Monday, November 27, 2023

To the Christian Meme Community: Reverence for God

One thing the online Christian community should remember is the biblical concept of reverence for God. 

There is a burgeoning and beautiful Christian meme community out there on social media. This is a wonderful thing, don't get me wrong. Hundreds of thousands of Christians out there are using social media to spread the word of God. And part of that is meme culture.

But we should remember an important biblical concept: Reverence for the Lord.

Before you post a meme or picture on social media, ask yourself, "Is it reverent?" 

Things like Jesus dressed as a soccer goalie blocking a soccer ball and a statement that says "Jesus saves" is not reverent.  One might call it in fact sinfully irreverent.  What Jesus did for us on the cross was beautiful and powerful. 

There's a fine line here we should take note of. Jesus as a soccer goalie is irreverent. Then again, a meme can just as easily be honoring to God if done carefully.   

I've seen many others, many from the Babylon bee as well, that are irreverent. And don't get me wrong, I think we can be funny and clever while also avoiding irreverence toward God.  There's a wide path in between those two concepts where safe, funny and biblical is found.  Let's shoot for that. 

God bless you.

Scriptures on reverence for God: 

Hebrews 12:28 ESV Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe

Ephesians 5:4 ESV Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

Ephesians 4:29 ESV  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

1 Peter 2:17 ESV Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Psalm 89:7 ESV A God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him?

Exodus 3:5 ESV  Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

Ephesians 5:21 ESV Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Colossians 3:8 ESV But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Jesus is our King Right Now: Is Jesus King of your Life?

What does it mean for one to be a King? It is to be unchallenged leader of a nation, or group of nations. There have been many kings and presidents and prime ministers and dictators and leaders on planet Earth. Many have longed for that position, and done anything to get power over civilizations.

Thinking of one of the great leaders of history George Washington, he knew the importance of submission to God, when it came to power.

He said, in his thanksgiving proclamation so long ago…

Washington knew how important it was for those in power and indeed all free people to acknowledge and humbly submit to God.

Many empires and kingdoms and nations have been founded through power and violence and force. Think of great conquerors like Napoleon Boneparte. Here’s what Napoleon had to say about Jesus, the great king of the earth.

He said…

That’s how Jesus won our hearts, through His love and goodness. He is the perfect king. The king who makes you smile because he always does what’s right. He conquers our hearts through love. And right now many of us here would literally die for him. That’s an amazing thing.

Imagine if all we Christians stood together for our savior. Unfortunately the enemy often keeps us divided.

But perhaps we can learn from the words of John Wesley:

"Would to God that all names, and unscriptural phrases and forms, which have divided the Christian world, were forgot; and that we might all agree to sit down together, as humble, loving disciples, at the feet of our common Master, to hear his word, to absorb his Spirit, and to transcribe his life in our own!"

Advent beckons all who consider themselves Christians—to come to the stable and there fall on our knees, yielding our allegiance, our hearts, and our will to the newborn King. That will be our purpose today, to come together at the feet of the Master, Jesus, and to learn from Him.

What is the incarnation? The incarnation describes the concept that God became a human being, that Jesus the son of God was born as a human being.

Martin Luther said about the incarnation…

"The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding." -Martin Luther, Table Talk.

John wrote about it in John 1:14. Which says in the NIV: 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus is the King of every nation on planet Earth. He's king right now. 

Point 1: Jesus is King (right now)

When we talk about Jesus being King, it’s easy to think that yes, Jesus will be king one day. When he returns at his second coming he will be king. When the kingdom of God comes, Jesus will be king. But that’s not quite right. Those things are true.But, right at this moment, Jesus is king,

Though most on planet earth don’t acknowledge that, they are in fact rebels against the true king. We true Christians, do currently, right now, have Jesus as our king. Period. He is the king, right now, not later, right now!

Point 2: Jesus is our King (Community)

Luke 1:26-33 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

His kingdom will never end. He will be enthroned over all. It says this in Isaiah as well, a prophecy about the coming of Jesus, from Isaiah 9:6-7

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

So we ought to follow the leading and guidance of Jesus Christ our King, as a community. That’s why we gather together on Sundays to worship God together. That’s why we gather with other churches and worship Jesus. That’s why we as a nation, ought to worship God together. That’s why the body of Christ, the church, should work together to help people in our community and spread the gospel.

But it’s easy enough to say the community should worship Jesus, though most do not. Jesus is the perfect King. He’s the perfect leader.

And he’s not just for Americans, or for one nation, or just for Israel, or just for India or Rome or any one particular group, but for all peoples, of all nations.

His incarnation was and is for the redemption of the whole world. Do you understand why we celebrate? He is the perfect true leader who can bring together people from all nations, all those willing to repent of their sins and put their faith in Him.

No wonder Herod, the roman leader, was threatened. No wonder that Rome was threatened at the spread of the gospel 30 years later. They were still threatened because they were all vying for power and control against the One who already had all of the power and control. Jesus is THE King! Is Jesus YOUR King? Or are you still vying for power and control? Trying to manipulate events to your personal desire? Let it all go. Drop the control. Let Jesus be King. He’s the only one qualified.

So fair enough, we see Jesus is king of the world, for all who will believe. Easy enough to say it’s about community. But let’s make it more personal, what about you?

Point 3: Jesus is my King (personal level)

Is Jesus the King of your heart, mind, and life, or have you put yourself (or maybe something else) on the throne of your heart? 

When you pray, do you pray as Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:10, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done”? Or really, are your prayers more in the line of “My kingdom come, my will be done”?

This is where the rubber meets the road. I’ve talked to enough people. Even people who go to church regularly. And often when you really get down to it, they come to church, they even read their bible and pray, but they don’t really allow Jesus to be king of their life. They are their own god. And when it comes down to it, they do what they want ot do, and no one is going to stop them from doing what they want to do.

And that is not a Christian. That is someone playing church. Period. They are not on their way to heaven, because they don’t really know Jesus. He isn’t their lord. They are their own lord.

Is Jesus your King? This is what Christmas and this advent season is all about: recognizing, remembering, and reorienting your life to your King. And when we do, something beautiful happens.

Luke 1:32-38 “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Remember that promise from verse 37: “For nothing is impossible with God” (NRSV). And second, look at Mary’s response in verse 38: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Mary’s response to God’s will—to God’s kingdom come in flesh and blood to Earth—was recognizing herself in relationship to the Lord and responding with obedience. Maybe the response you need to have to Jesus our King today is vs. 38. Put yourself in that verse. Can you say, “I am the Lord’s servant! Lord, what are you asking me to do?” May it be so.

First, Submit to God, Lord, I’m your servant. Say it with me, Lord, I’m your servant.

Second, ask him, again and again in prayer, What is your will? What are you asking me to do today? Lord, I have this idea, is it your will? Lord, this job, this person, this relationship, this house, what’s right Lord? And God will lead you.

So again, reflect within yourself, for the challenge today…

Challenge: Is Jesus the King of your heart? Embrace a new allegiance to Christ, an allegiance that goes beyond mere words, but flows into your actions and how you plan your future. 

The lights, the traditions, the reminders of Christmas all around us are beautiful symbols of who God is, but none of the symbols or the celebrations can replace the One who wants to be in relationship with you. Jesus deserves your allegiance.

