TRUST HIM

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20230122 Trust Him

Mark 4:35-41 NET

35 On that day, when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go across to the other side of the lake.” 36 So after leaving the crowd, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat, and other boats were with him. 37 Now a great windstorm developed, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was nearly swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. They woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?” 39 So he got up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Be quiet! Calm down!” Then the wind stopped, and it was dead calm. 40 And he said to them, “Why are you cowardly? Do you still not have faith?” 41 They were overwhelmed by fear and said to one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and sea obey him!”

In ancient days, one of the most frightening things that could be imagined is to be at sea and overwhelmed by powerful winds and waves. A psalm describes such an event:

“Some traveled on the sea in ships, and carried cargo over the vast waters. They witnessed the acts of the LORD, his amazing feats on the deep water. He gave the order for a windstorm, and it stirred up the waves of the sea. They reached up to the sky, then dropped into the depths. The sailors’ strength left them because the danger was so great. They swayed and staggered like a drunk, and all their skill proved ineffective. They cried out to the LORD in their distress; he delivered them from their troubles. He calmed the storm, and the waves grew silent. The sailors rejoiced because the waves grew quiet, and he led them to the harbor they desired. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his loyal love, and for the amazing things he has done for people!” (Psalm 107:23-31).

The psalmist captures the helplessness that the sailors experienced when facing a storm at sea, and the elation they felt when God calmed the storm, and they reached land safely.

My own experience with this kind of thing came when I was in high school. I was a member of the junior reserve officer’s training corps, and one of the perks of belongings to JROTC was that we got to take trips on Navy ships. One Summer, my unit spent a week aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal. We boarded the ship at Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Florida, and headed out into the Atlantic for a week we would never forget. The aircraft carrier itself is large enough to hold enough people that it is like living in an entire city that floats on the water. The ship was over 1000 feet long and over 200 feet wide. I imagined that this building on water would not be very much affected by anything that was happening in the water.

I was wrong. We were not too many days out into the Atlantic when the seas started getting rough. The world started moving this way and that. Drawers slid open and closed and then opened again. Most of us kids were turning green and feeding the fish. We were in one of the largest and most powerful vessels ever designed, and we were being tossed about like we were nothing. That storm finally ended, but it left me with an appreciation for the power and danger of the water and wind.

Such was the case for these disciples in today’s text. They understood clearly that they were in danger of dying, and they called out to their Master to save them. We’ll come back to this idea later, but…

First, let’s look at the mission of Jesus on that day (35).

Jesus had been teaching all day by parables on a boat while large crowds listened from the beach of the lake that they called the sea of Galilee. Evening came, and Jesus told his disciples that he wanted to go by boat to the other side of the lake. So the disciples joined Jesus in that boat and others joined them in other boats and they started across that great lake.

The disciples did not know why Jesus wanted to go to the other side of the lake that day. Jesus knew. He had a mission. We have the privilege of reading Mark’s Gospel and so we know that Jesus was heading to the region of Gerasa. There he would encounter a demon-possessed man, and he would rescue him from the demons and send him back to demonstrate his power in the same town that he had terrorized as a demoniac.

Jesus has a mission in Gerasa and it is not the same mission he had on the beach on the other side of the lake. But it was important that Jesus accomplish that mission because the world needs to know that Jesus is more than just a teacher. He can set us free by the truth of his teachings, but he can also set us free by releasing us from our bondage to the devil and his works. He can do more than just influence our minds. He can restore us to our right mind.

We see this same Jesus in the Gospels healing the sick and injured on one day, telling the woman with the bottle of perfumed oil that her sins are forgiven another day, and teaching the crowds about the sower and his seed the next. He is the same Jesus all the time but his mission changes according to the need.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we possess the same Holy Spirit, and we are called to the same kinds of mission that Jesus was. That is why the Holy Spirit gives us gifts so that we can accomplish different things for him. Not all of us are preachers of the gospel. Not all of us teach. Not all of us deliver people from demons. Not all of us have prayers that heal. But among us all those different missions are still being carried out.

In today’s text, Jesus was on his way to Gerasa to rescue a demonized man. That was his mission.

Next, let’s look at the monsters that threatened that mission (37).

I say monsters (plural) because the text tells us that a great windstorm developed – that was the first monster. As a result of the windstorm, the waves were breaking into the boat and threatening to capsize it. That was the second monster.

The water and the wind are usually part of the means of getting from one section of the lake to another. But these same elements that are usually helpful for the task of transportation by boat have turned into hindrances that day.

