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Rest: Life in the Easy Yoke of Jesus! (Week 3)

Message #3: “The Rest of God!”

Part 3 of an 8-part Teaching on Matthew 11:28-30

 

Jesus is inviting you to come to Him, but what did Jesus promise to give to those who are tired from day-to-day life and weary from carrying the burdens that have been placed on them?

 

From the New American Standard Bible, listen for the promise found in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”[1]

 

Here is a brief survey of numerous Bible teachers’ thoughts on Jesus’ promise of rest in v. 28:

 

It includes peace of mind and heart, and relief from uncertainty and anxiety [NTC]. It is a deep refreshment that enables a person to go back to his or her tasks with renewed strength and energy [PNTC]. It is relief from sin and guilt, and from striving after salvation [Lns]. It is an eschatological rest, and reflects the language of Jeremiah 6:16 [EBC, NICNT, NIGTC, WBC], but it is also a present reality [EBC, WBC]. This ‘rest’ is a proper fellowship with God [TH]. It is not idleness or inaction [BNTC, ICC], but the contentment and full life that come from knowing and living by the truth which God’s Son reveals [ICC]. It is eternal, eschatological salvation by faith [CC]. It speaks of a refreshing and fulfillment that looks forward to the eschatological Sabbath [WBC].[2]

 

What a beautiful and robust promise for those who will come to Jesus. All this from a one-word promise.[3] The original Greek word used in Matthew 11:28c is ἀναπαύω which is used 12 times in the New Testament, with the following range of meaning: “to cause someone to gain relief from toil, to cause to rest, refresh, revive; to bring something to a conclusion, end, conclude, finish; to settle on an object, rest upon in imagery.”[4]

Here are three examples of the rest Jesus is referring to in Matthew 11:28. With applications.

 

First, from Mark 6:31-32, after the disciples come back from successful ministry trips, “And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.’ (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.”[5] (emphasis of bold and underline added)

 

APPLICATIONS: Rest can happen in times alone with God or with a small group of people.

 

Do you have 7 friends (a small group of people) that you can be yourself with?

 

You won’t find rest as long as you are carrying the yoke of performance to gain acceptance from people. The fear of man and fear of rejection disallow us from finding rest in the easy yoke of Jesus. This level of relationship is cultivated through time together, with an intentional desire to be known and to know. It’s risky, but what worth having does not come with risk to ourselves. Love is the riskiest business!

 

We will talk about this more in the coming weeks, but it is critical to understand that Jesus’ invitation to find rest is not just a once-upon-a-time faith decision, but daily moment-by-moment decisions to faithfully live by faith to Jesus’ ways and words. This is never tested more than in our relationships, in how we love one another, in how we relate to others ranging from our neighbor to our enemy.

 

When is the last time you went on a retreat (mini, day, or overnight), either alone or with others?

 

The ultimate antidote to the fear of man is the fear of the Lord. It is in Christian discipleship, in answering the invitation to come to Jesus, that you learn how to take off the yokes of other people’s expectations. You don’t need to fear them! This includes taking off the yoke of our own expectations of living up to oppressive standards (often driven by our own past hurts, or by pride of performance or insecurity of what others may think, fear of the future including the very relevant fear of missed opportunities that drives so many young families today). It is impossible to rest in the easy yoke of Jesus when you are being driven by puny gods (idols).

 

Are you making space in little ways for God in your life to experience the rest of God?

 

Start small and start today. One idea is to get to bed on time and on purpose in order to get a good night sleep. Then you can wake up rested to spend your first part of the day with Jesus. Whether for 2 or 20 minutes or 2 hours, turn your early morning into a mini retreat with Jesus. Your day doesn’t start with how you wake up, how you start your day is determined by how you get to bed! Pray the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 to relax and relax to rest.

 

The next two examples of rest are from Paul. In 1 Corinthians 16:18, he spoke of the rest that comes from the ministry that Christians can give to one another, “For they have refreshed my spirit and yours.”[6] Again in 2 Corinthians 7:13, “we rejoiced even much more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.”[7] (emphasis of bold and underline added)

APPLICATION: Rest happens through the service we provide to one another. Both to the one who is ministering as you serve one another in the yoke of Jesus and to the one who is being blessed by the ministry of the other. When was the last time you obeyed the Spirit to serve another person? How did it make you feel? How did it affect the other person? Do you have 1 place of service where you feel led by God to serve others in the easy yoke of Jesus?

 

A warning for the sake of your health: Any place of service that is not in submission to God through the yoke of Jesus will either burden, disappoint, or eventually frustrate you or pridefully cause you to feel better than others. In either case, the lack of the Spirit and the increasing of the flesh in that kind of service can only lead to a wary and burdened soul. All service in the easy yoke of Jesus brings about humility in the person and praise to God who is the only one able to bear spiritual fruit in our lives. As Jesus said in John 15, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain.”[8]

 

Combined, these applications, are what we are calling FBC’s 2019 “7:1 Initiative” that I believe the Lord Jesus is inviting each of us to as members of His body at FBC. This is not a program that we are calling you to, it is a lifestyle. Are you investing in 7 relationships and 1 place of service that will lead to rest for you and rest for others?

 

You are invited to practically apply Matthew 11:28. Rest is not a complete absence of work, but from a complete surrender to Jesus Christ which includes every single day in every single way, not just a 6:1 ratio of work to rest. Jesus is the purpose and meaning of our work and He is the rest for our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls.

 

Immediately after this amazing invitation in Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus declares this in Matthew 12:8, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”[9] Jesus calls us to a day of ceasing from our work because He knows we need to rest from our labors, our striving and scheming, and we need above all to remember and to know that He is God and we are not.

 

The rest of God is not only to be found in our outward rhythms of work and rest, but in the inward movements of our heart and mind to trust God and move closer and closer to Him every day. Jesus is desiring to be with you, from the inside out. Jesus is desiring to set you free and in your freedom, to give you rest, in this life and in the life to come.

 

Are you moving closer and closer to Jesus?

 

Supplemental Material

 
—————————————————————————————————

Footnotes:

 

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 11:28–30. All caps in this reference is part of NASB formatting to indicate that Jesus is quoting the Old Testament. In this case, it is Jeremiah 6:16 which is relevant to today’s teaching, but will be further discussed in the future.

 

[2] David Abernathy, An Exegetical Summary of Matthew 1–16, Exegetical Summaries (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2013), 412–413.

 

[3] When I was first studying this passage, I was going to demonstrate how God “gives” and cross reference this promise with the famous promise of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” But while there is a conceptual connection to this truth that God is the giver of all good gifts (cf. James 1:17), there is not a lexical connection. This is a one-word promise and it is not the same Greek verb used in either of these verses or the like (e.g. Rom 8:32).

 

[4] Word studies and analysis of the text done in Logos 8 Bible Software. Word study with Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. Additionally from UBS, “to cause someone to become physically refreshed as the result of resting from work—‘to cause to rest, to give rest.’ δεῦτε πρός με … κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς ‘come to me … and I will give you rest’ Mt 11:28. In some languages it may be difficult to speak of ‘causing someone to become refreshed by resting.’ Normally this would be accomplished simply by causing a person not to have to work. Accordingly, Mt 11:28 may be expressed in some languages as ‘I will make it possible for you no longer to have to work’ or ‘… to toil hard.’ This, however, must not be understood merely in the sense of ‘to give a person a vacation’ or ‘to make it possible for someone to live without working’” (Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains [New York: United Bible Societies, 1996], 260).

 

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mk 6:31–32.

 

[6] Ibid., 1 Co 16:18.

[7] Ibid., 2 Co 7:13.

 

[8] Ibid., Jn 15:5, 16a.

 

[9] Ibid., Mt 12:8. “What better example than the fourth commandment, which dominates 12:1–14? One experiences the sabbath rest precisely by keeping the sabbath command; and it is rest not just for the ‘soul’ (so most translations of 11:29c), but for the body as well. Yet, this only happens for persons intimately related to ‘the Lord of the Sabbath’ (12:8). In Jesus’ hands, the law is an instrument of grace, a guide for loving God and neighbor. Wielded by alien powers (demonic or human), the law becomes enslaving and destructive” (J. Knox Chamblin, Matthew: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries [Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2010], 637).

 


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Rest: Life in the Easy Yoke of Jesus! (Week 2)

Message #2: “Are you tired and worn out?”

Part 2 of an 8-part Teaching on Matthew 11:28-30

 

Today, we are going to start a conversation on the major issues of stress. We live in an overconnected 24×7 world where technology is blurring the lines between work and home life. In 2015, Forbes magazine broke with this news, “According to the World Health Organization, stress is ‘the health epidemic of the 21st century,’ and the driver of many chronic diseases.”[1] This is a fascinating and insightful article that is more relevant today than it was when it was released in October 2015, over three years ago. With the millennial generation on track to be the majority of the work force within the next 6 years, with technology (phones, pads, computers, AI, etc.) continuing to be integrated more deeply than ever into work force expectations and everyday life productivity, and with tightening budgets causing employees to do more with less, allow me to quote some of the statistical research regarding how stress is affecting us:

 

When asked if they have ever missed work due to stress, nearly one-third (31%) of respondents indicated they had taken a day or more out of work in the past year solely because of stress they were feeling on the job. But what are employees saying when they are skipping out to decompress? The most common excuse is calling out sick (81%), followed by taking a mental health day (32%), saying there is a family emergency (20%), claiming a household problem or car troubles (18%) and saying you have a doctor’s appointment (14%). The alternative to having your employees out of the office – having them work while stressed – isn’t necessarily the next best option. Stressed employees don’t perform to their potential: When asked how they operate at work under stress, 56% said they’ll work overtime, 28% said they log regular hours and avoid extra work and 16% said they’ll take long breaks throughout the day. They might be in the office, but they are not engaged with their work. Perhaps the most interesting piece of data: the number of respondents who admitted they have left a job because of the stress it caused them. Just over 40% of respondents said they quit because of stress, which should make employers and HR departments think a little more about how they can empower their employees to thrive in the stressful situations rather than bear the high costs of turnover, replacement and training.[2]

 

Last week we talked about the first three words of Jesus’ invitation, “Come to Me”. Today we are looking at the next clause, “all who are weary and heavy-laden.”[3] Sounds like Jesus is inviting, “all who are stressed out.” Jesus invites people who are stressed out, strung out, screwed up, set up, set aside, snowed in and sent out to pasture. Jesus is inviting you and me!

 

That is good news, because it means that Jesus has not given up on us yet. Jesus is still inviting!

Please open your Bible with me to Matthew 11 and allow me to briefly help you gain important context on who Jesus is inviting. Jesus is making this invitation after John the Baptist’s disciples relay his question as he sat in jail awaiting his execution, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”[4] I think John the Baptist was feeling some anxiety and he was second guessing who Jesus was.[5] So Jesus gave evidence that He is the Messiah and then as if in direct response to John the Baptist’s anxiety, Jesus said, “And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me [literally, “does not stumble over me”].”[6] Jesus’ ways are not our ways!