Too many people separate their spiritual lives from their everyday living lives. What do you think might happen if we started living in a way that showed our allegiance to Jesus, instead of…well...ourselves?

Let me remind you that Jesus is more than a story. He is the only One who truly has dominion, and power, and authority. Will you worship Him?

Jesus is the One, True King who deserves our allegiance.

So in the end what does all this mean? It’s easy enough to say “Jesus is king. Jesus is our king. Jesus is my king. But the test will come with how you live your life. Whose running the show? Is it you or is it God? Do you check your decisions with God? Do you pray about the big decisions first?

Are you really led by the Spirit of God? Or are you doing your own thing? Jesus said not everyone who says to me Lord lord will enter eternal life, but only those who do the will of my father in heaven.

So I think it’s fair to say, one who is truly made Jesus king of their life is practically led by Jesus through life on a daily basis. They truly have Jesus as king of their heart and life. That’s how you’ll know, if you really have made Jesus king. You’ll be a servant like Mary, a servant of God, who obeys God’s leading in your life.

Otherwise you’ll simply do whatever you want, and if that’s you, then saying Jesus is king is just words. It’s not really true. But, if you really let God lead your life, then Jesus is your king, and you belong to Him.

That’s the difference. Maybve you need to to resubmit your will to God today, and say God, take over, I don’t want to be in control of my own life, I need you to run my life and guide it all. Come and pray and name him king of your life once again, or for the first time, and watch what he does with it!

So to review:

1. Jesus is King right now - in heaven (and over every true Christian on alive Earth)

2. Jesus is our King – as a community we are called to obey Jesus’ leading

3. Jesus is my King – individually we must make Jesus King of our lives

"Praise Him for the incarnation,
for the word made flesh.
Tonight I will sing praise to the Father
who stood on heaven's threshold
and said farewell to his Son
as he stepped across the stars
to Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
And I will sing praise to the infinite, eternal Son,
who became most finite, a baby
who would one day be executed for my crime.
Praise him in the heavens,
Praise him in the stable,
Praise him in my heart." -Joseph Bayly.

-Includes quotes and references from materials associated with Incarnation by Adam Hamilton 

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

King David's Last Instructions to his son Solomon

King David, an old man, exhausted and unable to keep himself warm, called in Solomon his son, the young man who would one day replace him as king of Israel and gave him instructions on how he should live his life.

He’s also going to ask for Solomon to deal with his enemies after he is gone. David was a man. A man after God’s own heart, but a man non-the-less.

It says this, in 1st Kings chapter 2, verse 1: “When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son.”

And this is what David said: “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said.

Every human being on Earth faces death. It brings a challenge to our faith as Christians. It brings despair and great fear for those who reject Christ. The world fears death, so much that we ignore the mention of it. We refuse to think about it. It’s too traumatic to even think about. Yet it happens to everyone.

First point today, take stock on your own mortality. Understand the immense consequence of rejecting Christ, and instead embrace Christ and follow him diligently.

Let us take stock of who we are. We know after death we’ll be judged by the ten commandments by God. No one can stand up to that. No one has obeyed God. Which is why we need a savior to forgive us our sins and change us from within. That’s why God sent Jesus Christ, to be our savior.

We have until our last breath to come to the saving faith in Jesus Christ. If we don’t, that’s it, no more chances.

All the earth dies. Every human born will die. So we must face it.

Next, David says to Solomon, “so be strong, act like a man.”

As we guys will sometimes say to each other, “well, it’s time to man up.” What that phrase tends to mean is, make the hard decision. Stop taking the easy route. Man up, and do the right thing.

Second point today, be strong and act like a man (or woman.) Act like a man, means to be mature, make mature choices. It’s easy to avoid the hard thing and take the easy path.

It’s time to step up, and make the hard decisions. Being a human, man or woman, means making sacrifices for your family, for others, caring for others ahead of yourself. It means doing things you don’t want to do, for the good of the future.

Your own future I mean.

Sometimes we wake up in the morning and think, I don’t want to go to church. I’m tired. I have errands to run. But, you can sense within yourself, I need to go, it’s good for me.

Now you’re faced with a decision: Will I do the easy thing, or the harder thing that’s good for me?

That’s the challenge of life. It’s like that with church sometimes. I don’t always want to go, but I know I need it. Similarly, the same is true with exercise, we know we need it, but sometimes we don’t want to. It’s when we do it anyway, even when we don’t want to, that is being strong and acting like a man, or woman.

Next David says, in verse 3, “…observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses…”

Now if David was speaking to us today, under the new covenant of grace in Christ, I think he would say.. “observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to Christ, and keep the Lord Jesus’ commands to love God and love others, and the other commands of Jesus from the parables, as well as the instructions from the new testament letters of Paul and the other apostles, as written in the New Testament of the Bible.”

Point number three today, learn and follow the commands of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. To do that we need to first read and reread and study the New Testament, and particularly look at the parables of Jesus and what he taught there, and then look at what is written in the letters, and the prophecies as well. And know it all first, then learn to follow it.

David includes this promise, that if Solomon does follow God faithfully,

He says in verse 3, “Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go…”

So David is saying, if Solomon does faithfully follow God’s commands, then, he will prosper in all he does. He will have success in what he attempts to do. His plans will succeed.

That was true for David, he found success as he followed God. It wasn’t always easy, but he did find deliverance and victory.

But, there were times when David disobeyed God, and at those times David did not prosper, his plans didn’t succeed, and David wants to make sure Solomon doesn’t make those same mistakes.

Growing up my parents always tried to make sure my sister and I avoided the mistakes they had made. I’m sure your parents did something similar, don’t do what I did!

Point number four today, follow Jesus faithfully and you will prosper. Your life will be like a tree planted by clear waters, with roots growing deep, and tree branches bearing beautiful fruits unto the Lord.

David continues and says in verse 4, “…and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’”

Now David is talking about the actual throne of Israel. And the nation itself. If Solomon is loyal to God and obeys his the law of Moses, then the promise of God will come true, which was a conditional promise.

The promise was conditioned on obedience by King David and his descendants. It says “If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully with all their heart and soul, then… you will have always have a successor on the throne of Israel.”

Point number five today, the promises of God are conditional. You must receive Christ to receive them. You must obey Christ to keep them to the end.

Those are two big “ifs” if Solomon watches how he lives. If he follows God with his whole heart and soul, then.. the promise will come true.”

It’s the same with Jesus Christ. All the promises are conditional. The condition is continued obedience and faith. If we continue to follow Jesus, the promises remain. But if we become disobedient, and faithless, we forfeit the promises. And Jesus may say to us one day, “I never knew you, depart from me you worker of lawlessness.

It’s all conditional. The promises of Jesus Christ don’t apply to those who have not received Jesus Christ as their lord and savior, right? They must receive Christ to receive the promises. It’s conditioned upon receipt of the gift.

You can give me a gift, but if I don’t open it and put it in the dumpster outside have I received it? No I haven’t. Similarly, if I open it and enjoy it, I do have it, but if I take it outside and put it in the dumpster, I’ve now lost it. Make sense?

So now David continues to ask Solomon to take revenge on his enemies. We see David is a very human man. Even in his old age he wants to make sure his enemies do not prosper after he dies. Take it for what it is, we know justice is for the Lord.

