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Posts Tagged ‘gospel’

Series: Markan prologue

The literary structure of Mark 1:1-15

We’ve been studying the introduction to the Gospel of Mark and how in accordance with the prophecies of Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1, the messenger comes first, who is John the Baptist, and then comes the Lord, who is Jesus. In our passage today, we come to the end of Mark’s introduction, which gives us some very important insight into what Jesus is all about.

Let’s look at these verses –

Mark 1:14-15

14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the good news.”

Let me first highlight, in terms of the story line, that this is the key transition where John’s ministry comes to an end and Jesus comes fully onto the scene. The baton is passed.

We’ll learn more about what happens to John in Mark 6. But with regard to our verse, I want to point out that when Mark says John was “arrested” it says literally, he was “handed over,” which is foreshadowing of what’s to come. This same word is used in relation to Jesus’ arrest, for instance in Mark 9:31, and also the coming persecution of Jesus’ disciples, in Mark 13:9. So Jesus begins his ministry on a note of persecution that hangs over all that he and his followers will do.

Second, we have in this passage a summary of Jesus’ message that tells us in simple form what he taught, what he stood for, what he was about. The rest of the Gospel gives content to this, but this is where it’s all brought together and so it’s really important to notice and understand this.

If you had to boil the gospel down to just a few words, how would you say it? Or if you had to summarize the whole message of the Bible in a phrase, what would that phrase be? Well, this is exactly what Jesus is doing here. And since it comes from him – this is how he summarizes it all, we should take notice and seek to understand what he’s saying. Which is what I want us to do for the rest of our time together this morning.

Let’s read v. 15 together – “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the good news” – v. 15. (See also Matthew 4:17; Luke 4:43)

First, we look at –

The coming of the kingdom

 And we begin with the question, ‘What is it?’

1. The kingdom of God, to say it simply, is God’s promised salvation. It’s more than this, since it brings together most, if not all of the Bible, but it is this.

Our world lives in rebellion against God and is in misery because of this. But Scripture speaks of a day when the earth will once again be under the dominion and blessings of heaven, where God rules unhindered; a day when all the prophecies will be fulfilled.

For now, the world is characterized by three things:

  • Slavery to Satan, the leader of the rebellion. [The people of God came back from exile but were really still in exile, enslaved to the powers of the nations, or the spirits (demons) behind idolatry, led by Satan.] But the promise is that God will set us free – Isaiah 61:1. That’s what the kingdom is about.
  • It is characterized by condemnation for sin and rebellion. But the promise is that God will forgive our sins and he will be close to us – Jeremiah 31:31-34. That’s what the kingdom is about.
  • It is characterized by subjection to death. But the promise is that God will give us new life – Isaiah 25:7-8. We will be whole and at peace. Death itself will be overcome. This is the reality of the kingdom.

So taking this into account, Jesus is saying here that with his coming –

2. The kingdom has arrived. This is made clear in our verse. Jesus said, “the time is fulfilled.” The word “time” here is not about ordinary calendar time. It’s about God’s providential time. Jesus is saying, this is the moment; the appointed time. The word “fulfilled” has to do with fulfilling the many prophecies that were made. Jesus has come to bring them to pass.

Jesus also teaches us in this verse that the kingdom it is “at hand.” This means that it has drawn near. So something new is happening, something powerful, something long promised, something desperately needed.

3. This is why this is good news. We saw previously that the phrase “good news” in both a Roman and Jewish context (Isaiah) has to do with a royal announcement. And here it’s royal as well. It relates to the coming of the kingdom of God and indeed its king.

We saw how in his baptism Jesus is shown to be “the anointed one” or the Messiah. And he is proclaimed by God to be his Son – a royal designation. The gospel is an announcement that there’s a new king, God’s Son! God’s promised kingdom is here!

4. God’s kingdom and Jesus are intertwined. That’s why the rest of the Gospel is about Jesus – his teaching, ministry, life, death and resurrection. But it is summarized here as about the kingdom of God. That’s why in v. 1 it’s “the good news of Jesus” and here it’s “the good news” of “the kingdom of God.” (The good news of God [v. 14] is that what he has promised, the kingdom, he is bringing about through Jesus.)

 The king and his kingdom are interchangeable. God’s kingdom is where Jesus is, and it’s where he rules.

5. There is more of the kingdom yet to come. Jesus talks about this, for instance in Mark 13:26 when he says the world will see him “coming in clouds with great glory and power.” That is, at the end of all things.

Most of his hearers would have expected the kingdom to come all at once. But Jesus teaches that there is an ‘already, not yet’ element to the coming of the kingdom. As he taught in Mark 4, the kingdom is like a mustard seed that starts out small, but eventually covers the whole world. It’s already here with his coming, but it’s not yet all the way here. That will await his second coming.