 

Immediately afterwards, in a strong moment of what I call “righteous rebuke” Jesus describes the generation to which He was sent.[7] Then in unapologetic words of judgment which Jesus usually focused on the religious elite of his day who were putting the burdens on their people, Jesus judged whole cities for their lack of faith and unwillingness to come to Him. He contrasts them to Sodom and Gomorrah actually (ouch!).[8] And this is when the great compassion of Jesus Christ breaks through one of Jesus’ hardest denunciations recorded in the Bible.[9]

 

From the New American Standard Bible, listen to Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28-30 starting in verse 25, “At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”[10]

 

These are words of great compassion in the face of great unbelief. Technically, it is apostasy since Jesus is speaking to a Jewish audience. In a moment that Jesus determined great judgment was due, He compassionately relents (showing His character as gentle and humble in heart) and makes one of the most gracious invitations of His ministry.

Let’s go a little deeper so we can get to application for our lives today. There are two original Greek words of special interest to us this morning. The first is κοπιάω (= weary in Matthew 11:28). There are 23 usages in the NT ranging from to “become weary/tired” and “to exert oneself physically, mentally, or spiritually, word hard, toil, strive, struggle.”[11] An equivalent usage to Matthew 11:28 is found in John 4:6 about Jesus, “Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.”[12]

 

Growing weary, growing tired is a real condition for all of us. It is part of being human. Even Jesus got tired. You can be tired physically, emotionally, relationally, mentally. We are finite creatures. Even when we are in Christ we are dwelling in finite bodies. Never ever forget, that you are human and you need rest! God made us with finite boundaries physically, emotionally, relationally, and mentally. And I will go as far as telling you, that these boundaries are gifts from God, to remind you of your absolute need for God in this life. God is inviting us out of our pride and self-sufficiency. Don’t deny your everyday need for Him. Are you weary? Are you tired?

 

Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to take a nap.

 

When is the last time you took a nap? If you are simply tired, weary from the journey of the last 6 days, then today is the day to find rest for our whole being because our soul is the center of our personality and all that we are.[13] It is God’s gift of rest to His people and it’s called the Sabbath. It’s not a burden, it’s a gift! It is a day of rest after 6 days of work. It is a day of intentional non-productivity after 6 days of productivity. It is a day of celebrating the infinite God whose life you are dependent on and to remember that you are finite and in need of God’s power and provision in your life. It is a day of humility to be reminded that the world doesn’t need your hard work as much as you think. It’s a day of freedom from self-imposed slavery.

 

We will talk more about the Sabbath the Bible’s rest motif when we dive into Jesus’ promise for rest. For now, just know that rest is a part of God’s design for you. He modeled it in Creation, commanded it through Moses, and revolutionized it through Jesus. Jesus is our rest.[14]

 

Now, combine this with the second word: φορτίζω (= heavy-laden in Matthew 11:28). Very interestingly, in the original language, Jesus used this passive participle in the perfect tense which means that Jesus is implying that someone else has already put the burden on you and you are now experiencing the ongoing state of that burden.[15] This is why there are 2 words in this expression: the first is an active participle in the present tense. You are actively tiring yourself out! This second word is the key to Jesus’ invitation: Because someone else has put a heavy-burden on you once upon a time, but you are still feeling the effects of it.

 

Listen to the only other usage of φορτίζω, but this time in the active voice meaning to load someone down, to burden them.[16] The only two usages of the word were used by Jesus and it provides a significant connection to the meaning of our scripture. Listen to Luke 11:46, “But He said, ‘Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers.’”[17]

 

This is further applied by Jesus in Matthew 23:1-4, “Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.’”[18]

 

Listen one more time to Jesus’ invitation, but this time in The Message. It demonstrates the context in which Jesus is inviting all who are weary and heavy-laden: “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.”[19]

 

Jesus is inviting people into the life He has learned to live. A life that is not one of performance with a try-harder mentality, but the life in the grace-yoke of submission to God the Father, whom Jesus taught us to call Father, too. Jesus lived this before us, showing us the rest and the peace and the fullness of joy that comes with a relationship with God that is not based on man’s performance goals to meet the religious standards that have been squarely placed upon our shoulders with no hope of rescue. The rescue is here and Jesus is doing it and inviting us into it.[20]

Jesus is inviting you to enter into His rest and to stop trying harder to find security. In Jesus, you are already found, stop trying to earn your acceptance because you are already accepted.

 

What God has known we as a people are starting to learn to re-train ourselves to live by—it’s the new way of the Spirit.[21] We are disintegrating as a church because we live more like culture than like God’s people. All of these are worldly and not biblical teachings, but they all are right here working against the very way Jesus calls us to live and do community:

 

  • “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again.”
  • “It’s up to me to make it happen.”
  • “I have to take control of the situation.”
  • “I need to get a grip on my emotions.”
  • “Life is hard. I have to be harder.”
  • “I am a self-made person and I can do it.”

 

We are a try-harder culture, but Jesus is not a try-harder God. Stop trying harder to be someone and to make something of your life. Rest and live your life! Be who you are in Christ and allow Him to do what He’s always intended for you to do in His easy yoke.

 

The easy yoke does not mean life is going to be easy. Life is not easy, but in the easy yoke of Jesus Christ your best life is ahead of you, not behind you. Never behind you! Because the easy yoke of Jesus Christ is your rescue from the yoke of the devil (not only for eternity, but for this world here and now). The devil is the deceiver of your soul who is striving to distort your personality and intoxicate your desires. And in doing so, the devil is the thief of your joy, the robber of your peace, and the destroyer of your rest. For the followers of Jesus Christ, the devil is the only true enemy we will ever have because it is the devil who animates the structures and the systems of this world against the followers of Jesus who are called to live with and for God as proclaimers of the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven.[22]

 

As Jesus Christ promised as our good shepherd, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”[23] As the good shepherd, Jesus never drives us to do His Father’s will, He always walks amidst us, with us, to do His Father’s will. He modeled the life of being in the grace yoke of His Father by living the restful life, which included how He walked, talked, even how He died. Every aspect of His life was according to the Father’s will and for us to be able to enter His rest.[24]

 

As the Apostle Paul said to the disciples of Jesus Christ in Galatia, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”[25]

 

Jesus is inviting you to His easy yoke. Accept Jesus’ invitation and allow Jesus to personally release you from the bondage of religion that is a heavy yoke that has been placed around your neck. In place of that yoke, Jesus will personally custom fit you with a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. Made by the Nazarene carpenter Himself.[26]

 

Anxiety is caused when we view the problems of this life as greater than the promises of God. Rest is when we trust the promises of God as being greater than the problems of this life.

 

Jesus is inviting you to take Him at His promise for your life.

 

Are you tired and worn out? Has Christianity as you’ve known it and experienced it not even touched your depression or your anxiety or your fears of death or worries in life or your neurotic tendencies or self-centered thinking or consumeristic living?

 

Jesus is inviting you to get out of that heavy yoke of religion and take on the easy yoke of relationship. Jesus is inviting you to find your rest in Him.
 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] Jan Bruce, “Are You Too Stressed to Work: You’re Not Alone” Forbes Magazine posted October 20, 2015. https://www.forbes.com/sites/janbruce/2015/10/20/are-you-too-stressed-to-work/#3fcde2a5a9e3. Accessed January 12, 2019.

 

[2] Ibid.

 

[3] “πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι” (Kurt Aland et al., Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th Edition. [Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012], Mt 11:28).

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 11:3.

 

[5] The amazing news is that Jesus did not hold this against John because Jesus’ acceptance is not based on performance or right answers. Reference Mt 11:7-11.

 

[6] Ibid., Mt 11:6.

 

[7] When Jesus says things like this (Matthew 11:16-24), He is being true and just (righteous), but when a pastor says things like this today, he is generally thought of as letting his stress, anxiety, frustration, or anger come through toward individuals or the congregation. Is there a place for righteous rebuke in the 21st century pulpit?

 

[8] This is not the only connection to Sodom and Gomorrah. You may remember from our study of the phrase “come to Me” in the NASB it is used in Genesis 18:21 when God describes how the prayers of His people come to Him: “And the Lord said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.’”

 

[9] Cf. Mt 23:13-39. We see the same pattern. The righteous rebuke of Jesus Christ (13-36) is again followed by His compassionate plea (37-39). Even as Jesus’ denounces, He can’t help Himself in compassionately inviting.

 

[10] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 11:25–30. All caps in this reference is part of NASB formatting to indicate that Jesus is quoting the Old Testament.

[11] Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

 

[12] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 4:6.

 

[13] There is currently a lot of research on the effects of sleep deprivation on personality and productivity. Surprise, but science is finding that having sufficient sleep is critical to living an abundant life. Are you getting enough sleep to be at your very best? Are you disciplined about getting to bed on time? Are you relaxing before bed in order to actually get good sleep? Research is also proving that anxious people don’t rest well (in sleep or during the day in how they handle their circumstances and everyday demands and expectations).

 

[14] We will learn more in future studies. For now, additional research available by reading, “How is Jesus our Sabbath Rest?” at https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-Sabbath.html (accessed January 12, 2019).

[15] Perfect is “The verb tense used by the writer to describe a completed verbal action that occurred in the past but which produced a state of being or a result that exists in the present (in relation to the writer). The emphasis of the perfect is not the past action so much as it is as such but the present ‘state of affairs’ resulting from the past action” (Michael S. Heiser and Vincent M. Setterholm, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology [Lexham Press, 2013; 2013]).

[16] Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. In Lk 11:46, it is also in the indicative mood which is the mood of assertion. Jesus is saying that these men really did it.

[17] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Lk 11:46.

 

[18] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 23:1–4. This Greek word φορτίον is translated “burden” in Mt 23:4 and is used again as “burden” in Mt 11:30, “my burden is light.”

 

[19] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), Mt 11:28–30.

 

[20] Jesus took on the yoke of His Father before He invited us to take His yoke. Jesus modeled a submitted life (“I am gentle and humble in heart” v. 29) before He calls us to a submitted life. “As a disciple of the Father Jesus learned the easy yoke life and teaches it to us. Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of Jesus’ life on earth is that as the Sovereign Lord he himself lived by the discipline of submission!” (Bill Gaultiere, Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke: Rhythms of Grace to De-Stress and Live Empowered. [Irvine, CA: Soul Shepherding, Inc., 2016], 30, 34). The try-harder conversation was stimulated by this book and some information was shared from pages 19-21.

[21] Rom 7:6. For further study, check out Larry Crabb’s resources.

 

              [22] We must soberly and humbly acknowledge, that this includes the dynamics of our own cultural values. In the challenges of our current conversations, the devil is keeping us in bondage to the try-harder mentality fueled by narcissistic fear and unempathetic greed! Don’t believe me? My hope is that the call of Jesus will reform the church. The only way we will truly have “liberty and justice for all” in this nation is if the church of Jesus Christ wakes up from its long slumber to become true followers of Jesus, uncompromised by the ambition for more stuff and the lust for power over “the other” that has intoxicated us. Wake up people of God and unyoke from the heavy yoke, the performance yoke of this world, and take on the easy yoke, the grace yoke of Jesus Christ. This will be the hardest work the American church has done in a long time because it will break us from our own desire to join in the building of mini-empires. The only people who say that there is no hard work found in taking on the easy yoke of Jesus Christ are the ones who have never truly submitted to His lordship. Submission is the hardest work because it is the crucified life of Galatians 2:20. The hard work of Jesus is revolutionary to all things that come natural to the world because His kingdom, to which He is inviting us, is not of this world (Jn 18:36). More on this later.

 

[23] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 10:10–11.

[24] Allusion to Hebrews 4:11. More on this passage next week when we unpack the rest motif and to demonstrate how Jesus modeled the restful life, even in the hardest of circumstances.

[25] Ibid., Ga 5:1. Compare with Ga 2:4; Acts 15:10; and 1 Tim 6:1.