We as Christians do not try to defeat or destroy our enemies. We’re told to pray for our enemies, forgive our enemies, and turn our enemies over to God. And we’re told God will pour up burning coals on their heads if we turn them over to Him and let God be the judge. He’s the only one qualified to judge.

And he will deal with them. Either with grace or justice. That’s up to God though, not us. Pray for your enemies. This will expedite the process.

Here’s what it says in verses 5-9: “Now you yourself know what Joab son of Zeruiah did to me—what he did to the two commanders of Israel’s armies, Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Jether. He killed them, shedding their blood in peacetime as if in battle, and with that blood he stained the belt around his waist and the sandals on his feet. 6 Deal with him according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace.

7 “But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai of Gilead and let them be among those who eat at your table. They stood by me when I fled from your brother Absalom.

8 “And remember, you have with you Shimei son of Gera, the Benjamite from Bahurim, who called down bitter curses on me the day I went to Mahanaim. When he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord: ‘I will not put you to death by the sword.’ 9 But now, do not consider him innocent. You are a man of wisdom; you will know what to do to him. Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood.”

Point number six, let God be the one who judges your enemies.

There isn’t anything wrong with what David does here, asking Solomon to deal with those who had harmed him in the past. Part of the job of the King is to deal out justice. If you served as a judge today, in a court room, part of your job, is going to be dealing out justice in different terms, and if God has gifted you for that role, then you’re not doing anything wrong by fulfilling it. Similarly part of Solomon’s job as king is to meet out justice, so it’s right for him to do it.

But for us today, we want to remember, in general, as a general principle, let God judge and deal with our enemies. We do this by...

A. praying for enemies

B. forgiving our enemies

C. Putting our enemies in God’s hands

Remember those 3 steps for dealing with anger or resentment toward someone.

Lastly in verses 10-12: “Then David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. 11 He had reigned forty years over Israel—seven years in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established.”

At last, after such a life of ups and downs and difficulties and victories, David rested with his ancestors. David found rest with the Lord.

Point number seven today, at last one day we will find rest. Do you long for rest after a long and weary life? I’m sure many of us do.

For the Christian, the faithful man or woman, we find great rest in paradise in the kingdom of God.

For the non-Christian, they will find only endless sorrow and pain in hell. The misery is only beginning for them here on Earth.

But for the follower of Jesus, we find great rest in paradise. That’s what we all long for.

So to review, the main points for today were as follows:

1. Take stock on your own mortality.

2. Be strong and act like a man (or woman.)

3. Learn and follow the commands of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

4. Follow Jesus faithfully and you will prosper.

5. The promises of God are conditional. You must receive Christ to receive them. You must obey Christ to keep them to the end.

6. Let God be the one who judges your enemies.

A. Pray for our enemies
B. Forgive our enemies
C. Put our enemies in God’s hands

7. At last one day we will find rest (if we have Christ as savior)

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Is there Life after Death? The Empty Tomb of Jesus Examined

“When Corrie Ten Boom of The Hiding Place was a little girl in Holland, her first realization of death came after a visit to the home of a neighbor who had died. It impressed her that some day her parents would also die. Corrie's father comforted her with words of wisdom. "Corrie, when you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?" "Why, just before we get on the train," she replied. "Exactly," her father said, "and our wise Father in heaven knows when we're going to need things too. Don't run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need--just in time." -Today in the Word, MBI, October, 1991, p. 30.

Will you have the strength when the day comes for you to move from this world to another? We can trust the Father, that he will give us the strength we need in the moment, just like Corrie ten boom was taught by her dad.

That’s why it’s unwise to look into the future and worry about what might come. Sometimes I’ll be very tired after a long week, and I’ll sit and worry about the next week: How can I make it? But the next morning I wake up with the strength I need for that day. Then the next day, same thing. And on and on it goes. He gives us the strength we need for the moment. But don’t think about the future and stress, you have not strength yet for that, yet, in time, it will come.

Can a human live beyond the grave? That is the question we consider today. Many in our world today believe after death, there is nothing, life is simply over. People live that way. They expect no life after death. So they live how they please in this life. They do whatever they want, betting on the fact that there is nothing coming later.

They live in fear of death. In fact, the word of God says, from Hebrews 2:14-15, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

Jesus Christ is the way to life beyond the grave. He frees those who are held in slavery to the fear of death.

I don’t fear death anymore. I know where I’m going. I know that there is life after the grave.

Why? Because it all started with Jesus Christ, the first man to rise from the dead. He showed us he could do it, so he showed us he can and will make it happen for us as well.

We scope in to Mark chapter 16, we’ve just seen Jesus betrayed and crucified. He was shown to be dead. And Joseph of Arimathea requested his body, to give him a proper burial.

Joseph of Arimathea had placed Jesus in his own tomb and the stone had been rolled in front of the entry to the tomb.

Many have wondered where Jesus’ tomb is in Israel. Many believe Jesus’ tomb is located at the site of the holy church of the sepulche, the church built around what was believed to be the site of the tomb where Jesus was laid. It was first discovered in about the 4th century AD by Constantine the emperor of Rome who ordered that the location be found.

But there are other sites where Jesus tomb could’ve been. Some believe it’s the garden tomb in Jerusalem. Still others believe it was the Talpiot tomb in the old city. W

We see in Mark 16 it says this, verses 1-3: “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

Jesus had been crucified on a Friday. It was the “day of preparation.” On Saturday the jews would practice the sabbath. And now it’s Sunday, the first day of the week.

It’s very early in the morning, just after sunrise. Three women, the women most important to Jesus’ ministry, his mom Mary, Mary Magdalene, the woman who was a prostitute but became a devout follower of Jesus, and Salome, who was the mother of James and John two of Jesus followers.

They are detail oriented. The men are hiding away somewhere trembling for fear of the roman and jewish authorities. The women are concerned with anointing the body of Jesus.

That’s how women are, they see something that needs to be done and they go do it. They aren’t worried about getting in trouble for loving Jesus, they’re too loyal for that.

But they do realize quickly, who is going to role the stone away?

Next, it says in verses 4-5…

"But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed."

The women are surprised to find that the stone blocking the entrance to the tomb has been rolled away. It’s very early in the morning. They aren’t expecting anyone to be there.

And I think we have to understand the grief the women are feeling right now. They’ve lost their savior, their lord, their dearest friend. They are grieving and struggling to understand what is happening. They are hurting and depressed and broken and filled with sorrow.

They don’t know what to do next. So they are going to care for the body. But God is about to completely flip the script on them.

They see this young man, in a white robe sitting there in the tomb. But this is no mere man. This guy is actually an angel, a messenger of God, coming to give them some very specific instructions.

The events become supernatural here. God is able to break the laws of nature. He does so regularly. He made the laws of nature after all is it any wonder that he can break them when he desires to do so?

Is it any wonder the God who made the universe made other life forms as well, like animals, and angels?

Don’t let that word “angel” scare you, it’s filled with a lot of old ideas and things from media. But the word means messenger, or envoy, a diplomatic agent of God, one who is sent.

And here we come to the key scripture of Mark 16, the breakthrough moment:

It says in verse 6: “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.”

He has risen from the dead. Essentially this messenger of God tells them, Jesus is alive right now. He is not in fact dead. And very importantly: See the place where they laid him.

