Saturday, May 26, 2007

Romans 6:1 – 11
What does Baptism mean?

I. The reason the church practices baptism: Obedience.

A. Jesus commanded the church to practice baptism.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” [Matthew 28:19 – 20]

1. Jesus noted the process of making disciples included baptism and teaching.

2. The idea of baptizing and teaching to aid in obedience.

B. The early church practiced it.

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. [39] The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call." [Acts 2:36 – 39]

1. Baptism was a response to faith (believed that Jesus is Lord) and forgiveness.

2. Baptism was a sign of repentance.

II. The reason baptism is necessary: sin.

A. Because of Adam, we have a corrupted nature.

1. “Born in sin and inclined to disobey God’s will.” [Free Methodist Catechism]

a. (The) “inner bias to sin leads us into sinful acts.” [FM Cat.]

“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. [22] For in my inner being I delight in God's law; [23] but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. [24] What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” [Romans 7:21 – 24]

b. “Because of our sinful condition inclines us to evil, we will not rightly obey God without His merciful deliverance; indeed we cannot.” [FM Cat.]

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. [6] The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; [7] the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. [8] Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” [Romans 8:5 – 8]

2. What is sin?

a. “A willful transgression of the known law of God.” [FM Cat.]

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, [27] but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” [Hebrews 10:26]

b. “Any violation of the law of God.” [FM Cat.]

B. Salvation is possible only through Jesus.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” [Acts 4:12]

III. What does baptism do for us?

A. Baptism is an “outward sign of an inward grace.”

(John the Baptist said) “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” [Matthew 3:11]

(Peter said) “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." [48] So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” [Acts 10:47 – 48a]

1. Through the Holy Spirit we are changed.

“In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, [12] having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.” [Colossians 2:11 – 13]

a. “putting off of the sinful nature.”

b. “dead in your sins/sinful nature... God made you alive with Christ.”

2. In the act of baptism, we symbolize physically what God has done for us spiritually.

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” [Romans 6:4]

a. The idea is we are “buried” to sin and live to Christ.

b. It takes a court order to dig up a buried body... the court of heaven will not give that order. Sin is gone, new life is here.

3. In baptism we identify with Jesus.

“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” [Romans 6:8]

a. (Ill.) A child who plays “dress up” to pretend to be an adult.

b. We identify with death (to sin) and a new life in the resurrection.

“The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” [Romans 6:10 – 11]

B. It confirms and nourishes our salvation. [FM Cat.]

1. It is an act of faith and obedience.

a. Our sins have been washed by the blood of Jesus.

b. We have new life through Jesus.

2. It is making a covenant with God.

a. We are promising to allow God to constantly wash us...

b. ... and constantly renew us.

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, [5] he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” [Titus 3:4 – 5]

Saturday, May 19, 2007

1 John 5:1 – 5
What is a Christian?

My concerns: 1.) Christianity out of balance due to theological emphasis or practice. 2.) Christian church in America takes the minimum as sufficient [Benjamin Waite]. 3.) Christian church allowing non-believers to define Christianity.

Four necessary, inter-related parts: the mind (“I believe”), the heart (“I feel”), the will (“I choose”), the behavior (“I do”). All are necessary for salvation and the Christian life. All are responses to God’s initiative.

I. I believe

A. Believe in the existence of God.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” [Hebrews 11:6]

1. Atheism is a religious system that denies the existence of any God. (Religion does not need a “god” only a spiritual belief/system.)

a. The real issue is “faith” not “proof.” If you can prove the existence of something (such as Europe) then it is not faith.

b. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” [Hebrews 11:1]

2. Many people are what C. S. Lewis (“Chronicles of Narnia”) called “Practical Atheists.”

a. The existence of God is not the issue... They may or many not believe or practice a religious system.

b. The “practical atheist” lives like there is no God.

B. Believe in Jesus.

“They replied, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household.” [Acts 16:31]

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” [1 John 5:13]

1. Jesus claimed that this was “exclusive.” [Jesus only, not Jesus plus ...]

a. “Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” [John 14:6]

b. This is the intellectual stumbling block. People love a generic “god.” but will not accept Jesus as the only way.

c. The reason Jesus is “exclusive” is because of the idea of sin (another unacceptable concept in this modern world).