That is how it is with missions. I was one time planning a mission to Africa, but when I got to the airport, I discovered that my passport did not have enough space in it for the stamps that would clear me for the countries I would be visiting. That small detail became a monster preventing my mission that day.

For the disciples in the boat that day, the monsters were not only threatening the mission, but they were also threatening to put an end to the lives of the missionaries. Everyone was scared. Well, not everyone.

Now, let’s look at the Master of the mission (38).

Jesus was in the stern of the boat catching some zees. He was asleep on a cushion.  He can sleep anywhere. He slept in a manger when he was a baby. He’s sleeping in a boat here. He’s not afraid of monsters. He can see the end from the beginning. He has control of the elements that his disciples worry about. He also has control of the things we worry about.

Why is Jesus unafraid when his disciples are afraid? Well, for one, he has faith. He has eyes that can see the unseen. He has access to a power greater than that of the wind and the waves. He also has a mission to accomplish. If he has a mission to perform, nothing is going to get in his way. That is why the miracles happen.

Now, let’s look at the miracles the Master performed (39)

His panicked disciples woke him up and he said, “Be quiet.” I imagine that the disciples were quiet because of what he said. But he was not talking to them. He was rebuking the wind and the waves. He commanded the monsters. The wind and the waves had transformed into the incredible hulk, and Jesus told them to be quiet and they transformed back into Bruce Banner.

Jesus stopped the storm, but that was just one miracle. You see, if there is a windstorm, and it ceases, a boat on the water can be still in danger from the waves. Jesus not only calmed the wind, but he also spoke to the waves, and they immediately flattened. The text says that it was a dead calm.

Now, let’s look at the men who witnessed the miracles (40-41).

The men in the boat with Jesus had been afraid of the monsters threatening to end their lives. But when Jesus took care of the incredible hulk right before their eyes, did you notice their response? The text says they were overwhelmed – not with relief, not with gratitude, not with joy or worship. It says they were overwhelmed with fear!

We would like to think that if we went around walking on water and calming the sea the way Jesus did, it would result in a lot more people getting saved. But human nature does not work that way. The disciples responded in fear because that is what happens when a power is manifested that you cannot explain.

We would have a lot more miracles happen in our lives if we had enough faith to handle them happening before our eyes. We would also have more such miracles if we stayed actively involved in the missions the Lord has called us to. He has called us to keep proclaiming his gospel, keep obeying his commands, keep loving others in Jesus’ name, and keep doing battle with the real enemy: the devil.

Believers in Jesus Christ are called to a mission. There will be monsters who will oppose and threaten our mission. But we have a Master, and those monsters are no threat to him. He wants his followers to trust him, believe in what the Bible says about him, and continue with the mission despite the storms.

Appreciate Him

20230115 Appreciate Him

Luke 7:36-50 NET

36 Now one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table.
37 Then when a woman of that town, who was a sinner, learned that Jesus was dining at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfumed oil.
38 As she stood behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. She wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfumed oil.
39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”
40 So Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” He replied, “Say it, Teacher.”
41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty.
42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
44 Then, turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house. You gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
45 You gave me no kiss of greeting, but from the time I entered she has not stopped kissing my feet.
46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfumed oil.
47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which were many, are forgiven, thus she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”
50 He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

We have been trying to do what Jesus told us to do in his Great Commission. He told us to teach everything that he commanded. So far, we have focused on direct commands, like when he tells those who are mourning to rejoice, or when he tells us to love our neighbors and our enemies. But today we are looking at an indirect command. Jesus is talking to a Pharisee named Simon, and he tells him a story, and then he shows him what this woman did for him. So, what we have in today’s text is an implied command. Jesus implies that this Pharisee should appreciate him as this woman did. Luke includes this story in his history because we are all responsible to love and appreciate Jesus as well.

Let’s look at the characters in today’s text.

The first character to appear in today’s drama is a Pharisee named Simon. All we know about him at first is that he was a Pharisee and that he owns his own house. From those two facts, we would assume that this man has his life sorted out. He is not a broken person. He pays his bills, goes to the synagogue, and tries to be nice to others. If you met this man walking around town, you would want to say hello. You might invite this man to church. Nobody would fault you for that. He’s good people.

We also know that Simon had learned about Jesus and invited him to his home for a meal. We can add hospitality to his list of admirable attributes. But if we look a little closer at today’s story we see that Simon’s appreciation for Jesus leaves a bit to be desired. Compared to the woman in the story, Simon’s love for Jesus comes up short.

