Adult Sunday School will resume on July 12, 2020.  Please join us!

 

  
Adult Sunday school starts at 9:30 am and includes singing from the Hymnal and then a in-depth lesson from the bible where our congregation gets to try to break down what is put forth in the good book for our lives journey to eternity.

 
 
February 2020 
 

Forgiveness, Faith, and Service

Luke 17:1-10

17 1And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Increase Our Faith

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

Unworthy Servants

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’

Luke 17:1-3

He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! 2. “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3. “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 

Luke 17:4-7

4. “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” 5. The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6. And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you. 7. “Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’?

Luke 17:8-10

8. “But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? 9. “He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? 10. “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”

 The Lord Jesus is in the last months of His life on earth and is working His way to Jerusalem. He is speaking to larger crowds, (multiples of ten thousands).  He's been on this journey since chapter 9 verse 51 of Luke, and He will arrive in the 19th chapter verse 28. He is not moving in a direct line to Jerusalem. It wouldn't take Him that long to get there, not months, only a matter of a few days.  The land of Israel is small.  But He is traversing the land, back and forth, up and down, town, village, city, countryside; everywhere He can go to preach the gospel of the kingdom, to perform miracles, to cast out demons, to lay convincing 

evidence that He is the Messiah who brings the message of salvation and the offer of the kingdom.

His focus narrows, even when there is a great crowd, to two particular groups of people.  And He goes back and forth between directing His teaching at the disciples, those who were His followers whom He was preparing for future ministry, and the Pharisees and the scribes who were the guardians of the Jewish religion. The Pharisees were the marked false teachers, false religionists against whom He shows the contrast of true discipleship.  Everything they were, He wanted His disciples not to be.  Everything they were not, He wanted His disciples to become.

The Pharisees predominantly could be said to be marked by pride.  They were very proud of their religious achievement and attainment. They were aided, of course, by their partners, the scribes, who were the scholars that came alongside the Pharisees and did the study and developed the system of theology that they taught.  The defining character of the Pharisees is pride.  The defining character of the disciples is to be humility.

There are four things that our Lord says in this section.  He says to His disciples, you are to restrain from offending.  Humble people restrain themselves from offending others.  Second, you are to be ready to forgive.  Humble people are eager to forgive.  Thirdly, you are to recognize your weakness. That is manifest clearly in the statement of the apostles, “Increase our faith.”  And fourthly, you are to reject honor as unworthy servants.

In Scripture, God has said frequently, He hates pride.  He resists proud people.  He punishes proud people.  In Proverbs 3:34 the Scripture says, "God gives grace to the humble.  But God is hostile, in opposition, to the proud."  That clear statement, unmistakable truth is repeated twice in the New Testament.  It is repeated by James, the brother of our Lord, in James chapter 4 and verse 6, and it is repeated by Peter the apostle in 1 Peter 5:5.  "God gives grace to the humble but is opposed to the proud."  Pride leads the list of attitudes that God hates.  Proverbs 6, Proverbs 21, God hates pride. On the other hand, humility heads the list of attitudes that God loves.  In fact, in Proverbs 16:18 pride goes before destruction.  In Luke
14 and verse 11 our Lord says, "For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled and he who humbles himself shall be exalted."  Apparently, our Lord said this a lot. He said it again as recorded by Luke in chapter 18, verse 14. And He was constantly addressing that because of the flagrant pride and self-exaltation of the dominant religious force in Israel, which had then infected the people.  

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, the ones who know they are spiritually destitute, spiritually bankrupt. “Blessed are the meek” who know they have no power in themselves to change that.  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,” knowing they don't have it and can't earn it and need someone to dispense it to them.  Jesus continually called for this total humiliation.  It's essentially what He meant when He said, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, follow Me."

