Archive for the ‘New Testament’ Category

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The Kingdom of God is: Greater than its Current Appearance…

April 8, 2013

msHe put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
(Matthew 13:31-33 ESV)

As believers we live life in light of a promise.  A promise found in the very beginning of time and recorded in the very beginning of the Bible which speaks to the inevitable rise of God’s kingdom on earth. Genesis 3:17 is known to some as the protoevangelium, or “first gospel.” In this verse The Lord God speaks to the serpent and foretells the demise of the serpent’s reign over the surface of the earth.  The offspring of the woman Eve would be at odds with the offspring of the serpent.  The seed or offspring of the serpent would bruise the heel of the woman’s seed; and the woman’s offspring would crush the head of the serpent. This tiny phrase contains within it a promise of One who would come and be the One, bruised and beaten, but One who would crush death and defeat the serpent by His death and resurrection through the power of God. This promise had come to those fallen in the garden, but to them, it was not yet fully realized. This promise courses through the entire scripture all the way to Matthew 13, and like leaven lifts the entire word of God.  It’s truth of the kingdom’s rise and evil’s demise is declared in the garden, finished at the cross, and yet evil is still prevalent.  What are we to make of this reality that has already occurred but is somehow not yet completed?

This passage in Matthew is ripe with meaning and nuance.  One of the greatest mysteries surrounding the kingdom of God is that it has appeared with Christ, and yet it is not fully here.  Apologetically this is a huge conundrum; If Christ the King has come, and He has proclaimed that the kingdom has arrived then where is it?  Is he talking about a mere heavenly reality or a true earthly dominion.  The disciples themselves asked this same question to the risen Christ in Acts chapter 1.  As they stood on the mount called Olivet, their minds awash with thoughts of the kingdom they asked, “is now the time the kingdom will be restored?”

Many of us, as we read this passage in Matthew, are prompted to question its meaning.  We are prompted by general biblical curiosity to be sure, but also something by deeper.  The paradox of tiny seeds and mighty kingdoms, minute yeast and massive loaves speaks to a larger discontinuity we all face.  We are citizens of Christ’s kingdom but residents of Satan’s world.  So we ask, If the kingdom is here then why is there still suffering, injustice, sin and tumult?  Like the disciples, each new generation of believers face the risen Lord and ask “is now the time?”

The answer to these reasonable questions is found in this passage in Matthew.

The kingdom is already present, though not yet fully consummated. The technical term for this is inaugurated eschatology, the kingdom has been inaugurated, but not yet fully consummated.  Jesus alludes to this truth in both of the examples he provides in verses 31-33.

The mustard seed, while the smallest known seed at the time, contains within in it all the potential for a mustard tree.  In essence, it is already a mustard tree, but not yet fully developed.  It is greater than its physical appearance.  It is teaming with potential, give it the right conditions and it will blossom beyond every tree in the garden.

The yeast speaks to the same metaphor.  It is tiny, almost insignificant, and yet it activates and causes growth and increase. Yeast is alive, and has an impact greater than its physical appearance.

God’s kingdom is found on earth in the form of his followers, in the body of believers known as his church.  In every captive heart, and in every renewed mind, there resides the measure of kingdom impact.  We experience love, family, fellowship, and loss through the experience of this kingdom community.  To those who undergoes this divine naturalization, the reality and the presence of God’s kingdom on earth is overwhelming.  And yet there is something lacking, something not yet present.  Think of all the good the church accomplishes, think of all the love that you experience in the fellowship of believers, think of all the service done on the part of the church attempting to make the world right; now consider the following: The millions of believers across the globe, and the love of the believers across this country, are but a minute expression of the kingdom that is to come.

So what are we to do with this truth? I believe the answer comes from Acts 3:19-21.  Peter and John are speaking to a crowd on the Temple Mount, following the miraculous healing of a lame man at the gate called beautiful.  This instance is a perfect example of kingdom living, through the proclamation of God’s love and the power of His Spirit, the lame are made whole and the Word is proclaimed.  Immediately after this, Peter and John proclaim the following to the crowd of witnesses:

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that the time of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Acts 3:19-21

Peter and John acknowledge the arrival of the kingdom through their actions, but they also call on the listeners to hope in the kingdom that is to come.  Our response to the signs and proclamation of God’s kingdom is to repent, turn from sin, receive Christ and wait until the time that he will return and restore all things.  Christ has come, He has come in power, He has deployed His Spirit that we may proclaim the kingdom of Heaven.  While some are restored in the present, He will restore all things at a future time.  So we preach.  So we act in love to a hurting world.  And we relish the joy of His calling on our lives, knowing full well that as great as that joy is, it will pale in comparison to what is to come.

