A & D

Biker Ministries

 

 

DOC'S BLOG

SEPTEMBER 18, 2017

 


“The Actions Of One Who Forgives”
(Part 1)

Two weeks ago, we began a short sermon series on “Forgiveness and Reconciliation,” from Paul’s letter to Philemon.

Part of the reason we are doing this series is because I want to learn how, when we sin, to repent well, and to seek forgiveness from AND reconciliation with those against whom we have sinned.  We fail in many of my relationships, and we need to learn how the Gospel enables us to repent, seek forgiveness, and achieve reconciliation with those whom we have hurt.

Philemon was a wealthy Christian who lived in the city of Colossae.  He had a slave named Onesimus.  Some conflict arose between them (although we don’t know the exact nature of that conflict.)  Onesimus fled from Philemon, and went to Rome.  While in there, he met Paul, who was in prison.  Paul shared the gospel with Onesimus, and he became a Christian!  He served Paul faithfully, but Paul knew that Onesimus must return to Philemon.  Paul wrote a personal letter to Philemon (the New Testament book called Philemon), asking him to forgive Onesimus and to be reconciled to him.

Last week, we examined the character of one who forgives.  Today, let’s look at “The ACTIONS of One Who Forgives.”

Read, again, the entire letter of Paul to Philemon.  Our text for today is verses 8-18:

Philemon (NLT)

1 This letter is from Paul, a prisoner for preaching the Good News about Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.  I am writing to Philemon, our beloved co-worker, 2 and to our sister Apphia, and to our fellow soldier Archippus, and to the church that meets in your house.  3 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.  4 I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, 5 because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people.  6 And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.  7 Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.  8 That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you.  I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do.  9 But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you.  Consider this as a request from me - Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus.  10 I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus.  I became his father in the faith while here in prison.  11 Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us.  12 I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.  13 I wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf.  14 But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent.  I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced.  15 It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever.  16 He is no longer like a slave to you.  He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me.  Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.  17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me.  19 I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND:  I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL!  20 Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake.  Give me this encouragement in Christ.  21 I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more!  22 One more thing - please prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that God will answer your prayers and let me return to you soon.  23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings.  24 So do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my co-workers.  25 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Dr. Billy Graham once said, “Perhaps the most glorious word in the English language is ‘forgiveness.’”  Christians who have experienced the forgiveness of God . . . we know how wonderful it is to have our ‘debt of sin’ paid by Jesus Christ, and to be reconciled with our holy God.  And, when we receive forgiveness from others, we’re reconciled with them (the relationship is restored).

It’s interesting that while Paul’s letter to Philemon is about forgiveness, the word “forgiveness” does not appear in the letter.  However, Paul implicitly asks Philemon to forgive Onesimus and to be reconciled to him.  Paul based his request on LOVE, as he said in verses 8-10:  

Philemon (NLT)

8 That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you.  I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do.  9 But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you.  Consider this as a request from me - Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus.  10 I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus.  I became his father in the faith while here in prison.
  
Paul did not articulate in his letter to Philemon any reasons why Christians must be forgiving people . . .  but, it will be helpful for us to note several reasons why Christians must forgive.

A. FAILURE TO FORGIVE BREAKS GOD’S LAW

Christians MUST forgive, because failure to forgive breaks God’s Law.

The Sixth Commandment says: 

Exodus 20:13 (NIV)
“You shall not murder.”

However, in The Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus explained the Sixth Commandment to not to commit murder, he showed that a violation of God’s commandment includes anger, insult, and speaking inappropriate words.  

Matthew 5:21-22

21 You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder.  If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.”  22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment!  If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the council of Elders.  And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.

Anger is kept alive by an unforgiving spirit, and failure to forgive breaks God’s Law.


B. FAILURE TO FORGIVE DENIES THAT GOD HAS FORGIVEN US

Christians must forgive, because failure to forgive denies that God has forgiven us.

After King David sinned against Bathsheba (by committing adultery with her), and her husband Uriah (by having him murdered), he came to the point of repentance. 

Psalm 51:4 (NLT)

Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.  You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.

Although David had sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah, his greater sin was against God - which is by far more serious.  However, if God forgives us of our sin, we must also forgive those who sin against us.  If we do not forgive the sin of others, then we do not understand the gravity of the sin that God has forgiven us . . . and we essentially deny that God has forgiven us.