He was saying to them, inspect the evidence yourself. You are now eye witnesses to what is happening in human history at this moment. Your testimony matters. Remember this moment.

Jesus is not dead. And the entire world changes for these three women. The entire world changes for the disciples, though they don’t know it yet. The entire world changes for you and me, because Jesus does not stay dead. He is alive. And we find out, there is in fact, life after death, if it’s for Jesus, who is our brother in the faith, it can be for us too today.

We can live forever too. That is the great question, answered, can we live after death? If we’re in Christ, the answer is yes. We can have eternal life. We don’t have to suffer eternal death.

You’ve found the fountain of youth. The meaning of life. The truth about everything. The answer to the nagging question about death, can we survive death? The answer is yes. Through Jesus Christ.

Why then does the world seem so perplexed about this question? Because they don’t want to have to come through Jesus. They are busy with technology, medical science, and DNA manipulation among other things, busily trying desperately to find a way to overcome death through bio-technology, to find some way to stop the flesh of the human from failing. But it’ll never work.

God decreed that humans would live and die, and then face judgment. And no amount of Elon Musk technology, or Yuval Noah Harari’s protestations about giving humans god-like powers will ever succeed in overcoming what God has ordained.

Only through Jesus Christ can we find eternal life. It’s so simple we just can’t quite face it. We want it to be more complicated. We want to use science and technology and medical knowledge and computer coding and DNA manipulation, but we can’t quite grapple with an intelligent designer of the universe who loves us and made us for a purpose. That offends our modern sensibilities too much. It makes us cringe. So we avoid it. But we shouldn’t, because there’s something there if we’ll allow ourselves to see it.

Next, we get the instructions from the agent of God.

In verse 7, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

Go and tell the disciples, and Peter, their leader, everything you’ve seen and heard. Spread the word. Be the eye witnesses and report what you’ve seen.

We have that same calling today, to be the eye witnesses for what Jesus Christ has done in our lives. We are to describe it to others so they can see our witness and think to themselves, “Maybe God is real. Maybe Jesus really is real. Maybe God can help me the way they helped this person!”

We have all encountered Jesus Christ. We haven’t encountered him in the flesh, but in the Spirit. And we all know he’s done a real, genuine work within us. It’s not a myth, it’s not a mind game, it’s something solid, tangible, real, something we can’t explain, but has fundamentally changed us into different people than we were before.

Finally in verse 8, we see how the women respond: “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”

So at first the women are so shocked by what they’ve just seen, they are full of fear, bewildered, and they run for their lives away from the situation.

Here’s where it gets a bit confusing. Because chapter 16 actually includes another 11 verses, verses 9 through 20. But, you may notice that depending on your Bible translation, it may be in italics in your Bible. That’s because the oldest manuscripts of the Bible don’t include verses 9-20.

But, many ancient translations do include verses 9 through 20, so there is some debate among scholars, should we include verses 9-20? Some manuscripts say that 1-8 is the short ending, while 9-20 is the long ending.

In any case verses 9-20 don’t change the content of the Bible at all, everything mentioned in 9-20 is mentioned in the other gospels, Matthew, Luke and John. So it all lines up. But I chose for this sermon and our focus on Mark’s gospel to mainly focus on verses 1-8.

Some manuscripts also include this statement between verses 8-9, which says, “Then they quickly reported all these instructions to those around Peter. After this, Jesus himself also sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. Amen.”

But in most manuscripts, including in our modern Bibles, you’ll see this portion, which I will read for you now. It says this…

"When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it."

Can humans live beyond the grave? The answer to that question is yes. The gospel of Mark has displayed for us, chapter by chapter, that this Jesus is really the son of God, come to Earth in human form. And Mark shows us why Jesus came, so that humans in the ugliest sins, the most filthy sins, can be reconciled to God, right relationship can be restored between God and sinful humans. And that is done through a mediator, Jesus Christ.

For most of Mark’s gospel we see present effects of what Jesus does, he heals someone of sickness, he teaches a parable, he gives wisdom, he confronts the authorities, he tells us about sin and righteousness, but in the end, we see the final and most important gift Jesus gives us: Life after the grave.

A way to heaven for sinful humanity. Eternal life. And then after receiving that gift we’re told, now share it with everyone you can, as Jesus said, go into all the world and proclaim the message.

That’s our mission today, as we live, to spread the message everywhere.

So we return to the beginning, like Corrie Ten Boom wonders, will we have the strength in the moment? I often wonder that, will I believe to the very end? In the Pilgrim’s progress before they enter the gates of heaven they must travel through deep waters, where their faith is tested one last time, you could call that death, the last test, will your faith remain through the test of death itself, and I believe for you and for me, when that time comes, not before, but when it does come, we will find we have the strength we need from God to stand that test of death, through which we will find eternal life on the other side.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

The Most Important Event in History: The Crucifixion of Jesus

Every human being on planet Earth longs for a truly great leader, someone who is upright, incorruptible, someone who speaks the truth boldly, who is authentic, who is kind but firm, deep down we all long for that perfect leader.

Sometimes we get glimpses of greatness like this in certain leaders, I think of leaders like Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, or spiritual leaders like Billy Graham, or John Wesley or Smith Wigglesworth.

But in the end all our heroes fall short. They are just human. They make mistakes and they aren’t always kind or just.

We all long for a president, a king, a pastor, a leader who can transcend this world and it’s brokenness and make things right. That’s why we’re drawn to heroes and superheroes and stories and cinema and concepts of justice and injustice.

It’s rare for someone who is truly great, to make it into the seat of authority. We have a gap of leadership in our world right now. The ones who would make great leaders don’t seek leadership. And the most corrupt and petty seem to seek after the seats of power and find them, so they can gain money and authority from the position. This has led to great corruption in our world.

There was one man born into the world who was perfect. There was one man who was the perfect leader. There was one man who was incorruptible. His name was Jesus. Every word he spoke, perfect, every action he took, just and right. His kindness to clear and obvious, his justice so sharp and true, yet his mercy so ever flowing and his grace like a cloud of love and acceptance. That’s Jesus, the one true King of the Earth, the one true leader of leaders, who would be qualified to have total authority over every president, prime minister, parliament, congress, business, power, authority, and regime in the world, and would not in any way misuse that power, favor some over others, or violate the liberties of the people. His every decision is right. His every command is just.

We all long for a leader. Is it so hard to draw the conclusion then, that Jesus Christ would be and will be one day the perfect king of the Earth?

Yet on the Earth, two thousand years ago, when Jesus lived, he did not find himself often in the places of power and authority. And when it was so, his hands were bound, and he was being questioned.

We see him in Mark chapter 15, as recorded in the Bible, in a palace. But he is not there to be a leader, but he is being held captive.

How can this be?

It says in Mark 15:16-17, “The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him."

A crown of thorns, instead of a crown of gold. This was the plot of Satan, the devil, the adversary, the kill the son of God. A crown of thorns or a crown of gold, which would you choose?

In this life, as Christians, we may be faced with the challenge of being offered power if we’ll just give up Jesus. Would you deny the crown of gold for a crown of thorns? We may one day face that challenge.

But what can we gain, if we gain this whole world, but lose our souls after we die? Can that crown of gold save me after I’ve denied Jesus? No, certainly not. I would die with nothing but coins, having lost my very soul to the fires of hell.