Now let’s look at –

How Jesus brings the kingdom

1. In his ministry we see the in-breaking of the kingdom

  • He sets people free from Satan through exorcisms, for instance a little later in Mark 1.
  • He forgives people their sins and gives them a new relationship with God. An example here is Levi the tax collector in Mark 2.
  • He heals people, making them whole, including raising people from the dead. He raised a 12-year-old girl in Mark 5.

In all these ways Jesus is communicating that the kingdom is here! And it is being made known through him. The promises are beginning to be fulfilled.

2. In his death and resurrection he establishes the kingdom

  • He overthrows Satan’s authority over this world. He is now Lord. (Matthew 28:18, which was likely how Mark originally ended)
  • He provides for our forgiveness on the cross – Mark 14:24
  • He defeats death in his resurrection from the dead – Mark 16. Death couldn’t hold him. And he pours out the Spirit to give us new life – Mark 1:8.

3. At his second coming he will complete the kingdom

  • Satan will be judged and destroyed
  • We will have a very close relationship with God
  • We will be resurrected to live forever – Mark 13:27

Finally, in this short verse, Jesus tells us –

How to enter the kingdom

Jesus uses the phrase “entering the kingdom” many times. This has to do with how we receive the promises of God’s salvation, made known with the coming of the kingdom. Jesus summarizes this in two words:

1. Repent – This means to have a change of heart and mind that leads us to do God’s will from now on. We turn away from our old lives and walk in a new path according to Jesus’ teaching and example. For instance we love God with all that we are; we love our neighbor as our self; we honor our marriage vows; we take up our cross and serve others and suffer for this.

 2. Believe – This means that we trust in God and God’s promises. We believe that the promise of the kingdom is here and we believe in Jesus, the king who provides God’s grace to us – freedom from Satan, forgiveness and new relationship with God and new life, which includes the promise the Spirit and culminates in our resurrection.

And these two things, repentance and faith, are two sides of the same coin: For if you believe in the good news, you will do what Jesus tells you to, which is repent. And if you repent you show that you have believed in Jesus.

Some questions for us

Do you know how to communicate the gospel? It’s good to know Jesus’ way of doing this, although he was speaking to people who were steeped in the Scriptures.

How would we say it today? Much of what we can share is our testimony. We say to others in various ways that through Jesus God has given me freedom, forgiveness and new life. The fuller framework can be picked up after someone chooses for themselves to become a follower of Jesus.

How is your repentance and faith? It’s not a one-time thing. It’s lifelong. Are you still believing? Are you holding to God’s promises even when it’s hard?

Are you still turning away from sin to follow Jesus? It’s a lifelong process. We live a life of repentance. We learn more as we grow in life what God wants from us. It’s like peeling an onion. We make progress but there’s always another layer to deal with. Have you stopped along the path? Is God waiting for you back where we went off the path?

Repent and believe is what we do to enter the kingdom both now, and in its fullness on the final day.

Is God making his kingdom known through us? God still sets people free from Satan. Are people being set free here and in our outreach? God still forgives and gives new relationship. Are people coming to know God here? God still gives new life. Are people becoming alive to God here?

Is God working among us in these ways? These are signs of the kingdom’s presence. They aren’t the only ones, but they are important. How are we doing?

 

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We’re back in the Gospel of John today. We looked at the introduction and how the Word, or God’s Son brings light and life, and grace and truth. We also learned a lesson from John the Baptist about knowing our place in God’s plan.

And last week we saw how John the Baptist’s identifies Jesus as the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, and what this means. And you received a call to be filled with the Spirit.

Today we look at how the good news about Jesus begins to spread. Let’s read John 1:35-49. 35

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Let’s see what we can learn about the spread of the good news from our passage.

1. We learn what the good news is

If someone came to you and said, “Hey, I want to be Christian, can you tell me how?” What would you say? Where would you begin? Do you know how to articulate the gospel??

Well there are lots of expressions of the good news in these verses and they can help us. First we have in v. 36 John the Baptist’s words to Andrew and his companion, “Behold, the lamb of God.” John most likely is referring to Jesus’ sinlessness, just as sacrificial lambs had to be without blemish. [It is unlikely that John the Baptist understood that Jesus would die on the cross.]  And if we allow Revelation 6:16 to guide us, the Lamb is also the judge of the world. He is saying, “look the Messiah is here!”

Then we have in v. 41 Andrew’s words to Peter, “We have found the Messiah.” The same message. “Messiah” is the Hebrew word that means “anointed one”; Christ is the same word but comes from Greek into English. The anointed one refers to the one anointed by God to save and to rule the world.