We see Jesus in this story too. Interestingly, we see two Jesuses. We see Simon’s Jesus and we see the woman’s Jesus. Simon’s Jesus is a Teacher, but there is some question about whether or not he is a prophet. Simon’s Jesus is worth an invitation to his house, but apparently, he does not rate the traditional welcome because Simon’s servant didn’t wash his feet or anoint him with olive oil. Simon also forgot to welcome Jesus with a symbolic kiss on the cheek.

This woman appears out of nowhere. Apparently, Simon’s dining room was adjacent to his courtyard, and this woman just wanders in and starts ministering to Jesus. She is the diametrical opposite of Simon. She has a reputation as a sinner. If you see her walking around town you would probably turn around and walk in the opposite direction. You don’t say hello to such a person, and you definitely would not invite her to church. Simon didn’t invite her to his house. She just showed up.

Interestingly, though, this woman’s Jesus is very different from Simon’s Jesus. Just coming into Jesus’ presence sends this woman into tears. She has forgotten her towel for wiping his feet, so she wipes them with her hair. She has a little bottle of perfumed oil and she uses that to anoint Jesus’ feet. The very least that we can say about this woman is that she values and appreciates Jesus Christ. She is a visual aid to demonstrate what it means to worship the Savior.

The final characters in the setting are the others who had been invited and are at the table. Their only line is a question. They ask “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” Like Simon, they are not convinced that Jesus is who he claims to be. The only person in the story who demonstrates faith in Jesus is the woman.

Now, let’s look at the lessons taught in today’s text.

There are two lessons. The first is the object lesson taught by the woman. Through her actions, she teaches what it means to appreciate Jesus. She does not immediately come to see Jesus face-to-face. She approaches from behind and ministers to his feet. To understand how this happens, you have to realize that when people are dining in Jesus’ day, they lie down and rest on their left elbow, and their feet are exposed. Having access to his feet, she washes, kisses, and anoints them with her perfumed oil. She does what Simon should have done. Simon welcome Jesus to his house, but this woman recognized who he really is. Simon asked Jesus to come to his house, but this woman came to Jesus.

Jesus had recently commanded all those who are weary and burdened to come to him and he will give them rest. This woman had decided to repent of her sin and come to her Savior. She decided to stop carrying the heavy load of her life of sin and get the rest that Jesus offers. From the way she treats Jesus in Simon’s house, you can see that her life has changed. Conversion does that to a person. Now, her only goal in life is to love her Lord. That is why she does what she does.

Now, Simon the Pharisee is apparently too dense to figure out the first lesson, so the Teacher gives him another one. The second lesson is a parable. Jesus tells a story about a creditor and two debtors. Both debtors owe what they cannot pay, so the creditor decides to forgive both debts. Jesus asks Simon which debtor would love the generous man more. Even Simon can’t get that wrong. He acknowledges that the one who is forgiven more will love the forgiver more. We don’t know from Luke if Simon was able to make the connections and turn his life around and love Jesus as this woman did.

Finally, let’s look at the doctrines taught by today’s text.

I think this passage of scripture reinforces what the Bible teaches on many levels. For example, the Bible teaches us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). In the parable Jesus taught Simon, the important thing he mentioned about the two debtors is that they both owed what neither could pay. Isaiah says “All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path” (53:6). Both of the debtors needed their debt to be canceled. Jesus loved this woman and he also loved Simon, and he loved the others around the table. He offered forgiveness to them all. But the woman responded to God’s grace and apparently Simon and the others did not. Simon doubted that Jesus was a prophet. The others just asked who he really was. Only this woman had the faith to accept his salvation. Which person in the story am I? Am I devoted to loving Jesus because of his forgiveness, or am I still on the fence?

We should also be careful not to misinterpret today’s story as if it teaches that you have to be a great sinner in order to be a great Christian. Note how Jesus puts it in verse 47: “her sins, which were many, are forgiven, thus she loved much.” She loved much not because she had sinned much. She loved much because she had been forgiven. You don’t have to wallow with the pigs in order to appreciate a good bath. Forgiveness cleanses us from all sin and fits us to worship as this woman did.

What does it take to know true forgiveness? Jesus told the woman “Your sins are forgiven.” Why did he tell her that? He said to her “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Her faith drew her to Jesus, and Jesus forgave her. The difference between this woman and the others in today’s story is not the lifestyle she used to live. The difference is the choice she made. You and I are challenged to make the same choice. We need to see ourselves as hopelessly in debt and entirely dependent on God’s grace. Then, when we see Christ, by faith we recognize that he is the answer to our deepest needs. That is why we can “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help” (Hebrews 4:16).