Jesus understands that this world is not the end. This world is temporary. Anything we gain in this world is temporary.

But, if we gain Christ in this world, God’s word, we’ve gained something infinite. Something that goes beyond this world.

All that Jesus does here, is set on the backdrop that Jesus understands that this world is not the end. This world is temporary. There is a spiritual world that is more real than this world. There is a judgment after this world. This world has an expiration date. This world will one day be destroyed completely and God will start over with something entirely new.

So Jesus endures the trial of mockery.

In verses 18-20 they are mocking him, it’s not sincere. But it is factually true. He is the king of the jews. He is king of all.

It says this: “And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.”

Next, we see the journey to the cross. Jesus must carry his cross. But a man is forced to help him.

Jesus has been up all night. He’s been flogged and abused, and he’s bleeding. He’s exhausted. And he can’t go on.

Have you ever felt this way? Know that Jesus understands that in you. So many times in life and ministry I feel I don’t have the strength to keep going through the day. I’m often very fatigued and tired and dizzy and my body will ache and hurt. But I try to keep going.

Yet Jesus finds that he simply can’t. He tried to carry the cross but he is unable. So help is recruited for him.

It says this in 21-24: A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.”

Many have wondered where Golgotha is, an area called the place of the skull. It was somewhere just outside Jerusalem. There is a church at a supposed location in Jerusalem today. But it’s not known for sure exactly where it was.

He was offered wine, he did not take it. The soldiers cast lots over his clothing. All of this was predicted in the old testament, hundreds of years before Jesus was even born.

All of this Jesus did for you and me. His purpose was to become a sacrifice, to become death for each of us, so we could taste life, so our sins could be removed.

But it took a gruesome, and miserable road. Jesus was well acquainted with suffering.

Here next we see the most important moment in the history of planet Earth, we see the moment where Jesus was crucified.

It says in verses 25-27: It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the Jews.

27 They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left.”

9am, nine in the morning, the time many of us are getting ready for the day, enjoying a cup of coffee, the sun is shining, a new day, Jesus has begun his crucifixion experience. The darkest moment in human history. The most important moment in human history. The moment that changes everything for lost humanity.

Yet we miss it, I think. We have a hard time seeing it’s significance. We have a hard time understanding why Jesus dying this day matters to us. I get that. I understand that we struggle to see why it matters to us.

It’s because we don’t understand just how sinful our sin is. It’s because we don’t understand the cost of sin. It’s because we don’t understand God’s wrath, and hell, and punishment for sin. We have a hard time understanding these things as humans.

But we have to ask ourselves, who am I? What am I? Why am I here? What’s really happening on Earth? And in the end what’s really happening in my own heart? I want to do right, but I can’t quite do it. I want to be good, but I can’t be good. I want to not sin, but I sin. What’s wrong with me? Is the question many of us finally come to. There’s something wrong inside me!

Instead of affirming what’s wrong in us, celebrating what’s wrong in us, hiding what’s wrong in us, explaining away what’s wrong in us, if we can admit, that there is something fundamentally broken within me, and in need of restoration, we can begin to make our way, through the all night despairs of Jesus, through the false trial, through the beatings and mockery, along the road of carrying his cross, to the hill of Golgotha, and through the crucifixion, and see ourselves in it.

I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’ve done ugly things. I’ve hated. I’ve refused to forgive. I’ve wanted to get back at them. I’ve been selfish. I’ve been rude. I’ve abused others verbally. I’ve misused my own body. I’ve added to the evil in the world.

And I deserve God’s justice. But because Jesus Christ received God’s justice for me, I can be free. I can be forgiven. I can have all my sins forgiven. Because Jesus Christ became sin for me.

Here in verses 28-32 I think we see the last temptations of Satan against Jesus. It says this 29-32: "Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!” 31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.”

I believe Satan was speaking through these people mocking Jesus. I believe Satan was giving his last temptation, “Come down from the cross.” Instead of dying, Jesus was being tempted to stop it from happening right there. But Jesus didn’t listen to those lies. It was not his place to come down from the cross. But it was his place and his mission to die on the cross. And he would not waiver from that mission.

Understand that you will face demons and their lies in your life. They will whisper lies to you. And you have to know in those moments the truth of God’s word to counter those lies. Also recognize when the enemy lies to you he try to get you to think it was your own thought. But it wasn’t. he planted that thought. And you can reject that thought as false. Happens to me all the time.

The enemy plants a lie and I laugh to myself, and say, haha, nope, that’s a lie. It’s not from me either. It’s from the enemy. And I disregard it as a lie.

The lies are usually like this: Well that proves God is unjust. God is mean he doesn’t really love you. God can’t be trusted. God did something wrong there. Look at all you’ve been through why would God let that happen? All sorts of lies and questions and accusations meant to draw me away from God. Don’t buy it. Don’t believe it. Trust God. Deny the lies of the enemy.

Three hours later we see the following events take place: "At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

Psalm 22 is where the phrase comes from, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Psalm 22 is full of prophecies of the death of the messiah. The last line of psalm 22 says, “he has done it.” Sounds oddly familiar to when Jesus said, “it is finished.”

So many prophecies in Psalm 22, read it today after church when you’re home. They pierce my hands and feet, they cast lots for my garment, so many references fulfilled in Jesus.

The psalms were written in about 1000 BC. Somewhere between 930-1010 BC. Written a thousand years before Jesus would die. Yet Jesus fulfilled these prophecies and many others! He was no mere man!

He was again offered wine vinegar, and the people continued to mock him and were confused, asking about Elijah. It says in 36-37:

36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.”

With one final cry of horror Jesus breathed his last. That’s how one would die when crucified. You would have to lift yourself to be able to breath, but eventually you wouldn’t have enough strength to lift yourself to catch your breath. So most would suffocate and die. After 6 long hours, Jesus dies.

38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

In the holy of holies in the temple, where God and man met together, once a year, between only the high priest and God, at the moment Jesus died, the blocking curtain, was torn in half, symbolizing that the wall of separation between God and man was over, because of Jesus perfect sacrifice. The lamb of God had paved the way for intimacy between God and man.

And a gentile, a roman guard at that moment, declares, Jesus is the son of God. The first of many gentiles to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord.

This brutal death I never understood. I didn’t get why it mattered to me. Now I do. I can’t quite explain how much it means to me what Jesus did. It turned my world, from a nightmare, like the things Jesus went through, being mocked, being arrested, being in trouble, being misunderstood, being hated, being broken, and turned that nightmare into a peaceful serene beautiful summer day. Everything turned in my life around the cross of Jesus Christ, from brokenness and self destruction to life, and victory. It’s so profound it can’t be compared to anything else in life.

It took the brutal death of Jesus to buy that for me. Because it took slaughter to cover my sins. But the lamb of God, did that for all of us. If we’ll simply believe, like a little child, that he loves us, and we love him.

A tribute to the fierce loyalty of women, you see here in verses 40-41, “Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.”

The men were in hiding. The women stayed with Jesus til the end. Their loyalty, their dedication to their savior was beautiful. The stayed with Jesus til the end. The loyalty of these women is beautiful. Let’s all learn that loyalty, that never leaves or forsakes our savior, as he never leaves or forsakes us.

Lastly in section four we see the burial of Jesus’ body.

It says this in 42-45: It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph.