In v. 45 Phillip says to Nathaniel, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote . . ..”There are a number of prophecies and hints of the Messiah in the Old Testament. Here’s one example from Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15. “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen.” Philip is saying, “he’s here!”

And finally in v. 49 Nathaniel says to Jesus, “You are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel!” The phrase “Son of God” has to do with those who rule. It was a title used for the kings of Israel. So the two phrases here blend together nicely. The promised ruler has come.

[All that is confessed is true for sure. Jesus is the Messiah. But from the point of view of the writer of John, they have much to learn still about the eternal Word made flesh.]

Notice the positive content in all this. It is, after all, good news we are to share. And in each case the focus is on how the promised one has come! He’s here! We’ve found him! The one sent by God. Yes, the world is deeply broken. But the emphasis here is on fulfillment; how Jesus has come to save and to rule.

2. We learn from this passage how the good news spreads

Most basically it spreads though people. And as we go through this you can think about this question – “How does God want to use me to spread the good news?”

First of all, in our passage, it was through the preaching/teaching of John the Baptist that Andrew and his companion begin to follow Jesus. This is the culmination of John’s ministry. God revealed to him who the Messiah was, and here he introduces Jesus to Israel. “Behold, the lamb of God!” And two people began to follow Jesus.

And God still calls people to preach and teach so that through this means others can hear the word about Jesus and come to follow him. Has God called you to do this?

A second way the good news spreads is through sharing with family membersAfter spending the evening talking with Jesus, Andrew, first thing in the morning, goes and finds his brother Peter. He’s very excited. We have found the Messiah! He has good news to share and he wants to share it with his brother.

What family members might God be nudging you to share the good news with this week?

A third way the good news spreads is through sharing with friends. In vs. 43-44 Jesus decides to go to Galilee and it says that he found Philipp. But we also learn that Philip was from the same home town as Andrew and Peter. So it is likely that they told Jesus who he was and that he should speak to him. If Andrew brought Peter to Jesus, here he and Peter bring Jesus to Philip.

Then, it sounds like right away Philip finds a friend of his – Nathaniel and invites him to come meet Jesus. So the message spread through the friend networks of those who responded to him. (Thanks to Dale Bruner for these three points)

What friends might God be calling you to share your faith with this week?

This passage also breaks down some stereotypes about how we share the good news. Yes, we have John the Baptist, who could certainly be a fire and brimstone preacher. But notice in the sharing with family and friends these several things:

  • It’s confessional. You just confess what you believe, what you have found, what you have experienced. It’s not about a debate or who knows the most, or arguments. And its OK if people don’t accept what you say. You are just sharing what you believe.
  • It’s invitational. What does Jesus say to Andrew and his companion? “Come and . . . see!” (v. 39). You’re seeking after me? Come and see. Andrew then brought Peter to Jesus. He wanted him to meet Jesus. Andrew and Peter brought Jesus to Philip and Jesus says to him “follow me” (v. 43). And Philip brought Nathaniel to Jesus. And when Nathaniel wanted to argue about whether anything good could come from Nazareth, Philip doesn’t engage. He just says, “come and see” (v. 46).
  • The key is a personal encounter with Jesus. It’s not about us, it’s about him. And when people encounter Jesus – his compassion, authority, power, holiness – this is what makes the difference. This is when transformation takes place. Sharing the good news is all about people being invited to encounter Jesus truly and fully.

3. We learn from this passage what happens when people receive the good news

1) They confess their faith in Jesus. Andrew said, “we have found the Messiah.” Philip said, “we have found him of whom Moses  in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth . . ..” People confess publicly that Jesus really is the promised one; the Savior and Lord of the world.

2) They become disciples. Andrew and his companion “followed” Jesus. Philip “followed” Jesus. This is another word for being a disciple in this Gospel. In that day you would often literally follow your teacher around to learn from their teaching and example. Jesus says in 8:12 “whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

And Andrew and his companion “stayed with Jesus” (v. 39). This is the same word that is used in this Gospel for “abiding” with Jesus. It is another term for being a faithful disciple. For instance Jesus says in 8:32 “if you abide in my word you are truly my disciple.” And here Andrew and the other disciple are with Jesus and learn from him.

So being a Christian is not a one-time experience. It is about a lifetime of discipleship. These people had a relationship with Jesus. They spent time with him, they learned from him; they were his disciples. 

[Also, I think it is interesting that each disciple received something special from Jesus: Andrew and the other disciple got to spend time talking with Jesus alone, learning from him. Peter received a new name and a new role. Philip received a personal call from Jesus himself. Nathaniel was praised and experienced a miracle.]