[26] We will discuss this more when we talk about the yoke of Jesus. But it is an amazing thought that Jesus, as Joseph’s apprentice and as a carpenter Himself, would have custom made countless numbers of yokes for the oxen in His community. Jesus knows what it takes to make a yoke that fits properly. The yoke He is calling you to has been custom made for you to do the good works the Father has prepared for you (Eph 2:10).


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Rest: Living in the Easy Yoke of Jesus!

Rest: Life in the Easy Yoke of Jesus!

Part 1 of an 8-part Teaching on Matthew 11:28-30

Message #1: “You are invited!”

 

You are invited! You ask, invited to do what? You are invited to make 2019 a great year! One year from now, as you are looking back on 2019, here is the most important question we can ask ourselves: Am I growing closer to Jesus Christ today more than I was a year ago? And as a church: Are we loving one another more like Jesus’ family today than we were a year ago?

 

But you must know who is inviting you. It is not me or the church who is inviting you to grow closer in your relationship with Jesus. This is not a program you can opt in or out of; this is a crossroads moment! How you respond to any invitation is dependent on who is inviting you!

 

From the New American Standard Bible, listen to Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”[1]

 

This will be our scripture focus for the months of January and February. It is the goal of this series that we each will go on a journey of learning how to live our day-to-day lives in such a way as to grow closer to Jesus and to one another. By doing so, we’ll experience rest.

 

Today, we start this series with the first three words: Come to Me… In the NASB translation, the phrase “come to me” is found 50 times and of those 50 usages (30 in OT/20 in NT), 19 (5 in OT/14 in NT) of them has God as the object of the phrase (the “Me”).[2]

 

Where else did Jesus use this invitation of come to Me? In all the verses below, I add the emphasis of bold and underline to highlight these specific words in their context.

 

Jesus says “come to Me” in Mark 10:14-15 (cf. the parallel passages in Matthew 19:14 & Luke 18:16), “But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”[3]

 

From Luke 6:46-48, Jesus admonishes, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.”[4]

In Jesus’ command for us to carry our own cross in Luke 14:26-27, Jesus opens the invitation, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”[5]

 

We’ve now seen these specific words used in all three of the Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke. What about the fourth gospel, John?

 

In John 5:39-40, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”[6]

 

Jesus uses this phrase six unique times in John 6. In verse 35, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’”[7] Twice in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”[8] Twice in John 6:44-45, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.”[9] And again in John 6:65, “And He was saying, ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.’”[10]

 

The final time “come to Me” is used by Jesus is John 7:37-38, “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ ’ ”[11] Please notice the parallelism in this passage and also in John 6:35 between “come to Me” and “believes in Me.” This grammatical construct is like a neon sign of Jesus’ intent on what it means to truly come to Him. It is a life of faith in Jesus that leads to rest.

 

Quickly, allow me to go one layer deeper with you so you can see something that is not apparent in our English translations. The original Greek word translated “come” in Matthew 11:28 is δεῦτε. This word is not only translated “come”, but also “follow” as in Jesus’ invitation of “Follow Me” in Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:17. In other words, Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28 has a semantic connection to His call to the life of Christian discipleship.

The rest for your life that you are looking for is not found in seeking after rest in and of itself. We will build upon this overarching point significantly over these next two months, but please know up front that rest for your soul will never be found in retirement or recreation, but in living the deeper life of imitating Jesus Christ who restores us to our divine work (our form and function) as the Imagers of God.[12]

 

Rest is found in not only putting your faith in Jesus, but then living the life of Christian discipleship. Rest is found in the midst of our work when we return our work to its original God-given purpose (Genesis 1:26-31). That great news is that God promises to reward us for our work (Matthew 25:21-46). Jesus describes the reward for those who live according to God’s way as an invitation in Matthew 25:34, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”[13]

 

The One who created you has redeemed you to find rest in the work He formed you to do in your life. As the Apostle Paul stated in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”[14]

 

For this is the yoke you are being invited to put on and this is the cross you are being invited to carry. It is counter-intuitive because neither of these images produces thoughts of rest, but both the yoke and the cross are “conceptual metaphors” of taking on yourself the teachings and ways of Jesus Christ.[15] To do so is to choose the path you are going to take in the crossroad that you (and we as a church) find ourselves. Taking the yoke of Jesus Christ is to take for yourself the ancient paths of following God,[16] who is fully revealed to you in Jesus the Christ. Will you follow Jesus and find rest for your soul, for this life and for the life to come?
 
For ADDITIONAL RESOURCES on this topic, click HERE.
 
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FOOTNOTES
 

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 11:28–30. All caps in this reference is part of NASB formatting to indicate that Jesus is quoting the Old Testament.

 

[2] All word studies were done utilizing the Logos 8 Bible software.

 

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mk 10:14–15.

 

[4] Ibid., Lk 6:46–48.

[5] Ibid., Lk 14:26–27.

 

[6] Ibid., Jn 5:39–40.

 

[7] Ibid., Jn 6:35.

 

[8] Ibid., Jn 6:37.

 

[9] Ibid., Jn 6:44–45. This scripture, in addition to verses 37 and 65, establishes the sovereignty of God as a determinant for who will come to Jesus. I will develop in a future study how this is also seen in Matthew 11:25-27 as the context for Jesus’ invitation “Come to Me…”. While we view this as an open invitation, these scriptures overwhelmingly indicate that for a person to respond to this invitation s/he must be given the effective means to do so by God. This should lead to an even greater humility in any person who has come to Jesus.

 

[10] Ibid., Jn 6:65.

 

[11] Ibid., Jn 7:37–38.

[12] I will develop this line of thought in a future teaching when we address what Jesus calls the “soul”. Jesus is actually quoting Jeremiah 6:16 when He uses this word, so we will examine the Hebrew word nephesh.

 

[13] Ibid., Mt 25:34.

 

[14] Ibid., Eph 2:10.

[15] “Conceptual metaphor refers to the way we use a concrete term or idea to communicate abstract ideas. If we marry ourselves to the concrete (“literal”) meaning of words, we’re going to miss the point the writer was angling for in many cases. If I use the word “Vegas” and all you think of is latitude and longitude, you’re not following my meaning. Biblical words can carry a lot of freight that transcends their concrete sense. Inspiration didn’t immunize language from doing what it does” (Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition. [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015], 387). More on this in a future sermon when we develop the yoke imagery, but for now it is enough to know that a communication/teaching device is being used by Jesus in His invitation to Christian discipleship.

 

[16] Jesus references Jeremiah 6:16 in His invitation of Matthew 11:28-30. While we will deal with the implications of this OT quotation in a later teaching, for now it is important to realize that the context of Jeremiah 6:16 is Yahweh putting before Israel the choice of following His “ancient paths” or worshipping pagan gods. They choose the later, to their own destruction. What will we choose as Jesus invites us to follow Him?


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Supernatural (Week 5)

Supernatural: When Heaven Came Down to Earth!

[This Advent Series focuses on the Angels Perspective of the Christmas Story]

December 30, 2018 by Pastor Jerry Ingalls at First Baptist Church in New Castle, Indiana

 Message #4: “Angels: Participants in the Last Things!”

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

(We apologize, but this week our sound system was disabled by an apparent power surge in New Castle.  We have a special version of the video to share with you.  Please click HERE to view it.)

Angels are God’s loyal army who deliver messages and faithfully minister to God’s people. Angels were present at the beginning, have had God-ordained roles throughout salvation history, and according to God’s Word have a direct role in the last things.

 

Listen to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

 

These words, like all prophetic words in scripture, were given for this reason: to comfort God’s people in the face of current sufferings and hardships and the fear and anxiety caused by the unknown of the future. In the same way that God gives us His Word to comfort us, God sends his heavenly host (angels) to minister to us. As Hebrews 1:14 asks, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?”

 

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 discusses the rapture of the Church from the earth, the taking of God’s people to Heaven in preparation for the seven years of tribulation which are necessary for the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Israel. This is the imminent expectation and hopeful promise for the Church. God’s people are living in the season of the Second Advent—we live in anticipation of what has been promised as God is leading us toward the consummation of all things which includes the fulfillment of all His covenant promises! I believe the promises of the Second Advent will be fulfilled the same way that the promises of the First Advent were fulfilled—literally, spiritually and fully according to God’s Word. God’s promises are for the whole of God’s creation because God’s purposes for creating the heavens and the earth will not be thwarted by evil or sin, but will be redeemed by truth and grace as revealed in Jesus Christ.

 

But we must not make the same mistake that the religious leaders (Sadducees and Pharisees) of Jesus’ time made. The Sadducees missed the First Advent because they did not believe in certain supernatural realities, such as angels and the resurrection from the dead. Their view of scripture did not allow them to see Jesus for who He so clearly declared and showed Himself to be. In fact, their view of Scripture caused them to not just miss it, but to reject and demonize Jesus. On the other hand, the Pharisees missed the First Advent because they too rigidly held to their literal interpretations of the prophecies of the coming Messiah so they too not only missed Jesus as Messiah, but they rejected Jesus as from being of God and ultimately killed him, because He and the events around Him didn’t happen according to their interpretations and timelines. Both ways of thinking are gutters still today, either extreme of prophetic interpretation: the lack of spiritual insight to the Scripture or the rigid adherence to a limited perspective of what has been revealed.

 

Did you hear that the voice of the archangel will be a part of the Rapture of the church? This is not the only time we will see the angels at the time of the last things. Jesus teaches about angels in Matthew 13:37-43, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

 

The angels are participants in the end times of God making all things right because angels are God’s heavenly host. God’s army will not fail in bringing to completion that which God has willed. Revelation 12:7-11 proclaims of the angelic involvement of the final victory over evil, “And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.’ And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”

 

And this paves the way to the greatest reality of God’s will. That God is going to purify and perfect this cursed creation to bring about our final blessed home in the Eternal Kingdom of God—the earth shall return to what God intended: God’s family all together in Eden. The Bible calls this redemption of all things the New Heaven and New Earth. In Revelation 21—22, the angel shows John God’s final dwelling for us with Him. It will be just as Adam and Eve were with Him before the Fall, but even better! This time we’ll be in a glorified state where there will be no more possibility of rebellion (sin), for evil will have been judged and removed from creation, and there will be no more death. And guess what, it is right down here, on earth.

 

When Heaven is on Earth! The Second Advent will be fulfilled just as literally and just as spiritually and just as fully as the First Advent! Listen to sections of Revelation 21:9—22:5, “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, ‘Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.”

 

Church be comforted for you have a heavenly army (angels) who will ensure that the will of God happens in each of our lives and for all of creation. Just as angels were there at the beginning, they will be there at the end. Just as we have celebrated and proclaimed the fulfillment of God’s promises for the First Advent (Christmas), let us celebrate and proclaim the Second Advent (the Second Coming of Christ).

 

As Paul says, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

 
For Additional Resources, click HERE.

 


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Supernatural (Week 4)

Supernatural: When Heaven Came Down to Earth!

[This Advent Series focuses on the Angels Perspective of the Christmas Story]

Message #3: “Angels: Proclaimers of Peace!” (Luke 2:1-20)

(Luke 2:1-20)

 

This is the 3rd message in our Christmas series of messages on angels, called Supernatural. Throughout this series and even just in our Christmas Bible reading today, have you noticed how much the angels are directly involved in the Christmas story? The angels have delivered key messages of hope to the main players in the Christmas story. The angels’ involvement is not secondary to the Christmas story, it is God ordained. Therefore, we should understand what God has designed and willed as essential to the greatest miracle in history—Christmas!

