy, but He had broken into his house in coming into this fallen world, and He had bound the “strong man,” because He, Jesus, is the STRONGER man. And His ministry of casting out demons and healing the sick and preaching the good news was an all-out assault on the gates of hell! 
·        Jesus came to offer forgiveness to all who will believe (28-30).
28 "Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter,  29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"-  30 for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."
       Let’s start with the positive in v.28, “…all sins will be forgiven the children of man…” He is saying God’s grace is bigger than your sin.  One of the common issues in counselling is people struggling with the burden of past sin. There is a story that illustrates how sin can enslave us and forgiveness can set us free…
…A little boy visiting his grandparents is given his first slingshot. He practiced in the woods, but he could never hit his target. As he came back to Grandma's back yard, he spied her pet duck. On an impulse he took aim and let fly. The stone hit, and the duck fell dead [Reminds me of my first experience with a Red Rider BB gun!].
The boy panicked. Desperately he hid the dead duck in the woodpile, only to look up and see his sister watching. Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing. After lunch that day, Grandma said, "Sally, let's wash the dishes." But Sally said, "Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today. Didn't you, Johnny?" And she whispered to him, "Remember the duck!” So Johnny did the dishes.
Later Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing. Grandma said, "I'm sorry, but I need Sally to help make supper." Sally smiled and said, "That's all taken care of. Johnny wants to do it." Again she whispered, "Remember the duck." Johnny stayed while Sally went fishing. After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally's, finally he couldn't stand it. He confessed to Grandma that he'd killed the duck. "I know, Johnny," she said, giving him a hug. "I was standing at the window and saw the whole thing. Because I love you, I forgave you. I just wondered how long you would let Sally make a slave of you (Richard Hoefler, Will Daylight Come?).
Satan loves to whisper to us, “remember the duck!” (or whatever it might have been in your case!).  Satan loves to make a slave of us. We should respond, “Remember the cross!” Think of H. Spafford’s hymn, “It is well with my soul…”
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought,
my sin, not in part, but the whole,
was nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Oh my soul!
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Rom 8:1)! I have occasionally spoken with people through the years who worried whether or not they had committed the unpardonable sin. Have you ever worried if God could really forgive you? Dr. R.C. Sproul suggests,
“Worrying about [whether one has committed the unforgiveable sin] is one of the clearest evidences [that the troubled person has] not committed this sin, for those who commit it are so hardened in their hearts that they do not care that they commit it…” (R.C. Sproul, Mark).
In the context, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit referred to these leaders, who saw Jesus’ acts of power and rather than recognizing God working in Him they attributed the miracles to the devil. They were determined in their unbelief. Blasphemers against the Holy Spirit, like Pharaoh of old, are hardened in their hearts, they won’t be concerned about sin or about offending the Holy One. “God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…” (Rom 5:8). That is good news!
What is God saying to me in this passage? Jesus came to rescue us from sin and from Satan, and in so doing He revealed Himself to be the Son of God.

What would God have me to do in response to this passage? If we recognize who Jesus is, we can rejoice in why He came: to bind the strong man, to set captives free, to make a way for fallen humans to be reconciled to Holy God. Have you trusted Him…? If we have decided to follow Him, we shouldn’t be surprised by the misunderstanding and the “push back” we encounter. Remember the world is in rebellion against the King, so don’t take it personally! Our calling is to speak the truth in love, and with gentleness and respect, to give a reason for the hope that is in us. This week our town will be out in masse, and visitors will also be flooding in for the Windjammer events. Let’s be alert to opportunities—take a handful of invitation cards, and look for openings to give them out to people at the parade and other events this week. We’ve embraced the motto, “A Light-house of God’s Grace and Truth.” Let’s determine to shine brightly! God is still on the throne, Jesus is building His church, and He would use us to bring the Word of Life to the people we encounter this week.                           AMEN.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fathers' Day 2017: The Path to a Godly Legacy Deuteronomy 6:4-9

The Path to a Godly Legacy
Deuteronomy 6:4-9
        Fathers’ Day—I like the summary of one little boy: “It’s just like Mother’s Day, only your don’t spend as much for the present!” It is a day for remembering and appreciating fathers, and also for encouraging men to embrace the role that God has given them. It is a relationship that for better or for worse impacts the lives of children. For some who did not have a father who was present and involved in their lives (or for those who feel they failed at it) it may be a painful day.
There's a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father.” On Saturday 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.
What is it about fathers that makes that relationship so impactful on us? Of all our human relationships, it is “fatherhood” that God has used to express His relationship with His people: He is our Father, we are His children. In some sense, in our relationship with our fathers we can get a glimpse of the kind of relationship God wants to have with us. I know that is convicting, because we all fall far short.  But one thing we can do is embrace the calling to point our children to God our Father, the One who is always trustworthy, who never disappoints, never makes mistakes, and always loves perfectly. 