 Have you met Jesus? If you haven’t, I invite you to do so this morning. May the words of Jesus reach out of this Scripture to your heart as he says, “what are you seeking?” And as he says, “follow me.” 

William Higgins

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We are looking at Jesus’ parable of the sower this morning. I want us to focus on the central theme of the parable by asking the question, ‘What kind of dirt are you?’

I will be using Mark’s version in chapter 4, but will be bringing in Matthew 13 and Luke 8 as well. We will look at both the parable itself in vs. 2-9 and the interpretation of the parable given by Jesus in vs. 14-20.

Some basics 

The seed is “the word” (v. 14). In Matthew 13:19 it is the “word of the kingdom,” so we’re talking here about the gospel that Jesus proclaimed.

As we learn in Mark 1:15 Jesus preached, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus is saying that with his coming, all the promises and purposes of God are coming to completion for the salvation of the world and of all who will receive the word with repentance and faith. [In Luke it is “the word of God.” This may simply refer to the gospel as from God, or it may refer to reading all of Scripture in light of the coming of Jesus and the kingdom.]

This seed/gospel can produce this life/salvation in our lives. As it says in Luke 8:12 the purpose of sowing the seed is that people may “believe and be saved” (also v. 13) So there is no salvation without the gospel and the life it gives. We are just dirt in the imagery of this parable. But we do have to receive and hold onto the word through faith and repentance.

In this life, salvation is pictured as the seed growing in us. And at the resurrection it is pictured as the seed bearing fruit on the day of harvest, a common image for the final day.

The point of the parable is that not everyone who hears the word, receives it and holds onto it until the final day. And it’s not because there is something wrong with the seed or the sower that some don’t receive it. The only difference in each case is the dirt, or the people who hear it. Some dirt is receptive and some is not. 

So this parable teaches us how to be the right kind of dirt – that can receive and hold onto the gospel so that we have life and salvation both now and into eternity.

If you will pardon the pun, let’s dig deeper into this by looking at-

Three wrong kinds of dirt

These may characterize different people throughout the course of their lives, or it may characterize each of us at different times in our lives. In either case these are three obstacles to receiving and holding onto the life and salvation that the gospel brings.

1. The dirt along the path. From the parable we learn that the seed lands on a walking path next to, or through a field. As the phrase “trampled underfoot” in Luke 8:5 indicates, there is a lot of walking here. So the soil is packed down and hard. The seed can’t get into the dirt. It lays on top of the ground, gets walked on and the birds eventually eat it.

From the interpretation Jesus gives, we learn that these are people whose hearts (Matthew 13: 19; Luke 8:12) are hardened to the gospel. They aren’t interested in God. They might be religious, but they aren’t open to hearing God’s word concerning the kingdom.

Because their hearts are hard, the seed of the gospel can’t penetrate. As Matthew says, they don’t understand the word (Matthew 13:19; 23). It gains no entrance into their minds and hearts. The result is that Satan takes away the seed, so that they “may not believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12).

So here there is no germination. There is no belief and thus no salvation.

2. The rocky dirt. From the parable we learn that this soil is too shallow (“it did not have much soil” – v. 5). The idea seems to be some dirt laying on top of a large rock in the ground. (Luke has “on the rock” – 8:6). The seed can germinate quickly because it doesn’t have a lot of dirt to break through. But it can’t sustain itself because the soil is not deep enough for roots. (Luke has “it had no moisture” 8:6 that is, from a lack of roots.)  When the sun comes out it withers away.

From the interpretation we learn that these are people who “immediately receive the word with joy” – 4:16. As Luke puts it “they believe” the gospel – 8:13.

But there’s a problem. They have “no root in themselves” (Mark 4:17). The gospel doesn’t penetrate deep into their lives; it doesn’t become deeply rooted in the heart. And so when testing and persecution come they fall away from their faith. As Luke puts it, “they believe for a while, and in a time of testing fall away” – 8:13.

So here there is genuine faith and there is germination and life, but only for a time.

3. The thorny dirt. From the parable we learn that this soil is productive because the seed grows. But there are other seeds/plants in the soil that grow to choke out the good seed so that there is no fruit.

From the interpretation we learn that these people believe and grow for a time, but other concerns and pursuits “enter in” (4:19) to their lives. These are “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things.” These are the thorns.

The result is that these worldly concerns choke the new life of the gospel in their lives and no fruit is produced. 

So here there is real faith, there is germination and life, but the life is cut short so that there is no ultimate salvation at the time of harvest.

Notice the progression here, from no germination, to a sprout that quickly dies, to a growing plant that eventually withers away. Only the last soil actually bears fruit.