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Five Ways the Resurrection Gives Meaning to Our Lives

March 31, 2013

Five Ways The Resurrection Gives Meaning to Our Lives…

The Urban Witness

There are many events of history that if I were to mention them to you this morning they would have very little if any meaning, even though they were monumentally important in history. No matter how important the battle, no matter how influential the personality, as time passes and their accomplishments fade the meaning behind what they have done likewise loses power. There is only one event in the course of human history that has never faded, will never fade and will always be as impressive and important today as it was 2000 years ago when it occurred; that event is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. As air entered His lungs, and His heart began to beat, and the stone rolled away the clock of the universe was reset and everything, absolutely everything changed. Satan’s grip on this world slipped, sin’s chains were loosed, and generations gained…

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Joy Comes in the Mourning…

March 30, 2013

Some thoughts before Easter morning.

The Urban Witness

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Scripture, time and again, affirms two truths; We live in a world of denial. We live in a world that is in the grips of the evil one. These two statements are more than coincidental. Satan’s main goal is to get us to live in denial; denial over our sin, denial over God’s existence, denial over the truth and power of Scripture. The world buys into his philosophy and makes it a way of life. When bad things happen, when tragedy strikes the easiest thing to do is to seek comfort in the insufficient arms of denial.

This tactic stretches all the way back to the garden; Satan deceived Eve, planting a seed of denial, “surely you will not die…”. Eve and Adam bought the lie and in turn bought our slavery to sin. And when they sinned, they did…

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Living Your Future Life…

January 1, 2013

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This past Sunday I was blessed to be able to preach to Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas. I preached on John 8:51, “Truly, truly I say unto you, whoever keeps my word shall never see death.”

123012 Sermon from Cross Church on Vimeo.

The Christians life should be a bold life, in a world obsessed with death we should burst out of this church proclaiming the message of life! The gospel is not a set of rules, it is NEWS glorious news that death has been defeated and its pain absorbed and its penalty paid by one who new know sin. And it is because of that we can begin to live our future life.

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Deliver Us From Evil…

October 9, 2012

As we examine the Lord’s Prayer as found in Matthew 6, we have taken it phrase by phrase. We have examined what it means to Hallow God’s name, to seek provision, to seek forgiveness, now we will focus on seeking deliverance.

Lead us not into temptation, BUT deliver us from evil…

The word here translated deliver is the Greek word “Rhu-o-mai” ῥύομαι literally to rescue, or deliver, “to rescue from danger, save, rescue, deliver, preserve someone.” It occurs some 18 times in 15 verses. To give you a picture of its use in the New Testament texts it is used to describe:

i. Deliverance from death (2 Timothy 3:11)

ii. Deliverance from the power of darkness (Col. 1:13)

iii. Deliverance from wrath to come (1 Thes. 1:10)

iv. Deliverance from temptation (2 Peter 2:9)

v. Deliverance from evil (Matt 6:13)

Each of the above (i-iv) could be summed up in (v.) for certainly evil is the source of temptation; the power of death; and the cause of the wrath to come. But praise be to God that He and He alone has defeated evil and can deliver us. Indeed the Father is greater than all and when we are in his hand we are delivered from evil’s effect of death and nothing can snatch us out of the Father’s hand, (John 10:29) We pray to be delivered with confidence knowing that “the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect [us] from evil.” (2 Thess. 3:3) What is meant by evil and what does evil look like?

Word Study: “Evil” [evil generally/evil “one]

Evil in this passage is the Greek word is “poneros” πονηρός, in the text it possesses an article so it literally reads, “the evil” of “the evil one.” It is occurs 80 times in 72 verses in the New Testament. There have been many interpretations as to what this word means, there are two equally valid readings.