Joseph was bold and brave enough, to go to Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus, so he could give an honorable burial.

All of this was again God’s plan playing out just as it should. But we can learn boldness from Joseph’s actions. He pushes past his fear and goes directly to the roman governor and asks for the body of Jesus. And from this boldness, results are true, and God’s plan moves forward. Praise the Lord.

Lastly in verses 46-47, “So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.”

Lastly today we see Jesus the messiah’s body being laid to rest in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Jesus is dead. The disciples are in hiding. The women are in mourning. The authorities seem to have crushed another good man. End of story, right? Wrong. The story doesn’t end there.

As it often with God, the dark end, is really the new beginning. The paradox of God’s kingdom, death leads to life, victory comes from the ashes of defeat. From the death of God’s son, billions of Christians are bought back to God with the blood of Jesus. And heaven is filled with rejoicing, excited, amazed people who have humbled themselves, accepted Jesus as Lord, and have made his mission their mission, to carry the cross each day, and walk in the way of the suffering servant.

That my friends, is the meaning of life.

First, we admit that the problem is found within my own heart. It’s not oppression ,it’s not society, it’s not colonialism or ideology, it’s the sin in my own heart.

Second, we humble ourselves enough to see that God is really real and made the universe, the stars and the human race

Three, we embrace the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as all we need for forgiveness of our sins.

Four, we pick up our cross daily and follow Jesus through this life, to the very last day

Five, we find a restored Eden, in the after life, a new Earth, a new planet, a new future, a new city, the New Jerusalem, the city of God, a paradise, prepared by Jesus for us. That, is the meaning of life.

The doorway to the eternal city, to paradise, to the meaning of life, is in fact through the dark way, the valley of the shadow of death, the suffering and struggle of this life, carrying our cross for Jesus, following Jesus, loving Jesus, walking with Jesus and spreading his gospel.

That is the way, the way of grit and struggle and pain. Your decisions will dictate the path you take.

One of two reactions, it’s real, you have to understand it’s as real as your house, your car, this room, the stars, the moon, this city, it’s real, two reactions, one, man I’m glad I listened to pastor Justin when he said that about following Jesus, or Why didn’t I listen, if only I had listened, I wouldn’t be in this horrible place of fire. Heaven or hell, what will you choose? Jesus is the way to life. Self is the way to hell.

Are you ready now? Ready to give your life to Christ? To Cry out to Jesus?

Begin the journey with this prayer:

Father God of the Bible, I realize now that you're real, your Bible is real, and your son Jesus Christ is real.  I admit to you Father that I've sinned against you, I confess my sins to you now (confess them one by one).  I repent of my sins, please Lord set me free from every sin. And I admit that I need a Savior.  You have provided that Savior.  I accept him Father, today I accept your son Jesus Christ, and his work on the cross as the necessary payment for all my sins. I recognize that Jesus resurrected from the dead to give me eternal life.  Please Father, cloth me in His righteousness.  Father God I acknowledge you as the sovereign Lord of my life, please grant me your Holy Spirit to guide me in my new life as a Christian.  Thank you so much Father, it's in Jesus Christ name I pray this prayer, Amen. 

Monday, November 6, 2023

David builds an altar where Abraham offered up Isaac: The future site of Solomon's Temple

Here we find the last chapter of 2nd Samuel, the very last overview of the life of David and all that was done in the name of the Lord. King David had done so many great things, from defeating Goliath, to conquering enemy nations, to building up the nation economically and militarily. He had made his choices in the fear of God, trembling before the Lord and carefully ordering his life. He’d also made mistakes, terrible mistakes, but had repented from them, and given Himself into the hands of God almighty.

Now, we see in the last chapter of 2nd Samuel, a strange account, we see the account of when David called a census of the nation, to count all the young men of fighting age throughout Israel.

Something similar is done in the United States, I recall when I reached a certain age I had to register for a possible future military draft if it was necessary.

But this entire situation was connected with trouble in Israel. God was displeased with Israel, and the conduct of Israel.

This had to do with Satan, the adversary, provoking this census in David’s heart. According to 1 Chr. 21:1 Satan provoked the census. But God also provoked David toward this decision as well.

I’m tending to believe that Israel was involved in corruption, worship of foreign gods, and mistreating the poor.

Both God and Satan push it forward. I recall in my life, there’s been times where I’ve plotted to do something bad. Satan is influencing me to do something bad. I start making a plan to do something bad. Then I’m sure, for the purpose of teaching me my lesson, God says alright do it, see how it goes for you. Sometimes you parents know that as your kids get older, you can’t protect them anymore, and if they’re heart set on doing something bad, you end up saying well, good luck, and you’ll find out how bad it is if you go this route.

So I think something similar is going on here. David and Israel are doing bad, Satan is provoking it, David is allowing, so God says alright, fine, do it, let’s see how it goes for you.

It says this, in 2nd Samuel 24: Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”

2 So the king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, “Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are.”

3 But Joab replied to the king, “May the Lord your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?”

4 The king’s word, however, overruled Joab and the army commanders; so they left the presence of the king to enroll the fighting men of Israel.”

So Joab advises David against it, but David overrules Joab and moves forward with the census.

The census ends up taking 9 months and 20 days, and then they return, it says, this: 
(verses 5-9)

“After crossing the Jordan, they camped near Aroer, south of the town in the gorge, and then went through Gad and on to Jazer. 6 They went to Gilead and the region of Tahtim Hodshi, and on to Dan Jaan and around toward Sidon. 7 Then they went toward the fortress of Tyre and all the towns of the Hivites and Canaanites. Finally, they went on to Beersheba in the Negev of Judah.

8 After they had gone through the entire land, they came back to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.”

9 Joab reported the number of the fighting men to the king: In Israel there were eight hundred thousand able-bodied men who could handle a sword, and in Judah five hundred thousand.

So it’s reported back to King David, you have about 1.3 million fighting men available in both Israel and Judah. But David quickly realizes he shouldn’t have taken this course of action.

It’s interesting there will be times when I attempt to take a bad course of action, and God will prevent it. But then there are times when God will allow it, even move it forward, and it seems to be for the purpose of teaching me not to sin in the future. But at the time he allows it, even provokes it, to teach me something, or change me in some way.

David is immediately troubled by what he’s done.

It says in verses 10, “David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.””

Here we find our first point today, when we sin our conscience will be stricken, we will feel as if something is wrong. We will feel guilty. We will feel troubled. We will feel, I’ve done something bad.

That’s not just true for Christians. Even a person of the world will feel guilty when they steal or guilty when they cheat. We all have a moral law written in our minds which tells us there is right and wrong, good and evil.

David immediately prays and asks for God’s forgiveness.

We too should immediately bring our sin to God, pray, and ask for God’s forgiveness. If we’ve harmed someone else, we should go to them and ask for their forgiveness as well. If we’ve caused material harm, we should make amends.

But remember this wasn’t just about David, this was about the entire nation of Israel having provoked God by doing evil things.

So let’s see what happens next, in verses 11-15, “11 Before David got up the next morning, the word of the Lord had come to Gad the prophet, David’s seer: 12 “Go and tell David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.’”

13 So Gad went to David and said to him, “Shall there come on you three years of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me.”

