Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Jerusalem Road

Zechariah 3:1-10; Mark 10:32-34 / Psalm 22:1-31

I. The Followers Were Afraid

A. Jesus knew what would take place in Jerusalem; He kept nothing back from the twelve apostles. “And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him,” (Mark 10:32)

B. Jesus was determined to go to Jerusalem and to tell the disciples what He expected to take place there. “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,” (Luke 9:51)

C. Jesus did not pull punches; the disciples understood that He was predicting death in the Holy City. “Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. (John 11:16)

D. The world cannot understand the great mysteries of God. “He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” (Matthew 13:11)

II. Jesus Predicted He Would Be Betrayed

A. This was the third time Jesus had explained the coming events in Jerusalem. Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles:” (Mark 10:33)

B. The first time Jesus unfolded the future, Peter stepped over the line and, in dismay and unbelief, rebuked Jesus. “And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.” (Mark 8:31-32)

C. The certainty with which Jesus spoke indicated the necessity for the substitutionary atonement; the terrifying week to come in Jerusalem would not be an accident or a pious example. “For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.” (Mark 9:31)

D. Nothing escapes the God who states the end of matters from their beginning. Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:” (Isaiah 46:10)

E. There are no loose ends in the Bible; Scripture must be fulfilled.
“Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.” (Luke 18:31)

III. Jesus also Predicted the Resurrection

A. Jesus predicted that the most horrifying and the most amazing moments in history would take place in the space of three days. “And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.” (Mark 10:34)

B. Christians entrust themselves to the God who raised Jesus from the dead; every other request a believer can make is small in comparison. “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,” (Ephesians 3:20)

C. People do horrifying deeds and pay incredible prices for worthless things while neglecting to seek eternal life, which is available simply for the asking. “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. (James 4:2)

D. The resurrection of which Christ speaks is only the first stage in the final restoration of all things; all things will be made ready for God. “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.” (1 Corinthians 15:23-24)

E. This doctrine of the resurrection transformed the ancient world and makes the Christian faith the most powerful intellectual force today; China is abandoning atheistic humanism for Calvinistic Christianity. “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” (Romans 8:11)

F. Believers can face anything when they grasp hold of the resurrection hope. “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job 19:25-27)

G. Grasp this one thing and the rest will follow; believers do not walk the valley of the shadow of death alone. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:” (2 Peter 1:19)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

God Bless and Keep the Tsar

1 Timothy 2:1-15

I. Pray for All Categories of People and Needs

A. God has the entire world in His hands and He directs His people to have all categories of people and all those people’s needs in their hearts. “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;” (1 Timothy 2:1)

B. Exhortations—all categories of people must be summoned to new and eternal life in Christ. “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:” (Hebrews 6:11)

C. Supplications—humbly ask God for what is necessary; powerful people can be blind to their own inabilities and inadequacies. “But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29)

D. Prayers—appeal to the Savior and publicly draw the connection to prayer so that everyone will know and understand. “Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.” (1 Chronicles 16:8)

E. Intercessions—seek the welfare of fellow sinners. If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” (1 John 5:16)

F. Thanksgiving—praise God for His kind Providence. “And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.” (Isaiah 12:4)

II. No One Is Too Powerful To Need Prayer

A. Even people who seem to have all of life’s advantages still need prayer—especially to ensure the freedom Christians need to practice their heavenly calling. For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (1 Timothy 2:2)

B. God providentially directs all affairs; the civil situation is subject to God and therefore appropriate content for Christian prayer. “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

C. No earthly force is beyond God’s power to rule or overrule. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” (Romans 13:1)

D. Paul’s suggested large scope for prayer is inherently good and acceptable to God Who hears prayer. “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;” (1 Timothy 2:3)

III. The Incarnation Illustrates God’s Perspective

A. God saves all categories of people; no one should be excluded peremptorily from evangelism or intercession. Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4) Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:22) “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Isaiah 55:1)

B. God intimately understands all features of both the human and the divine because He sees from the perspective of the incarnation: Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;” (1 Timothy 2:5) “Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” (Isaiah 44:6)

C. Anyone saved will be saved by the atonement of the God-man. Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Timothy 2:6) “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

D. Paul understood and pursed the full doctrine of prayer because it was his calling to do so. “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.” (1 Timothy 2:7)

From Fiddler On The Roof

(Mendel) "Rabbi, may I ask you a question?"

(Rabbi) "Certainly, my son."

(Mendel) "Is there a proper blessing for the Tsar?"

(Rabbi) "A blessing for the Tsar? Of course. May God bless and keep the Tsar ... far away from us!"