So then let’s look at –

How we can be good dirt

In contrast to the hardened dirt along the path, we need to receive the word into our lives. All the soils hear the word. But the word must be “accepted” (4:20) into our hearts and lives. The receiving here refers to accepting it in faith (Luke 8:12). It has to do with “understanding it (Matthew 13:23). Letting it penetrate into our minds and hearts. Luke says we have to “hold it fast in an honest and good heart” (Luke 8:15).

In contrast to the shallow soil, we need to let the word go deep into us. The word has to have roots within us. We can’t just receive it and that’s it. We have to nurture it; cultivate it. We need to learn it, study it, meditate on it. Then we can endure in times of testing because the word has gone deep within. It is well rooted and grounded in us.

In contrast to the thorny dirt, we need to weed our lives. The word may well be in us and growing, but if we allow other seeds in they will grow and choke out the word.

We must beware of “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things” (4:19). Luke has it this way, “the cares and riches and pleasures of life” (8:14). If these enter in they will take over and kill our life with God.

Jesus is talking about getting caught up in maintaining our earthly lives with all the business and going in all directions at once that this involves. He is talking about seeking security and comfort in getting more and more wealth. And he is talking about pursuing the pleasures of this life – the good things of life, entertainment, leisure. All these things come in and distract and overwhelm us so that our commitment is no longer solely focused on the Gospel and the Christian life.

We need to get these weeds out of our hearts, or whatever life and transformation we have will not last to bear fruit on the final day.

Let me end by asking –

What kind of dirt are you?

  •  Is your heart open and responsive to receive God’s word?
  • Do you let God’s word go deep into your life so that is firmly rooted by learning it; by studying it?
  • Are you putting the kingdom of God above all of this life’s activities and concerns and pleasures?

As Jesus says at the end of parable, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” – v. 9. We must listen to what he is saying! Be the dirt that receives and holds onto the word and the life it brings at all costs. Is there anything more important? And then you will bear fruit – “thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

William Higgins

 

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Bearing Witness for Jesus

A part of what it means to be a Christian is that we are to bear witness for Jesus. We are to give our testimony, from our own personal experience concerning who Jesus is and what he has done in our lives and in the lives of others. Jesus tasked us with this job in Acts 1:8, “You will be my witnesses.”

I want us to look at Jesus’ words and actions this morning to see how to do this. And I want us to do this to keep us focused on our task and to encourage us to do it.

1. You can begin right where you are

Yes, God calls apostles, prophets and pastors who travel around from one place to another. But primarily, I believe, God works through ordinary Christians – right where they are.

Remember once again, the story of the demon possessed man in Luke 8:38-39. Jesus said to him – “‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.”

Share where you are! You don’t have to go anywhere. Share in your family setting, in your work environment and with the social connections you have. You are where you are by providence, not by accident.

2. Be motivated by love

Matthew 9:36 says, “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” You can see Jesus’ heart here. And then notice the connection with what comes next in vs. 37-38. “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” Love for others leads us to reach out to them.

People today are still like sheep without a shepherd; harassed and helpless. People are stuck and need to be set free from things like greed, pornography, drug addictions, worship of celebrities, worship of country and worship of power.

So many people are living hollow, empty, and miserable lives. Jesus can deliver them. And so we need to tell them this.

3. Make sure your words and your life line up

Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. . . let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

It’s not just the testimony of our words, it’s the testimony of our lives that people take into account.

I’m not saying you have to be perfect, but there needs to be some connection between your words and your life. There needs to be some light shining! And also humility, when you don’t live up to what you believe.

4. Rely on God’s power

When Jesus sent the 12 disciples out to minister, they didn’t go in their own strength. He gave them power and authority to get the job done.

He gives us this as well. Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses.”

By God’s power I mean gifts of the Spirit, help, guidance, and the strength we need to love others (because it’s not always easy).

Let’s look more closely at one example – God gives us the right words. We are always concerned, you know – ‘what will I say?!’ In Matthew 10:19-20 Jesus said, “Do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

He is talking here about when you are persecuted. I look at it his way – if in this extreme case, God will give us the right words, how much easier is it for God to give us the words when things are not so extreme. It’s not hard at all. And God can give us just the right words for the situation we are in to speak to people’s hearts.

Rely on the Spirit’s empowerment to help you as you bear witness for Jesus.

5. Be bold

Jesus said in Mark 8:38, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Instead of shame, we’re to speak out for Jesus. I don’t mean being rude or using silly antics to get attention. You just need to be courageous enough to seize the open doors God gives you with others.

You need to keep an eye out for ‘Spirit moments,’ where someone comes into your path and there is an opportunity to share. When this happens, instead of giving in to fear, choose to step out and say something for Jesus.