One startling bit of research conducted by the Christian Business Men's Committee found the following: When the father is an active believer, there is about a seventy-five percent likelihood that the children will also become active believers. But if only the mother is a believer, this likelihood is dramatically reduced to fifteen percent (K. Meyering, Discipleship, 49:41).
       I haven’t been able to get that complete article, but there is no denying that a father with a heart for God will impact his family!  I decided to go back to a key Old Testament passage, Dt 6:4-9, what Jesus called the “greatest commandment,” what scholars have called the declaration of faith of Judaism. This passage is considered so fundamental to the Jews that it is read at the beginning of every synagogue service. The truth should be as dear to our hearts. As Moses was preparing the nation for life in the land, He reminded them of the foundational importance of knowing and loving God and of teaching our families about Him.  What a great blessing it is to have the liberty to worship God openly, and devote ourselves to passing our faith on to the next generation.  There is only one true God, He has revealed himself in history and in the Bible, and He is worthy of our worship and our wholehearted love. As we seek to know Him we are called to lead our families to Him as well.
I. The Prerequisite to a Godly Legacy: Knowing and loving the God who is (6:4,5).
4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
       It’s a simple fact that you cannot impart what you do not possess. Moses writes here about knowing and loving God (4,5).  
       An exclusive commitment to the one true God. First of all we see the absolute necessity of a commitment to God, a clear cut, exclusive commitment to the Lord as our God (v.4).  I am convinced that many traditional translations of this verse miss what the writer intended to emphasize. The Hebrew construction leaves a little ambiguity as to the translation, but the context should clarify what the writer meant. Chapters 4-11 of Deuteronomy are an affirmation of the Lord’s exclusive claim to Israel’s devotion and love.  He alone is God!  The NIV and ESV note in the margin, as a possible translation: “Hear O Israel, Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone!That makes the most sense in this context.
       First, the first word, “Hear!” “Listen well to what I am about to say!” It’s like the preacher who ways “If you take one thing away from the sermon today let it be this!”  He is putting an exclamation point at the beginning of the sentence and saying “Whatever you do, don’t miss what I am about to say!” LISTEN…
 “The LORD, Yahweh, is our God, Yahweh alone.”
This verse is not a statement about God in his “Tri-unity” (that is certainly taught elsewhere in the Bible).  Rather this is a call to exclusivity. He is saying that despite the false gods the Israelites would see worshipped by the pagans in the promised land, only Yahweh is the true God, the God of their fathers, and only He is to be worshipped.  As Moses was writing the nation was poised on the plains of Moab as they prepared to enter the Land, the new generation needed to know that it was not Ra of Egypt, not Baal of the Canaanites nor Marduk of the Babylonians, nor any other pagan deity, but only the Lord, Yahweh, the God who is, the One who spoke to Moses out of the burning bush and who brought their fathers and mothers out of Egypt, only He was to be worshipped. 
       Well – that is no problem for us, right?  I mean we don’t see idols or false gods that we might be tempted to worship—do we? D.L. Moody said over a century ago, “You don’t have to go to heathen lands to find idols, America is full of them.  Whatever you love more than God is your idol.” Remember, the context: Moses is speaking of the foundation of the faith that we are to pass on to the next generation. Are we making it clear that the one true God, our Creator and Savior, is the one and only thing that we worship? Is it He alone who sits on the throne of our hearts? As Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?”
       The call here is for an authentic commitment to know Him intimately and to love Him passionately. Look at verse 5, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  (6:5).  Notice the repetition “…all …all …all…” The writer is saying in the most emphatic way possible that we need to love God wholeheartedly. That is the heart of the Christian life. In fact, when Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, He pointed to this verse (Mark 12:30). That kind of Commitment will be evident in how we live.  Augustine said, “Love God, then do as you please…” His point is well taken: if we really love him, we’ll want to live a life that is pleasing to him.  Our kids will see that there is something real in our relationship with God.  It’s been said that a child is not likely to find a Father in God, unless he finds something of God in his father. We need to teach our children the truth about God, and we need to show by our example the reality of our faith.  I’ll ask it again: Are we making it clear that the one true God, our Creator and Savior, is the one and only thing that we worship? Is it clear that He alone sits on the throne of our lives? Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone!
       True dedication is loving Him, the one true God, whole heartedly (v.5). “You shall love the LORD your God with all…” (see Mt 22:34-40).  Jesus said, the greatest commandment is to love God wholeheartedly (and the second, is to love our neighbor as ourselves). It’s pretty simple to say: love God, love people.  Easy to say, but, once we have decided to follow Jesus, we spend the rest of our lives growing and learning about what that really means to make those commands the “prime directive” of our lives. Before we can lead our children to God, we need to dedicate ourselves to Him. Jesus called this the greatest commandment!   We need to teach our children the truth, and show by example the reality of our faith.