14 David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.”

15 So the Lord sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died.”

So we see judgment coming on the people of Israel, and many die in a great plague upon the land. It’s a disaster for the nation. So many die. But they have been by their actions, disobedient to God, harming one another, and God is correcting the nation.

Second point today, the judgment of God is real. He judges peoples, he judges nations, and he will deliver swift justice. We should remember that God is a just judge and put sin to death in our lives.

Otherwise there will be consequences. Either we kill sin by the Holy Spirit or sin begins to drive us away from God.

Next in verses 16-17, “When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.” The angel of the Lord was then at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

17 When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the Lord, “I have sinned; I, the shepherd, have done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall on me and my family.”

Point number three today, David takes responsibility for his position as a leader. He takes responsibility for his family. He takes responsibility for himself. We should do the same. Let’s not play the victim. Let’s not pretend we’re oppressed. We need to take responsibility before God for what we’ve done.

So now the voice of God to the nation, the prophet Gad comes again to David and gives him new instructions from God.

It says this, in verses 18-21: "On that day Gad went to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” 19 So David went up, as the Lord had commanded through Gad. 20 When Araunah looked and saw the king and his officials coming toward him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground. Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?”

“To buy your threshing floor,” David answered, “so I can build an altar to the Lord, that the plague on the people may be stopped.”

Point number four today, when all else fails it’s time to worship God. When you’re struggling, when you’ve messed up, when you don’t know what to do, put on that worship playlist on Youtube and start singing along. Sing out to God, worship God, built an altar to God, pray to God and turn your living room, your bed room, your bathroom into a sanctuary of God. Worship God in the storm.

Next, we see David purchasing this place from Araunah.

It says in verses 22-24: Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take whatever he wishes and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. 23 Your Majesty, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the Lord your God accept you.”

24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

Point number five today, worshiping God will cost you something. It isn’t free. There will be a cost. It will cost time. It will cost service. It will cost money, giving tithes and offerings. It will cost you pain and struggle. Understand the high calling and the high cost of being a disciple of Jesus.

David refused to take the place for free from Araunah, he pays him for it, it needs to cost him something.

At dinner church we get a free meal, but we also pass the plates around, so we can give back, it shouldn’t cost us nothing, we should give back. Similarly when we follow Jesus faithfully, there will be a cost.

Lastly in verses 24-25, “So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. 25 David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered his prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.”

Point number six, obey God carefully. David obeyed the instructions from Gad very carefully. He went to Araunah and built an altar on his threshing floor. What if David had gone to gibeon and built an altar, or what if he’d gone to the threshing floor but prayed instead of built an altar? He would’ve missed God’s instructions. When God calls you to something, obey Him. When you read a command in his word, obey it carefully. That’s not always easy. But a little attention to detail can go a long way toward proper obedience.

Lastly, for point number seven, we want to understand why this is the last chapter of 2nd Samuel. Why?

Well, it’s because it shows King David was just a sinner, who struggled with pride, I tend to think we initiated this census out of pride that was inspired by Satan, and God played it through so David could learn his lesson, and to bring us to this moment right here at the threshing floor of Aruanah.

David builds an altar at the exact same place that hundreds of years earlier, Abraham came, and built an altar there as well when he was told to do so by God. And Abraham was told to offer up his only son Isaac on the altar. But at the last minute God said, stop, I myself will provide a sacrifice.

And then guess what? One day many years later, King Solomon, David’s son would come to that same place. It says this, in 2nd Chronicles 3:1, “Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David.”

This threshing floor on Mount Moriah would be the place where the temple would be built where God would dwell with Israel. David didn’t know it then, but he was at the same spot Abraham came to, to sacrifice Isaac before God. And the same spot that one day his son would build the temple upon.

And one day, I believe, will be the place where Jesus Christ rules and reigns over the Earth during the 1,000 year millennial reign of Christ. Imagine that! The same spot, it could be.

So to review, applications include: 

1. When we sin our conscience will be stricken

2. The judgment of God is real

3. David takes responsibility for his actions

4. When all else fails it’s time to worship God

5. Count the cost of being a disciple

6. Obey God carefully

7. Past, present and future will all line up just right if we follow God’s will for our lives

The Trial of Jesus before the Spiritual and Government Authorities

"For centuries people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth. Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of all time, and surely he would not be wrong. Anyone, of course, could have taken two objects, one heavy and one light, and dropped them from a great height to see whether or not the heavier object landed first. But no one did until nearly 2,000 years after Aristotle's death. In 1589 Galileo summoned learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then he went to the top and pushed off a ten- pound and a one-pound weight. Both landed at the same instant. The power of belief was so strong, however, that the professors denied their eyesight. They continued to say Aristotle was right." -Bits & Pieces, January 9, 1992, pp. 22-23.

And, "Astronaut David Scott performed a version of the experiment on the Moon during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971, dropping a feather and a hammer from his hands. Because of the negligible lunar atmosphere, there was no drag on the feather, which reached the lunar surface at the same time as the hammer.[16]

What’s the point? The point is sometimes we can be so convinced of something inside that even if we see something right in front of us that contradicts the truth, we won’t believe it.

The same was true for Galileo when he disproved Aristotle, those present literally refused to believe their own eyes.

Similarly, many refuse to believe we ever went to the moon despite the evidence to the contrary.

Similarly today, the leaders of Israel, the governors of the Roman province, they had seen Jesus, heard his words, many had seen his miracles, and yet their refused to believe that he was the one true messiah.

If someone can make us believe a lie, then we find ourselves in great danger. The enemy of our souls, the Satan, the devil, the adversary, is always attempting to get us to believe a lie.

If the enemy can get us to believe a lie, like, for example, there is no god, or that god is bad or god is mean, or god doesn’t really love us, well, then the enemy can destroy us. The enemy can drag us to hell with him, which is where he is going.

So when we consider the responses of three groups of people today, to the Lord Jesus, we should search our own hearts, and consider our beliefs, and how to respond to the claims of Jesus.

We’ll see how three groups respond to Jesus: the spiritual leaders of the nation, the followers of Jesus themselves, and governmental authorities.

It says this in Mark 14:53-54: “They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.”

Jesus has just been arrested, and he’s taken in the middle of the night to the high priest of the nation, the chief religious representative of the nation, along with all the priests, elders, and teachers. They are all gathered in the middle of the night to stop Jesus.

At the same time Peter is following from a distance.

Next, “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.

Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even then their testimony did not agree.”

Fly by night trial is now in session. You have people perjuring themselves, giving false testimony in court.

You have different stories coming up, some say one thing, some say another. It’s a false trial. It’s a fraud and a scam.

The high priest can tell this is getting them nowhere.

In verses 60-61, “Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.”

Often this scripture is cited to say in the case of a false trial or false charges you should simply refuse to answer against any of the charges. That may be good advice sometimes to stay silent.

But in the next verse two verses we see Jesus did respond. In 61 and 62, “Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Did Jesus ever claim to be the Son of God? Yes, he did. Right here in verses 62. He straight up says, I am the son of God, and you will see me sitting at the right of God and coming on the clouds of heaven.

Here we find an application for ourselves. We will all one day see Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, and we may yet in our lifetimes see Jesus returning from the sky, to the Earth, to bring us all to himself.

We should respond with the claim that Jesus is the Son of God, by committing our lives to serving and following Him. If Jesus really is the Son of God, then we should listen so very carefully to every word he ever said. We should shape our lives around his every word.