C. FAILURE TO FORGIVE LEADS TO A BREAK IN FELLOWSHIP

Christians must forgive, because failure to forgive leads to a breach of fellowship.  

Jesus said:

Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT)

14 If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

If we do not forgive others when they seek our forgiveness, it will hinder our fellowship with God.

Similarly, if we do not forgive others when they seek our forgiveness, it will hinder our fellowship with each other.  

In Jesus’ Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, in Matthew 18:21-35, a man who had an enormous debt forgiven by his master did not forgive another man with a relatively small debt against him.  The other servants were outraged by the unforgiving servant’s behavior and reported him to the master.  

One scholar has written: 


“Deny a broken and repentant brother the forgiveness he seeks, and you will disappoint and exasperate other Christians who learn of your refusal to relent.”


D. FAILURE TO FORGIVE REPLACES THE AUTHORITY OF GOD

Christians must forgive, because failure to forgive replaces the authority of God.

 

Paul wrote:
Romans 12:19 (NLT)

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.

C.S. Lewis said, “If God forgives us, we must forgive others.  Otherwise it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.” 

If we do not forgive others, we are saying that we know better than God about how to administer justice.


E. FAILURE TO FORGIVE HINDERS OUR WORSHIP
Christians must forgive, because failure to forgive hinders our worship.

Jesus said:


Matthew 5:23-24 (NLT)


23 So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar.  Go and be reconciled to that person.  Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

It makes sense.  We worship a forgiving God.  To come before Him while we are withholding forgiveness to other, demonstrates that we do not really want to be like Him.


F. FAILURE TO FORGIVE DOES NOT FOLLOW THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS

Christians must forgive, because failure to forgive does not follow the example of Jesus.

Jesus forgave people who sought forgiveness.  But he also forgave people who DID NOT seek his forgiveness.  When he was hanging on the cross . . . 

Luke 23:34a (NLT)

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
John MacArthur comments on this example of Jesus forgiving those who didn’t even seek forgiveness:

“Though the relationship will never be restored until the offending person desires forgiveness, still we are not to hold a grudge, but forgive from the heart and be free from any bitterness - showing only love and mercy.”

Clearly, Paul believed that Philemon understood the reasons why Christians must forgive each other.  So, he did not state the reasons. Paul moved into the body of his letter by describing THE ACTIONS OF ONE WHO FORGIVES.


God willing, this is where will pick up this message next week, in Part 2 of this sermon:
“THE ACTIONS OF ONE WHO FORGIVES”

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APRIL 24, 2017

 

TRANSFORMATION through JESUS CHRIST”

(Sermon Series)

We continue our series today on transformation.  The focus of this journey is to help people find salvation in Jesus Christ, and help Christians become BOTH Spiritually AND Emotionally Healthy & Mature.

 

These words from Jesus guide our journey:

 

Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  WALK with me and WORK with me - watch how I do it.  LEARN the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. KEEP COMPANY WITH MR AND YOU'LL LEARN TO LIVE.FREELY AND LIGHTLY

 

This is NOT an easy journey.  You must walk with and work with Jesus . . . and also learn new and unforced rhythms of his grace, to become spiritually and emotionally healthy AND mature.

 

We look today at Pete Scazzero’s 5th principleEmbrace Grieving And Loss.  This is difficult, but the struggle through it IS worth the journey!

 

1) Look Beneath The Surface Of Your Life

2) Break The Power Of Your Past

3) Live In Brokenness And Vulnerability

4) Receive The Gift Of Limits

5) Embrace Grieving And Loss

6) Make Incarnation Your Model For Loving

 

“LEARNING TO GRIEVE WELL”

2 Samuel 1:17-27

         

LAMENT (la·ment) verb - “To express sadness, grief, or deep sorrow about something”

 

IT IS VERY BIBLICAL TO GRIEVE:

 

Genesis 6:5-6 (NIV)

5 The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.  6 The Lord regretted (grieved) that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled (grieved).

 

Hebrews 5:7 (NIV)

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 

There is something about being made in the image of God that makes grieving a proper, right, and healthy response in life.  Everyone suffers, and has problems, and grieves!

 

In 2 Samuel, chapter 1, David is grieving (the Bible calls it lamenting).  David is grieving because King Saul and his son, Jonathan, (David’s best friend) were just killed in battle.  David is about to be made the king . . . but he does NOT just move on.  First, David grieves - HE REALLY GRIEVES! 