II. The Process to attain a Godly Heritage: Receive the Word, and Teach it diligently by word and example (6:6-9).  
6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
            Receive the Word. Verse 6 says “These words… shall be on your heart…” In order to teach the Word by example and through our words, we need to know it!  George Washington said “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” That’s true of nations, it is also true of families.  Psalm 1, the righteous man “…delights in the Law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates day and night…”  Paul told the Colossians, “Let the Word of Christ dwell richly within you…” (Col 3:16).  He told the Thessalonians, “…when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God…” (1 Th 2:13). Joshua 1:8 says we are to “mediate day and night” on God’s word.  Does all of that sound radical?  Maybe, but that is normal, healthy Christianity. Does it sound maybe too “religious”?  It’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship that is real and alive.  Longing for the truth, longing for the voice of Abba, should stir our hearts! We are called to radical commitment, and that means for us God’s Word is not a suggestion, it is not one way to live, it is not an option, it is TRUTH, and the only way we can live and experience the life God wants for us and for our family.
            Teach the Word. A godly father will teach God’s Word diligently and consistently (v.7). NB. The repetition is affirming that always, at every opportunity we need to look for occasions to affirm God’s truth. It’s not just Sunday School, this is true “home schooling” at its best: “…impress them upon you children…”! (NIV).  We shouldn’t be surprised by the ignorance of the Word in the world, but we should be surprised by the lack of interest in the Word in the church.  Herb told us the story of a boy who was not paying attention to his teacher. She then asked Him, “Give me a definition of two words: ignorance and apathy.” He replied with growl “I don’t know and I don’t care!” We should care!
          Live the Word. According to vv. 8-9, a godly father is distinguished by being centered on the Word.  Proverbs 6:20-23 expresses this same idea,
“My son, observe the commandment of your father And do not forsake the teaching of your mother;  21 Bind them continually on your heart; Tie them around your neck.  22 When you walk about, they will guide you; When you sleep, they will watch over you; And when you awake, they will talk to you.  23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; And reproofs for discipline are the way of life…”
These verses were surely intended metaphorically, the idea being to stay in the Word always, to constantly be aware of and reminded of God’s truth.  At some point orthodox Jews began to literally tie phylacteries on the left arm and forehead during daily prayers, and put a mezuzah on the doorpost of their home.  Far more important is to allow the Word to transform our mind (Rom 12:1,2) which will change the way we live, and then ultimately our family will also begin to be changed.  By the way, teaching in life, teaching by example, will require time. It will require giving priority to our family…
Charles Francis Adams, the 19th century political figure and diplomat, kept a diary. One day he entered: "Went fishing with my son today--a day wasted." His son, Brook Adams, also kept a diary, which is still in existence. On that same day, Brook Adams made this entry: "Went fishing with my father--the most wonderful day of my life!" The father thought he was wasting his time while fishing with his son, but his son saw it as an investment of time. The only way to tell the difference between wasting and investing is to know one's ultimate purpose in life and to judge accordingly.
Nothing can impact a family more powerfully than the teaching and example of a godly father: one who is in the Word and under the Lordship of Christ. That will take investment, especially time.
James Dobson cited a Cornell University study showing that fathers of preschool children on the average spend 37.7 seconds per day in real contact with their youngsters. In contrast, the study indicated that children watch television approximately 54 hours per week (CT, 3/23/1979).
It gets better when the kids are older right? Not so much…
Josh McDowell has been trying to find out what dads are doing in Christian families, and the news isn't good. In his book The Dad Difference, McDowell reveals that there seems to be a parenting gap. These statistics are from McDowell's book: The average teen in our churches spends only 2 minutes a day in meaningful dialogue with his dad. 25% of these teens say they have never had a meaningful conversation with their father--a talk centered on the teens' interests.
Investing in our children requires time.  A touching picture of the  confusion today on the role of fathers comes from Erma Bombeck. She paints a portrait of a little girl who loved her dad but wasn't sure what dads do:
One morning my father didn't get up and go to work. He went to the hospital and died the next day. I hadn't thought that much about him before. He was just someone who left and came home and seemed glad to see everyone at night. He opened the jar of pickles when no one else could. He was the only one in the house who wasn't afraid to go into the basement by himself.
He cut himself shaving, but no one kissed it or got excited about it. It was understood when it rained, he got the car and brought it around to the door. When anyone was sick, he went out to get the prescription filled. He took lots of pictures . . . but he was never in them.
Whenever I played house, the mother doll had a lot to do. I never knew what to do with the daddy doll, so I had him say, "I'm going off to work now," and threw him under the bed. The funeral was in our living room and a lot of people came and brought all kinds of good food and cakes. We had never had so much company before. I went to my room and felt under the bed for the daddy doll. When I found him, I dusted him off and put him on my bed. He never did anything. I didn't know his leaving would hurt so much (Family -- The Ties that Bind . . and Gag! (NY: Fawcett Books, 1988, p. 2).