What is the result of our seeing Christ for who he really is? Like the woman in the story, we come to him in faith, showing tearful repentance for our sins, and demonstrating appreciation and worship. We come to his feet in humility. We offer our best perfumed oil for his feet. We are changed. We call that being saved. It comes with a new destiny. Before salvation, our sins keep adding to the debt that we cannot pay. Our destiny is destruction. We have no hope. But after salvation, we are free to demonstrate love again. We can demonstrate love to Christ. We can demonstrate love to our neighbors. We can demonstrate love to each other. We can even demonstrate love to our enemies. We have been forgiven much, thus we love much.

Before salvation, we are at war. We are at war with others. We are at war with ourselves. We are at war with God. But after salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, he tells us what he told that woman. He said, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” He tells us that we have a new life to live today. It is a life of wholeness and devoid of the enmity and brokenness that had characterized our past life.

It is the peace of safety and security. We can say with the psalmist “I will lie down and sleep peacefully, for you, LORD, make me safe and secure” (Psalm 4:8). Our Lord is called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). He tells his followers “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage” (John 14:27). Wherever we go, we can go in peace. Nobody can take away that peace because we get it from him.

Now, as a result of our time in today’s text, we should all be asking ourselves two important questions. First, who is Jesus to me? Is he a curious mystery as the people around the table saw him? Is he a Teacher but less than a prophet like Simon saw him? Or, is he the wonderful Savior, forgiver of sins, giver of peace, and granter of grace that the woman saw?

The second question is who am I? Am I a hopeless debtor, destined for destruction? Or am I a forgiven debtor, free to live and love again, and destined for eternal life? Before she left Simon’s house that day, the woman knew who she was. Before you and I leave this house today, we need to discover who we are.

COME TO HIM

Come to Him

Matthew 11:20-30 NET

20 Then Jesus began to criticize openly the cities in which he had done
many of his miracles because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you,
Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles done in you had been
done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth
and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on
the day of judgment than for you! 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be
exalted to heaven? No, you will be thrown down to Hades! For if the
miracles done among you had been done in Sodom, it would have
continued to this day. 24 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for the
region of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you!” 25 At that time
Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you
have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and revealed
them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this was your gracious will.
27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows
the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son decides to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all
you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my
yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and
my load is not hard to carry.”

We are continuing to look at the commands that Jesus gave us in the
Gospels. We have moved from those commands found in his sermons on
the mount and the plain, but we will still find many important commands as we read the narratives in the Gospels, and we will also notice several more sermons.

Today we focus on Jesus’ command for the weary and burdened to come to him. We find that command in verse twenty-eight. It comes with a promise from the Lord that those who come to him will find rest.

If we back up seven verses, we find that …

The Lord came to three cities with the gospel (21,23).


Those three cities are all in the region of Galilee, where Jesus performed
most of his miracles during this time in his ministry. Jesus grew up in Nazareth of Galilee. After his hometown rejected him, he moved to Capernaum, and the focus of his early ministry was in the region consisting of that city and others (like Chorazin and Bethsaida).

Jesus and his disciples visited all three of these cities numerous times, and they preached the gospel there. They gave ample evidence of the truth of their message by performing signs and wonders. All three of these cities are proud of the fact that they had a rich spiritual heritage. Capernaum, for example, seems to have adopted a motto that because of Jesus’ work among them, Jesus would exalt them to heaven. These cities expected Jesus to bless them because he had exposed them to the gospel.

But those cities refused to come to Him! (20,22,24).

Matthew tells us that Jesus criticized these cities because they did not
repent. In other words, Jesus had invited them to come to him, but they never came. It was like they had bragged about all the invitations they had received for the wedding but never got around to going to the ceremony.

You might remember that Jesus gave a parable (recorded in Matthew 22) about a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. In that parable, the king’s command was “Come to the wedding banquet.” The king became furious because the people he had invited “were indifferent and went away, one to his farm, another to his business.”

When people refuse God’s gracious invitation to come to his Son, it infuriates him. To show this, Jesus picked three pagan cities, notorious for their sinfulness. Those cities were Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon. These were three bad apples – rotten to the core. But Jesus said that on Judgment Day, these three cities would fair better than Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida.