The prophet in the Old Testament, Micah, chapter 6 verse 8, said, "And what does the Lord require of you but to walk humbly with your God.“ Pride was the sin that got Satan thrown out of heaven got Adam and Eve thrown out of Eden.  And pride always is the dominant force in sin because every sin you commit that violates God's will and God's law and God's glory is an act of personal rebellion and personal behavior against God and therefore it is an act of pride.  If pride leads the list of vices, then humility leads the list of virtues.  And so our Lord is constantly talking about humbling yourself, about lowliness, self-denial, self-hatred, self-sacrifice, submission, and obedience.  Jesus says you have to beware, with implied warning of imminent danger, of behaving like the Pharisees behave.  Beware of practicing your righteousness before men. Beware of being a hypocrite.  In Matthew 7:14 Jesus said in the same Sermon on the Mount, used the same terms, "Beware of false prophets who look like sheep and shepherds, but are really ravenous wolves.  They want to rip and shred you." And He's talking again about the false religious leaders.

Humble people are restrained from offending others.  "He said to His disciples, 'It is inevitable that stumbling blocks should come, but woe to him through whom they come.  It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble. “Who are these little ones?  Matthew 18 is a parallel instruction from Jesus in more detail. And there He says, "These little ones who believe in Me."  Believers.  Not talking about children, or infants, He's talking about believers.  And they were all spiritually young.

“If a man has a 100 sheep and one of them goes astray, doesn't he leave the ninety-nine on the mountain and go and search for the one that is straying?  It turns out that when he finds it, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. Thus it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones be devastated.”  How you treat other believers is a very important thing to God.

“It is inevitable that stumbling blocks or traps will come."  We live in a fallen, corrupt, and imperfect world.  God's little ones, God's children, believers, are going to be offended, trapped, harmed, and hindered. "Woe to him through whom they come." That doesn't change guilt.  The one who sets the offense in motion is guilty before God. The followers of John the Baptist want to know if Jesus is the Messiah.  And so they come and ask the question in verse 20, "Are You the expected One, or do we look for someone else?"  And Jesus cured many people of diseases, afflictions, evil spirits, granted sight to many who were blind.  And so in verse 22, "He answered and said to them, 'Go report to John what you've seen and heard.

 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear. The dead are raised up.  The poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me.'" That was the big stumbling point.  And why were they stumbling over Jesus?  Because the Pharisees were spreading lies about Jesus every opportunity, every occasion they could.  They said Jesus is not the Messiah; He is not the expected One.  They said that Jesus in fact does what He does by the power of Satan.  They damned Jesus as satanic.

It was not just that they caused people to stumble by their hypocrisy, their spiritual sham which set an example, making hypocrisy legitimate. It wasn't just that they treated people with disdain and contempt who were beneath them and therefore legitimized pride and hatred.  It wasn't just that they set examples of sinfulness and failed to set patterns of righteousness and holiness.  It was that underlying contempt for the truth.  It's in the context of false religion that all this is said.  They were putting hindrances in front of people, making them stumble over Jesus.

  The word "millstone" here, is a massive stone that had a smaller stone on the top that was turned by an animal.  This is a massive stone; tied around somebody's neck would take them to the bottom fast.  And the Jews hated the idea of drowning.  They thought that drowning someone was a horrific kind of punishment.  They didn't do that.  The Romans did that. In fact, the rabbis taught that drowning was for Gentiles, not for Jews at all.  Jesus says, you'd be better off drowned now on the spot, instantly, than to keep doing what you are doing.  To hinder the faith of a believer, the understanding of a believer, the life of a believer in spiritual progress is a horrendous and enormous crime.

Verse 4, "If he sins against you seven times a day and returns to you seven times saying, 'I repent,'” Forgive him.  You say, "Wow!  That's a lot of forgiveness."  Yeah, well we get a lot forgiveness. We receive this boundless forgiveness from God.  It's almost embarrassing to confess our sins because it's the same list and He is fully eager to forgive and we are to forgive the same way. We don't hold grudges, look on people with disdain, belittle them.  We confront them out of love.