Men, we are all at different points in terms of our impact on our children. There may be some regrets about the past, about where we feel like we fell short. We can’t change the past, but we can strive today to be men of integrity, who model a life shaped by a heart for God and a commitment to His mission. We can still, by word and example, impact the kids in our extended family, and in our church family. Fathers, grandfathers, men, consider how you can encourage the children in our extended church family by your faith and example.
What is God saying to me in this passage?  We need to teach our children the truth about God, and show by our example the reality of our faith.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? Make certain of you own commitment to the Lord. Commit yourself to being filled and controlled by God’s Word. We need time in the Word. Someone said it was too bad kids didn’t come with an instruction manual.  Well, we have a guidebook from the Maker! You can’t do this on your own!  
       If our rising up and our laying down, if every moment of our life is going to reflect the fact that we believe God, and that we take Him at His word, our children need to see us open the book, they need to hear us read it like we believe it!  They need to see that we live differently because we take God at His word. [One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to love their mother].

       We live in troubled times to be sure, but we needn’t despair.  We are not alone.  With God in us, with his Word, which is absolute truth to guide us, with our wives to stand by us and the church to support us, you have what it takes to be the family Shepherd God intended you to be.  Know your kids, and shepherd them: feed them (spiritually as well!), lead them, protect them. Take the responsibility that has been delegated to you by your Maker to lead your family and to teach by word and by example.  Men, some of you may be thinking your parenting days are past, and so are your responsibilities to the next generation. We don’t get off that easy. We are called to come in alongside of the younger men in our church and in our family and to be available to mentor, encourage, and offer our support!   This is a message for families, and for the church family!    Amen.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Twelve Ordinary Men, One Extraordinary God - Mark 3:13-19

Twelve Ordinary Men, One Extraordinary God!
Mark 3:13-19
Introduction: The résumés of the twelve men Jesus called that day on the mountain might fail to impress.  They were a diverse bunch to be sure, fishermen, a tax collector, a Zealot… we don’t know much about the others. One of the things we’ll see as we continue through this gospel, is that Mark does not “disguise” the weaknesses and failings of the people God chooses. In fact, remember that every list of the original 12 begins with Peter, who deserted Jesus and three times denied that he knew Him the night He was arrested; and the list ends with Judas, who betrayed Him.  It seems to me that one of the marks of authenticity that we see in the Bible is that God is the protagonist in the story, He is building His church, and He is able to overrule human weakness and sin to accomplish His good purpose. 
The Maine Idea: “God uses ordinary people in His extraordinary mission to change the world. He doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called!”
I. Jesus calls who He wills to follow Him (13-15).
13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him.  14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach  15 and have authority to cast out demons. 
       He is the initiator (13-14a). After ministering to a huge multitude, Jesus withdraws from the crowds and calls some apart to be with Him. He called, they came, and He appointed twelve, specifically, as apostles. He had already called these men as disciples, that is, as followers and learners, but now He is appointing them to a unique office. (That is true of each of us. We were saved not only to learn, but to serve, to fulfill our part in His mission!). Here we see He called who He desired, and He appointed 12 as apostles. He speaks later of His initiative in the choosing of the 12 in the upper room discourse. We read in John 15:16…   
16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide...
       Luke gives us the detail that He spent the night in prayer before choosing and appointing the twelve to be “apostles.” That might be implied by Mark when he speaks of Jesus going “Up on the mountain.” For a Jewish reader, it would be hard not to think of Moses going up on the mountain into the presence of the Lord. Notice three aspects of the ministry that they were being called to according to Mark: 1) They were to be “with Him”; 2) He would “send them out to preach”; and 3) they would “have authority to cast out demons.” Later we’ll learn that they were also given authority to heal, but for now at least, Mark has chosen to minimize that detail.  He emphasizes that they were being called to be trained and to be sent as His representatives. We’ll touch on the three aspects of their ministry but first let’s look at the word “apostle.”
       The word itself literally means “one who is sent.” Mark mentions they were called “apostles” and that Jesus “would send them.” The verb “send” is from the same Greek root (the noun, apostolos, the verb, apostello). In terms of the usage of the word, in the first century context it would have had the idea of one sent, representing the sender, on a mission, as His representative and spokesman. In the Hebrew context the word shaliach had the same sense. Specifically, Jesus says here they would be sent to preach. They had a message to share.  The idea is similar to what we see in God’s call of the prophets in the Old Testament. For example, we read in Isaiah 6:7-9a…
7 And he touched my mouth and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.  8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."  9 And he said, “Go…”
The prophet was shaken by a vision of the holiness of God and overwhelmed by his own inadequacy, his sinfulness. Symbolically he was cleansed, and immediately felt compelled to be available to God: Here am I, send me! Friends, you are probably not a prophet or an apostle (BBC is a “non-prophet” organization!). But you are sent. The God of the universe has touched your lips and cleansed your sin. And He has sovereignly and strategically placed you right where you are. He has placed you in the lives of the people in your sphere of influence for a purpose: to bring the light of the Gospel to those around you, to your oikos, your extended household. In light of what He has done for you, will you be available for Him to use?