Jesus said that because he had not blessed Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon by his presence like he had blessed Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida. The king had not invited them to the wedding banquet. Those who God blesses with the message are responsible to respond to the message. It is a sin to hear the gospel and to be indifferent to it.

But there is good news in today’s text. After his condemnation of
those cities…

Jesus Praises his Father for those who did come to Him (25-27).

Despite the refusal of these Galilean cities to repent and come to Jesus,
many individuals had responded to his message, repented of their sins,
and forgave them and welcomed them.

Jesus’ prayer in today’s text reveals two principles. Both principles are valid scriptural truths. People have problems with one or the other of these biblical truths. The reason is that it is hard to hold to one of these principles without denying the other.

The first principle is that everyone is responsible to repent of their sins and come to Christ. The second principle is that no one understands this responsibility unless God supernaturally reveals it to them.

The Galilean cities had heard the gospel many times, but they never responded to it. But the king was not going to sit idly by while those he invited refused to come to his son’s wedding. He told his slaves to go into the main streets and invite everyone they find to come.

The citizens of those Galilean cities were happy to be associated with Christ and his ministry, but they considered themselves too wise and intelligent to respond to the gospel by repenting of their sins. But there were some little children who were meek mourners who were poor in spirit, and hungry and thirsty for God’s righteousness.

Jesus blessed his apostles because they were hungry and thirsty for his righteousness, and he promised them that they would be filled. He gave them the proper wedding garments – he clothed them in his righteousness.

Today…

Jesus invites us all to come to Him (28-30).

He tells all of us who are weary and burdened that we can come to him
and find rest. This is the rest of God’s grace. We cannot earn this rest. It
only comes to those who choose to let God save them.

The invitation is to all. Even those Galilean cities are the target of this
invitation, even though they repeatedly refuse it. On the day of
Judgment, the books will be opened. A record of every time the gospel
was presented will be noted. A record of every time a person thought
“Not now” will be revealed.

He tells all of us to put his yoke on our necks. The version I read says
“you will find rest for your souls” but souls do not wear yokes. You put a
yoke on your neck. The master carpenter has built a yoke for you that fits
perfectly. When you are doing your work wearing his yoke, it will not
seem like work. It will be work and rest at the same time.

He tells all of us to learn from him. Oh, the hardship we suffer needlessly
because we stubbornly refuse to follow instructions. He has taught us
all we need to know to live our best life, but we leave his book on the
shelf. If there is one resolution I recommend every year it is to get back to
the Bible. Learn the word of God. Learn from the teacher who obeyed
every word his Father gave him.

The reason Jesus is the best teacher is that he is gentle and humble in
heart. We all know what it is like to have a teacher who is proud, cruel, and abusive. You can’t learn anything with that kind of teacher. But our
teacher cares about us. He is patient with us, giving us the same
instruction again and again until it sticks.

His yoke is easy to bear, and his load is not hard to carry. Compared to
the load the devil gives us, living the Christian life is a piece of cake. It is
a burden, but it is a light burden. Even when Jesus commands us to love
our fellow Christians, we will find that the more we do that, the more joy
we will experience in this life. We will find ourselves saying “He ain’t
heavy, he’s my brother.”

Now, what happened with the inhabitants of Chorazin, Bethsaida and
Capernaum? The citizens of those cities were told a lie and believed it.
The devil told them that there are three ways to live. He told them that
they didn’t have to live the devil’s way, and they didn’t have to live
Jesus’ way either. They could follow Frank Sinatra and live life their way.

Folks, I hope you are not planning to stand before Christ on Judgment
day and tell him “I did it my way.” “My way” is the devil’s way. Jesus
said that He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the
Father except through Him.

Jesus invites us all to come to him because He is the way to the Father
(John 14:6).

Jesus invites us all to come to him because whoever believes in him will
not perish but have permanent life (John 3:16).

Jesus invites us all to come to him because the result of living life my way
is permanent death, but the Gift of God through Jesus Christ is
permanent life (Romans 6:23).

Jesus invites us all to come to him because God has given us a chance to
live a permanent life, and this promise of a permanent life is exclusively
for those who are in his Son. The one who has the Son has this permanent
life: the one who does not have the Son of God does not have this
permanent life (1 John 5:11-12).

Delco is not listed among the cities that Jesus condemned in today’s text.
But we are in danger of sharing their fate. We have been blessed with the
proclamation of the gospel, and with much evidence of its reality. We
have no excuse if we choose to live life our way – the devil’s way. The
invitation to come to Christ has been given. Each of us is commanded
to respond.