Talk about twelve privileged men.  Judas falls out of the twelve because of his apostasy and is replaced by a man named Matthias.  But these are remarkable men. They had already begun to preach, already begun to see the power unleashed through their lives.  But as privileged as they were, they were equally human. In fact, five times Jesus said this to them, "Oh you of little faith."  You wonder, how could someone who has had that experience walking and being with Jesus, seeing massive display of miracles, even performing some, hearing Him preach, being taught by Him, nurtured, discipled day in and day out, preaching yourself, seeing the impact, negative and positive, how could one continue to have little faith?  But they did. Increase our faith, Lord.  You're calling on us to teach truth and to live truly and to live graciously and to forgive people who wound us and do it repeatedly and this is asking a lot out of us. Increase our faith, Lord. They're feeling the weight of this kind of spiritual responsibility and they're honest about their weakness. And so they say, "increase," meaning add to, supplement, develop, grow.  They're not denying that they have faith, they just don't know if they're ever going to be adequate for this.  Who can live like that?

In verse 6, "If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree. "A couple of times He said this, only there was a mountain nearby so He used the mountain as an illustration.  Here He's standing by a mulberry tree so He uses it.  "If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the sea,' and it would obey you."  You're right.  You do need a stronger faith.  He affirms it.  If you just had a small amount of faith, you would have enough faith to have a powerful life.

He's saying in a manner of speaking a small growing faith, a small expanding faith can do unimaginable things. Why?  Because as you entrust yourself to the power of God, He does His work through you.  The Lord is not saying do pointless things. He is saying you don't think you can live a godly life, you don't think you can always speak the truth correctly.  You don't think you can set a pure example so no one stumbles.  You're not sure you can live such a magnanimous, generous, merciful, forgiving life.  You're not sure you can do that and I'm telling you, if you will continue to trust Me, My power through you will accomplish all of that.  That's what He's saying.

Who can have a life that matters so much?  So we humbly acknowledge our weakness and trust fully in our Lord's power to enable us to do His will in our sanctification as we were enabled to do His will in our justification. Verse 7 seems a little obtuse.  All of a sudden Jesus tells a parable.  "But which of you having a slave, plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come immediately and sit down to eat?'  But will he not say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me until I've eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink?  He doesn't thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?'"

 As God begins to use you, as you live a life that honors Him, as you teach His Word faithfully and as you set an example of spiritual life and as you exhibit grace and mercy, and because were still fallen, may begin to think that, "You know, I'm not doing half bad at this thing of Christian living.  My life's having a profound effect.  Through me somebody came to Christ.  And I've been teaching the truth and people are loving that.  And my life is sort of in order and I'm glad for that and I was real kind to those folks.  And aren't you impressed, God?“ The transition is pretty clear to me.  It's easy to get to the place where you become arrogant about your spiritual progress.  Is there anything uglier than that; spiritual pride?

Any greater failure to understand that everything is by grace? And so Jesus puts the protection on the backside of this whole thing. When you begin to be useful to God and you begin to see the power of God flow through your life, there's going to be a temptation by that fallen nature that's still there, that unredeemed humanness to make you feel like you're doing really well and God ought to be fairly impressed with you.  And, of course, the Pharisees, they wanted people to be impressed with them because they were sure God was.

Kenneth Bailey who has done so much great work in studying the life in the villages of the ancient Middle East and even modern Middle East, writes this, "In a technological age with a 40-hour week, powerful labor unions and time and a half for overtime, the world of this parable seems not only distant but unfair.  After a long, hard day in the field such a servant surely has earned the right to a little appreciation, some comforts and a few rewards.  But Jesus is building on a well-known and widely accepted pattern of behavior in the Middle East.  The master-servant relationship and its ancient and modern expression implies acceptance of authority and obedience to that authority and it's a matter of honor.

Yet the outsider needs to be sensitive to the security that this classical relationship provides for the servant and the sense of worth and meaning that is deeply felt on the part of a servant who serves a great man. These qualities of meaning, worth, security and relationship are often tragically missing from the life of the modern industrial worker with his 40-hour week. The servant offers loyalty, obedience, a great deal of hard work, but with an authentic Middle Eastern nobleman, the benefits mentioned above are enormous."  And as I said, this is the mid-afternoon lunch and so the work day is not really over. Bailey goes on, "Certainly no one in any Middle Eastern audience could imagine any servant expecting special honor after fulfilling his duty.