In this story, we can learn from David how to become more emotionally healthy and mature - as followers of Jesus Christ - by following David’s example, in Learning To Grieve Well.


2 Samuel 1:17-27 (NIV)

17 David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, 18 and he ordered that the people of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in the Book of Jashar):  19 Your glory lies slain on your heights, O Israel.  How the mighty have fallen!  20 Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice.  21 Mountains of Gilboa, may you have neither dew nor rain, may no showers fall on your terraced fields.  For there the shield of the mighty was despised, the shield of Saul - no longer rubbed with oil.  22 From the blood of the slain, from the flesh of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back, the sword of Saul did not return unsatisfied.  23 Saul and Jonathan - in life they were loved and admired, and in death they were not parted.  They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.  24 Daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who clothed you in scarlet and finery, who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.  25 How the mighty have fallen in battle!  Jonathan lies slain on your heights.  26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me.  Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.  27 How the mighty have fallen!  The weapons of war have perished!”

 

EVERY PERSON ON EARTH SUFFERS LOSS!  A child loses his or her childhood, to become a teenager.  A teenager loses his or her teen years, to become an adult.  An adult loses his or her singleness, to become a spouse (get married).  A spouse loses part of his or her freedom as a spouse, to become a parent.  And the older we get, the more we lose our strength, our health, and our ability to freely do everything that we once did! 

LIFE IS ABOUT LOSS:  failures, terminal illnesses, divorce, death, disappointments, etc., etc., etc.  And, no two losses are the same!  EVERY LOSS IS UNIQUE AND EVERY LOSS HAS ITS OWN VERY REAL PAIN.

 

In the Bible, grieving is part of being a human being; part of being alive; part of being made in the image of God!  As Christians, part of our gift to the world around us is this:  WE DO NOT DENY REALITY.  We face it head on, and we live / speak / and move in TRUTH . . . because our God IS big enough to handle the realities of life! 

 

Our culture responds to pain in a few different ways.  Someone asks, “How are you?”  And we may respond, “Fine, thanks, fine.  I couldn’t be better!  It’s all going to work out.” 

 

Or, we may respond, “Life sucks & then you die!”

 

We deal with pain by trying to deny it, OR by trying to replace it with some distraction . . . or through addictions.  We will do anything NOT to feel pain!  RIGHT?  We don’t deal honestly with life.  We shove it all down inside our emotions . . . and then we wonder why we’re depressed.

 

I believe that Christians are supposed to be the most alive & emotionally healthy people on earth . . . yet, WE try to numb our pain, too.

 

In our culture, there is a wide spread inability to face pain.  THE CHURCH HAS TO BE DIFFERENT!

  

Eugene Peterson has said:

The most promising preventative to addiction and depression is to learn to lament (grieve).”

 

IF WE DON'T learn to grieve and lament well, we end up becoming an ‘empty shell’ with only a painted smile on our face.  We think we’re too busy for losses & grief.  Our life plan doesn’t have time for loss and grief!  We want to fix it and stop it, because we think that we don’t have time to STOP AND WORK THROUGH THE LOSSES!  That kind of ‘response’ to pain is UNBIBICAL and UNHEALTHY!

 

In 2 Samuel, chapter 1, (and many other places throughout the Psalms) David demonstrates for us what it means to ‘GRIEVE WELL.’  David deals with loss prayerfully . . . and he brings it all to God!

 

4 ELEMENTS OF GRIEVING

 

1. DAVID STOPS TO GRIEVE

 

Notice that this happens at the very moment David got the bad news about Saul & Jonathan

 

2 Samuel 1:11-12 (NIV)

11 Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them.  12 They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.

 

After David STOPPED his routine life to grieve, he then demands a FULL honoring of grief . . .

 

17 David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, 18 and he ordered that the people of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in the Book of Jashar):

 

We seem to move on so quickly after loss, don’t we?  (“If I just keep busy, I’ll be OK.”)  But, stopping to grieve is essential to becoming a deep person.  YOU CANNOT REJOICE FULLY IF YOU DO NOT GRIEVE FULLY! STOP - DON'T STUFF!

 

 

4 ELEMENTS OF GRIEVING WELL 

 

1. DAVID STOPS TO GRIEVE

2. DAVID ALLOWS HIMSELF TO FEEL THE PAIN

 

25 How the mighty have fallen in battle!  Jonathan lies slain on your heights.  26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me.  Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.  27 How the mighty have fallen!  The weapons of war have perished!”