BUILD ON HIM

20230101 Build on Him

Luke 6:46-49 NET

46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do what I tell you? 47 “Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and puts them into practice — I will show you what he is like: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep, and laid the foundation on bedrock. When a flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the person who hears and does not put my words into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against that house, it collapsed immediately, and was utterly destroyed!”

We are starting a new year today, but we are returning to our old series of messages on the commands of Christ. I think all of us have areas in our lives over which we would like more control than we had last year. Today’s text gives us the advice we need to get our lives going in the right direction.

The first bit of advice seems to be about those who plan to build a house, but we know that is just a metaphor. Nevertheless, it is important for us to understand what Jesus meant by the metaphor he used. He said…

A well-built house requires a foundation on bedrock (48).

A house is a structure that provides shelter, safety and an environment for living. We all know what it is like to live in a house. We know that there are good houses and bad houses. There are houses made of strong, sturdy materials, and houses made of poor, flimsy, faulty materials. But it is interesting that Jesus did not give us the advice this way: He didn’t say that we should build our houses on good materials. Instead, he instructed his apostles — and all of us who name his as our master — to build our houses on the proper foundation. A well-built house requires a foundation of bedrock. If we don’t get the foundation right, it won’t matter what the house is made of. If we don’t get the foundation right, everything we put into the house is in danger.

Of course, what the metaphor means is that…

A well-built life requires Jesus Christ as its foundation (46-47).

We all know of people who are living what appears to be healthy productive lives but who have never considered acknowledging Christ as their Savior and Lord. Today’s text is a word of warning for them. In the metaphor Jesus used in today’s text, they have large houses filled with all kinds of good things. But their houses are built on the wrong foundation. They did not dig deep and go to the bedrock. Consequently, it does not matter how strong their lives appear to be. They are in danger. 

They may not think they are in danger. They may have a good job, good insurance to protect them against a natural disaster or health emergency. They may have good friends that they can count on. They may have plenty of money in the bank. But according to Jesus, they are not as safe as they think they are. They covered every possible contingency except the one that matters the most.

You see, people can lose all that they have and still bounce back. They can suffer a catastrophic loss and eventually recover. They can lose their health, but slowly get well again. But what happens when a person loses their chance at eternal life? What happens when a person stands before the judge of all the earth at the end of days and discovers that those things he or she depended on are gone?

I’ll tell you what will happen. They will suffer a cataclysmic destruction from which there is no recovery. They will die the second death — the death from which there is no resurrection. That is what is going to happen to billions who are living this very moment. The watchword for all of us today is to get the gospel out to those who have not heard it. We need to do that desperately because it is our responsibility to evangelize those who have not heard the message of Christ.

But today’s advice is equally important for us as well. We have committed our lives to Jesus Christ. But we need to understand that …

Building on Him requires putting his words into practice (47-49).

Jesus did not say that professing the name of Christ as our Savior will keep us from disaster on the last day. He warned of those who would call him Lord but who do not do what he tells them to do. His instruction is for us to listen to his words. We do that often enough. But his advice goes further. He tells those of us who regularly listen to his words to put those words into practice. That means obeying the commands of our Master. That means regularly doing what he has told us to do. That means a process of constant evaluation of our lives to see that every aspect of those lives is being lived like Jesus wants us to live. That means constantly reforming — changing what we do to match the directions that he has given us.

To reflect back on the metaphor, what Jesus is talking about is house building. But the metaphor is not exact because most people who have houses are not in a lifelong process of building them. But in the metaphor that Jesus used, our house building is a lifelong process. It is not like we started building when we were children, but we stopped when we were young adults because the house is already built. No, it is a lifelong process.

I do not apologize for spending all this time focusing on the commands of Christ. I think if we really take the commands of Jesus seriously, we can learn how to keep building our lives on the bedrock foundation which is Christ himself. If we ever stop the process, it would be like digging up the foundation.

The message for those who are tempted to stop building on Christ, and the message to those who have never laid that foundation is the same message.

Not building on Christ will result in destruction (49).

Jesus said the person who hears and does not put his words into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against that house, it collapsed immediately, and was utterly destroyed!”

This destruction that Jesus is referring to is the destruction of soul and body in Gehenna hell (Matthew 10:28).

The apostle Peter said that the present heavens and earth are stored up for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly (2 Peter 3:7).

The apostle Paul said that when Christ returns, there will be those who say they are experiencing peace and security, but sudden destruction will come on them (1 Thessalonians 5:3).