Let’s see how the spiritual leader of Israel respond: (verses 63-65)

The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

They all condemned him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.”

Did you know that in Leviticus 21:10 it says that the high priest should never tear his garments? You could say the high priest by tearing his garments was really saying that Jesus was holy and he was not.

But he didn’t mean to say that. He tore his clothes to express how angry he was. They believed Jesus was just a man who was pretending to be a god. They charged him with blasphemy.

They struck him with their fists and blindfolded him. And then took him away.

This is what you call a sham trial. You see it in third world countries, where corruption reigns. You see it increasingly more often in the united states as well, where corrupt authorities harass citizens and throw them in jail for extended periods.

We saw this recently with pro-life activists being condemned for many years in prison, or supposed hate crimes, where people are sent to prison for years because of an act supposed considered hateful. We’ve seen police officers receive harsh sentences for simply trying to do their jobs. We’ve seen protesters arrested and thrown in jail for extended periods as well.

But this incident with Jesus isn’t the government. These are the spiritual leaders of the nation. So the struggle starts in the religious body. But they know the next step is to turn Jesus over to the government authorities, the romans.

Meanwhile in our second section today we see Peter who is following all that’s happening.

In verses 66-68 it says, ““While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.

“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.

But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.”

Are you one of those Christians? What if Christianity became illegal. What if being Christian became a hate crime in the USA? What if being a Christian which is already often considered bigoted and hateful, actually became a crime? You see your friends and fellow Christians being put in jail for 10, 20, 30 years.

And someone comes up to you on the street, and says, in front of others, aren’t you one of those Christians?

What would you say?

Oh no, I’m not one of those Christians. I would never do that.

Well you’ve just denied Jesus your savior.

Then it says in verses 69-71: "When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” 70 Again he denied it.

After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”

He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

What would you do? They keep demanding an answer from him.

He literally starts swearing. And then he declares on oath, he swears by God, I don’t know this man you’re talking about.

Three times Peter has denied Jesus the one he loves most in the world.

It reminds each of today to pose the question: Who am I? What would I really do?

Know yourself. Conquer yourself. That is the great challenge for the Christian.

Can you conquer yourself?

Or will you let your emotions control you? Will you let your hunger control you? Will you let your desires control you? Will you let pride and sin control you? Or will you conquer yourself by the power of the Holy Spirit.

That is the question I have to ask myself. I’m sometimes tempted to sin. Who am I? Who am I really?

When it comes right down to it, what will do I?

Often times friends, we are a lot like Peter. We fail. But learn from our failures, and then we move forward. And we make sure it doesn’t happen again. God helps us to repent, and we ask forgiveness, and then we grow.

But sometimes we’re also like John, who stayed with Jesus to the very end, the disciple whom Jesus loved.

But we want to avoid being like Judas, who betrayed Jesus, and turned on Jesus, and was rightly condemned by God for it.

When Judas wanted to repent, it was too late for him. So he hung himself.

Sometimes though, God has to simply look us in the eyes and tell us we’ve done wrong.

Maybe you can sense that in your own heart today: I’ve done wrong. The Lord is telling me I’ve done wrong, and I need to pray right now, and ask God’s forgiveness and by the Holy Spirit, change my behavior.

It’s so very humbling, because it can happen to the best of us. Even the super spiritual types. We find ourselves in a weak moment, and we stumble.

It says in verse 72: "Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.”

Peter is devastated. He breaks down and cries. And peter doesn’t immediately repent either. He goes into hiding with the rest of the disciples. He did not eventually go to the crucifixion. It took time for him to turn and repent.

But Jesus predicted all of this, Jesus even said in Luke 22:32, “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

And I’m sure we can all relate to the words of Elijah in 1st King 19:4, “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

When Lot lived in Sodom, the word of God says he was tormented daily by their sinfulness in his righteous heart, 2 Peter 2:8, tormented by the things he saw and heard. And just as much we in the USA are tormented in our righteous hearts by what we see and hear in the United States, all the multiplied evil, crime, theft, debachauery, sexual immorality, consumerism, corruption, human trafficking, and poverty. We’re tormented in our righteous hearts.

But I think one of the hardest realizations is when we fall into sin as well, and we realize, wait, I’m not any better than any of this, Lord, take my life. But God says no, repent, seek forgiveness and you’ll be righteous anew. Don’t give in to the flood of sin around you, stand above it, on the rock of Christ.

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Always remember that. And stand firm. If you fall, get up quickly.

Third section today, Jesus brought before the roman authorities.

Mark 15:1, "Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.”

Here you see Jesus in an all-night ordeal. No sleep, up all night, and now brought before the authorities in the morning. That’s one of the worst things, when you haven’t slept, all night, then have to face some great trial the next day. Because you haven’t slept, you have no energy or strength or emotional reserves for it.

I’m sure that’s all by design. There’s a been a few times in my life where I’ve had all night ordeals. Once before a court date, terrified. Another time, in the hospital. It’s ugly.

Pontius Pilate, the roman governor of the area, comes to Jesus and asks him a question: (v.1)

“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

Again Jesus confirms that he is the Lord, the son of God, to both the spiritual authorities and the government authorities. He doesn’t hide or deny anything.

In verses 3-5: "The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.” 

But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.”

Pilate was amazed at Jesus. In fact, Pilate’s wife had had dreams of Jesus, and had told Pilate not to hurt Jesus.

Pilate isn’t sure what to do next. So he brings Jesus before the crowd.

It says in verses 6-11: "Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.”

Over the Passover it was customary for Pilate to release a prisoner from custody as part of the festival apparently.

Pilate is scheming to try to find a way to release Jesus. So he offers the crowd to release Jesus. But instead the religious leaders stir up the crowd to call for the release of Barabbas a man who had led an insurrection against the roman government.

Once again we see the nation of Israel getting what they want, they want to overthrow the romans. So they ask for the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus.

Lastly, in verses 12-15 we see the final fate of Jesus being played out: “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

“Crucify him!” they shouted.

“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.”

Pilate feared the crowds, and he feared Rome, so in the end he released Barabbas and handed Jesus over to be crucified.

All of this plays out so that Jesus Christ can go to the cross and die for our sins. The time of evil’s triumph seems to have come. They’ve arrested the son of God and are taking him to kill him.

You’d think all is lost. It’s over. Evil has prevailed. Satan has won the day. But it’s not true.

Sometimes in our darkest trials and difficulties, it isn’t really the end, it’s just the beginning. But it feels like the end at the time. It feels like it’s never going to get back. It feels like evil reigns. It feels like it’s too late. You’ve felt that way in your life. I can’t handle this. I can’t go on.

But the story isn’t over yet. If you’re still breathing there is still hope.

So let us consider this, the words of Samwise from the Lord of the Rings to Frodo, as we conclude today, which I think fits this dark moment of good vs. evil:

"By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are.
It’s like in the great stories.
The ones that really mattered.
Full of darkness and danger they were,
and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end.
Because how could the end be happy.
How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened.
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.
Even darkness must pass. A new day will come.
And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.
Those were the stories that stayed with you.
That meant something.
Even if you were too small to understand why.
But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand.
I know now.
Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t.
Because they were holding on to something. That there’s some good in this world. And it’s worth fighting for." -J.R.R. Tolkien (abridged)