“But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.” [Galatians 3:22]

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. [17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. [18] Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.” [John 3:16 – 18]

2. The disciples claimed the belief in Jesus was “exclusive.”

a. (John) “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” [John 20:31]

b. (Paul) “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” [1 Timothy 1:16]

c. (Peter and others) “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” [Acts 4:12]

d. (First church council) “No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” [Acts 15:11]

C. The “problem” with belief.

1. It is not enough to only believe.

a. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.” [James 2:9]

1.) The demons know who Jesus is. “Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, [24] "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God!” [Mark 1:23 – 24]

2.) The fact is this (correct) knowledge/belief did not change their (the "evil spirit"/demon's) loyalty or behavior.

b. Belief by itself has no root or long term value.

1.) “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. [12] Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. [13] Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.” [Luke 8:11 – 13]

2.) Jesus was talking about people who “believe for a while.” In other words, they do not allow their belief to create a long term change (“they have no root.”)

3.) “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” [Hebrews 10:39]

2. Belief cannot be disconnected from life.

a. “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.... As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” [James 2:24, 26]

b. We have harsh words for those who disconnect belief from actions: such as “hypocrite.”

c. The struggle with unbelief is a key component of belief: “Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” [Mark 9:24]

*** This struggle translates into real life battles, bruises, and victories.

II. I feel

“Jesus replied: " `Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' [38] This is the first and greatest commandment.” [Matthew 22:37 – 38]

A. The role of the heart.

1. The heart is often portrayed in the Bible as the human component that motivates a choice.

a. “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” [2 Corinthians 9:7]

1.) Giving is an emotional choice. You give based on how you feel.

2.) Yet it is also an “decision” (and act of the will... “I chose” will be covered later.)

b. (Jesus rebuking two followers on the road to Emmaus) “He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” [Luke 24:25]

1.) Jesus speaks to their mind (foolish: “I believe”) and their heart (slow).

2.) The witness to/about Jesus has been established but the heart can be blinded.

2. The heart has a strong emotional component. (“I feel”)

a. “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” [Romans 9:2]

1.) Paul is agonizing over the eternal destiny of unbelievers of his “own race.” (The Jews)

2.) He uses this emotional anguish as vital to his theology (belief) and motivation for his actions (“I do”).

b. “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?” [Acts 2:37]

1.) This was the emotional response to Peter’s preaching on the Day of Pentecost.

2.) This emotional response motivated people to action.

B. The heart (emotions) is necessary in salvation/defining Christianity.

1. It can make us choose for or against Christ.

a. FOR: “That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. [10] For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” [Romans 10:9 – 10]

1.) Here is action (confession), belief, and emotion (heart) at work in justification/salvation

2.) Notice the Bible says, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified.” There is a emotional quality to knowledge.

b. AGAINST: “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” [Romans 2:5]

1.) Stubbornness is a serious problem... the prophet Jeremiah addresses the stubbornness of the “evil hearts” seven times as an explanation of why people refuse to obey God.

2.) Stubbornness is refusing to change course or attitude.

2. It is the heart that shows us most clearly who we are.

a. “Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” [Matthew 15:19] And again He said, “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” [Matthew 12:34]

1.) The reason we do rotten things is because we are motivated by our emotions to do rotten things.

2.) Emotions are the hardest thing to pretend. They are difficult to control.

3.) Here’s the problem for the believer: “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” [Hebrews 3:12]

a.) Eventually the heart can turn us away from God.

b.) Which is why in “evangelism” we tell people not to trust how they “feel” at moments of doubt.

b. “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” [1 Timothy 1:5]

III. I chose

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” [John1:12]

A. The “will” has been a topic of heated theological debate.

1. God tells us to choose: “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” [Joshua 24:15a]

a. Choosing is an Old Testament concept, so is faith or love.

b. Choosing is an act of the will on the part of an individual who is responding to God’s initiative.