 

The heart of Christmas is supernatural! It is the miracle of the incarnation—God who is Spirit and exists outside of creation took on flesh and came amongst us into creation. The Christmas miracle of Immanuel—God is with us! God had walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but because of their sin He justly removed them from His presence (the Fall). God made a way for humanity to be in His presence once again. At the heart of the Big Story of the Bible, Christmas is God’s rescue mission to humanity and the angels are God’s heavenly host, participating fully in Heaven invading Earth to bring God’s peace through His Son Jesus Christ.

 

Angels are called the “heavenly host” (Luke 2:13). The word “host” means “‘a well-trained army’—one that is prepared for war. God’s angels are organized and ready to respond to His every desire and command” (David Jeremiah, 2015, 46). Angels are not a little bling in the Christmas story to make it more marketable to a pop-culture consumer. Angels are not like the lights on the tree to make it more festive. Before angels were key characters in your favorite Hallmark movie, angels were important messengers and ministers to the cast of characters in the actual historical event that is the Christmas story we remember and celebrate every year.

 

The Loyal Host of Heaven have been watching the Big Story of the Bible unfold from the beginning (Job 38:6-7 points to them being there at Genesis 1) and the angels will continue to watch the greatest story ever told unfold before them until its completion (Revelation 21:12 points to them being there in the New Heaven and New Earth). They have front row seats in the very presence of God in Heaven, but they heard something that first Christmas that not a single one of them could have known or even dared to imagine. What did they hear? The cry of a little newborn baby named Jesus. Jesus who would grow up and fulfill every ancient prophecy of the Messiah. Jesus who would die a sinner’s death on the Cross for humanity. Jesus who would defeat death and Hell itself, forever removing the sting of death. Jesus, God, Eternal… a baby…

 

Let’s read one more time the role of the angels in just this one part of the Christmas story in Luke 2:9-15, “And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’ When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’”

 

The angels make promises to the shepherds that are fulfilled when they went to investigate the supernatural claims of God’s heavenly messengers. The shepherds found baby Jesus just as the angels said He would be found! They worshipped baby Jesus! In fact, their response to their investigation of the supernatural claims about Jesus was this: The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them” (Luke 2:20).

 

Just like with the angels, you too can be forever touched if you seek to explore the supernatural promise of God made to humanity through the angels. The Loyal Host of Heaven proclaimed on that first Christmas, “Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14).

 

The angels may be proclaimers of this peace, but only Jesus Christ can give you this peace! Jesus is the Immanuel—God who is with us! Peace among men can only be found when we first have peace with the God who demonstrated His love for humanity by sending His unique Son that those who believe in Him will have eternal life with God and not taste of the second death, which is an eternal state of being separated from God, the only One by whom we can experience lasting peace (John 3:16). The first Christmas was a rescue mission and that rescue is still happening in our world today!

 

Jesus promises in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”[1]

 

God keeps His promises! This is why Jesus came from Heaven to Earth, to bring peace between humanity and God. The angels knew this and they watched God bring peace to humanity by becoming the Christmas miracle: Immanuel – Jesus is the Christmas miracle to which the angels stand in awe and wonder of God’s great love for humanity.

 

Have you opened your mind and heart to receive the first and greatest Christmas gift ever given?

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] As Chrysostom (4th Century Church Father) said in Demonstration Against the Pagans 2.8–10, “Why did Christ speak in this way [referencing John 14:27]? Because the peace which comes from a human being is easily destroyed and subject to many changes. But Christ’s peace is strong, unshaken, firm, fixed, steadfast, immune to death and unending” (Thomas C. Oden and Cindy Crosby, eds., Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings: Lectionary Cycle A [Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2007], 33).
 

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Supernatural (Week 3) A Musical

“Supernatural: A Preparation for Advent Story”

Angel stories adapted from Luke 1-2, & Matthew 1
 
NARRATOR: (Kevin Stonerock)
From the beginning of time as you know it, God’s plan was to be in communion with His creation. But He did not want it to be a forced relationship, but rather one of choice. He loved the man and woman that He created and wanted them to choose to love Him in return.
 
But they made the choice to want to be like God, which was the same thing that caused Lucifer (Satan) and a third of the angels to be cast out of heaven. Rather than being in love with Him and being thankful for what He had given them, they listened to Satan speaking through the snake and threw it all away for a lie.
 
God’s desire to be in communion was still there, even though they chose separation. So He began a plan of restoration, keeping the lines of communication open. He wove what many call ‘a scarlet thread’ throughout the tapestry of the history of the world. God kept reaching out, speaking through the prophets and sending angels to let them know He still loved them and would be sending a Messiah, IMMANUEL, which means “God with us”. While Satan tried to derail this plan, God kept showing mankind that He was working all things together for their good. They cried out for a Deliverer, someone to help end their suffering. But God showed them that what they really needed was a Savior, One whom could restore the relationship between God and man. And God’s plan would not be delivered in the way that many expected.
 
 
ANGEL 1 (Kenton Durham) There was a priest name Zacharias serving in Judea under Herod, the Great, king of Judea. He was married to Elizabeth, who was a direct descendant of Aaron, the first high priest of Israel. Both were found righteous in the eyes of God, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and requirements. But sadly, they were childless because Elizabeth was barren and they were both past the age of having children.
 
One day while he was serving in the temple, he was chosen to enter the sanctuary of the Temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar…
 
 
SONG:  “The Father’s Plan” Duet with Zach & Angel  (by Matt Hurst)
 
ANGEL 1 (Kenton) When he went out and was unable to speak, by the signs he was making, the crowd realized he must have seen a vision. He returned home after his duties were fulfilled, and Elizabeth became pregnant. She secluded herself for 5 months, saying…
 
 
ELIZABETH (Tina Durham) How kind and gracious the Lord is! He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.
 
 
NARRATOR (Kevin S) Meanwhile, in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel visited a young woman by the name of Mary who was engaged to Joseph the carpenter in the village of Nazareth in Galilee
 
 
GABRIEL (Jared Evans) Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you! (pause for Mary’s reaction) Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!
 
 
MARY (Emily Hurst) How can this be, since I am a virgin?
 
 
GABRIEL (Jared) The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth is pregnant with a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail.
 
MARY (Emily) I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.
 
 
NARRATOR (Kevin S) A few days later, Mary went off to the hill country of Judea to visit Elizabeth. When she entered the house, at the sound of her greeting, the baby leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit…
 
ELIZABETH (Tina) Mary…..God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, my baby boy jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.
 
 
NARRATOR (Kevin) Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months, then returned home. But while she was away, the angel visited Joseph in a dream (Joseph played by Matt H.)
 
GABRIEL (Jared) Joseph, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, for he will save the people from their sins.
 
 
NARRATOR (Kevin) When he awoke, he did as the angel told him and took Mary to be his wife.
 
 
SONG: “MARY DID YOU KNOW” (sung by Jared)
 
 
NARRATOR (Kevin S) Just before the child was born, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census should be taken, which required everyone to return to their ancestral towns to register. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea. He and Mary traveled there from Nazareth. There was not a room to be found in the town, but they found shelter in a stable, and there she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snuggly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger. In the fields nearby, there were shepherds keeping watch over their flocks of sheep. Suddenly an angel appeared among them with the radiance of God’s glory surrounding them, and they were terrified…
 
(Shepherds played by Brandon Atwood, Kevin King and Elijah Abrams)
 
ANGEL 2 (Kolby Durham) Don’t be afraid! I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And you will recognize him by this sign; You will find the baby wrapped snuggly in strips of cloth and lying in a manger
 
 
SONG: “Agnus Dei” (Sung by Kolby)
 
 
NARRATOR (Kevin S) The shepherds knew that they must go and see what the Lord had told them about. They rushed to the village and found Mary and Joseph with the baby lying in the manger, just as they were told.
 
 
SONG: “Noel” (sung by Kenton)   NARRATOR (Kevin S) Thankfully, the story does not stop here, but rather marks the change in history where God came down in a supernatural way in the form of human baby that was fully God and fully man. His Son grew up, in favor with God and man, and began His ministry by calling 12 men to follow Him, promising that He would make them ‘fishers of people’. He performed miracles, signs and wonders, and ultimately gave His life up as a ransom for many. But He rose again, showing himself to his followers and charging them with the task of taking the message of grace, hope and love to a world that needs to restore their communion with God on a personal level. God poured out His love on us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The Lamb of God, taking all of our sins to the cross, became the ultimate sacrifice, something that no ordinary man could ever do. Just like on that first Christmas night, we are all invited to come to the Messiah, and recognize our need for the Savior.
 
 
SONG: ‘Is He Worthy’ with O Come Let Us Adore Him (Lead by Brandon Atwood, sang by entire cast)
 
 
 

List of Characters:

  • Narrator: Kevin Stonerock
  • Angel 1: Kenton Durham
  • Zachariah: Ken Durham
  • Elizabeth: Tina Durham
  • Gabriel: Jared Evans
  • Mary: Emily Hurst
  • Joseph: Matt Hurst (non speaking)
  • Baby Jesus:  Eliza Hurst
  • Angel 2: Kolby Durham
Shepherds (non speaking; could also be part of crowd):
  • Shepherd Kevin King
  • Shepherd Elijah Abrams
  • Shepherd Brandon Atwood
Angel Costumes made by Betty McQueen and Marcia Ireland
Tech Crew:  David Maddy, Cheryl Gideon, Michael Dabrowski, Max Harter, Caleb & Staisha West
 

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Supernatural (Week 2)

[This Advent Series focuses on the Angels Perspective of the Christmas Story] Bree King reads Luke 1:26-38, then Kevin King reads Matthew 1:18-25, prays for the message and congregation.

Message #2: “Angels: Ministering Spirits to God’s People!”

Luke 1:26-38 & Matthew 1:18-25

Do you notice how the angels are directly involved in the Christmas story? Last week, we saw how the angel Gabriel was involved in the birth of John the Baptist and today we see how directly he was involved in the birth of Jesus the Christ. Truly, without God sending the angel to Joseph, Mary would have ended up a single teenage mother, outcasted and labeled by her community, trying to raise the Savior of the World by herself. The angels’ involvement is not secondary to the Christmas story, it is God ordained. Therefore, we should understand what God has designed and willed.
 
There are approximately 180 references to angels in the Bible and in ¾ of them they are focused on angels serving God’s human family (Michael Heiser, 2018, 132). They are simply doing their job as the guardians of God’s presence and messengers (ministers) to God’s people! They are the “Loyal Host of Heaven.” The word “host” means “‘a well-trained army’—one that is prepared for war. God’s angels are organized and ready to respond to His every desire and command” (David Jeremiah, 2015, 46).

 

As an immediate application for us, never underestimate the ripple effect of one small act of obedience. I believe that “just doing your job” with all of your heart is the greatest way you can serve in full-time Christian ministry. Please hear this: you don’t have to work in a position within the church or as a missionary to be on mission! It’s not about your job title or what you do, it’s about doing it all for God’s glory. As Paul says in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
 
Just think about this for a second: What if the angels did not do their jobs wholeheartedly? What if the angels who are commanded to minister to you in a time of great need or danger were only going through the motions, trying to do the minimum of what was needed to avoid Hell in hopes of going to Heaven? Scary thought…maybe that should wake us up to the importance of how we live our lives. Thank you Jesus for forgiveness and grace!  But let us not use God’s grace as license to sin or to be half-hearted in our Christian life.
 