 

DAVID STOPS AND LETS HIS FEELINGS COME OUT!  We are taught: “Don’t cry!  Don’t show your feelings!”  David is consumed with feelings for Saul & Jonathan.  And, he commands his people to lament (grieve), to show their emotions! 

 

Did you know that over one half of the Psalms are laments?  Sometimes God does appear to be absent from our lives.  To grieve / to lament helps get us centered back on God.  So much of the culture of our world has gotten into the church that we sometimes DON’T give each other permission to STOP, to FEEL, and to STRUGGLE. 

 

4 ELEMENTS OF GRIEVING WELL

 

1. DAVID STOPS TO GRIEVE

 

2. DAVID ALLOWS HIMSELF TO FEEL THE PAIN

 

3. DAVID DOES NOT MENTION GOD'S NAME HERE IN THIS LAMENT (in Chapter 1)

 

In fact, David does not mention God until chapter 2!

 

David cannot say that God caused the death of his two dear friends, but he also CANNOT say that there is nothing God could have done to prevent their deaths.  David is silent about God, for now, in his grieving / lamenting . . . because it is not yet time to speak GOD'S NAME!  David is NOT forsaking his faith - he is struggling in his very real feelings!  AND, THAT’S O.K. WITH GOD! 

 

4 Elements of Grieving Well

 

1. DAVID STOPS TO GRIEVE

2. DAVID ALLOWS HIMSELF TO FEEL THE PAIN

3. DAVID DOES NOT MENTION GOD'S NAME  (in Chapter 1)

4. DAVID'S FAITH WAS ULTIMATELY INCREASED THROUGH HIS GRIEVING / LAMENTING!

 

Near the end of 2 Samuel, David shows the true colors of his newly maturing faith in God - in a song of praise . . .

 

 

 

2 Samuel 22:31 (NIV)

As for God, his way is perfect:  The Lord’s word is flawless;

he shields all who take refuge in him.

 

HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO LOSS?

 

God’s intention, and His desire, is that we would be changed, for the better, through our losses!  He wants to increase our compassion, our mercy, and our love toward others. 

 

Part of the story of who you are, are the wounds in your life.  Grieve and lament them.  Allow God to begin to heal them.  Deal with them, one at a time!

 

 

 

 

 EMBRACING LOSS, AND GRIEVING FREELY, IS A VITAL ELEMENT IN GROWING BOTH  SPIRITUALLY AND EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY & MATURE!

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APRIL 10, 2017

TRANSFORMATION through JESUS CHRIST”

(Sermon Series)

 

We continue our series today on transformation.  The focus of this journey is to help people find salvation in Jesus Christ, and help Christians become BOTH Spiritually AND Emotionally Healthy & Mature.

 

These words from Jesus guide our journey:

 

Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  WALK with me and WORK with me - watch how I do it.  LEARN the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

 

This is NOT an easy journey.  You must walk with and work with Jesus . . . and also learn new and unforced rhythms of his grace.

 

This Palm Sunday weekend was the beginning of Holy Week.  As we continue on our journey today, of Transformation through Jesus Christ, let’s begin our celebration of Holy Week by looking at this story from the life of Jesus.  But, I have to warn you:  It’s a story of Great Expectations AND Major Disappointments!

 

GREAT EXPECTATIONS and MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENTS

 

Matthew 21:1-11 (NIV)

1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her.  Untie them and bring them to me.  If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”  This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:  “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”  The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them.  They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on.  A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”  10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”  11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

 

Most of us are used to seeing Palm Sunday as a day of great celebration.  And it is!  But, not for the reasons we usually think.  We associate the day with Jesus being proclaimed King, and riding into Jerusalem as a king, and with children waving palm branches in honor of The King.  But, the Gospel story tells a bit different story.   It’s a story of great expectations and ‘Hosannas on Sunday, and cries of ‘crucify him’ on Friday . . . by the very same people!

Here, a group of very religious people had their expectations of a major triumph, at the start of the week.  By the end of the week, their hopes were so crushed that even the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples had denied, deserted, and betrayed Him by late Thursday night!  And the crowds, who had shouted ‘Hosanna,’ turned into hellions.  Now, Jesus was handed over to the Roman authorities for execution by crucifixion!