        The apostles had a unique “office” to which they were called. It was like the idea of an ambassador, like someone who represents our government before a foreign government or agency. They have been authorized to speak for the government and the people. This is important: the apostles, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, would be His authorized representatives and spokesmen.  These men would have authority, in the foundational period of the church, to speak for Jesus, to bring the word of Christ to the church. As surely as Moses came down from the mountain with the Word of God, these men would bring His Word to the early church (and to us, through the New Testament). For example, Paul alluded to the foundational ministry of the apostles when he wrote to the Ephesians,
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,  20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,  21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Eph 2:19-22).
       The New Testament “apostles and prophets” had a foundational role in establishing the church. What was it? They were recipients of divine revelation, the Word of God that would eventually become the New Testament (cf. Matt 16:16-18).  By the way, the foundational role that the 12 had (including Matthias, who was chosen in Acts 1 to replace Judas) is shown in Revelation 21:14 in the description of the Holy City coming down out of heaven from God, And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” The names of the Apostles will be written on the twelve foundations of the heavenly city!
        The miracles they did revealed the authority they had to speak for the Lord. For example, of the ministry of Paul, who uniquely would be called as “apostle to the gentiles,” Luke wrote, “So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands…” (Acts 14:3). They spoke for the Lord, and He testified to the authority of their words through the signs and wonders He granted to be done by their hands. The miracles done by the apostles were signs confirming their call.
        He called those men, and He has called us, for a purpose: to “appoint” us to be His “sent ones” (14). The apostles had a unique, foundational role to be sure. But each of us is a part of the body (I Cor 12; Rom 12) or a brick in the building (Eph 2). We have a purpose in God’s plan. And like them, we are called for a mission
    1. “to be with Him…” (To be changed, conformed to His image [Jn 15:5; Acts 4:13]).
    2. “that He might send them out to preach…” (To bring the Word of Christ!).
Most of us would acknowledge and accept the first part. “He walks with me and talks with me…” Now THAT is one of our favorite songs! Yes, we realize discipleship implies learning and growth.  But what about “All to Jesus I surrender…” or “I’ll go where I’ll go where you want me to go dear Lord…”?  Will we be available? Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. How will they hear?
R.C. Sproul said,
Of course, Jesus had a further purpose for the disciples—to send them out to preach and minister. Any time Jesus says, “Come to Me,” as soon as we come, the “come” becomes “go.” When we come to Him, He gives us a mission. We are to go into the world and make disciples. As we carry out that mission, He is with us.
Without a doubt, the apostles had a unique ministry of declaring the Word of Christ, since, in a world without the New Testament, they would bring the authoritative Christ-centered interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures, as well as the direct, inspired revelation of Jesus. As “apostles” in the technical sense, referring to the office, they spoke as His authorized representatives. It is not only pastors and evangelists, but all who are His, are called to proclaim (preach!) the Word of Christ in the world today. We have the entire Bible, God’s inspired Word, and we are told that “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ…” And so, with gentleness and respect, we are to share the Word of Life!
      3.  And to engage in spiritual warfare (15; cf. Eph 6:10-18).  The apostles were given authority to cast out demons. We read at least one account in the gospels (Matthew 17) where the apostles are unable to cast out a demon, and Jesus does it. The context is teaching about faith, but some manuscripts add the phrase, “This kind only comes out by prayer and fasting.” We tend to go to extremes about the devil and his minions, either being afraid of the power of the evil one or questioning his very existence. I think a proper balance is to be aware and on guard, knowing that our adversary the devil goes about like a roaring lion, seeking those he may devour. We need to avail ourselves of the full armor of God that we might extinguish the fiery darts of the Evil one. And we can be assured that greater is He who is in us, than He who is in the world. The end of the story is not in doubt: Jesus wins! And amazingly, God uses ordinary people in His extraordinary mission to change the world. He doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called!
II. He chooses ordinary people, like us, to carry out His world-changing mission (16-19).
16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter);  17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder);  18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean,  19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
       As we continue through this Gospel, we will see the character (including the weaknesses!) of these men.  The failings of the disciples may be one of the most surprising themes we see in the gospels. There is no missing the fact that they were 12 ordinary men. I came across this week the following imaginative “letter” regarding the prospects of the disciples to carry out the mission of Christ…
To: Jesus, Son of Joseph 
Woodcrafter's Carpenter Shop 
Nazareth 25922
From: Jordan Management Consultants
Dear Sir:
       Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for managerial positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests; and we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.