Angels are created beings who have existed in the presence of God for thousands of years so while they have free will and can fall, they have every reason to obey with their whole heart. John records an angel’s response to him in Revelation 19:10, “Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God.’”
 
Perspective matters! This verse DOES NOT mean angels are our servants; they are fellow servants of God! Angels are ministering spirits to God’s earthly family. Listen to Hebrews 1:14,Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?”
 
And this leads us into our big question of the day: Are there guardian angels? ——— The short answer is yes! Here is what the Bible has to say about the topic of guardian angels:
 
  1. Hebrews 1:14 calls angels “ministering spirits” and they are “sent out” which means there is a Sender [GOD; hence, we don’t command angels, they act according to God’s orders and within the boundaries of His revealed will to them] and they minister to a specific people, “those who will inherit salvation” [who the Bible calls the elect].
  2. Psalm 34:7 reinforces the group to which the angels minister: The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.”
  3. Psalm 91:11 discusses that you could have a multitude of angels helping you: “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.
  4. Matthew 18:10 emphasizes God’s special provision for children, but speaks of angels in heaven continually in God’s presence and we know angels cannot be in two places at once: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”
  5. Acts 12:15 is part of an amazing story of how angels serve God’s earthly family. This Scripture teaches that angels are real and active in the age of the Church. After angels physically manifest to rescue Peter from jail (please read the story), Peter goes back to the other followers of Jesus, but since they think he is in jail, when Rhoda goes to announce that Peter is at the door knocking, she gets this response: “They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind!’ But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, ‘It is his angel.’”

 

God’s people do have angels ministering to them according to God’s command and permission. Because God sees all and knows all, at times of great need you will have help, with the possibility that some of that help comes in the form of an angel or a host of angels. As J. I. Packer states, “Suffice it to pinpoint the relevance of angels by saying that if at any time we stand in need of their ministry, we shall receive it; and that as the world watches Christians in hope of seeing them tumble, so do good angels watch Christians in hope of seeing grace triumph in their lives” (J. I. Packer, 1993, 66).
 
Allow me to make 2 quick illustrations: Sports: I’ve played basketball and you’ve either played it or watched it. Do we need to always play man-to-man defense, even when there are enough players to do so? No, of course not, you do what is effective and that which the coach tells you!
 
Just like you trust the coach, trust God! The angels do, so should we! In fact, the angels that don’t trust God are no longer part of the loyal host of Heaven. Truly, if we don’t trust God and do what He says, should we go around saying we are Christians? Thank God for Jesus Christ who by grace redeems us and secure us in His love, but let us not abuse such a love.
 
Parenting: First kid, it’s 2:1. Second kid, it’s 1:1. Third kid, you’re outnumbered! J But, here’s the deal, even when Kimberly and I are outnumbered (for her it’s 3:1 for 10 hours a day most days) every one of our children knows that they have a parent who is there for them and will answer their call for help. Even though the child may not always get what s/he thinks is best or good in his/her own eyes, the child knows s/he always has a parent who is there! How much more will we receive the help we need when we call upon the Lord. As Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Don’t call out to angels because angels come only at the command of the Lord. Don’t try to command them, don’t pray to them, and never worship them!
 
Angels are not God’s only means by which to minister to you, to care for you, to guard you and His earthly family. God has more at His disposal for your well-being in this life than angels. God has called you to come to the aid of others like the angels are called to come to your aid. Which is why Hebrews 13:1-2 commands His Church, Let love of the brethren [men and women] continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers [men and women], for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” You never know how God will use you to minister to others. You never know that someone may mistake you as an angel just like you may be ministering to an angel one day without knowing it. This should stop us in our tracks of any racism, sexism, bigotry, vileness, cursing, gossip or slander. God is with us and His angels are possibly the person you are speaking to or about.
 
Who can you invest in today? What service can you render? How can you be there for someone who needs to experience the love of God?
 
In conclusion, may the Christmas story remind you that you are never alone! The miracle of Christmas is Immanuel – God is with us! The little baby Jesus of the first Christmas morning grew up to be a man who lived a perfect life, died a substitutionary death for your sin, defeated death through His resurrection, ascended to Heaven in His resurrected body, and is coming again to make all things right. He promised to you, “I am with you always, even to the end of this age” (Matthew 28:20).
 
God keeps His promises! You are secure in His love for all of eternity and you are protected by His presence and power in this life. God will send His angels to minister to you, but more than that, God is with you, today and every day, forever! Immanuel – this is the Christmas miracle to which the angels stand in awe and wonder of God’s great love for humanity.
 
 
This ends the notes from the actual teaching, but for those who have had their appetites whetted…
 

For Additional Study (Quotes from Resources with references)

 
Key Verses Heb 1:14; Heb 13:2; Is 6:2–3; Da 10:10–14; Lk 1:26–38; 2 Ki 19:35; Job 1:6; 2 Pe 2:11; Col 1:16; Mt 22:28–30; Lk 15:10; Zec 1:9–10; Ps 103:20–21; Eze 10:1–22 Additional Verses Ge 18:1–22; Ge 19:1–22; Jos 5:13–15; 2 Sa 14:17; 2 Sa 14:20; 1 Ki 22:19; Job 38:7; Ps 34:7; Ps 78:49; Ps 91:11; Ps 148:2–6; Da 9:20–27; Col 1:16; Mt 2:19; Mt 4:6–11; Mt 22:30; Mt 24:31; Mt 25:31; Mt 26:53; Mk 1:13; Mk 8:38; Lk 2:13; Lk 4:10; Lk 20:36; Jn 20:10–14; Ac 1:10–11; Ac 5:19; Ac 10:22; Ac 12:5–11; 1 Co 11:10; Col 1:16; Col 2:18; Heb 1:7; Heb 2:6–9; 2 Pe 2:11; Re 4:6–10; Re 5:11–12; Re 14:6[1]  
 
  • David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (2015)
 
As far as I can determine, there are just two verses in the Bible that indicate there might be guardian angels in the world today. The first is Matthew 18:10: “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” Apparently, some of God’s angels are assigned to stand ready before the Father to respond instantly to His command for protection and care over these children. Jesus calls these particular angels “their angels.” And that’s why some people have used this passage as proof that everyone has an angel.

 

The second passage that seems to support guardian angels is in Acts 12. After Peter was released from jail, he went to the home of Mary, where a group of Christians was praying for his release. A servant named Rhoda answered Peter’s knock at the door. She was so excited to hear his voice, she left him outside and ran to tell the believers Peter was at the door. They didn’t believe her and reasoned the person at the door must be Peter’s angel.
 
Now, those are the only two passages that I’m aware of that allude to the idea of guardian angels. Having said all of that, let me also present to you the other side of the story, because while many believers throughout church history have believed in guardian angels, others have rejected the idea, feeling these two texts are not proof enough to construct such a doctrine. As you read the Scripture, there were many times when more than one angel was called into action on behalf of one of God’s chosen. Several angels carried Lazarus’s soul to Abraham’s bosom. And Elisha and his servant were surrounded by many angels. The psalmist writes that all the angels rally for the protection of one saint.
 
Now, we can’t know with absolute certainty whether or not each believer has a guardian angel; but we do know that God’s angels care about us and that they can intervene in our lives as they are called by God—and that’s a wonderful thought![2]

 

Our English word angel translates the Hebrew word mal’ak in the Old Testament and the Greek word angelos in the New Testament. The core meaning of both of those words is “messenger.” That’s the essence of who and what angels are: God’s messengers. God’s will and work for angels is to communicate His messages, both by what they say and what they do (Psalm 103:20–21). And solely in obedience to His will are they sent to serve us. God’s own ministry to us, His plans for us, and His protection of us are the busy stairway angels use in their daily diligence of attending to our needs. When they give us strength or enlightenment, it is God’s strength or enlightenment that they impart (Luke 22:43; Daniel 9:21–22). Their encouragement is God’s encouragement (Genesis 16:10–11). Their guidance is God’s guidance (Acts 11:13). Their protection is God’s protection (Psalm 34:7). When they bring comfort and assistance, it is God’s comfort and assistance they offer (Matthew 4:10–11). And when they bring wrath, it is God’s wrath they inflict (2 Chronicles 32:21). Through what angels say and do, God personally expresses to us His friendship, His fatherhood, and much more.[3]  
 
The Bible gives no indication that angels will respond if we pray directly to them for help. We are never told to pray to angels. In fact, in Scripture we don’t find any instances of people even asking God to send them an angel’s protection. And the only person in Scripture who tried persuading someone else to seek help from an angel was Satan, who quoted an Old Testament verse about angelic protection while tempting Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:6). Angels are God’s messengers to us and never our messengers to God—they are not go-betweens or mediators between us and heaven. No one in Scripture ever prayed to an angel, and neither should we. We pray to God, and He sends the help we need.[4]  
 
Yes, some angels appear in human form. In Genesis 18 and 19, angels appear as men to Abraham and Lot. If you read the story carefully, you see that these angels ate, washed, walked, grabbed hands—they took a physical form. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” If you really believe in angels and would enjoy entertaining or honoring them (as a thank-you gesture perhaps for everything they do for you), consider improving your hospitality to strangers. Not until eternity will you know if any of the strangers you encountered were angels, but the possibility is exciting![5]
 
  • Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (2004)  
 
Scripture clearly tells us that God sends angels for our protection: “He will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Ps. 91:11–12). But some people have gone beyond this idea of general protection and wondered if God gives a specific “guardian angel” for each individual in the world, or at least for each Christian. Support for this idea has been found in Jesus’ words about little children, “in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10). However, our Lord may simply be saying that angels who are assigned the task of protecting little children have ready access to God’s presence. (To use an athletic analogy, the angels may be playing “zone” rather than “man-on-man” defense.) When the disciples in Acts 12:15 say that Peter’s “angel” must be knocking at the door, this does not necessarily imply belief in an individual guardian angel. It could be that an angel was guarding or caring for Peter just at that time. There seems to be, therefore, no convincing support for the idea of individual “guardian angels” in the text of Scripture.[6]  
 
As if to make the reality of angelic observation of our service to God more vivid, the author of Hebrews suggests that angels can sometimes take human form, apparently to make “inspection visits,” something like the newspaper’s restaurant critic who disguises himself and visits a new restaurant. We read, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb. 13:2; cf. Gen. 18:2–5; 19:1–3). This should make us eager to minister to the needs of others whom we do not know, all the while wondering if someday we will reach heaven and meet the angel whom we helped when he appeared temporarily as a human being in distress here on earth.
 
When we are suddenly delivered from a danger or distress, we might suspect that angels have been sent by God to help us, and we should be thankful. An angel shut the mouths of the lions so they would not hurt Daniel (Dan. 6:22), delivered the apostles from prison (Acts 5:19–20), later delivered Peter from prison (Acts 12:7–11), and ministered to Jesus in the wilderness at a time of great weakness, immediately after his temptations had ended (Matt. 4:11).

  When a car suddenly swerves from hitting us, when we suddenly find footing to keep from being swept along in a raging river, when we walk unscathed in a dangerous neighborhood, should we not suspect that God has sent his angels to protect us? Does not Scripture promise, “For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Ps. 91:11–12)? Should we not therefore thank God for sending angels to protect us at such times? It seems right that we should do so.[7]   “Worship of angels” (Col. 2:18) was one of the false doctrines being taught at Colossae. Moreover, an angel speaking to John in the book of Revelation warns John not to worship him: “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God” (Rev. 19:10).

