Sermon March 25, 2018 – Seeing but not Seeing

Matthew 21:1-11

Seeing but not Seeing

The way we view the world around us is clouded by our culture, education and ultimately our worldview. We filter what we see, hear and read through what we have been taught or have seen and heard in the media, and if we are bold enough to admit it, we don’t always see things the way they really are.

In Jerusalem on the Sunday before the traditional Passover feast, the people of Jerusalem witnessed a world changing event, something that set in motion the greatest weekend in all of history. However, as we will see because of their worldview, and their cultural expectations, they were not able to grasp what was happening.

On that first Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt. The crowd was celebrating the long-awaited Messiah coming into the city, however Jesus was painting a visual picture, a parable for those who would look back on that day.

The account begins with Jesus instructing two disciples to go and borrow a donkey and her colt. Jesus gave the disciples the instruction in verse 3, that, “If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” Jesus called himself the Lord, he was saying that he was in control, and the sovereign orchestrator of the events. Not only was Jesus the Lord over the events taking place, and the events that were about to take place, he was also the Lord over all creation. Jesus rides on a wild colt, Matthew is the only Gospel author who notes this detail, but Jesus was riding on an animal that was never ridden before, amid a screaming crowd. Jesus was showing, just like he did when he calmed the storm, the creator is in complete control over his creation.

As Jesus rode down the hill to Jerusalem, the people threw down their cloaks on the road, symbolizing submission to Jesus as king (see 2 Kings 9).

The crowd broke branches and palm branches and waved them as Jesus went by. This was significant because this reflected a scene that took place in Jerusalem about 200 years before, during the Maccabean uprising against the ruling Seleucid empire and the Hellenistic Jews. This is a fascinating time in the history or Israel, but the palm branches became symbols of the revolt and the interesting feature of the Maccabean revolt is that after entering Jerusalem, the rebels, came into the temple and cleansed the temple of all the false idol worship. This is also what Jesus did as he went to the temple and cleared out the traders. The people must have seen the messianic symbolism and they began to ask the question which we find in verse 10, “who is this?” (see Matthew 21:9).

The crowd around Jesus had no doubt that he was the promised Messiah, the one who would set up his throne in Jerusalem, ushering in a new Kingdom and empire for Israel. But they were filtering what they were seeing through their worldview, they were seeing what they wanted to see. Jesus was coming to introduce the Kingdom, but not a temporary earthly kingdom, but to overthrow the works of the devil and setup the eternal Kingdom of God on the earth. Jesus was walking out a parable, and like most of Jesus’ parables, the people did not understand what he was saying (read Matthew 13:10-17).

The crowds on that first Palm Sunday wanted a Warrior King, they wanted the prophesied messiah to come and re-established the glory days of the nation of Israel. But we know that Jesus came as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.

The crowd was seeing without really seeing, they were hearing but not understanding (Matthew 13:13).

Jesus knew that he was about to disappoint these crowds, he knew that they would be turning on him in a few days and calling for his crucifixion. But all the while as Jesus was riding on the colt into Jerusalem, he was thinking about you and me, he was thinking about the mission he was on. Jesus saw through the lens of heaven, he saw the purposes of God through all eternity.

But what about us? We know that Jesus came 2000 years ago as the suffering servant, entering Jerusalem knowing that he would suffer and die, and that God would raise him from the dead, to be the atonement for our sins, but what about Jesus today? Are we looking for a messiah to call on when we have a problem or need something to be made right? Are we only looking for a messiah who would make all our injustices right? Or are we really looking forward to the King Jesus coming to rule over the earth in justice and righteousness. Are we looking for a temporal messiah rather than the eternal Lord?

As we look at the world around us, there is a crowd gathering, a crowd of people waiting for a messiah, someone who would make all the wrongs of the world right. The world around us is looking for a political messiah or a military ruler who can correct all the evil in the world. But, Jesus won’t be that either. As we read in Revelation 19, when Jesus comes again, he will be the rider on the white horse. The next time Jesus rides, things will be quite different. He will no longer be a reluctant King riding on a colt. He will come in the clouds with great glory as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – not as ‘king for the day,’ but as ‘King for all time and eternity.'”

Jesus spoke about the end times in Matthew 24, where Jesus goes on to describe the great tribulation, famines earthquakes, terrible unprecedented global disasters and persecution.

Sadly, the church is being deceived and losing its focus on the eternal Kingdom of God, rather the church is focusing on the temporal things such as wealth and prosperity.

Are you seeing but not seeing? Hearing but not understanding? Are you so caught up in the things of this present age, that you don’t even have a desire for Jesus to come again?