The apostle John tells us that if we believe in Christ we will have eternal life, but if we don’t we will perish. (John 3:16). He said that those who have the Son have life, but those who do not have the Son will not have the life (1 John 5:12).

What Jesus and all these apostles are talking about is the bad news that accompanies the good news. The good news is that there is a permanent life that awaits all who trust in Christ and learn to obey his commands. The bad news is that permanent life is not something we are born with.

The psalmist says that “the LORD guards the way of the godly, but the way of the wicked ends in destruction” (Psalm 1:6).

The Proverbs says that destruction is going to overtake the wicked (Proverbs 3:25).

That alternate theme of the fate of the lost is found throughout scripture. We cannot afford to ignore it. There will be a place called hell, and it will do what God says it will do. Our Lord’s message to every one of us today is to not only listen to his words, but also keep putting them into practice. Build on Him, because there is a day of vengeance coming that only he can protect us from.

We saw that when the Israelites were in Egypt. God sent the destroying angel, and only the blood of the lamb on the doorposts could save those earmarked for death. The wages of sin is death. All of us who have sinned need a Savior. Only his atoning blood shed for us on the cross can keep us from the judgment to come. Come to Jesus, and once you come to him in faith, listen to his word. You have a house to build. You have a life to build. His commands can keep your life safe on the coming day of destruction.

SIMEON AND ANNA’S STORY

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20221225 Simeon and Anna’s Story

Luke 2:22-40 NET

I’ve been sharing the Christmas stories from Luke’s Gospel this month. We started with the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth and the angel’s announcement of the birth of their son John — whom we know as John the Baptist. Next, we looked at Mary’s story of how the same angel visited her and told her that she would have a son, and told her to name him Jesus. Next, we looked at the story of the shepherds who also were told of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. After hearing the message, the shepherds went to see Jesus themselves and left worshiping and praising God.

Luke’s final Christmas story is found in today’s text. It takes place in the temple in Jerusalem forty days after Jesus’ birth. We first learn of two rituals at the temple (22-24), then we learn of two prophets that Joseph and Mary meet at the temple (25-38) and then we learn that the two parents leave the temple (39-40).

The first ritual under the old covenant that involved Jesus was his circumcision. That took place when he was eight days old, and it took place in Bethlehem where he was born. That was when Jesus was officially named. Mary names him Jesus because that was the name they were instructed to give him. They had been told to name him Jesus because the name means Yahveh saves. Through Jesus Yahveh God will save his people from their sins.

Today’s passage does not mention circumcision. There are two other old covenant rituals that Joseph and Mary performed forty days after Jesus was born.

Two rituals at the Temple (22-24)

22 Now when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male will be set apart to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is specified in the law of the Lord, a pair of doves or two young pigeons.

Mary and Joseph took the infant Jesus to Jerusalem to participate in two rituals according to the Mosaic law. First, there was the ritual of purification. Here is how the scriptures describe that ritual:

1 The LORD spoke to Moses: 2 “Tell the Israelites, ‘When a woman produces offspring and bears a male child, she will be unclean seven days, as she is unclean during the days of her menstruation. 3 On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin must be circumcised. 4 Then she will remain thirty-three days in blood purity. She must not touch anything holy and she must not enter the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled. 5 If she bears a female child, she will be impure fourteen days as during her menstrual flow, and she will remain sixty-six days in blood purity. 6 “‘When the days of her purification are completed for a son or for a daughter, she must bring a one-year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or turtledove for a sin offering to the entrance of the Meeting Tent, to the priest. 7 The priest is to present it before the LORD and make atonement on her behalf, and she will be clean from her flow of blood. This is the law of the one who bears a child, for the male or the female child. 8 If she cannot afford a sheep, then she must take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and one for a sin offering, and the priest is to make atonement on her behalf, and she will be clean.'” (Leviticus 12:1-8).

Jesus had already been circumcised according to this law on the eighth day. Now it had been forty days and it was time to declare Mary’s purification. The fact that Joseph and Mary presented the birds indicates that they were not rich enough to afford sheep. Even the animals that shared their space at Jesus’ birth were not theirs.

When we told the Christmas story during our Christmas program on the 11th, we were not quite accurate. One of the ways we were inaccurate is that we had the wise men join Mary and Joseph at the stable. That’s not how it happened. Even the Christmas carols we sing and the cards we send each other this time of year get it wrong. The star did not appear until later. The shepherds didn’t follow the star. And the wise men did not show up until much later. One of the reasons we know this is that if Joseph and Mary had been given gold on the night of Jesus’ birth, they would have offered sheep for Mary’s purification ritual.