 

What happened in just one week?  Whatever it was, we need to realize up front that - Jesus did not come to meet our expectations or those of His followers.  He came to meet our needs!  He did not come to crush our enemies and elevate our status.  He came to serve and give His life as a ransom for sin.  WHY?  Because . . . the heart of the human dilemma is NOT our political problems but our sin sickness.

 

Jesus said in Mark 7 that out of the human heart comes war, adultery, murder, slander, and every manner of sin and bad behavior.  The problem then (and now) was not how well the borders of the land were protected from foreign people . . . the problem was (and is) the unprotected borders of the human heart.  

 

Some background will help us understand this story in Matthew 21 more clearly.

 

First of all, this is the only time in the Gospels that Jesus elevates himself above the crowd.  But, instead of doing so by mounting a manly war horse, Jesus gets on a donkey and rides into town . . . indicating, among other things, that He comes in peace, NOT as a warrior with sword in hand.

 

Matthew quotes from Zechariah 9.  Listen to what that text says more fully:

 

Zechariah 9:9-10

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!  See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

 

And then the next verse is the kicker -


10 I will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem.  I will destroy all the weapons used in battle, and your king will bring peace to the nations.  His realm will stretch from sea to sea and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.

 

Jesus comes to us, quite self-consciously, as the Prince of Peace, not the Warrior of War.  But here’s the irony . . . The crowds JUST don’t get IT!

 

Take for example the waving of the palm branches.  This had a very specific and symbolic meaning. This was done to celebrate the Maccabean victory (less than 200 years before) when the Jewish Maccabees militarily conquered and re-took Jerusalem from pagan overlords.  This is what the crowds hoped for when they saw Jesus riding into town on a donkey - this reminded them of King David or King Solomon and their ceremonial rides into Jerusalem.  But, the people didn’t pay attention to the kind of animal Jesus was riding.  They also apparently didn’t share Matthew’s interpretation of the event (Zechariah 9).

 

Estimates show that, at Passover time, Jerusalem went from being a town of 50,000 to about 500,000. If you want to make the authorities (both Jewish & Roman) nervous, then ride into town making some sort of royal gesture . . . go into the religious center of the city (the Temple) and make pronouncements indicating the coming demise of it all!

 

It seems like Jesus even raised the hopes and expectations of his own disciples - that he was coming to town as the new sheriff . . . to take over.  Then, when everything took a very different turn by Thursday night, their disappointment and disillusion became profound.  

 

I love the Emmaus Road story, found in Luke 24.  It tells of two relatively unknown disciples leaving town, who ironically say to the risen Jesus (whom they don’t recognize) - “We had hoped that He would be the One to redeem Israel . . . but His crucifixion killed that whole deal.”  No one was looking for a crucified Messiah in Jesus’ day.  That was as much of an oxymoron as JUMBO SHRIMP!  A crucified Messiah was a contradiction in terms.

 

The truth is, Jesus didn’t come to be the kind of king who would run the Romans out of town.  He came to die on a cross - even for the sins of the enemies of Israel!  Still, to this day, we have a very difficult time understanding this . . .  we tend to think that military solutions to our problems ARE the ‘final answer’.  The last week of Jesus’ life tells us that this is JUST not so

 

We could win ALL of the wars over our political and military foes and still lose our eternal souls.  If you look at America today, I would say we are no better off than ancient Israel in Jesus’ day. We are losing the battle for the soul of our nation, the battle against ‘the world, the flesh, and the enemy of our soul’ . . . and no amount of military strength can compensate for such a loss, or heal such a wound, or solve such a problem. 

   

Wouldn’t you agree? 

 

Our nation desperately needs a revival of the heart and soul.  We need to embrace the Prince of Peace, not the dogs of wars!  

 

In my lifetime, our nation has certainly become a less civil, a less civilized, and a less Christian nation.  We have become a nation that wants not merely a separation of church and state - but a separation of God:   from our school system, our court system, and from our country!  I ask seriously . . . why is “In God we trust” still on our money?

 

Here’s another interesting irony in the Palm Sunday Story.  The pilgrims coming to town with Jesus were singing the so-called Hallel Psalms.  These were the ‘let’s go up to Zion’ songs.  Now the Hallel Psalms are full of “Hosannas,” which means ‘God saves,’ & “Hallelujah’s,” which means ‘praise Yahweh.’  They are ancient praise songs, and they would sing this on their Passover journey into Jerusalem - long before Jesus rode into town on that donkey. 