6. Don’t exclude anyone

Jesus went out of his way to relate to those who were considered outcasts – Luke 15; for instance, sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors.

He went to those of low education and social status; common folk. In Matthew 11:25, Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.”

He also went to the broken, the hurting, the poor and those needing deliverance. In Luke 4:18 Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

Now, he also spoke to everyone else. But he went out of his way to make sure the weak and lowly received his attention, and so should we.

What if God brings a homeless person across your path – and you don’t know how to talk or what to say? What if God opens an opportunity to share with someone involved in a same-sex relationship – do you draw away, or share the good news of Jesus’ transforming power?

In Luke 6:37 Jesus says, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned” He is saying, don’t condemn others as beyond God’s mercy and transforming power – so that you exclude certain people from your sharing. Only God can judge! It’s not our place. We are to focus on bearing witness to all.

7. Don’t water down the message to get results

Jesus was looking for disciples, not crowds. We see this in Luke 14:25-26. “Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, ‘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.’” He goes on to talk about taking up your cross and giving up your wealth. This is all hard teaching!

He also tells two parables which teach that every person is to count the cost before they become his follower. Jesus is challenging them. Do you know what you are getting into? Are you sure you want to be my disciple?

Today we would say, “Oh Jesus! Don’t do that, you’ll scare off the converts!” We think, “first we have to get them in, and then we will read them the fine print.” And we fill up our pews with people who have little commitment to Jesus, because they think, “if I didn’t have to change to get in, why should I have to change to stay in?”

Jesus always challenged people with his radical demands of discipleship up front. He wanted to see where there heart was. He wasn’t interested in crowds. He wanted disciples.

8. Remember that Jesus is with you

Ever been on a new job and someone tells you quick what to do and then leaves, and you really have no idea what is going on? I have. When I was a freshman in college I was a janitor in the men’s dorm. I was cleaning away thinking I was doing a good job. But I found out two weeks later that I was also supposed to clean two other bathrooms/shower rooms. It got pretty dirty in those bathrooms! Poor guys.

Well Jesus doesn’t do that with us. He gives us the job, but he also stays with us.

He was with the apostles. Mark 3:14 – “And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach.” He called them to preach, but also he was with them.

And he will be with you as well. Just after the great commission we read in Matthew 28:20,  “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus is with each one of us – we are not left alone in our job.

So what do you do with a teaching like this?? Well, if you want to take it seriously I would ask you to bow your head and ask God to put someone in your path this week that you can share with about Jesus. Let’s spend just a moment in quiet and ask God to do this.

William Higgins

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You might say, ‘Well, pastor, there are lots of reasons not to share the gospel.’ For instance, I might strain my relationship with someone. Or, what if they ask a question I can’t answer? Or, I’m just not good at talking to people.

Now for sure, with regard to straining relationships, we should attend to how we share. We don’t want to be rude, manipulative or overbearing. We want to have wisdom and grace. And as well it is fine to say the truth – which is that you don’t have all the answers (just like everyone else) but you do know that Jesus is alive and can change lives. It’s not an argument it is you bearing witness to your faith. And yes, not everyone is good at sharing. But you can try and rely on God to give you the words. You don’t have to be eloquent for God to use you powerfully.

So, these are all concerns, but they can be dealt with. What’s crucial is that you are not ashamed of Jesus; that you don’t let this stop you from sharing.

Jesus talked about this in Mark 8:38, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

We must be bold in our witness to Jesus and the salvation he brings. We should be like Paul, who said in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” And he lived his life by these words.

But enough about reasons why we don’t share. Now lets look at why we should share.

Reason #1 – Because you want to be faithful to Jesus

He certainly does call each of us to bear witness of him to others. He said, “You are the light of the world” – Matthew 5:14. He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” -Matthew 28:19. He said, “You will be my witnesses” – Acts 1:8.

And so we share because we love him and want to be faithful to do what he says. We want to hear from him on the final day, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

In our story in Luke 8, Jesus told the man, “declare how much God has done for you” – v. 39. Jesus sent him back to share the gospel. (After all they had just sent Jesus away, so who else would do it?)

And it wouldn’t have been an easy assignment. He would surely get a hostile reception. But he was faithful to Jesus nevertheless. It says, “And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city . . .” – v. 39.

Reason #2 – Because you want to tell others about what God has done in your life

The psalmist says, “Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” – Psalm 96:2-3. We are to tell others about what God has done – his salvation; his marvelous works.

Has God done something in your life? Are you forgiven? Have you been set free? Do you have new life? Joy? Love? Well, in our world – this is news! It’s something to be shared. God is alive and well and working in people’s lives. And people need to hear this.