• The evil one. This would be our adversary Satan, the evil one (Eph 6:16; 1 John 2:13, 14; 3:12; 5:18-19). Satan always stands ready to test us, and lead us away from God. (e.g. Eve, Gen. 3; Job 1 & 2) Peter tells us that he is like a roaring lion, prowling the streets seeking whom he may devoir. (1 Peter 5:8) “He stirs up enemies to persecute us (Rev 12, 13), he inflames our lusts (1 Chronicles 21:1; 1 Cor. 7:5), and he disturbs our peace (1 Peter 5:8). It is therefore our consistent need and duty to pray for deliverance from him.” We pray with confidence knowing that we have been delivered our of the hands of the evil one, Christ keeps us and the evil one can not touch us (1 John 5:18)

• Evil. This rendering has evil in general in mind, specifically sin, “for sin is evil (Rom. 12:9), the world is evil (Gal. 1:4), and our corrupt nature is evil (Matt 12:35)” Our boasting is evil (James 4:16), so we humbly pray that if we find ourselves tempted/ tried that we will be delivered from sin, the source of so much evil.

a. What is the context of this request within the Sermon on the Mount?

Jesus began his instruction on prayer in 6:8 with the proclamation that God knows what we need. So prayer is not our opportunity to come to God and tell him things that He doesn’t know, but rather it a chance for us to humble ourselves and admit that we need God, in His knowledge, in His Kingdom, In His power to care for us, to provide for us, to forgive us and to delivers us from all evil. Through Christ’s instruction on prayer we learn to ask for the items we need to exist and serve God this is taught in Matthew 6:9-13.

In the next section verses 20-24 Jesus continues to turn our eyes upward away from earthly needs and wants to the desires for God’s kingdom. We are to ask for what we need daily, but we are not to store these things up. First and foremost we are to seek after God, if we focus too much on these earthly possessions they soon begin to take God’s place in our heart. And instead of focusing on Him, we focus on getting more, keeping more. But Jesus says that we cannot serve both these things and God. God must be first, and God must be the most important, because moths and rust will destroy what we have invested in this world, thieves may take it away, but no one can take God or His kingdom from us.

Even after you pray the Lord’s prayer, you may ask the question, “Great, glad I did that, but will He really do these things?” “Will God give me daily bread? Forgive me? Deliver me?” Etc. Because we are sinful it is in our nature to doubt, especially if we do not see immediate results. Paul, though, instructs us in Philippians 4:6 to “be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.” Likewise Matthew 6:25 comes as a reassurance to our questions and concerns. Beginning in verse 25 Jesus encourages us not to worry about our material needs. Three times in this section he instructs us not to worry. (vss. 25, 31, 34) He gives the example of the birds, they live their entire existence solely dependent on God, and He feeds them. Flowers do not lie around fields worrying about whether or not they will bloom, God provides them clothing more beautiful than kings. He repeats His earlier encouragement that God knows what we need, and if we seek Him first, he will add to our lives all we need; if clothes, then clothes; if food, then food; if years, then years; so that we may continue praying, forgiving, seeking and giving Him praise.

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The Heart of a Prayer Warrior…

October 8, 2012

When considering prayer in general and the Lord’s Prayer in particular, we should consider what kind of heart utters this prayer, and what kind of heart refuses to pray.

What Kind of heart prays this prayer?

An obedient heart. Jesus begins the passage by saying, “When you pray, pray like this…” it is an assumption that we will pray, and that we should pray. Paul encourages us in Thessalonians to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing give thanks in all circumstances…” An obedient heart asks how it should pray and when given the answer, it prays accordingly.

A humble heart. Jesus instructs his disciples that there are two ways to pray, you can pray like the Pharisees, who stand on a street corner, praying for the benefit of other people, in being seen, they have their reward. The other way, is not ‘me’ centered but God centered. Jesus says, in verse 6, “when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done is secret will reward you.” It takes humility to ask for the basic necessities of life. To admit that you need food, or clothing, or the basics. And yet we’re commanded to ask, and promised that when we do our Father who knows our needs, will meet those needs.