 

The line “Blessed is he who comes (to Jerusalem) in the name of the Lord,” was what the pilgrims sang about and to each other as they went up to Zion.  But now it takes on a special meaning, because THIS TIME their King really has come to town.   This time the ultimate Son of David really had arrived and the vast majority of them didn’t even know it!  Or, if they did, they had a very different vision, than Jesus did, of what sort of King he should be.

The Israel we have political alliances with today is certainly not in conformity with the Law of Moses. (Nor do they hold to the early Jewish expectations about the coming of the Messiah.)   They play the same political games that Jereboam and Ahab and many another early Jewish kings played - to beat their enemies with armies or alliances.  What is really needed, desperately needed, by them (and by us) is repentance, and the embracing of Jesus of Nazareth . . . the One and only Prince of Peace.

 

The 12 disciples betrayed, deserted, and denied Jesus.  Some of them no doubt had the hope of the Zealots - hope that Jesus (especially after cleansing the temple) would kick the Romans out of town, and begin to rule.  The real kicker is that Jesus, during that week, said that in 40 years the Jews who tried to establish God’s Kingdom that way, would be destroyed and the temple AND Jerusalem would be destroyed!

 

Jesus was right.  In A.D. 70, exactly 40 years after Jesus’ death, Jerusalem was torched, and became a pagan city called Aelia Capitolina.  After a second (lesser) Jewish revolt in the second century A.D. (which was also squashed by the Romans), no Jew was allowed anywhere near the Temple remains until 1967.  Jesus was saying, “There is no military solution to the problems of God’s people.”  When will we believe him?   At least the ultra-orthodox Jews in Jerusalem know this.  All followers of Jesus should know this, too!

 

Jesus really disappointed the hopeful crowd of pilgrims and His own disciples, during Holy Week.  No wonder that, when He crushed peoples’ hopes that greatly, He ended up on a cross by the end of the week!  When we hear the loud Hosannas, and sing with joy about the coming of our King Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we must remember His words when He said:

 

Matthew 16:24 (NLT)

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.”

 

And Jesus meant that we must follow Him all the way to Golgotha!

 

It was not the dirty dozen, the macho male disciples who got this message clearly.  They were more like “duh-sciples” . . . they didn’t get it! 

 

It was the female disciples, like Mary Magdalene, who were last at the cross and first at the tomb and first to see the risen Jesus on Easter morning!

 

Who will YOU be more like during Holy Week - the pilgrims; or Peter (who said he would never deny or desert Jesus - but he ran away); or like Mary Magdalene? 

 

It is my prayer that, during Holy Week, you will really take stock of what is important - and indeed become like Who we admire - Jesus, the Prince of Peace.  ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ said Jesus, ‘for they are the ones who will one day be called the true children of God.’    Be a fully surrendered follower of Jesus - not just a pretender or contender!

 

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APRIL 3, 2017

 

TRANSFORMATION through JESUS CHRIST”

(Sermon Series)

 

We continue our series today on transformation.  The focus of this journey is to help people find salvation in Jesus Christ, and help Christians become BOTH Spiritually AND Emotionally Healthy & Mature.

 

These words from Jesus guide our journey:

 

Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  WALK with me and WORK with me - watch how I do it.  LEARN the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. KEEP COMPANY WITH ME AND YOU'LL LEARN TO LIVE FREELY

 

This is NOT an easy journey.  You must walk with and work with Jesus . . . and also learn new and unforced rhythms of his grace.

 

It’s just a week away from Psalm Sunday weekend.  Today we look at Dr. Pete Scazzero’s 4th principle for spiritual & emotional health & maturity: Receive The Gift Of Limits.  It’s a tough principle, but the payoff IS worth it!

 

     1) Look Beneath The Surface Of Your Life

     2) Break The Power Of Your Past

     3) Live In Brokenness And Vulnerability

     4) Receive The Gift Of Limits

     5) Embrace Grieving And Loss

     6) Make Incarnation Your Model For Loving

  

LIMITS have been defined as:  inability or handicap, lack of capacity, restrictive weakness, a point beyond which it is not possible to go.

 

Today, let’s talk about . . . “LIMITS.  God’s GIFT To Us!”

 

Our scripture today is Luke 4:1-14. There are many things we can learn from this scripture, which is all about some temptations that Jesus faced. 

 

BUT FIRST, let’s look at the 2 ‘bookends’ that hold this story together; the first and the last verses:  Luke 4:1 and Luke 4:14.