As Jesus was teaching in John 8 he said to those who believed in him, “…If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32.

Let us be a people who have a Biblical Worldview and an eternal perspective.

Sermon February 18, 2018 Treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven

As we look at Matthew 13 we see that Jesus taught eight parables, and each time he said something to the effect of “the Kingdom of Heaven is like….”, and then told the parable. Some longer, like the parable of the sower, and some shorter like the leaven in the flour, which is only one sentence.

But we need to define the Kingdom. Matthew wrote to a predominantly Jewish audience, as a result, he used the term Kingdom of Heaven, whereas Luke and the other gospel writers used the Kingdom of God for the same principle meaning.

The Kingdom of God is the rulership of God over all things. He owns and sustains all things, but because of man’s sin, the world has been under the rulership of Satan. This is not to say that he rules the world completely; God is still sovereign. But it does mean that God, in His infinite wisdom, has allowed Satan to operate in this world within the boundaries God has set for him.

The earth is in subjection to the rule and influence of Satan until Jesus comes again and destroys his evil kingdom. Paul writing in Romans 8 describes how all creation has been groaning and eagerly waiting for the new kingdom to be revealed. When Jesus began his public ministry, he began the introduction of the Kingdom of God to a lost and dying world. The Kingdom of God is not strictly a future hope tied in with Christ’s second coming. it is the realm of God’s rule both present, and future. Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God, of which He was the embodiment, when He commenced His earthly ministry (see Matthew 4:17).

When Jesus died on the cross and defeated Satan, he began the process of dismantling Satan’s kingdom and installing the Kingdom of heaven. So, the kingdom of heaven is present in the world, but not yet in it’s fullness.

The kingdom of Heaven is so foreign to the world’s kingdom, especially in our era, where the focus of our worship is ourselves. Jesus uses eight parables to introduce some of these foreign concepts of the Kingdom, four of which he tells the crowd, and then another four he tells privately to his disciples, he turns his attention to his inner circle, continuing to explain to them that this is what the Kingdom of heaven is like.

Focusing our attention on two of these parables; the man who finds a treasure hidden in a field and the merchant who finds a pearl great value, what can we learn from them?

When a person makes Jesus Christ Lord of their life, it must cause a dramatic change in one’s value system. The things we valued the most, we set aside;  the things that the world views as treasures become worthless in the knowledge of eternal life.

These two short parables speak volumes about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. What is valuable to you? Not just possessions, but people, titles, position and places. For some people their treasure is their sport, or their hobbies or their career (see  Matthew 6:21).

In both these parables, the man and the merchant sold everything they had to obtain a greater treasure. This is foolishness, this is extreme, this is radical. These are the same adjectives that people use when describing followers of Jesus.

RT Kendall wrote: “Once you have truly experienced the anointing of the Spirit, your money, reputation, love for the world, fear of what people will say and so on all pale into insignificance.”

The Bible does not say that having material possessions is wrong, rather it is when those things become more important to us than God, then we have a problem. This is because there is no comparison between the treasures of this world and the treasures of the kingdom of heaven.

The merchant who sold all that he had to buy one pearl, didn’t simply exchange one treasure for another. He found a treasure supremely more valuable than anything in his life.

This is what Jesus offers us and when we become part of the kingdom of God, we experience a treasure and a life that makes all other desires small in comparison.

So here is the big question, does this reflect your Christian experience?

Or have you simply tried to add a bit of religion to your life by raising your hand in a meeting in response to an altar call, but you really don’t know this treasure of the Kingdom?  Salvation is more than simply avoiding hell because our sins are forgiven. What you have available to you are treasures of inestimable value (see Romans 8:32).

When we ask Jesus to be the Lord of our lives, God gives us his Holy Spirit to fill us and to reign in us; we become a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. When we become a follower of Jesus, we become like the leaven that impacts the dough, we become a change agent in our community, preparing the way for the fulfillment of the Kingdom when Jesus comes again.

When we see it that way, and we see all that it means to be a Christian, we would be fools not to view all our earthly treasures as worthless in comparison. Do you really know what it means to be a part of the Kingdom of Heaven?

But there is a different way of looking at these parables that will hopefully transform your thinking. When Jesus was telling these parables, he was proclaiming the Gospel message. Jesus came to the earth, setting aside his heavenly throne and took on flesh, he became a man just like us as he set aside his golden crown to take a crown of thorns (see Philippians 2:7-11). When we see this, we see that Jesus is the person who found a treasure in a field, it is Jesus who found the pearl of great value and it is Jesus who gave up everything to obtain it. It is Jesus who bought the treasure of salvation by buying the whole field of creation. These parables reveal the Gospel, they reveal the glory of Jesus who denied himself even to the point of dying on the cross so that he would receive the name above every other name.