 
Nor should we pray to angels. We are to pray only to God, who alone is omnipotent and thus able to answer prayer and who alone is omniscient and therefore able to hear the prayers of all his people at once. By virtue of omnipotence and omniscience, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are also worthy of being prayed to, but this is not true of any other being. Paul warns us against thinking that any other “mediator” can come between us and God, “for there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). If we were to pray to angels, it would be implicitly attributing to them a status equal to God, which we must not do. There is no example in Scripture of anyone praying to any specific angel or asking angels for help.
 
Moreover, Scripture gives us no warrant to seek for appearances of angels to us. They manifest themselves unsought. To seek such appearances would seem to indicate an unhealthy curiosity or a desire for some kind of spectacular event rather than a love for God and devotion to him and his work. Though angels did appear to people at various times in Scripture, the people apparently never sought those appearances. Our role is rather to talk to the Lord, who is himself the commander of all angelic forces. However, it would not seem wrong to ask God to fulfill his promise in Psalm 91:11 to send angels to protect us in times of need.[8]
 
  • A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (1984)

It is true that angels are sent to minister to those who will inherit salvation (Heb 1:14). But nowhere in Scripture or Jewish tradition of the NT period is there any suggestion that there is one angel for one person. Daniel and Zechariah imply one angel for each nation. Appeal to Acts 12:15 does not help. Why should Peter’s supposed guardian angel sound like Peter? And if ministering angels are sent to help believers, what are the angels in Matthew 18:10 doing around the divine throne, instead of guarding those people to whom they are assigned?[9]

  • I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (1993)

 

Heaven is their headquarters (Matt. 18:10; 22:30; Rev. 5:11), where they constantly worship God (Pss. 103:20–21; 148:2) and whence they move out to render service to Christians at God’s bidding (Heb. 1:14). These are the “holy” and “elect” angels (Matt. 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Acts 10:22; 1 Tim. 5:21; Rev. 14:10), to whom God’s work of grace through Christ is currently demonstrating more of the divine wisdom and glory than they knew before (Eph. 3:10; 1 Pet. 1:12). Holy angels guard believers (Pss. 34:7; 91:11), little ones in particular (Matt. 18:10), and constantly observe what goes on in the church (1 Cor. 11:10). It is implied that they are more knowledgeable about divine things than humans are (Mark 13:32), and that they have a special ministry to believers at the time of their death (Luke 16:22), but we know no details about any of this. Suffice it to pinpoint the relevance of angels by saying that if at any time we stand in need of their ministry, we shall receive it; and that as the world watches Christians in hope of seeing them tumble, so do good angels watch Christians in hope of seeing grace triumph in their lives.[10]
 
  • Michael S. Heiser, Angels: What the Bible Really Says about God’s Heavenly Host (2018)

 

An earthly focus occupies roughly three-quarters of the approximately 180 references to angels in the New Testament. This frequency should not be surprising, as it is God’s will that his heavenly agents serve his human family.
 
Instead of being objects of worship or adoration, angels are cast in the New Testament as “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation” (Heb 1:14). Angels are portrayed rendering their service in a variety of ways. They delivered apostles from prison (Acts 5:18–21; 12:7–11). One comforted Paul when his life was threatened (Acts 27:23). Angels brought messages to people in dreams (Joseph: Matt 1:20–24; 2:13, 19) and visions (Mary, the mother of Jesus: Luke 1:26–38; Zechariah: Luke 1:8–23; Cornelius: Acts 10:3–7, 22 [cf. Acts 11:13]; Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” at the empty tomb: Matt 28:1–7 [cf. Luke 24:23]; John 20:12–13; cf. 1 Tim 3:16). Angels appeared in the heavens to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:9, 10).
 
Angels could also encounter humans physically. An angel struck Peter on the side to awaken him in prison and supernaturally freed him from his shackles (Acts 12:7). The apostle nevertheless presumed he was experiencing a vision until he found himself outside the jail alone on the street (Acts 12:7–11). The circumstance of an angel of the Lord appearing to Philip (Acts 8:26) is not qualified as a vision, and so a physical appearance is a possible reading of that encounter. Angels ministered to Jesus after he resisted the devil in the wilderness (Matt 4:11; Mark 1:13). An angel rolled back the stone covering the tomb of Jesus and subsequently used it for a seat (Matt 28:2).
 
These instances are all consistent with portrayals of angels in the Old Testament. It is not surprising, in view of this earlier revelation, that the New Testament has Jewish characters expressing the belief that angels could appear and speak to people (John 12:29; Acts 23:9). As the writer of Hebrews notes, an angel’s true identity in such an encounter could be completely imperceptible: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb 13:2). The implication is that angels could not be distinguished from ordinary men. The writer is apparently thinking of Old Testament episodes such as Genesis 18–19. However, explicit references to angels as men are rare in the New Testament (Luke 24:4 [cf. John 20:12]); Acts 1:10; 10:30), and when they do occur, the “men” wear dazzling, luminous robes, suggesting they were extraordinary.
 
One of the more pronounced ministries to people in which angels engage is that of interpreting visions or divine decrees. We saw earlier that this thematic portrayal (the “interpreting angel” motif) occurred in Old Testament apocalyptic literature. The same is true of apocalyptic literature in the New Testament, particularly the book of Revelation, where angels regularly interpret the visions seen by John (1:1; 4:1; 10:7–10; 17:1, 17; 21:9, 10; 22:1, 6, 8). As one specialist of this motif notes:
 
The book of Revelation is the archetype of the apocalyptic genre, and as such it largely conforms to the norms of the type. It presents itself as a revelation (αποκαλυψη, apokalypsē) given through the mediation of heavenly beings.
 
Angels are also described in an advocacy role, popularly referred to as “guardian angels.” Earlier we saw that the Old Testament referred to holy ones as “mediators,” a role that involved explaining divine decisions and functioning as witness on behalf of the innocent in their suffering. The New Testament contains hints of this same idea, though it is clear that believers no longer need an advocate mediator, because Jesus himself now intercedes for us before God (1 Tim 2:5).
 
Matthew 18:10 reads, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” This statement of course precedes the high priestly work of Christ and draws on Old Testament concepts of angelic mediation. Barrett notes, “Judaism believed in protecting and guiding angels.” Pseudo-Philo (Liber antiquitatum biblicarum 59.4) and the Testament of Jacob (1:10) draw on Psalm 91:11–12 (cf. Luke 4:10) to express the guardianship of angels. In the book of Tobit, when Tobit and his wife send their son on a journey, he tells her:
 
Do not worry; our child will leave in good health and return to us in good health. Your eyes will see him on the day when he returns to you in good health. Say no more! Do not fear for them, my sister. For a good angel will accompany him; his journey will be successful, and he will come back in good health. (Tobit 5:21–22 nrsv)
 
Acts 12 apparently has some aspect of angelic oversight in view. After an angel freed Peter from prison, Peter went “to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying” (Acts 12:12). A servant girl named
Rhoda responded to his knock recognized his voice but, in her excitement at hearing Peter, ran to tell those gathered instead of letting him inside. Despite their prayers, they didn’t believe her report, replying, “It is his angel!” Peter kept knocking and was finally welcome (12:15–16). The believers gathered that night believed that Peter had a personal angel.

 

The idea of guardian angels apparently includes protection, as angels did rescue people, but angelic “oversight” in the human sphere also includes keeping track of evil perpetrated on the innocent for later judgment or a record of those who will inherit eternal life. Recall that the “books in heaven” concept was associated with the divine council in the ancient Near East. Jesus says specifically of believers in Revelation 3:5 that “I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” The reference to angels speaks of both “council validation” of those who belong to Christ (see below), but also of angelic witness to such a verdict. Elsewhere in the book of Revelation, this “confession” (or rejection) has to do with the “book of life” (Rev 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27). In Luke 10:20 Jesus told the seventy disciples, “do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Other believers are recorded in the “book of life” (Phil 4:3). This may be the context for a verse like Luke 16:22, where, upon death, the poor man was carried by angels to the afterlife comfort of “Abraham’s side.” Given that some of these passages in Revelation are naturally associated with the apocalyptic eschaton, it is relevant to note that angels are also tasked with gathering the elect—those found in the book of life—at such time (Matt 13:39; 24:31; Mark 13:27).[11]  
 
As we saw in our first chapter, the terms malʾākı̂m (“angel”), keruḇı̂m (“cherubim”), and śerāp̱ı̂m (“seraphim”) are not interchangeable. They are, in effect, job descriptions performed by different spirit beings. In biblical literature, cherubim and seraphim are never sent to people to deliver messages. That task belongs to angels. Cherubim and seraphim are heavenly throne guardians, a role that at times brings them into contact with humans, but they are not sent to earth to instruct people. Conversely, angels are found in the divine presence as well. Old and New Testament writers place them there. Rather, the terminology distinguishes roles.
 
We have also seen that whenever angels encounter humans in their messaging role, they appear in human form. In the Old Testament their appearance makes them indistinguishable from men. It is only when they do something unearthly that their transcendent nature becomes apparent. The only visible exceptions in to this pattern are found in the New Testament, where members of the heavenly host appear to people along with luminous glory (Luke 2:9, 13) or dazzlingly white clothing (Matt 28:3). Angels are never described as having inhuman features (wings, multiple faces) like cherubim and seraphim are. The reverse is actually the case. Cherubim and seraphim may share human traits, but angels do not have creaturely attributes. The conclusion can be drawn, then, that angels—those divine beings sent to earth to interact with people—look like people and do not have wings.
 
Zechariah 5:9 is often offered as an exception to both the human (and male) portrayal of angels:
 
Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, two women coming forward! The wind was in their wings. They had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven.
 
Despite the fact that even some scholars speak about these women with wings as angels, there is no textual basis for identifying the women as angels. The “women” (Hebrew, našı̂m) are never described as angels. In the very next verse the prophet speaks to an angel (malʾāk), a figure distinct from the women (Zech 5:10). When the angel speaks (Zech 5:11), the writer used the masculine form of the verb (yōʾmer), not the feminine form (tōʾmer). The text is clear.
 
Zechariah 5:8–11 therefore provides no biblical evidence for the notion that angels have wings or come to humans in female appearance. While it is clear that wings mark the women as being from heaven (as opposed to earth), the point is not “these are angels.” Rather, the point is to highlight their contrast with the wicked woman in the basket a few verses earlier (Zech 5:5–8). Akin to the removal of the filthy garments of Joshua the high priest in Zechariah 3, the women represent God’s removal of wickedness from his land and people to Shinar (Babylon), where evil belongs.
 
One could actually make a more reasoned case for the women being cherubim. In addition to their creaturely attribute of wings, Zechariah 5:9 notes, “The wind [rûaḥ] was in their wings.” The term rûaḥ is frequently translated “Spirit”/“spirit.” This is the same “locomotion” of the winged cherubim in Ezekiel 1:12, 20; 10:17. Like Ezekiel 1, the context is oriented to Babylon, the source of cherubim iconography.
 
Since Zechariah 5:8–11 cannot validate that angels are winged creatures, the passage also fails as evidence that angels can appear as women (biblically speaking, at least). If the women are not angels, then Zechariah 5:9 cannot teach us that angels can appear as women.
 