2. The New Testament translates the concept of choosing as receiving: “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” [1 Peter 2:10]

a. God’s offer must be received (as a choice)... in other words, it can be rejected (as a choice).

b. We are warned “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” [Hebrews 4:7] (We get hung up on specific examples like Pharaoh and Judas... but these were individuals who’s hearts were hardened for a specific purpose, not a general rule.)

B. At some point, there is a choice.

1. “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. [2] As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. [3] For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do--living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.” [1 Peter 4:1 – 3]

a. When we were/are without Christ we “choose” to live a certain way. The contrast is that when we are in Christ we choose to be “done with sin” and “evil human desires.”

b. Notice that a huge part of the choice here is “attitude.”

2. “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. [12] Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. [13] Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” [Romans 6:11 – 13]

a. The word translated “count” is in the continual sense and is often translated “reckon.” (It’s an accounting term that means to take an inventory... “fearless moral inventory.”)

b. Who you obey is your master. (You will obey sin and “its evil desires” or obey God.) Who you obey will be who you allow to rule your body.

IV. I do

“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. [4] The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. [5] But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: [6] Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” [1 John 2:3 – 6]

A. Obedience is the proof of our relationship with God.

1. “Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. [24] He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” [John 14:23 – 24]

a. Obedience results in God moving in with us. John used the word “home” to describe this relationship.

b. Obedience is a result of loving Jesus. Typically we do not “hang out” around people we do not like. Certainly we will not obey someone we do not love/respect on our own free will.

2. “And, once made perfect, he (Jesus) became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” [Hebrews 5:9]

a. If Jesus is the source, it makes sense that our behavior would align with what He expects of us.

b. If we have eternal salvation, it makes sense that our behavior would align with the source and pattern of that salvation. (Ill. A tuning fork.)

B. Obedience lives up to our standing and responsibilities.

1. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. [10] If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.” [John 15:9]

a. Jesus demonstrated His relationship to God the Father through His obedience. In other words, He lived up to the relationship....

b. Through obedience we stay tuned to God and His love. Disobedience weakens us and weakens our relationship with God.

2. “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” [2 Corinthians 7:1]

a. Responsibility to do our part, participate with God’s kindness and work in our lives to remove contaminates.

b. If we do not then we expose ourselves to judgement (“For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:17).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ruth 1:14 – 17
Courage, Commitment, and Clarity

The book of Ruth is about a woman who demonstrates what many feel are extraordinary qualities and characteristics. She becomes the “great-grandmother” of King David (who also displays these qualities).
In this passage there are three characteristics modeled by Ruth that can help us become extraordinary mothers.

I. Courage to face the unknown.

A. “Where you go I will go.” [v 16]

1. The only thing Ruth knew about Israel or Bethlehem would have been:

a. Word of mouth (rumor) and Moabite prejudices.

b. The life of Naomi and here family.

2. Ruth did not know the culture or religious beliefs.

a. Except what she had seen and heard from her husband and Naomi’s family.

b. Probably not impressive.

B. “Where you stay I will stay.” [v 16]

1. She probably did not know much about the conditions she would be moving into.

a. Israel, at this time, was constantly raided...

b. Economic conditions were typically poorer than more organized countries.

2. They did not have a home to move to and Israelites hated Moabites (because of their history). Of course the feeling was mutual.

C. Courage challenges the need for security.

1. Security is an important priority.

2. The security issue can be a symptom of the lack of trust (either the inability or a specific individual).

II. Commitment to be unconditional.

A. She did not set conditions!

1. Some people are “conditional.”

a. The “if” clause sets conditions based on the “right” things happening. [I will love you if I am happy.]

b. The “but” clause sets conditions based on the wrong things happening. [I will love you but if I get unhappy, then I’m gone.]

2. Conditions are based on SOMEONE else.

a. This means:

1.) The person setting the condition will not have to take responsibility (always have someone else to blame).

2.) The person will always have an excuse (“boloney stuffed in the skin of reason” – unknown)

b. Conditions are others-based and centered on external circumstances.

1.) This guarantees eternal misery and problems.