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Camel and the Needle

Isaiah 58:1-14; Mark 10:17-31 / Romans 10:1-21

I. Do All Rich People Live on Hell Highway?

A. Which way leads to the permanent good life? “And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? (Mark 10:17)

B. Jesus treated the question as a trick, rather than a genuine request. “And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.” (Mark 10:18)

C. The holy life is obvious. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.” (Mark 10:19)

D. The trickster then said something ludicrous. “And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.” (Mark 10:20)

E. Jesus went to the heart of the matter. “Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

II. Some Things Are Too Hard

A. The man was sad because he was too rich to follow Jesus. “And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” (Mark 10:22)

B. Sadly, people who love the things of this world have trouble valuing the riches of the world come. “And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! (Mark 10:23)

C. That the rich should have trouble doing anything is counterintuitive to thoughtful people, but it isn’t to God. “And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! (Mark 10:24)

D. People who think they are rich are as disinclined to do what is necessary to get right with God as a camel is to do what is necessary to pass through the eye of a needle. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:25)

E. If rich people—those who are successful in this world—are not guaranteed entrance to heaven, what chance is there for ordinary people? “And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?” (Mark 10:26)

III. Only God Can Do Some Things

A. God can do what people cannot do—this is the central feature of grace. “And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27) “And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:13-14)

B. A genuine believer is willing to give up an entire world, which will inevitably pass away, in exchange for a world which will last for ever; Jesus was not talking about bank accounts. “Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.” (Mark 10:28) “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” (Philippians 3:7-9)

C. Ultimately, no one who invests everything in Jesus will lose anything. “And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)

D. People who do not understand grace will lose everything. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first. (Mark 10:31) “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12)

Thank God for Mercy

1 Timothy 1: 12-20

I. Paul Traced His Call to Mercy

A. God put Paul into the ministry and Paul was appreciative. And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;” (1 Timothy 1:12)

B. As the developer of the European church, there was much to commend in Paul’s life, but he himself traced all that which was good to God’s grace. “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)

C. The great evangelist was first the great persecutor and abuser of God’s people. “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” (1 Timothy 1:13) “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. (Acts 8:3)

D. Saul was actually on his way to destroy the church at Damascus when he was converted and became Paul, the evangelist to the Gentiles. “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,” (Acts 9:1) “And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 9:5)

II. Sinners Can Be Saved

A. A person who has experienced grace and genuinely understands the price paid for new life will be deeply appreciative. “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:14-15)

B. Grace is not cheap or easy. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)

C. Paul’s transformation from Saul the killer to Paul the saint is possible for others. Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7)

D. The alternative to grace is too horrible to contemplate. How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;” (Hebrews 2:3)

E. Paul was saved to be the pattern for those who would come to grace later. “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” (1 Timothy 1:16)

F. Salvation brings glory to God, not to the saved sinner. “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17)

III. Each Generation Builds on the Past

A. A faithful believer such as Paul will entrust the story of grace to the next generation of believers as a precious treasure. This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;” (1 Timothy 1:18)

B. No solid foundation can stand when guilty consciences undermine it. Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:” (1 Timothy 1:19)

C. Testimonies of disaster in consequence of turning from Christ serve their own educational purpose as well. “Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” (1 Timothy 1:20)

D. Knowing the implications, concentrate on maintaining and displaying a good conscience. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ministerial Development

Genesis 18:1-19; Titus 1:1-16; Ecclesiastes 12:1-14

I. God Gives Pastors

A. God gives the church pastors to teach His people so that they will know and understand what is on God’s mind. “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15)

B. God’s pastors make life better for His people or they fail to serve the One Who appoints them. “And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:4)

C. Good pastors see themselves as middle management and take a long view of themselves and those entrusted to their care. Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. (1 Peter 5:2-4)

D. When pastors do what God appoints them to do, the church prospers and flourishes. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:11-13)

II. Pastors Pray and Preach

A. Pastors must focus on prayer and communicating the Bible; they are not club administrators. “Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. (Acts 6:2-4)

B. People who need prayer or instruction must do their part as well; pastors do not magically guess what people need. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.” (James 5:14-15)

C. To pray and preach, a minister must be intellectual, spiritual, and understandable; entertaining is not listed as a qualification in Scripture. “What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?” (1 Corinthians 14:15-16)

III. God’s Pastors Teach Bible

A. God entrusted His word to His servants to be used with and for His people; the Puritans called this prophecy. “And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and unto all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.” (Deuteronomy 31:9-11)

B. Spiritual good times, refreshment, and restoration follow when pastors lead people into Scripture; only pastors who love to study and teach the Bible can be of much use to the church. “And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.” (Nehemiah 8:1-3) “And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law.” (Nehemiah 8:13)

IV. Pastors Cultivate Pastors

A. The ministry is a regulated enterprise, not a democratic process. For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:” (Titus 1:5) “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.” (Acts 14:23)

B. Ministers must prepare for succession in their office. “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2)

C. Ministers can only safely make ministers of men who have demonstrated aptitude and reliability. Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.” (1 Timothy 5:22)

D. Schools of prophets to train for the ministry date back to ancient Israel. “And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.” (2 Kings 2:15)

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