The assumption presupposes the idea that angels have gender. They do not—indeed they cannot be gendered, since they are spirit beings and gender is a biological attribute. When angels assume visible form or flesh to interact with human beings, Scripture always has them male. The flesh they assume is gendered because it is flesh, not because that corporality is an intrinsic part of angelic nature.
 
With respect to the New Testament, the primary appeal to angels having wings comes from Revelation 10:1:
 
Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire.

 

The argument goes: the passage never mentions wings, but because the angel “comes down from heaven,” he must have wings. The same argument (and omission of any reference to wings) is characteristic of Revelation 14:6, 17, where angels emerge from the heavenly temple and altar, respectively (cf. Matt 28:2).
 
The flaw in this argument is its dependence on descent language. It is not difficult to demonstrate its terminal weakness. Are we to conclude that Jesus has wings? After all, he descends from heaven (1 Thess 4:16). Does the Holy Spirit have wings? He descends on Jesus at his baptism (Matt 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22). The point with both examples is that for supernatural beings, descent from heaven does not require wings. The point may be a floating descent, or an urgent one, depending on the context. It may also be figurative language designed purely to denote point of origin—God’s abode. For example, the same language is used of Jesus’ first coming, which we know was by virtue of being born of Mary, having nothing to do with wings: “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:13). It is quite evident that descent language for divine figures does not require wings and so provides no support for angels having wings.[12]

 

FOOTNOTES:

 [1] Sam Emadi, “Angels,” in Lexham Survey of Theology, ed. Mark Ward et al. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018).
 [2] David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2015), 62–63.
[3] Ibid., 64.
[4] Ibid., 65.
[5] Ibid., 68.
[6] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 399–400.
[7] Ibid., 406.
[8] Ibid., 407.
[9] D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 401.
[10] J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993), 64–66.
[11] Michael S. Heiser, Angels: What the Bible Really Says about God’s Heavenly Host (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018), 132–136.
[12] Ibid., 164–167.
 

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Supernatural (Week 1)

[This Advent Series focuses on the Angels Perspective of the Christmas Story]

Message #1: Angels: God’s Messengers!

 
Janet Miller reads Luke 1:5-25, 57-66 and prays.  
 
From the Bible, what we can learn about angels and their perspective on the greatest miracle to ever happen, “Christmas: When Heaven came to Earth”?
 
A clarifying note: This sermon series is focused on angels, whom I am calling the “Loyal Host of Heaven.” These messages are not focused on the fallen angels, known as demons, who are destined for judgment because they call Satan (the Devil) their lord and not God. In this series, I cannot cover every issue of the supernatural realm—of angels and demons, cherubim and seraphim, seen and unseen. Needless to say, the more I study the Bible on this topic, the deeper it becomes and the more I realize there is much more to this discussion than I first suspected. Let’s take a big picture look by answering 3 questions about angels this morning:  
 
  1. What are angels and where did they come from?
 
  With the notable exception of the “Angel of the Lord” (a wonderful topic beyond the scope of this study) angels are not God! Angels are divine (called the holy ones, heavenly ones) spiritual (disembodied) beings, supernatural members of God’s family with a job to do for God. Angels are created beings with a specific job description, just like we are created beings with a job description! Angels are the messengers of God (that is what both the Hebrew and Greek words for angel actually mean). Angles are also called “watchers” in the OT (Daniel 4 and Job 7).
 
Angels are older than humanity. We know this from Job 38:4-7, when God is speaking to Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? “On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
 
God calls angels “morning stars” and “sons of God” and teaches us that they were in full function at Genesis 1. They are not as old as God for God is pre-existent meaning God has always been. God is the beginning and end of all things. As John 1:3 says of Jesus, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” This includes angels. But what so many people forget is that while angels are completely separate from us and older than us, they are also created by and subordinate to God.[1]
 
The Loyal Host of Heaven shouted for joy at Creation, witnessed the Fall of humanity, are actively participating in the restoration of humanity, have key jobs to fulfill in the consummation, and we will be with them for all of eternity. Angels are distinct from humans and are not interchangeable with us, nor us with them (in form or function). Jesus says that we will one day become like the angels, but please be very clear in knowing that Jesus never says we will become angels (Matthew 22:30).
 
At this time of history, angels are a part of a different realm than us, but they interact with this realm by God’s command and empowerment, which we will see throughout these sermons. But as powerful as angels are they are not all-knowing, all-seeing, or all-powerful like God. God has created the angels for divine purposes, to be in His presence as His heavenly host, but we are not to pray to angels, bow to angels, or worship angels. While we were made a little lower than the angels (Heb. 2:7), we will one day (in the Eternal Kingdom) judge the angels (1 Cor. 6:3).
 
  1. How many members of the “Loyal Host of Heaven” (angels) are there?
 

Obviously, Gabriel is named as the angel in the Christmas story (Luke 1:19), but did you know that there are only 2 angels named in the Bible? The first is Gabriel (e.g. current passage and Daniel 8:16; 9:21) and the second is Michael (called the “chief prince” in Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1; “archangel” in Jude 9; and leading in battle in Rev. 12:7).  

But are there only 2 angels? No! John in Revelation 5:11 teaches us, “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands” (cf. Hebrews 12:22). In addition to our discussion on angels, this verse also references “the living creatures and the elders” so I just want to acknowledge that there are other heavenly beings that are not part of this study. There are also specialized forms and functions of heavenly beings such as the cherubim (Gen. 3; Exodus 25; Ezekiel 10) and seraphim (Isaiah 6). While some argue that these are angels with a specific form and function, a key question is whether their description is representative of all angels because most angels, when they appear to humanity, appear human.
 
Back to the number of angels, David Jeremiah summarizes well, “To give you a perspective on how many angels this is, the average football stadium in America holds about 50,000 people. It would take some 2,000 stadiums of that size to hold 100,000,000 people. The total number of angels John saw may have far exceeded 100,000,000–10,000 was the highest numerical figure used in the Greek language. ‘Ten thousand times ten thousand’ may have been John’s way of describing an inexpressibly large company of angels” (David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven, 2015, 38). While the common view is that there is an “innumerable” number of angels, there are only 2 of the Loyal Host of Heaven named in the Bible. Why?
 
  1. What is the perspective of the angels on the Christmas story?
 
The Bible teaches us that the angels excitedly waited to see what God was going to do with His creation. Only God knows the plans of His own mind and He reveals them as He chooses. The angels longed to know what was on God’s mind for the descendants of Adam and Eve. For thousands of years they have watched, they have delivered messages, and they continue to give God unceasing worship.
 
I imagine that on that 1st Christmas morning the angels were like children on Christmas morning—anticipating and hopeful! They longed to see what God would do to restore His creation. Remember, the angels are messengers, but they do not have full knowledge. Could they even imagine what God would do? Gabriel is faithful to deliver the messages to Zacharias about John, and as we will see next week to Mary about Jesus. Anticipation grows! Hundreds of years of messages and thousands of years of watching are coming to a head… HOPE!
 
The mystery is about to be revealed! Listen to 1 Peter 1:10-12, “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.” (cf. Romans 16:25-27).
 
Would they be amazed and awe-struck to see Jesus Christ take on flesh and become lower than them so that God could dwell among people that Christmas morning in a promised new way? The angels know Jesus in His glorified form! The revelation of Christmas is the miracle of the incarnation—God who is Spirit and exists outside of creation took on flesh and came amongst us into creation. The Christmas Miracle of Immanuel—God is with us, once again! God had walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but justly removed them from His presence upon their rebellion (Fall). God made a way for humanity to be in His presence once again. This is the Christmas miracle that the angels are now participating in.  
 
Gabriel knows the goodness and love of God, but he is about to see another level of the depths of God’s love poured out on humanity. When Gabriel enters the Holy of Holies in Luke 1:11, he is moving forward the plan that God had him tell Daniel over 500 years prior (see Daniel 8 & 9). This message God gave Gabriel to deliver to Zacharias is good news for Gabriel, as much as it is good news for all humanity, because it is God making all things right, from all the rebellions. It is what Gabriel and the innumerable of Loyal Host of Heaven, have been longing to know. The Loyal Host of Heaven have been watching this story unfold and will continue to watch the greatest story ever told unfold before them. They have front row seats in the very presence of God, but they heard something that first Christmas that not a single one of them could have known for it was only known in the infinite mind of the triune God—the cry of a little newborn baby named Jesus. Jesus who would grow up and fulfill every ancient prophecy of the Messiah. Jesus who would die a sinner’s death on the Cross for humanity. Jesus who would defeat death and Hell itself, forever removing the sting of death. Jesus, God, Eternal… a baby…  
 
The perspective of the angels on that 1st Christmas was one of increased awe and wonder of God, if that is even possible, and renewed hope and anticipation for humanity.  
 
What is your perspective on Christmas and how does it affect your worship of God? Have you lost the awe and wonder of God?
 
The angels, more than any human, know the meaning of Christmas and their perspective should lead us into worship and celebration of God.   The angels know that our best days are ahead of us! To have HOPE is what it means to live in Advent! How does your perspective on Christmas affect you and those you encounter on a daily basis?
 

————————

[1] For further study, do a Hebrew word elohim, take a journey of understanding the divine council of God as overtly witnessed in Job 1:6 and 1 Kings 22:19 and referenced (but misunderstood) in Genesis 1:26, as well as Psalm 82. Additionally, explore the terms in the Bible that speak to the nature, status, and function of the loyal host of Heaven. I exhort you to not be scared to learn directly from the Bible because your Bible will never contradict your doctrine if your doctrine comes from the Bible. May the Spirit reform you through the renewal of your mind. There is such a diversity of opinion, even amongst evangelical scholars and theologians.

 

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Follow (Week 7): “Following Jesus Transforms Everyday Life!”

Main Scriptures:  Mark 1:17, 1 John 2:6, & Mark 5:1-20
 
Big Word #2 is “FOLLOW!” A guiding image of this series is the children’s game: “follow the leader.”  
 
Who are we to follow? A politician, a celebrity pastor, a sports hero or famous actor, a favorite author or musician… There is no end of the list of people who want you to “follow” them, but there is only one invitation that transforms everyday life. There are so many people making promises, but only One who can deliver on all His promises! Listen to Jesus’ invitation to FOLLOW. Listen closely because it comes with a promise: “And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men'” (Mark 1:17).  
 
Jesus invites us to become His disciple/apprentice/learner. Jesus’ call to those original fishermen was pretty obvious. Jesus stood there and looked them in the eyes… in response they dropped their nets and followed Jesus, meaning they walked where He walked, learned what He taught, ate what He ate, and tried to do what He did. A disciple is a person who FOLLOWS Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior.
 
We see this clearly taught by John in 1 John 2:6, “By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:5b, 6).  
 
To follow is to be on a journey with Jesus, one step at a time. In the church, we call this discipleship. Discipleship is simply the process of becoming… of being under construction… Discipleship is a life-long journey of a person following Jesus to become more and more like Jesus Christ from the inside out. The invitation of Jesus Christ is to “Follow Me” and the promise of Jesus is that He will transform us along the way. Jesus transforms us as we follow Him, but He also transforms the world around us [how?] through us!
 
Following Jesus transforms everyday life! Last week, the elders discussed with us the importance of leading like Jesus Christ. They talked about how we are to lead like Jesus in the church, but they also talked about how we are to live like Jesus in everyday life. Scott Underwood, one of our elders, introduced three points about what it looks like to walk like Jesus. Jesus is practical, intentional, and relational as He walks with us.  
 