2.) Fairy tales have a literary devise of a “magical” solution.... In other words, the FALSE solution is always found outside the individual. (e.g. Prince charming, fairy god-mother, wishing star, etc...)

(Ill.) A little girl hears the story of Cinderella at school. Excited she tells the story to her Mom. When she gets to the end of the story, she ask, “do you know what happens then?”
Mom: “Yes, the live happily every after.”
Girl: “No, silly. They get married.” [Unknown]

(This is better ending because Cinderella is not depending on someone else or circumstances for her “happily every after.”)

***** As long as you are depending on someone or something other than God, in this fallen world, you are going to be disappointed. *****

B. Unconditional means being willing to follow.

1. These are fighting words!

a. Dr. Phil’s philosophy: “Empower women.”

1.) Based on the idea that all men are ignorant at best or idiots at worst. (Truth: we are scared and confused.)

2.) Based on the idea that all men are bad. (Truth: as sinners ANYTHING and EVERYTHING is possible.)

b. On second thought: What else is there when men refuse to live by biblical principles. (“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her... However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself.” Ephesians 5:25, 33a)

1.) “Needy” women set themselves up as targets for predators of all sorts.

2.) It doesn’t take much to spot one... You don’t need to be a psychologist to profile an unhealthy dependence person.

2. Following or serving is not weakness.

a. Jesus had another name for it: “leadership.”

“They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" [34] But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” [Mark 9:33 – 35]

b. The fact that we can not get our minds around this shows us just how messed up we are about the concepts of following and leading.

III. Clarity to be unmovable.

A. Clarity of conviction.

1. “Your God (will be) my God.” [v 16]

a. This would mean she had a lot to learn.

b. This would mean she had to overcome the prejudices.

c. This meant a shift in comfort.

1.) It can be uncomfortable to learn new things (especially in religion).

2.) New forms of worship can be uncomfortable.

2. “Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.” [v 17]

a. Ruth commits to a life to “life plus a day.”

b. There is no turning back.

c. Contrast between clarity (stable) and double minded (unstable).

B. Clarity of conviction comes from one place: Conversion.

1. A solid faith in God places us on solid footing in life.

2. Acknowledge separation, Believe that Jesus died/rose again for your salvation, Chose to follow Jesus.

IV. Conviction to unswervingly trust God.

A. “May the LORD deal with me.” [v 17]

1. Her oath was based on the LORD.

a. Not a law. (A law never stopped someone from behaving badly... it only gives society a legal means to retaliate.)

b. Not a human.

c. Ultimately we are accountable to God (the LORD) and we find our lives in God.

2. Her oath was not based on her past, it was based on her future.

a. She must have had some sort of conversion experience.

b. This was a personal choice, not based on obligation (Naomi released them from any obligations).

B. This choice made Ruth special.

1. “No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation.” [Deuteronomy 23:3]

2. “All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.” [Ruth 3:11b]

3. “And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.” [Ruth 4:17b]

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mark 6:1 – 6
The Importance of Faith

Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

“I believe in God the Father Almighty...” (“Apostles’ Creed”)

I. Unbelief will never lack an excuse.

A. THE FACTS: Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith (unbelief).

1. They questioned Jesus’ wisdom.

a. They wondered where it came from.

b. They could not accept Jesus’ wisdom.

2. They questioned Jesus’ miracles.

a. The language implies “charlatan.”

b. They saw His miracles and heard about them but they did not believe.

3. They questioned Jesus’ authority.

a. Jesus did not quote others, society, or culture.

b. Jesus quoted Scripture and spoke the truth.

B. THE FILTERS: This is perception, or what we know as “spin.”

1. They claimed to know the family.

a. That Jesus was a carpenter and carpenter’s son.

b. They knew the brothers and sisters (very ordinary people).

c. They knew were Jesus was from, no place special.

*** Irony: the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus for exactly the opposite reason. “We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don't even know where he comes from.” (John 9:29) So we see “spin” at work.