 

Luke 4:1, 14 (NIV)

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,

 

14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.

It was the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit that lead Jesus into the wilderness AND through His temptations.  The Holy Spirit will lead us through our wilderness experiences, too!  It’s in the wilderness that God teaches us some big things - as individual followers of Jesus and as a congregation - before we move forward into our destiny in Christ.

 

There ARE many truths in this story of Jesus, but there is just ONE POINT that I want us to build on today.  That point is: 

 

“LIMITS Are God’s GIFT To Us!”

(plus 3 applications for the 1 Point)

 

Luke 4:1-14 (NIV)

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.  3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”  4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”  5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.  6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.  7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”  8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”  9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.  “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.  10 For it is written:  “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”  12 Jesus answered, “It is said:  ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”  13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.  14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.

 

Whether it’s sports, technology, or finances - a part of the DNA of American culture is a “NO LIMITS” mindset.  We are sold on the idea that You Can Do Whatever You Want!”  

 

Many of us were told growing up that we could do OR be anything that we wanted . . . a doctor, a lawyer, a scientist, the president, etc.  I’m not sure that’s really true.  I DON’T believe that we can do it all.  WE ALL HAVE LIMITS!

 

In the Luke 4 passage, Jesus embraces God’s Gift of Limits.  Jesus, willingly and gratefully, walked in the path that the heavenly Father had for Him . . . and He chose NOT to go beyond the limits that God had for Him as a human being!  During His 33 years on earth, Jesus confined Himself, (He never went more than 250 miles from home) and He limited Himself - to God’s gift of humanity for Him.

 

Do you remember when God spoke blessing upon Jesus (in Luke chapter 3) at Jesus’ baptism?

 

Luke 3:21-22 (NIV)

21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too.  And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

 

God speaks His same blessing over us (calling us His children), when we accept Jesus as our Savior!  THIS IS THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL.

 

1 John 3:1 (NLT)

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!  But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.

 

Right after His baptism, Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness, to have a confrontation with Satan himself! (Luke chapter 4) 

 

Jesus fasted in the wilderness, AND WAS TEMPTED BY THE DEVIL for 40 days!

 

In Genesis 3 the very first temptation of humankind was to deny limits.  The devil said to Eve, “Go ahead!  Eat the fruit!!  Your eyes will be open and you’ll be just like God.”

 

Satan lives, breaths, and exists to ‘pull us away from God.’  He came to Jesus, to ‘split Him’ away from completing the task He was born to fulfill - His destiny.  In the same way, the devil comes to move us away from the life we were created to live for God - OUR DESTINY IN JESUS CHRIST.

 

YOU BETTER BELIEVE THAT IN THE WILDERNESS, JESUS WAS TEMPTED TO GO BEYOND HIS LIMITS!  Let’s unpack our scripture . . .

 

In verse 3 Satan says to Jesus, “Turn the stones to bread.  I feel so bad for you.  How can you be the Son of God and have so many problems?  Turn the stones to bread!  If you don’t eat, you’ll die here, and you’ll NEVER be the Messiah!  Go ahead and turn the stones to bread.  Do it.  EAT!!!”

 

Jesus waits.  He does nothing, except affirm His commitment to God.  He walks away . . . hungry.  And the rocks remained rocks!   Jesus embraced LIMITS.

 

In verse 5 Satan takes Jesus to a very high place and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world.  He says, “Just bow down to me, and it’s all yours!  Skip all that crucifixion stuff, with the pain and the needless suffering.  Just bow to me . . . and you can have all these kingdoms!” 

 

Jesus, again, reaffirms His loyalty to God.  And Jesus simply tells the devil, “NO!”  Jesus embraced LIMITS.

 

Then, in verse 9, Satan takes Jesus to the highest place in the city - the top of the Temple.  How ironic!  Satan, in his pride, keeps going UP!  The biggest temptation is at the TOP of the church building.  (It’s by God’s grace AND our surrender to Him that keeps us grounded!)   Satan even quotes scripture then says, “JUMP!  GO AHEAD AND JUMP!!  You won’t be hurt.  Plus, EVERYONE will see AND believe that you’re the Messiah!” 

 

Jesus says, “NO.”  Then He WALKS down the front steps of the temple . . . and there is NO miracle for everyone to see.   Jesus embraced LIMITS.

 

Father, help us to be a host for your Holy Spirit and NOT a hostage to our own ego.