Following Jesus transforms everyday life! We live differently when we are practically, intentionally, and relationally following Jesus Christ. Because every time you attempt to practically follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit asks you do something for someone in the real world. Because every time you attempt to intentionally follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit is going to lead you into a very real situation to show that God is real too. Because every time you attempt to relationally follow Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is going to ask you to love a real person who you can see and touch, and who is possibly not as easy to love as the God you cannot see but claim to be following. The rubber must meet the road somewhere and with someone if we are truly following Jesus.
 
Following Jesus transforms everyday life! Now, let’s take a snapshot of Jesus’ life to see what it looks like to be practical, intentional, and relational. Please turn with me to Mark 5 to watch Jesus at work.  
 
Read Mark 5:1-15. Jesus starts by meeting the practical needs of the man who was stuck in his lifestyle. This means we practically meet people in their daily needs and concerns. In the counseling ministry that I am blessed with here in New Castle, this means that when I can I help people with their “presenting problem” before I go to their deeper need. We all have “presenting problems”, but we don’t all have the same ones. I very intentionally try to help people where they are. Yes, all people are in need of Jesus, but let’s treat them like individuals (relationally) and build a bridge (intentionally) into their lives because each person is made in the image of God who deserves basic human dignity. People feel looked over when we go straight to our evangelical agenda and don’t meet them where they are.
 
Let me illustrate from Mark 5 by looking at what Jesus did in this story: “Presenting problems” can be ugly! The needs of this man were very off-putting (to anyone!). Mark 5:2-5 describes, “When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones.”
 
The “presenting problem” was dealt with as evidenced by Mark 5:15: “They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the ‘legion’; and they became frightened.”  
 
You’ve heard it said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. It’s true! This is why we must be intentional. We must know why we do what we do. We are building stronger bridges between us and others for Jesus!
 
Listen to the story as it continues, from Mark 5:16-18, “Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine. And they began to implore Him to leave their region. As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him.” While the city was more concerned about the swine and their economic well-being, Jesus had a bigger purpose in mind. Jesus got a foothold (e.g. D-Day beach head) into the town that rejected Him. He left as they asked him, but not in defeat or by their leave! Jesus left the man behind to do that which only a man of the town could do (This was D-Day and Jesus knew V-Day was coming). Just because you aren’t called to the other side of the globe doesn’t mean you aren’t called to the work of missions.
 
You have heard me say that the Kingdom of God is a relational kingdom. Did you notice that Jesus sends us to do His work even in places He has been disinvited? Listen to the conclusion of this story from Mark 5:18-20, “As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him. And He did not let him, but He said to him, ‘Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.” But this is not the real end of the story! Jesus did not deny this man’s request out of exclusion, but for the sake of this man becoming a human bridge between himself and others for Jesus! He was the foothold!
 
This one formerly demon-possessed man would go on to impact his town and the whole region. Matthew 4:25 teaches us that later, “Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan” (cf. Mark 7:31-37). You are called to transform your everyday world by being practical, intentional, and relational. What does this look like? Husbands help with the dishes. Wives say thank you and tell them they did a great job. Children love your parents. Parents listen to your kids and do not provoke them to anger. We are commanded to love one another in practical ways. You can make a difference!
 
The mission of God may begin around your kitchen table, but it must leave the building. Just like at church, the mission of God may begin with the people in your pew or small group, but you shouldn’t contain your love for Jesus by keeping it inside the four walls. Christ sends us to those in our homes, churches, workplaces, schools, sports and hobbies, neighborhoods and communities. There are no boundaries for Jesus when He has you! You are the foothold in the schools, workplaces, government, clubs and organizations, families…
 
As we leave the four walls of our homes and churches, go and love your neighbors by being a blessing and not a curse. Bring thriving to our community be helping people along the way. Show the world that God loves them by you loving them in practical, intentional, and relational ways. Keep your eyes open to the needs that are presenting themselves. Meet “presenting problems” in order to build a strong bridge into the person’s life.
 
Let us, the people of God, build stronger bridges, not higher walls.
 
Why?
 
Because that is what Jesus Christ did for us when He went to the cross. Jesus is the bridge back to God. He is the mediator between sinful humanity and a holy God. As we follow Jesus, let’s strengthen that bridge by the way we follow Jesus in everyday ways.

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Follow (Week 6): Lead Like Jesus

The Elder Team
Mark 1:17 & 1 John 2:6

Chris Logan

Welcome A story about Daniel. With that welcome I know that the term “elders” has been a touchy subject at various times in our 110 year history There are many pragmatic/practical reasons a church might have elders.

  • Help the pastors carry the burden of pastoral ministry
  • Bring a variety of expertise through various ages, experiences to bear on the issues every pastor faces
  • To hold the pastors and each other accountable

The list can go on and on of the helping ministries elders can perform according to each person’s abilities

With that said I would briefly like to share what the Bible says about Biblical eldership.  I would say the best and only reason to have elders in a New Testament church is that the New Testament says to.
 
Titus 1:5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint[a] elders in every town, as I directed you.
 
Acts 15:12 And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.
 
Acts 14:23 When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed
 
Ephesian’s 4:12-13 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
 
1 Peter 5:1-4 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.
 
There are many more passages that speak to the New Testament church and being elder lead.

 

FBC exercises a plurality of elders (def.; more than one) if anyone or group would like to discuss these Scriptures please reach out to us, none of us know what you are thinking unless you tell us.
 
We have open elder meetings the 2nd Monday of each month at 7:30 anyone is welcome
 

Closing:  Peter and Paul remind us that the churches we shepherd are not our own. We are overseers of Gods church, God’s flock. And so it is God’s Word that must have the final say. Jesus created the church. He died for the church. He is its only King and law giver. If we are committed to shepherding Christ’s church, and not our own, then we must be willing to do it his way.

 

Ed Bell

 
(This is a brief outline of what Ed shared)
When I was much younger I was shot by Debbie’s former boyfriend.
I grew to hate that man for what he did to Debbie and me.
You can’t follow Jesus if you hate someone!
Corey Ten Boom struggled with many things in life, one of which was fleas.  She learned to love fleas when God used them to keep the Germans from finding a hidden bible.  She also struggled with burdens in her life that were too big for her.  Her father taught her to let him handle those burdens.  He was built for them, she was not.
 
We try to carry burdens that are too heavy for us.  Like forgiving those who persecute us.  Those who hurt the ones we love.
G. Gordon Liddy says there are two kinds of people in prison and they are both stupid.  The convicts who deserve to be there and the prison guards.  The convicts did stupid things to get there.  The guards voluntarily choose to be there in a high-risk situation for minimum wage.  They choose to go to prison every day.  They are more stupid.
 
When I hold a grudge against someone who did something stupid I  “go to their prison every day” I am being stupid.  I am being more stupid than the person who hurt me.  When I carry that burden, I am shaming my Father who wants to carry it for me.  I am not built to carry that kind of burden.  I need to give it to Him.
 

Scott Underwood

(Scott did not get to share all of this because of limited time:)

 

Jesus was
Practical – met people in their daily needs and concerns, which lead into spiritual needs
Intentional – Jesus went where people were, specifically for the reason to engage them
Relational – Jesus acted in ways and used circumstances to build deep relationships with people.
 
Calling of Simon and Peter, James and John – from their boats –Matthew 4: 18-22
Calling of Matthew and Zaccheus – from the tax tables – Matthew 9: 9-13, Luke 19: 1-10
 
Practical, then Relational
Washing of the feet – John 13: 1-20
Cooking them breakfast – John 21: 1-22
 
Practical, transactional, but life changing and relationship starting
Woman at the well – John 4: 1-26
Healing lepers – Matthew 8: 1 -4.  Healed him, encouraged him to follow God’s commands
Restoring sight – John 9: 1-38
 
Scott shared about how he saw a man who looked destitute looking through a dumpster. he imagined getting out of his car, talking with the man, sharing the gospel, giving him some money and helping him on his way.  It was probably the Holy Spirit nudging him, but Scott never got out of his car.  He drove on.  Then he called on Tim to share a better example…
 
Tim Martin shared how God nudged him to pray for a lady he say in a restaurant.  He fought the urging for quite a while – until it was almost too late.  But he obeyed…and God blessed him and the lady (and her husband).
 

Daniel Kinnaird

(Outline)
Passage: Philippians 2:5-8
– Jesus patterned his life and leadership in a way that is completely the opposite of they way our culture teaches us to live.
– Temptation of power: most of us believe that we leverage power to accomplish important goals and causes.
– Example: daydreaming about winning the lottery — I dream about everything I might accomplish if I had power, authority, and money.
– These methods are flawed because we are broken people. We are corrupted by our own pursuits of worth, confidence, and value in the eyes of others.
– These methods are not the way of Jesus.
– christian leaders (and christian people) will look very different than the world if they pattern their lives from Jesus.
– The way of the christian leader is not the way of upward mobility in which our world has invested so much, but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross” -Henri Nouwen
– Leadership in the church moves from leadership built on power and into a leadership in which we listen and discern together where God is leading his people. It requires deep trust in God and trust in brothers/sisters in Christ.
 
(This is a summary by admin)
Philippians 2:5-8  You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped,  but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.  He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross!
 
What kind of blueprint for life or leadership is this?  It is not a good one!  Who starts at the top with all the power and say that is not the way I want to lead my life?  The temptation for power, the temptation to feel important and be important is real.   I have been high and I have been lower than low.
 
I have been in places we would consider unimportant.  We all want to escape that kind of situation!  We all dream of being in a different place.  If only we had money, power and authority, we would do such good things.  That seems to be the reality of all of our lives.
 
But the way of Jesus is different.  His way is in opposition to money and power.  He voluntarily laid aside His God-hood and that is the invitation to all of us in our life and in our leadership.  Whether we carry a title or not we are all leaders:  of our lives, in our families, our friend-groups, in the places we work, and at school.  We influence ourselves and we influence others.
 
The way of Jesus is not the way of humans.  It’s not our way.  There is an author that I love who said, “The way of the Christian leader is not the way of upward mobility in which our world has invested so much but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross.”
 
The way of Jesus ends in death.  We talk about it figuratively like death to ourselves, death to our dreams, we lay that down for the sake of Jesus.  I think Jesus actually lived it literally.  I don’t like to think about it that way.  I really don’t!  It’s hard to think about that.  But that was the way of the one that we follow.
 
So I want to encourage all of us, as we live our lives, to look and to read scripture and model our lives after Jesus who lived lived completely differently – upsettingly differently than the way that we live our lives.  I want to invite all of us, including the leaders and elders to live in a way that sets down power and authority and trades it for love!    That we voluntarily forsake what seems to make sense, what would give us leverage to accomplish awesome things, good causes…that we lay that down in order to follow Jesus.
 
Because leadership built on power is not the way of Jesus and it can’t be the way we lead in the church.  We need to move from leadership built on power to leadership in which we discern together where God is leading His people.  That requires trusting each other and it requires humbly seeking God’s face in everything that we do.
 
Daniel then shared how God is pulling him out of being an elder and into Young Life where he can minister to young people.  He sees the leadership of Jesus in the hearts of those who work there.  They don’t do it perfectly because this is hard, but he sees how they sacrificially give of their time, that they lay down the power to love other people, make time for other people and make space in their lives to love other people who are sometimes very difficult to love.
 
Chris Logan then closes with a few comments.
 

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