The Bible says, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:11)

Describing Jesus tactic, the bible says, “but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:7)

2. The filters were derogatory. (Concerning Jesus, they always are... Everyone likes “God” but mention Jesus and it’s a different reaction.)

a. They had contempt.

b. They saw no reason to believe He was different or God.

C. THE FEELING: This is were filters are solidified.

1. They were offended.

a. Their attitude was based on what they wanted to believe.

b. The facts (about Jesus) were run through filters (perception that Jesus was not special).

c. The end result was opposite of what it should be...

2. Jesus’ miracles were “acknowledged” but explained as meaningless.

a. They were “offended” (literally “scandalized”).

b. The miracles (like raising the dead girl) became a snare.

II. Unbelief will always bring results.

A. Result #1: LACK OF RESPECT. (For Jesus)

1. “Familiarity breeds contempt.” (Caution against the “buddy-buddy” attitude of Evangelical Christianity.)

2. Jesus noted He was “without honor.” Actually, that is a kind way to say He was dishonored and despised.

(Ill.) When we lived in Iowa, people (including us) would go outside when the tornado sirens went off. They went off so often that nobody really believed them... It was also a form of entertainment looking for tornados. Once one touched down, everyone would rush to their cars to go look at the damage.

B. Result #2: LACK OF POWER.

1. “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” (Mark 6:5)

2. Unbelief hardens the heart and makes us unable to see or understand what is happening.

3. Unbelief forfeits the power of God. When the Kingdom of God is not moving forward, it is due to unbelief.


1. Verse 2 says, “He began...” Jesus started but did not finish.

2. Verse 7 says that Jesus was “amazed” at their lack of faith.

a. Others who didn’t have the background believed.

1.) The Roman centurion (Luke 7:9)

2.) The Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:28)

b. Those in His home town had the information and background to know the truth about Jesus.

3. Verse 7 says “Jesus went.”

a. Jesus was rejected.

b. Jesus moved on.

Doubters lose two things: they lose powerful works and they lose the one who does them (Jesus).

Facts are run through filters to justify feelings to justify unbelief. Thus, we lose respect for God, we lose His power in our lives, we lose the possibilities of what God wants to do.

III. So, what’s the big deal?

A. Unbelief is the only thing that “limits” the Almighty.

1. Even if God acted, we wouldn’t understand. (Religious people of Jesus day who explained away Jesus’ miracles.)

2. In some ways, God limits Himself to our willingness (faith).

B. Faith is on of the keys (faith, hope, love, obedience) for the believer. Look at 1 Peter 1:3 – 9

1. Faith is our shield.

a. It is a battle shield.

b. It is a heat shield.

2. Faith brings glory to God.

a. When our faith is tested by fire, it draws attention to God.

b. Only when we have to use faith do we grow.

3. Faith brings joy (“inexpressible and glorious”)

a. The goal of faith is salvation.

b. The “goal” in the sports world is the winning goal.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Matthew 18:21 – 35
The dynamics of forgiveness

Context: Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you...” Implies that by going to them you have forgiven them.

I. QUESTION: How do I forgive?

A. Peter asks about limits.

1. How many times?

a. Seven times was double plus one the cultural and religious standard.

b. Setting a limit means that forgiveness is not unconditional.

2. How much are we to forgive?

a. Is Peter trying to set fences?

b. Is there a point where he say “enough?”

B. Jesus’ response:

1. 77 times (or other translations 7 x 70)

2. Basically Jesus was saying “unlimited.” (If we keep track of how many times we have forgiven, then we haven’t forgiven the first time.)

II. ILLUSTRATION: Forgive like God forgave you.

A. Our debt is beyond counting.

1. [v 24] the Greek word for 10,000 is “myriad.” (Literally meaning more that we can count.)