       The profiles of all tests are included, and you will want to study each of them carefully.
      As part of our service, we make some general comments for your guidance, much as an auditor will include some general statements. This is given as a result of staff consultation, and comes without any additional fee.
       It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.
        Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew had been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.
       One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious, and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man. All of the other profiles are self-explanatory.
We wish you every success in your new venture.
Well now, that is imaginary of course, but it does serve to contrast the “qualified” and the “called”! Remember Samuel at the house of Jesse looking for the one who was to be anointed King in Israel? The last of the sons of Jesse, seemingly the least qualified from the perspective of their father, was the one God had chosen! David. God doesn’t look on the outside, as men do, He looks on the heart. He sees not only what we are, but what we can become.
       There are no perfect people on the list of apostles - or in the church for that matter! Why not? The only perfect people are in heaven!  Think about the diversity of this group of men. Different backgrounds, different skills, different strengths and weaknesses, and eventually different ministries and roles in the church. Andrew’s greatest accomplishment: bringing Peter to Christ!  We don’t know a lot about many of these men from scripture. Tradition tells us that each one had a role in the early expansion of the church. God uses ordinary people in His extraordinary mission to build His church. He doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called!
III. Jesus’ plan included His betrayal, suffering, and the Cross (19).
…and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him…
       Remember the summary description of the Gospel of Mark: “A narrative of the passion, with an extended introduction”!  The antipathy of the leaders is still echoing in the ears of Mark’s readers (3:7), and now we are told that one of these twelve that He called to His side, to be with Him and eventually to go out and continue his mission of preaching and casting out demons, would be a traitor. What a reminder that the world is in rebellion against the King! We are reminded of the need for reconciliation. We are reminded that the Cross is coming.
       Who is Jesus? We know more clearly than the disciples at this point: He is the Messiah, yes, in the fullest sense: God the Son, God incarnate. Why did He come? He came to be our substitute, to lay down His life so that we could live! What does it mean to follow Him? To be with Him, and so to become more like Him. Which means we need to be ready to take up our cross and follow Him. It means we will be engaged in spiritual warfare. We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood. There is an adversary, the Devil. But be encouraged, God is in control!
       We, His followers, are also entrusted with a message: The Gospel, God in Christ is reconciling the world to Himself.  And we know there will be opposition. We live in a fallen world, a world in rebellion against the rule of God. We have an enemy who will do everything possible to oppose the work of the Lord. But the battle is the Lord’s. And we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
What is God saying to me in this passage? We have a message to share: Jesus is the Son of God; and He came to die for our sins, so that we, by grace through faith, could be reconciled to God. Sharing that message is our mission. “God uses ordinary people in His extraordinary mission to change the world. He doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called!
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? None of us can go into all the world and preach the gospel. We can go into one little part of it, and that must start right where we are, in our “sphere of influence,” the people that God has sovereignly and strategically put in our lives. You know who they are. Your family members. The neighbor you see every time you pick up your mail or cut your grass. The people in your office or workplace. Some of those people don’t know the Lord. Others have drifted away from attending church and may be stagnating in their faith. You are God’s ambassador.

       You are on assignment. Will you ask Him for the boldness to give an invitation card, pass a tract or Gospel of John, or share your testimony with those in your oikos?  Think about that, and with God’s help, act on it!  AMEN.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

BELIEVE! Mark 3:7-12

Mark 3:7-12   
Introduction: In our look last week at the Sabbath controversies in Mark 2:23-3:6 the question of the Law, and the spirit of the Law, was touched on. What is the heart of the matter? Rabbi Shammai said that Moses gave us 365 prohibitions and 248 positive commands in the Law. David in Psalm 15 summarized them in eleven principles. Isaiah 33:14-15 narrows it down to 6, and Micah 6:8 reduces it down to 3. Habakkuk 2:4 brings it all down to one: “The just shall live by faith.” As we talked about this passage at our Tuesday morning men’s meeting, Herb reminded us of the story of a man who…
…fell off a cliff, but managed to grab a tree limb on the way down. Hanging on for dear life, he called up:
   "Is anyone up there?" 

   "I am here. I am the Lord. Do you believe me?" 
   "Yes, Lord, I believe. I really believe, but I can't hang on much longer." 
   "That's all right, if you really believe you have nothing to worry about. I will save you. Just let go of the branch." 
   A moment of pause, then: "Is anyone else up there?"