 

Our TRANSFORMATION through Jesus Christ      is also often inward & downward, and marked by God-given limits.

 

PRIDE rejects this idea of being limited & being dependent.  Our culture rejects the idea of limits.  We refuse to take NO for an answer.  But . . . HUMILITY comes from being grounded. 

 

BY BEING HUMAN . . . JESUS CHOSE LIMITS. 

 

WE HAVE OUR LIMITS:  physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially - our abilities, our finances, our time, etc.  THESE LINITS ARE GIFTS FROM GOD!  Limits are friends . . . and they literally push us toward the ground, to keep us going forward AND dependent on God.

 

Jesus’ temptation was to skip the limits of hunger, popularity, suffering, etc.  And when we don’t live by our limits, our flesh tries to make things happen!  JESUS DIDN'T DO THAT.  He lived within His limitations!  Jesus lived by God’s agenda.  He lived in the Holy Spirit, NOT His flesh! 

 

We hurt ourselves, we hurt others, and we hurt God when we DON’T live by our God-given limits.  We’re created to live by the leadership of the Holy Spirit, but when we have something to prove (by trying to live outside of our limits), we are driven by wrong motives and we lose sight of one important fact: WE ARE GOD'S CHILD!

 

As a church congregation, we DO have certain limits here at A&D Biker Ministries.  What is God’s destiny for US, that we are to walk (or ride) into?  As a body of Christ, we are to embrace the limits that God has for us . . . and get on with His mission for us:  “Growing the Kingdom of God!”

 

LIMITS ARE A GIFT.  They are part of the way that God guides us. 

 

Don’t focus on what you CAN’T do.  DO what He has called & gifted you TO DO!  Receive your limits as a GIFT - instead of being angry, resentful, jealous, and racing ahead of God.

 

THREE APPLICATIONS for embracing your limits

 

1.  Be THANKFUL To God For Your Limits

 

A poor man, with tattered clothes and holes in his shoes, was walking down the road.  He was hungry, because he hadn’t eaten in 2 days.  Two Angels in heaven were looking down on the man, and decided to change his life by putting a bag of gold in the road where he was walking.  The man looked up just before he kicked the bag of gold.  He looked inside of it and then said, “I’m glad that I didn’t blindly kick that!  I could have really hurt my foot.”  Then, he walked around the bag & went on his way.

 

What’s your bag of gold (which you see as a limit) that God wants to use to change your life?  God-given limits in your life ARE GIFTS - physical, emotional, relational, whatever! 

 

Some of us live our lives constantly overextended:  financially, emotionally, spiritually, or socially.  We just won’t accept limits, so we have chaos!  OUR LIFE - IT'S A LIMIT!  When we are dead & gone, the church WILL go on!  We are a piece of God’s puzzle, for His purpose, for THIS VERY SEASON! 

 

Remember, being able to thank God for our limits is a process: FIRST, recognize that you have limits. (And, it’s OK to grieve over them.)  Unless you confront your limitations, you will never be a person of compassion.”  THEN, embrace limits as GIFTS from God. Compassion is birthed from embracing our limits.  

 

2.  Be FAITHFUL To God With Your Limits 

 

Some of us do recognize our limits, but we bury the talents / the gifts and abilities that God has given us. 

 

There are 6 or 7 billion people on this planet, but there is only one YOU . . . WITH YOURN STORY!  You are uniquely made in the image of God.

 

Are you living your life in such a way that it fits your God given nature . . . how God has made you . . . who God says that you are?  WE MUST ALLOW GOD TO SHAPE OUR LIVES BASED ON THE GOD-GIVEN NATURE THAT HE HAS GIVEN US. 

 

Give your limits to God, and He WILL take them and use them and multiply good stuff out of it all - for His glory!

 

Reinhold Niebuhr understood this and he even wrote a prayer about it.  DO YOU KNOW IT?


God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; 

Courage to change the things I can;and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; 

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;    

Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it; 
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;


That I may be reasonably happy in this life and
supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
 
 

AMEN.

 

THREE APPLICATIONS for embracing your limits

 

1.  Be THANKFUL To God For Your Limits

2.  Be FAITHFUL To God With YourBe Limits

 

3.  Be OPEN To God Working Powerfully Through Your Limitat

Daily Bible Verse 10/23/2017
Commit yourself to instruction; attune your ears to hear words of knowledge. Proverbs 23:12 NLT