A servants heart. Do we ask merely for ourselves? Or do we ask that we might be enabled to serve Him, who gives so much to us? If we meant the first part of our prayer that God’s will be done on earth, then we must be ready to serve His will, and so we ask that he give us the time to work, and the sustenance necessary to live and serve.

What kind of heart doesn’t pray this prayer?

A proud heart. Some people have a difficult time asking for help. Implicit in this prayer is the fact that the person praying must put aside his/her pride and admit that they need help. They are asking for the most fundamental elements of life; a day to live, and food to eat. Often we do not have because we do not ask. James records as much in James 4:2,6,7a when he says “you do not have because you do not ask…God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble, submit therefore to God…”

A self-sufficient heart. “I don’t need God. I earn my bread, I don’t receive any handouts.” This is when I proud heart meets the means to supply ones needs. Often when we have been blessed with a lot, or we enjoy the fruits of many years of hard work and labor we begin to feel very self-sufficient. It becomes very difficult to admit that while we may work very hard, all we have comes from God, “he owns the cattle on a thousand hills.” (Ps. 50:10)

A selfish heart. When we ask that God give us our day and our daily bread, we are admitting that what we have comes from God, that it belongs to Him. But we are possessive, our stuff is our stuff, our bread is our bread. If you have children, or have been around children you will quickly see the human tendency toward selfishness. They can not get food apart from their parents, but give them a cookie, and then try and take it away and see what happens. One second they had nothing, the next they receive their gift, and they completely forget that they RECEIVED it. And you hear the word so common to children. MINE. We have to realize that we are children asking our Heavenly Father for bread. And when we receive it, we must acknowledge that it came from Him.

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Forgive Us as We Forgive…

October 7, 2012

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…

What does this line mean?

We must have a humble heart to both seek forgiveness and forgive. Out of all the petitions listed in this prayer, Jesus focuses on this one in particular. Jesus, immediately after His instruction about how to pray, explains to His disciples in verses 14-15 the following: “For, if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” We are commanded in Scripture to be like God, to be conformed to the image of His Son, to forgive because He forgives, to be holy because He is holy. (Lev. 19:1) We live in a sinful world and we come in contact with sinners everyday. We are sinned against everyday: people steal from us, gossip about us, children disobey their parents, parents mistreat their children. How we deal with those sins against us, reveal a lot about our character and our relationship with Jesus. When you forgive others you are bearing witness that you have experienced for yourself the mercy of God. You are fulfilling the greatest commandment, loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, AND loving your neighbor as yourself. A modified golden rule: Do unto others, what you would have God do unto you.

We are not to take forgiveness for granted. God is interested in forgiving sin, so much so that he sent His only Son to pay the debt that man had and that we have toward God. For “All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Through Adam, sin entered into the world and placed us in the position of indebtedness to God. Adam mortgaged our lives for the temporary satisfaction of seeking knowledge and fulfillment outside of God’s commands. For centuries that mortgage accrued interest, and the debt increased. But God in His grace gave Christ as the “propitiation” payment, the satisfaction of that sin debt. “Jesus paid it all” as the song says, and in trusting in that work, God forgives our sins and places that sin, away from us, as far away as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12) We should remember this daily, and be obedient to ask that God continue to forgive us, and remind us to likewise continue to forgive others. If we fail to pray for forgiveness, we fail to acknowledge what God has done for us.

What does this line not mean?

In order to be saved, you must forgive the debts/trespasses of others. This may appear to contradict what is stated above, but this is a key point. You are saved through the blood of Christ, In Christ alone. There is one mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ, He is the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father apart from Him. If one confesses with their mouth and believes in their heart that Jesus is Lord, they will be saved. (Romans 10:9) Forgiveness is part of salvation, as is sanctification, regeneration, redemption etc. However, the forgiveness that we act out toward others, is a by-product of the forgiveness we have experienced. Just as we love others, because God first loved us. (I John 4:19) What this petition is saying is that we are to model for others the forgiveness we ourselves have experienced. If we fail to forgive others, if we are proud and hold onto resentment, then there is very little evidence that the Holy Spirit is in us. For “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness” surely then, it is kind and loving to forgive. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Gal 5:25) Our forgiveness of others is an evidence for, not the entirety of our salvation.