Biblical faith is about believing God, taking Him at His Word. That means believing what He has said about who He is and about who we are, and trusting what He did for us, acknowledging His way as the only way, and our only hope, for reconciliation and peace with God. On the second missionary journey, Paul and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16). After singing and praying through the night, the place was shaken, their chains fell off and the doors opened.  The Jailer awoke, and in his desperation, thinking all the prisoners had all escaped, he was ready to take his own life. The missionaries intervened and stopped him from harming himself. In his brokenness he asked them, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31). What does that mean? Many people will say they “believe” in God, but what is saving faith? The religious leaders of Jesus’ day would have of course said they believed in God! Yet they were so far from God that they were blind to spiritual truth, and did not recognize the Son of God when He was right there in front of them.
       One writer defined the faith that saves:
Saving faith may… be defined as a voluntary turning from all hope and grounds based on self-merit, and assuming an attitude of expectancy toward God, trusting Him to do a perfect saving work based only on the merit of Christ… (L.S. Chafer, True Evangelism, p. 55-6).
The Maine* Idea: Believing in Jesus is more than mere temporal faith or simple intellectual assent—it is believing that Jesus is God the Son, and trusting Him alone as Savior and Lord!
I. The Fallacy of purely “temporal” faith: Many people who don’t know God, look to “a god” for their needs or wants (7-10).
7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea  8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him.  9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 
       The healing at the beginning of Mark 3 was on a Sabbath. Remember that these miracles gave a glimpse of the kingdom, but they were also revelation that attested to Jesus’ identity, they should have evoked a response of faith from those who saw them. John spoke of the writing of his own gospel account of the words and works of Jesus when he said,
Many other signs did Jesus in the presence of His disciples which are not written in this book… these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you might have life in His name…” (John 20:30.31).    
Even so, the leaders did not believe. In fact, we see here in Mark 3:6, in response to the miracle, they counseled together how to destroy Him. Rather than recognizing their own Messiah, they were plotting his death!  But His time had not yet come. And so in v.7 Jesus “withdrew” with His disciples. The word is sometimes used to describe a “tactical withdrawal” to prepare for the next stage of a conflict. God had a plan, and that would include a final confrontation with the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem. But it had to happen in God’s time. Jesus had more preliminary work to do. Revealing himself through His works and words. And training his disciples for the mission that would “ramp up” only after His departure, after his ascension and the sending of the Spirit. The very next paragraph he selects twelve and calls them His “apostles.”
       Notice the places mentioned… Jesus’ fame is spreading and people are coming from farther away, Galilee and Judea yes, but also from Idumea in the south and Tyre and Sidon on coast, north and west… and from across the Jordan. Despite Jesus’ limited travel so far, people who saw Him, brought the news, and the word was getting out that a prophet and miracle worker was there in Galilee. Think about it, why did the crowds come to Jesus? The text gives us some clues: The great crowd of people had heard reports about what He was doing, that He had healed many, and so they came, en masse, trying to get close to Him. It may be that a portion of the crowd wanted to see who this man was: could he be the Messiah?  And though Jesus was “…proclaiming the gospel of God,  15 and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel…’” (Mark 1:14-15) many came for other things than to hear His preaching. Many had physical needs, some chronic illnesses, others, life threatening diseases, even demon possession.
     What did they hope He would do for them? Many, no doubt, came for healing. Many surely were coming not primarily to listen and learn and to know Him, they were coming to see what He could do for them.  A lot of people think of God in those terms today… they think of God like a Santa Claus to reward them with things they want or need, or like a genie in bottle to grant their wishes. God is God, we are His creatures. He makes the rules, He created everything, and He gets the glory.
       Don’t misunderstand, trusting God for healing, for help in the crises of life, for our needs day to day is not a bad thing, in fact we should ask Him for even our daily bread! But, if we are only trusting Jesus to meet our temporal needs, our faith falls short.
       The weather is getting nice, and imagine for a moment you decide to take a boat and head out into the harbor. It’s so smooth and calm you head out, passing the islands and lighthouses into deep water. The land shrinks away behind you, and you notice the boat seems to be riding low in the water… yes, it’s leaking badly, you turn back but it’s too late, the boat sinks and you are in the water, miles from land. There you are, treading water, too far to swim, losing hope. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a coastguard boat pulls up to you!  Would you say, “I am starting to get sunburned, could you throw me some sunscreen?” Would you ask, “I’m getting hungry and my lunch is soggy, could you give me a bite to eat?” Would you ask, “Which way is land? I want to give it my best shot!” No, you would say “Save me!” You would reach out for the life preserver they were throwing to you, and you would get in the boat! Here is a newsflash: People have a lot of problems! Our biggest problem dwarfs them all, and is at the root of them all. The Gospel is about God acting in history to solve the greatest problem of humanity: SIN. We read in Ephesians,
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins  2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-  3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved-  6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus… (Eph 2:1-7).
We were without hope, and by grace, through faith, He made us alive, reconciled us to God by the blood of the cross! Trusting God to help us with our needs, or even our wants, is not a bad thing. But our deepest need is to be rescued, and to know Him, our Rescuer, to have a relationship with Him.  Believing in Jesus is more than mere temporal faith or simple intellectual assent—it is believing that Jesus is who He claimed to be: God the Son; and trusting Him alone as Savior and Lord!