 The master is not indebted to him for having plowed the field or guarded the sheep.  We're not even dealing with harsh hours imposed by an unfeeling master, but rather the normal expectation of a relatively short day's chores. “And so, everybody knows that he just did what he was supposed to do.  Jesus applies it in verse 10.  "So, you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves, we've done only that which we ought to have done.'" Don't pat yourself on the back and think that God's really impressed and that He owes you some special favor.  You'll get your reward in heaven.  We're not talking about doing something to please men here.

We're talking about assuming that somehow God is in your debt. You don't thank the servant for doing what he's supposed to do. And when you and I have done everything we're supposed to do, we're not worthy of some special merit, as if God is now indebted to us. This is all about grace.  And the fact of the matter is, no matter what we've done, no matter how well we've done it, we have never been able to do what God is worthy of.  So, we are unworthy servants.

I personally dislike any recognition for anything I have done because I do not deserve the recognition because anything I have accomplished that was good was through God, not me. Recognition is fine for some things; but not in the kingdom of God.  No matter what we've done, we have to say, "I'm an unworthy servant." And if you say that it sounds like false humility.  This is all about humility.  Humble people reject honor. They know they're still living under grace.  You are justified by grace, you're being sanctified by grace, you'll be glorified by grace and you'll be rewarded in heaven forever by grace.  Never do we merit anything God gives us.  And the flip on this is in the as we noted earlier in the gospel of Luke when Jesus brings us into His banquet and our labors are done, He sits us down and He serves us.  That's totally against the grain of their expectation.  But that's going to happen in heaven.  That's in our heavenly reward.  As long as we're here in this life, we can never do what God deserves.  And it is a wonder of wonders, as Paul says in 1 Timothy 1, that God has chosen to use me who am the chief of sinners.  The humble never forget that reality.

 
 
 
March 1, 2020 
 
 

A Prophet like Moses - Deuteronomy 18:9-22

What Is the Dominant Theme of the Book of Deuteronomy?

Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Torah and of the Bible’s Old Testament. When translated from the Greek Septuagint, the word “Deuteronomy” means “second law,” as in Moses’ re­telling of God’s laws.

The dominant theological theme in this book is the renewal of God’s covenant and Moses’ call to obedience, as evident in Deuteronomy 4: 1, 6 and 13; 30: 1 to 3 and 8 to 20.

The accounts in Deuteronomy occur in Moab, 40 days before the Israelites enter the Promised Land, Canaan.

At 120 years old, Moses knew that he would soon die, so he took the opportunity to issue a call to obedience and review God’s covenants.

Moses recounts the experiences of the past 40 years in the wilderness, restates the Ten Commandments, and gives the Israelites guidelines to follow regarding different aspects of life. He tells the people that he will die before they enter the Promised Land and appoints Joshua to take his place.

Moses gave the Israelites three reasons to renew their obedience to God: God’s history of goodness to his people, the goodness of God’s laws, and God’s unconditional promises of blessings for the future.

9 “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.

10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer,

11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.

12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.

13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God.

14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.

15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear,

16 according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’

17 “And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good.

18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.

19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.

20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’

21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’

22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

Moses was now nearing the end of his leadership of Israel.

Since the day he returned from the wilderness after his encounter with the Angel of the Lord in the burning bush, Israel had been guided by his counsel and had depended on him for virtually everything.

Joshua would take over the main portion of Israel’s leadership needs, but he was more of a general for their armies than a prophet as Moses was.

As the Israelites are about to enter Canaan, God issues them a very specific and clear warning:

The Israelites must be very careful not to allow themselves to be influenced or enticed into imitating the practices that characterized the people of the land they were about to enter.

The Lord referred to these practices as utterly detestable and abominations. They were disgustingly offensive to God.

God details the practices so there would be no confusion.

  • Passing a child through the Fire: this is a reference to both actual child sacrifice and to various ceremonies of dedication to false gods in which a child is merely passed over a sacred flame as a symbolic gesture.