2. In light of this we should have no problem with the “small” debts of others.

3. Trouble is we see ourselves as “good” and without these kinds of spiritual debts.

B. Our debt is unpayable.

1. We “earned” the debt of sin. God offers to cancel (unearned) the debt. This is called “grace” (unearned kindness).

2. [vv 26, 27] The man asked for patience but RECEIVED mercy.

a. He was condemned to slavery.

b. He was about to lose everything.

c. He deserved to suffer miserable.

d. Those around him were about to suffer too (as is often the case with sin)

C. Our debt is forgiven this way:

1. [v 27] It is “canceled” (literally “forgiven”)

2. [v 27] We are “let go” (literally “to free fully”)

a. We are released from the eternal consequences and obligations of our debt of sin.

b. However, all of God’s covenants and promises are “conditional.”

III. PROBLEM: Our willingness to forgive.

A. The man’s actions were premeditated.

1. [v 28] He “found” (literally “looked for”) the man who owed him.

2. This was not a chance meeting.

3. Demonstrates knowledge and will (the definition of sin).

B. He man’s actions were aggressive.

1. [v 28] He was violent, and “grabbed him” and “began to choke him.”

2. [v 29] His debtor asked for patience (jut like he did).

C. His actions were justified (under the law).

1. [v 30] He refused to have patience or mercy. It was his right.

2. He threw the man into prison. It was his right.

D. His actions were disturbing.

1. His attitude and behavior distressed others.

2. [v 31] The Greek is very strong, literally it means “violently/vehemently distressed.” In other words, they were outraged.

IV. REALITY: Forgiven people forgive.

A. The king considered the man “wicked.” (Value judgement based on behavior and standards.)

1. [v 32] Wicked here literally means “hurtful” which is the same word used to described Satan. (Unforgiveness puts us in the same category as the devil.)

2. He refused to treat others the way he had been treated. This shows that he did not really understand the concept of mercy and forgiveness.

B. The king treated the man “in kind.”

1. SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLE: How we treat others is the way God will treat us.

a. The book of 1 John is clear: our relationship with others is a reflection of our relationship with God.

b. Forgiven people forgive! (It is who and what a forgiven person is and does.)
(Ill.) I can hear “Forest Gump” say “Forgiven is as forgiven does.”

2. The result of the lack of mercy... unforgiving... is eternal torture.
[The unspoken issue of the “jailers.” There are no jailers in eternal hell. However, the Greek indicates (here as well as others) the consequences of opening ourselves up to demonic attack/control.]

a. We owe a debt we cannot repay.

b. God has canceled the debt by actually paying it on the cross.

c. BUT we refuse to accept it by refusing to forgive others.

(Ill.) Jesus taught us to pray “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” [Matthew 6:12] “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.” [Luke 11:14] (A “debt” is something we can hold against. A “sin” is a violation against.)
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. [15] But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” [Matthew 6:14 – 15]

How much clearer could Jesus have been? The problem is our theology. We often say we cannot do anything to earn or deserve our salvation and that salvation is offered freely, in other words “unconditional.” But here Jesus is clearly saying we if we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven.

(Ill.) David has just killed the giant Goliath and won the war against the Philistines because of this act. On the return home, the women sang “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” [1 Samuel 18:6] Saul’s reaction? “Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him.” [1 Samuel 18:7a] The result? “The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul.” [1 Samuel 18:10a] [see Matthew 18:34]

***** By holding the anger, keeping the debt or sin of others, we refuse to forgive. When we refuse to forgive, we refuse the forgiveness God offers to us. *****

REALITY: this is how we will be treated unless we forgive.

V. To do:

A. Forgive from the “heart.”

1. Forgiveness is a choice, an act of the will the deals with our thoughts and feelings.

2. Forgiveness determines your actions and behavior patterns.

B. Act differently towards the offender than an unforgiving attitude would.

1. Don’t count it against the person. (Ill. The person who’s spouse gets “historical” during an argument.)

2. We stop bothering the person. No more attacks.

3. We give up what we think is ours.

4. We give up our claim for “justice.”

5. We stop insisting that we are right.

VI. CONCLUSION: “A Christian is not flawless, but forgiven.”

A. God’s forgiveness is beyond what we can imagine.

B. The things against otters are minor compared to the things against us.

C. The choice is yours.

1. Forgive and be free.

2. Treat others the way you want God to treat you.

Remember this is your choice, your behavior, your responsibility.