II. The Fallacy of mere intellectual assent (11-12). Consider the example of the demons speaking truth in the context of their rebellion. James said “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe- and shudder!” (Js 2:19).
11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, "You are the Son of God."  12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known… (Mark 3:11,12).
     We have seen these kinds of power encounters already in Mark. As Jesus was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum, his hearers were fascinated because he didn’t teach like the scribes, he taught with authority. And then we read in Mark 1:23-26,
23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out,  24 "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are- the Holy One of God."  25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!"  26 And the unclean spirit… came out of him.
The demoniac recognized Him as “The Holy One of God. And then he was silenced and cast out. Here we are told a similar thing is happening: Demon possessed people were being met by Jesus, and immediately the demons cried out, recognizing Jesus as the Son of God.  This is what a lot of people mean when they say “I believe in God.” They believe He exists, they might affirm certain aspects of His attributes or nature. But they have no personal relation-ship, no trust that He is concerned with their deepest need, and (this is the heart of it) no intention of submitting to HIS authority as Lord and Master.
       There is a difference between knowing about God, and knowing Him personally and intimately. Some people think of “believing” in God like they think of “believing” that George Washington was a historical person. They have never seen Him, other than through written testimonies of others, maybe paintings that claim to capture his likeness, yet they believe He existed, the Father of our country, our first president. He was here “back then,” but they are not trusting him to do anything for them today.  Some people say they believe in God in the sense that they believe “a god” probably exists. For many people, rather than reading His Book, they get their ideas about “god” from their own mind or from popular culture. That is essentially idolatry.  If there is a God, what should your response be?   
       Think of what the demons were saying: “You are the Son of God!” They are affirming truth, right doctrine. They know who He is. What is the problem? What is missing?  James touched on this when he said in James 2:19,
You believe that God is one, you do well.
The demons also believe, and tremble…”
Humans have eternity in their hearts, they have a sense that there is something beyond this life. Yet since the Fall we resist coming to God on his terms. That would mean relinquishing control, admitting that we are not autonomous, we don’t make the rules! If God is our Creator, if He is the Lord of the Universe, we owe Him our allegiance. To believe in Him must mean that we recognize who He is, and who we are. Sin separated humans from God. We were treading water, without hope, unable to save ourselves. He sent the Rescuer, Jesus, to offer a way to forgiveness and life. Imagine the Coast Guard comes up to you in the water... "Nice boat!" You say, "I believe you could carry me in without any problem!" Your rescuer extends his hand, "Come in the boat, be saved!" You believe they could save you, but you stay in the water. The faith that saves is more than intellectual assent, it is trusting our Rescuer, entrusting ourselves to Him. The hand of a drowning man, taking the hand of our Rescuer, trusting Him, Him alone, to get us home.
What is God saying to me in this passage? What does saving faith “look like”? What does my faith look like? Believing in Jesus is more than mere temporal faith or simple intellectual assent—it is believing that Jesus is God the Son, and trusting Him alone as Savior and Lord!
What would God have me to do in response to this passage?   Have I believed in Jesus, that is, have I put my trust in Christ alone for eternal salvation? Two questions can help you be sure: 1) Do you know for certain that if you were to die today that you have eternal life? If you are not sure, you can be sure. In fact, that is one reason the Bible was written (I Jn 5:13)! The second question can help bring clarity to the heart of the matter… 2) If you were to die and stand before God, and He were to ask you, “Why should l let you into my heaven?” What would you say? If you are not sure, why not make sure, now, today?
       It is as simple as ABC, Admit your need, that you are a sinner, and your sin separates you from God (Rom 3:23). Believe that Jesus died for your sins, and that He was raised the third day. Confess Him now as your Savior and Lord. The Bible says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…” In another place we read, “Confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved…”
       We have been entrusted with that message! Will we share that message with those in our “sphere of influence”? You knew I would get to that! There are people in your oikos, your household, your extended family and friends, who are lost. Let’s turn the Coastguard analogy around for a minute. You’re in the boat with the Coastguard, and pull up to one of your friends in the water, what will you do? Certainly not just wave, wish them a good day, and go on your way! You’ll throw out a lifeline! Be ready to share the Word of Life this week! Refresh your supply of invitation cards. Plan to give them out. Visitors, locals, Hannaford, the Y, wherever.  Be sure to point out the website on the back. Take some gospel tracts and PTL Gospels, and give them out as you have opportunity. We are on a mission field. Throw out a lifeline! AMEN.  On this, a first Sunday of the month, we celebrate the Lord’s table, a reminder of the sacrifice that made possible our reconciliation with God… the sacrifice at the heart of the message we have believed…