  • Divination: Involves varieties of fortune-telling by interpreting random events, whether it involves cards, dice, tea leaves, animal entrail, crystal balls, lines on the palm of the hand, or the stars and planets.

  • An Observer of times would be someone who purports to have psychic abilities to predict the future.

    God details the practices so there would be no confusion.

  • An enchanter is one who interprets various omens as signs of future events.

  • A witch is one who casts spells that influence people or events.

  • A charmer specializes in causing people to do things against their will or altering their thinking about something.

  • A consulter with familiar spirits is basically what we would call a medium.

  • The preceding list of detestable things is by no means intended to be exhaustive. The sinful imagination of humans, assisted eagerly by demonic influences, knows no bounds.

  • The seriousness of these sinful activities is emphasized by the Lord in verse 12, for He plainly warns the Israelites that these sins are the very reason that the peoples of Canaan will be violently driven from their land.

  • Some might wonder why the Lord finds these activities, some of them seemingly harmless parlor games, so detestable.

  • The first reason is that all such activities expose the participants and even bystanders to demonic influences.

  • Far from being harmless games or merely innocent means of contacting the spirits of the dear departed, all of them are in reality avenues that the spiritual forces of wickedness use to gain influence over and even possession of those who are deceived into lending credence to them.

  • A second and extremely more important reason that the Lord detests such practices is that the main purpose of all of them is to subtly gain power over people, objects and events over which only the Lord is in control.

  • In verse 13, God is calling on his people to devote themselves to prayer and worship of their Creator.

  • The Israelites were to model holiness in refraining from the detestable practices of the Canaanites. Such holiness would be a reflection and a testimony to the world of the holiness of their God, Yahweh.

  • Moses prophesied that the day would come when Jehovah would raise up, from within the nation of Israel, a prophet who would be like him in many respects.

  • This coming prophet would speak divine words, and those who refused to hear his words would give account for such rebellion (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).

  • One does not have to speculate on the fulfillment of this prediction. The coming prophet was none other than Jesus Christ, as Peter affirms when he quotes this Old Testament passage in his great sermon in Acts 3 (see vv. 22,23).

  • There were many similarities between Moses and Christ. Both were: leaders, prophets, law-givers, mediators, etc. Moses prophesied that the day would come when Jehovah would raise up, from within the nation of Israel, a prophet who would be like him in many respects.

  • This coming prophet would speak divine words, and those who refused to hear his words would give account for such rebellion (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).

  • One does not have to speculate on the fulfillment of this prediction. The coming prophet was none other than Jesus Christ, as Peter affirms when he quotes this Old Testament passage in his great sermon in Acts 3 (see vv. 22,23).

  • There were many similarities between Moses and Christ. Both were: leaders, prophets, law-givers, mediators, etc.

  • We should be aware that the prophecy in verse 15 has a dual meaning: one, the more immediate (Moses) and the other to its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus.

  • Note that the verse explicitly specifies that all subsequent prophets of God will arise “from the midst of thee, of thy brethren.”

  • Jesus arose from among His brethren, the Israelites, a fact that is thoroughly attested by the genealogies found in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38.

  • Jesus is the Prophet, who in turn sent His own prophets, His apostles. Their words are the foundation of His church an of God’s kingdom.

  • 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

  • A logical question? How will the people be able to know whether a prophet is truly from God?

  • The Israelites developed a rigorous criteria to verify the genuineness of a prophet’s claims. The criteria required nothing less than one-hundred-percent accuracy in all outcomes from a prophet’s words. This is why it was common for Israelites to ask for a sign to confirm prophecy.

  • One of the challenges of the Christian life is trying to obey God’s call for us to be different from the world in which we live.

  • Society finds many sinful actions and behaviors to be morally acceptable and takes a neutral approach to many things God finds abhorrent.

  • The pressure on Christians to conform to the world’s ideas is great, and it is tempting for many believers to give in to popular cultural opinion and act just like the world. However, God has other ideas. God wants us to be holy in our conduct, just as He is holy.

  • God did not leave us on our own to discover how to do this. His Word reveals  how we can live a holy life.

 
 
 
 MARCH 8, 2020