The kingdom of heaven operates on a completely different currency than our small world.  Have you discovered this kingdom? Give everything you have to the Lordship of Jesus and God will give you a life and a future of infinite value.

God and the Election Part 2, November 13, 2016

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Romans 13

Welcome to post election 2016. There is much anxiety in America right now, we see it in our streets and in the media. As the church, how do we navigate these turbulent times? What it really boils down to is the question, where do we place our hope? Do we trust in our government, or do we trust in our God?

election-at-gp

As an immigrant, I have the unusual experience of being a dual citizen. I have a passport from America, and I have a passport from South Africa. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you too have dual citizenship.

The Bible has a number of passages that guide us in our relationship with our earthly rulers. Paul writing in Romans 13 has much to say to us as Christians in 2016.

One of the more challenging verses in the Bible is Romans 13:1. Paul states that every authority has been established by God, and he repeats himself to ensure that the readers would not misunderstand the dramatic statement he was making. This article is too short to try to understand why God would allow rulers like Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and so many other dictators. There is much we don’t and won’t understand this side of eternity. But God is either Lord of all or he is a victim of unexplained circumstances.

I don’t for one minute believe God is reacting to sinful man. God is not the author of evil, neither is he the victim of evil.  God is the creator and sustainer of all things, he knew from the beginning of time who would win the election this past week. God alone is in control and he is not fretting about election results.

Looking at Romans 13:2, any thinking person immediately struggles – are we to obey everything that the government tells us to do, even if it is immoral? These verses written by the apostle Paul are not intended to be an absolute rule demanding unconditional obedience to evil regimes in the world, rather it is a general exhortation for believers to be good citizens of the nation, paying taxes, following the law and playing our part in society. However, when the government requires citizens to go against the stated will and law of God in the Bible, then we are compelled to follow the law of God rather than the law of the government. There are many occasions in the Bible where God approves and even commands disobedience towards the rulers of the land. Look at Esther, Daniel, Peter and the Apostles directly defying the Sanhedrin in Acts 5 by continuing to preach the Gospel as but a few examples.

As we read further in the chapter, it seems that Paul shifts focus entirely and begins to write about loving our neighbor. Paul is going back to the law of God, he started the chapter by writing about the laws of the land, now he is looking at the higher law, the law of God. If this portion sounds similar it is very similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40. Paul confirms this and he ends verse 10 by saying; “Therefore Love is the fulfillment of the law”.

Paul continues in verse 11 by saying; “and do this…” do what? Obey the law of the land, and obey the law of God. Being model citizens of both the land and the Kingdom of God. Why?

Here is the most important verse of the chapter, verse 11 states; “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

Understanding the present time, the times we are living in are truly incredible, history is culminating towards the return of Jesus. What Paul says to the Roman church he says to us, “wake up”, wake up and focus on eternal things. If we have been living in sin, it is time to wholeheartedly live for Jesus Christ and his kingdom. If we have been compromising with the world, we cannot afford to do that anymore. Now is the time to wake up!

You may have been completely isolated and had your head in the sand, but the world around us is scared. There is uncertainty all around, we as followers of Jesus, do not need to live in fear and uncertainty.

As the Church we need to take very seriously the task of praying for our nation. In fact, if we really took seriously God’s word and we really cared for our nation and the world at this time, our prayer meetings will be the most well attended meetings in the church. The church doors would be open all the time as people would be gathering together to pray and ask God for mercy and healing for our land.

The well-known verse 2 Chronicles 7:14, recounts a pivotal time in the history of Israel. As we apply this verse to ourselves, we too are in a pivotal time. Notice that God does not say that if the nation humbles themselves and prays, rather he says “if my people”. We as followers of Jesus Christ need to start the process by humbling ourselves and by repenting of our wicked ways. Paul called on the Roman church to repent in verse 13, calling on the church to commit themselves to holiness and purity. We as followers of Jesus Christ need to set the standard in our own lives.  

Do you have dual citizenship? Are you a citizen of the land and a citizen of heaven? You may say yes, but you are living in fear and uncertainty. As a citizen of heaven, a citizen under Jesus Christ as the king of Kings, you need to repent of fear and begin to display the kingdom of God to those around you, being a light in your community. If we truly grasped the truth of the Word of God we should be the most hopeful and joyful people in the world.