Now sometimes we think that the best witnesses are new Christians. You know, it’s fresh in their hearts and they are eager to tell. But we aren’t just sharing something that happened at our conversion, maybe 10 or 30 or 50 years ago. It’s about what God is doing in your life right now.

Is God still working in your life? Then you have something to share. And that’s what you should share.

Once again, in our story in Luke 8, Jesus told the man, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you” – v. 38. If we focused on the word “declare” before, now the focus is on what he is sharing – “how much God has done for you.”

He was demonized, he was enslaved, he was tortured. It must have been horrible, running around naked, out of control and miserable all the time. And now, because of Jesus, he is free, he is at peace and he is in his right mind. And this is what he shared. He proclaimed to everyone “how much Jesus had done for him” – vs. 39.

Reason #3 – Because you love people and want them to experience God’s salvation

It is certainly possible to have wrong motivations, like to win an argument or simply to make the church grow. But the right motive is love.

Jesus was motivated by love. In Matthew 9:36 it says, “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

And because he had compassion, he shared the good news with them. And then in Matthew 10 sent out his disciples because there were so many people.

Jesus had compassion. Do you have compassion for those who have not heard about Jesus?

Paul also was motivated by love. This is him talking about his fellow Jews who have not responded to Jesus: Romans 9:1-3 – “I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”

Do you have “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” in your heart for those who don’t know Jesus?

We share because we love; because we are concerned about others. And we want others to know the grace of God, just as we do.

In our story in Luke 8, the man clearly loved Jesus. He sat at his feet, wanted to go with him and then obeyed what he said.

But he also loved the people of his city. For when the man told what God had done for him – he wasn’t just relating facts. He wanted them to experience Jesus, like he had. He wanted them to receive help from Jesus, like he had. For if Jesus could help someone in a situation as bad as his – he could surely help any one of them with their needs.

——————–

So we have here three good reasons to share the gospel:

  • You want to be faithful to Jesus because you love him.
  • You want to share what God has done in your life
  • You love others and want them to know Jesus too.

Our hope as Elders is that our Open house Sunday will give you a relatively easy way to work at this. Invite someone to come to church and hear about Jesus.

Let’s end today by pausing for a moment to listen in prayer. Who do you think God wants you to ask? Who is God putting on your heart?

William Higgins

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[rewritten]

Step #1 – Understanding what God’s will is, acknowledge your weakness to do what God says. To be prepared for testing, learn God’s will and humbly acknowledge your areas of weakness.

Jesus knew God’s will for his life, that he was to die on the cross –  Mark 10:33-34. And Jesus was upfront that this would be hard. He acknowledged that “the flesh is weak” – Mark 14:28.

Step #2 – Remain alert in prayer for times of testing and temptation. We are weak and Satan is out to destroy us. To be prepared we need to be alert and to pray to God to be spared testing.

Jesus was alert and so he prayed  that “the hour might pass from him” – Mark 14:35. He prayed fervently, three times, “remove this cup from me” – Mark 14:36.

Step #3 – In a time of testing – Keep your mind focused on God’s truth. Once you are in a test, Satan works on your mind to make you unsure of God’s truth so that you will rationalize making wrong choices. So you need to stay focused on the Scriptures (reading, quoting, meditating on them) and tell Satan to leave in the name of Jesus

Earlier, when Satan tempted Jesus to take another way than the cross, Jesus spoke out God’s truth and told Satan to leave. As Jesus was arrested he said, “let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”

Step #4 – In a time of testing – Receive strength from the Spirit to do God’s will. Once you are in a test, Satan works on your heart to get you to choose what is wrong; to give in to the desires of your flesh to take the easy way out. Ask God for strength from the Spirit to overcome the desires of your flesh so you can do what is right.

Jesus received strength from the Spirit to pray “not what I will, but what you will” and to go to the cross and die.

Step #5 – Endure the test. Even if you are successful at first, Satan will try to wear you down. So you must keep focused on God’s truth and keep receiving strength from the Spirit until the test is over. No matter how long the test lasts, don’t quit thinking and choosing what it right.

Jesus endured until the end. And he was blessed for his faithfulness. He was raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God.

William Higgins

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We are bringing our series on ‘How to overcome sin in our lives’ to a close today. Our focus has been on how to get rid of our sinful behaviors and habits which enslave us and keep us from experiencing all that God has for us.

And the message has been that there is freedom in Jesus! We can overcome. We can be fee. We can walk in the fullness that God has for us.