The second ritual that Mary and Joseph performed at the temple that day was the ritual of presentation. Not every child is involved in this ritual. It only applies to the firstborn male. Here is how the law describes that ritual:

12 … you must give over to the LORD the first offspring of every womb. Every firstling of a beast that you have — the males will be the LORD’s. 13 Every firstling of a donkey you must redeem with a lamb, and if you do not redeem it, then you must break its neck. Every firstborn of your sons you must redeem. 14 In the future, when your son asks you ‘What is this?’ you are to tell him, ‘With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the land of slavery. (Exodus 13:12-14).

Because Jesus was the firstborn male of Joseph and Mary’s family, he was to be formally presented to the Lord and redeemed according to this law. The ritual celebrated God’s deliverance of all the firstborn males from the destroying angel in Egypt. When the destroying angel saw the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of the Hebrew slaves, he did not enter those houses and take the lives of the firstborn males within them. The ritual celebrated that deliverance.

What Mary and Joseph did that day was to ritually redeem the Redeemer. They paid the price for their son, who would one day pay the price for everyone’s sons and daughters. The angels in heaven were watching.

Oh, and there were two others in the temple that day who were watching. From the two rituals in the temple, we move to the two prophets in the temple.

Two prophets at the temple (25-38)

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon who was righteous and devout, looking for the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 So Simeon, directed by the Spirit, came into the temple courts, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what was customary according to the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and blessed God, saying, 29 “Now, according to your word, Sovereign Lord, permit your servant to depart in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples: 32 a light, for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 So the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “Listen carefully: This child is destined to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be rejected. 35 Indeed, as a result of him the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed — and a sword will pierce your own soul as well!” 36 There was also a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old, having been married to her husband for seven years until his death. 37 She had lived as a widow since then for eighty-four years. She never left the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment, she came up to them and began to give thanks to God and to speak about the child to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Luke had begun his Christmas stories with the story of two old people — Zechariah and Elizabeth. He concludes his Christmas stories by mentioning two more old people. Simeon and Anna. Note how Luke describes the character of these two prophets. Simeon is righteous and devout, looking for the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit is upon him. Anna is a 91-year-old widow who never leaves the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.

It just so happens by God’s miraculous plan that these two old prophets meet up with this young couple and their newborn child that day. Both of them are in tune with what the Holy Spirit is doing, and both recognize that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah. Both of them give thanks to God and speak about the child Jesus, sharing what God had revealed to them with the others present in the temple that day. Both had been waiting for God to act, and this day was going to be the most important day in both their lives. In fact, Simeon’s prayer told the Lord that he was ready to depart in peace. He has seen the Savior as a child. The next time he sees him it will be at the resurrection.

But it’s not all good news. Simeon reveals to Mary that Jesus would not be accepted by all. The newborn king will bring peace on earth — but not to everyone. In fact, there will be terrible sorrow for Mary herself. No doubt Simeon was prophesying of the horrible day on which Mary watched her son die on the cross.

But the events of this day at the temple ended, and so the two parents got ready to go home.

Two parents leave the temple (39-40).

39 So when Joseph and Mary had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him.

Luke does not tell us of the wise men’s visit, the star, or the gifts. He fast-forwards to Jesus being raised in Nazareth because the next story he wants to tell is of Jesus as a twelve-year-old returning to the same temple. But Luke’s message about Mary and Joseph is that they remained faithful to God and they got to be witnesses of their son — God’s Son — growing and becoming strong and wise. The same favor that God had blessed Mary with, he now imparts to her son.

As parents, that is what we want of our children. They won’t grow up to be the savior of the world — that job is taken. We only need one. But every parent wants to see their children blessed with wisdom and strength. It is also important that we end the Christmas story here. Christ is no longer a babe in a manger. He is now — and will forever be — God’s Son and our Savior and coming king.

We should all be thankful that God gave us his Son in such a precious and peaceful way. But we should also never forget that the next time we see him, it will not be as a helpless child, but as a warrior on a white horse, doing battle against all God’s enemies, and restoring order to his universe. The road that started in Bethlehem led to the cross in Jerusalem, but it didn’t stop there. He rose from the dead victorious and glorious. The glorious King is coming, and he is going to make all things new.

That’s when we will sing as we never have before – “Joy to the World, The Lord is Come.”