I have been sharing all of this with you so that you won’t sin. It is very much like what John says to his readers in 1 John 2:1, “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” But then he goes on to address the reality of failure. He says, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” – 1 John 2:1-2. (NRSV)

If you do fail and fall into sin, John teaches us that Jesus can help. He died for our sins, so that we can be made right with God. And he is our advocate before God, seeking out God’s mercy for us; interceding for us.

But we also need to do something in order to receive what Jesus provides for us; to experience restoration and renewal. So today we look at –

What you must do

– when you fail and fall into sin.

1. Be honest. Our natural human response is to hide our sins and live in denial. Or if we can’t do that we find excuses for our sins, or we deflect attention away from our failure by focusing on the faults of others. We all see this kind of stuff a lot.

But a true mark of repentance is honesty. You must be absolutely honest with yourself first of all. Because without this you can’t make any progress in Christian faithfulness. And then you must be honest with God and others.

Proverbs 28:13 says, “No one who conceals transgressions will prosper, but one who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Honest confession leads to mercy.

2. Take responsibility for your actions. This means that you own your actions; they are yours. You don’t shift the blame to other people or circumstances or whatever. You are accountable.

After committing terrible sins, David prayed, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me . . . you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.” – Psalm 51:3-4. He’s saying, ‘I did it. And whatever negative consequences come my way are my fault. Because I’m the one who did wrong.’

We see the same thing in Jesus’ story of the prodigal son. When he came back and wanted to make things right with his father, he said, “Treat me as one of your hired servants” – Luke 15:19. He was ready to live there as a servant. He knew there were consequences for his actions. And he had squandered his share of the family estate.

Now, his father – in love and grace – accepted him back as a son, not a servant. But notice, he still lost all that he had, for all the rest that the father had was the elder son’s now, and that would not change.

So there are negative consequences that come on you when you sin. You reap what you sow. And you need to take responsibility for all this, because it’s a result of your actions.

3. Express your sorrow. When we fail and fall into sin, we cause God and others pain. And when we realize this it should cause us to be sorrowful. We should feel it, and have regret.

After James calls his readers to repentance he says, “Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection” – James 4:9. (NRSV) Paul calls this “godly grief” in 2 Corinthians 7:10, which is a part of the process of repentance.

4. Stop the behavior. There is no healing with God or others if you don’t turn from your sin.

You know the person who wants mercy, mercy, forgiveness, forgiveness – but doesn’t want to change anything in their life. This isn’t repentance. It’s manipulation.

If you have failed, what you must do is resolve never to do this sin again, and to do everything necessary to make this happen. All the things we have been talking about in this series.

Proverbs 28:13 says, “he who . . . forsakes his transgressions will obtain mercy.” Ezekiel 18:30-32 says, “Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. . . Turn then, and live.” When you stop the wrong behavior, then you can receive “mercy” from God and others; you can “live.” When you don’t, “iniquity will be your ruin.”

5. Ask God to forgive you. Ask God for mercy to pardon you. And this is the time to be truly honest with God, taking responsibility, expressing your sorrow and committing to stop the wrong.

Pray like the tax collector in Jesus’ story, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” – Luke 18:13. Or you can pray from the Lord’s prayer and personalize it – “Forgive (me) us (my) our sins” – Luke 11:4.

God’s promise to us is this: “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” – 1 John 1:9. And we can hold on to this promise knowing that God will keep his word to us – to forgive, to cleanse and to renew us.

6. Seek reconciliation with others. If your sin involved hurting others, a part of dealing with it is that you seek to make things right with them as best you can. Again this is the time to be honest, to take responsibility, to express your sorrow and to commit to stop the wrongdoing.

Jesus said, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your sister or brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24 (NRSV). Prioritize making things right with the one you have wronged, even over worship of God. First go and be reconciled to your brother or sister; seek forgiveness. Restore the relationship damaged by your actions.

Now also, if you have harmed someone in a way that can be restored, make amends. The example of Zacchaeus’ repentance speaks to this. He was a wealthy tax collector who was despised because he made his profit off charging more taxes than were necessary. When he repented he said, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” – Luke 19:8. He tried to make things right. He made amends. And he is an example to us.

What should you do when you fail?

1. Be honest

2. Take responsibility for your actions

3. Express your sorrow

4. Stop the behavior

5. Ask God to forgive you

6. Seek reconciliation with others

This is how you get back on track. Not giving up because you have failed. Not wallowing in despair. But repenting in all these ways. And then moving forward with what God’s will is for your life.

Psalm 51 (1-4; 7-12; 16-17)

I want would like to end with a prayer of repentance from David in Psalm 51. He knew how to repent and we can learn from him.

L: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

P: Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

L: For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

P: Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

L: Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

P: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

L: For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.

All: The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

William Higgins

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