Last Sunday we I began our new series “On Fire” and in the first message I started with and will continue talking about what the Spirit-filled or the “on fire” Christian life looks like. I mentioned that we have hope in Jesus Christ because of His life, death, and resurrection. This hope is what gets us through life. But this hope does not entail an easy life, nor does it mean that there is no work for us to do here on earth. The fact remains, Jesus’ work is both finished and unfinished. It is finished because of sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, his resurrection, and ascension. It remains unfinished because there are still people who need to hear the Gospel and be saved and this is what we are commissioned to do.
The Spirit-filled life and the Spirit-filled Church is what we are called to be. There is excitement in knowing that Spirit empowered Christians, and churches can do powerful things for the Kingdom of God. One of the most beautiful things about empowered believers is that we are only so because of God’s grace. His Spirit is a gift, and undeserved at that. Why? Because you and I have done nothing to receive it, and we do not need to possess specific qualities or characteristics for God to fill us with His Spirit and use us for the ministry of His kingdom. God uses average and ordinary people like us all the time. We see this in Jesus’ calling of His disciples. These twelve men known as disciples (followers of Jesus) would later become known as the Apostles (sent ones), were a rag tag group of individuals who had little to nothing in common AND uninfluential or noteworthy in any way in society at the time, yet God used them to change the world.
The word Apostle in Greek is Apóstolos which means “one who is sent off”. In today’s text, Luke 9:1 – 6 we are going to look at who a few of the Apostles (sent ones) were and how God used them for the ministry of the Kingdom of God. We will see how God does choose the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary.
Luke 9:1 - 6
Vs 1 - 2: Jesus calls his disciples together for a purpose, He gives them power AND authority over all demons and the ability to cure diseases. He sends them out (in this power and authority) to preach the Gospel and to heal sickness. Let’s pause for a moment and look at a few of these sent ones and who they were before they encountered Jesus Christ.
These men were chosen individuals who walked with Jesus for three years. They experienced and witnessed things that forever changed who they were. Each disciple had an encounter with Jesus (whether He was calling them to ministry immediately or sometime later in life) and all were deeply impacted. I realize I could do a whole series just on the twelve disciples, but I just want to point out some ways that some of the disciples were impacted and what this can mean for us.
Matthew – The Tax Collector (Matthew 9:9). Tax collectors were not well-liked individuals. They were despised by the Jewish society. They were essentially looked at as scum of the earth. They extorted money for personal gain AND they worked for the Roman government. This was a double whammy. They used bullying tactics to collect money and were thuggish tactics to get their money. One day Jesus passes Matthew and calls him to follow him. Jesus was criticized for this because he associated with tax collectors and sinners. Not only did Jesus associate with Matthew but he called him to be a disciple (follower/learner) and eventually sent him out to be an Apostle. Matthew’s life was never the same from this day forward. We read that Matthew rose and followed him leaving his life behind to follow the savior. Matthew went on to make an impact on the world as a believer and the author the Gospel of Matthew.
James & John – (Matthew 4:21 – 22) These two were brothers and they were called the Sons of Thunder. They were fishermen by trade. Jesus calls them to ministry they and immediately they leave their father in the boat to follow him. This was a bold move. These brothers left their father and their livelihood to follow Jesus. Some would call this reckless abandonment, but we know it as faith. John would eventually author the Gospel of John, 1, 2, 3, John and Revelation.
Peter & Andrew – (John 1:35 - 42) These brothers were also fishermen who left everything to follow Jesus. We know Peter as being the overzealous follower of Jesus. Little is known about his brother Andrew. The one thing we do know is that when he meets Jesus, he goes and finds his brother Simon A.K.A. Peter and tells him that he has found the Messiah. We see, immediately, Andrew gives us an example of true Christian expansion… Notice Andrew doesn’t say, “Jesus, will you come with me and talk to my brother about maybe becoming your disciple?” No, the very first act he does is share his encounter with his brother. Andrew brings Peter to Jesus and introduces him to the Lamb of God.
When Peter is brought to Jesus, He looks at him and says, “You will no longer be called Simon, you are now Cephas (Peter – Rock). This is significant because from the moment Jesus meets Peter, he has a plan for this man’s life. We know later down the road before Jesus is crucified, he tells Peter that he will become the foundation (The Church) that Jesus will establish through him and the gates of hell cannot and will not prevail against this foundation (Matthew 16:18).
Philip – (John 1:43 – 45) He was a disciple of John the Baptist and John instructed him to go and find Jesus and inquire about him. When Jesus finds him, He tells him to follow him. Philip then goes and introduces Nathanael to Jesus (continuing the principle of Christian expansion – introducing others to Jesus).
Nathanael (Bartholomew) – (John 1:46 – 51) He was the skeptic who couldn’t believe the Savior of the universe would come from Nazareth of all places. He says, “Can anything good come from Nazareth; let alone the savior of the universe?” What kind of comeback can you offer to Nathanael’s remarks other than what Philip says, “Come and see for yourself”? Philip didn’t spend time trying to talk Jesus up or prove that he was right; his response is exactly the same as ours should be when someone responds to Jesus in a negative way… Come and see for yourself. This is not only an invitation to meet Jesus but a challenge to put aside his prejudices and look beyond his origin of birth and grasp God’s bigger plan.
What is fascinating about the disciples is how Jesus called these ordinary and sinful men for his master plan of ushering in the Kingdom of God. I am encouraged as I see how these ordinary lives were forever impacted and changed so God could use them for his Kingdom and for his glory. Their lives are truly evidenced in the truth that when Jesus becomes the Lord and Savior of your life things will never ever be the same again. John MacArthur writes in his book, Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness and What He Wants to Do with You, “The twelve were personally selected and called by Christ… He knew all their faults long before he chose them.”
In reading these accounts of each of the disciples mentioned you will see one common denominator… Jesus calls them to follow, and they drop everything and follow him. The tax collector gives up his life of luxury and leaves his career behind to follow the savior. The blue-collar fishermen drop everything (this would have been their livelihood) to walk with the savior to see his grand scheme to save the world. The skeptic encounters Jesus and is challenged to “come and see for himself” this savior who does not fit the conventional description of what everyone thought the Messiah should look like. We see Philip and Andrew who are so struck with the Savior they have to go out and introduce their friends to the Lamb of God who is going to take away the sins of the world.
Vs 3: Once again these men are sent out in the power and authority of Jesus and he instructs them to take nothing with them, no money, no food, no staff, or no extra clothes. Jesus calls them to go with nothing except his power and authority. This shows that Jesus is calling them to trust Him exclusively. They are to abandon their trust in in the material world and put complete faith in Him.
Vs 5: This is the important aspect of being sent. Jesus tells them that wherever they go they are to go in His name and authority. If people reject them, which they will, then shake the dust off your feet and move on. This is powerful because it shows that the reaction of the people they speak with and their response to the Gospel is not up to them, it is up to the Holy Spirit. When the disciples/Apostles are sent out they are to be obedient only to the command of “go in faith”. If/when the people respond negatively to you, then shake the dust off your feet and move to the next place.
As sent individuals we also have one command and that is “go to the world in faith”. It is not up to us to determine how people act, respond, or react to the message we proclaim. We are to shake the dust off of our feet because the symbolism in this statement is the truth that you have done all that can be done in a situation and no you no longer carry the responsibility for the actions of the individuals. It is in many ways telling us not to take it personally. We are responsible for our part and those who reject or react negatively are responsible for theirs.
Vs 6: The disciples obeyed and went out and did what they were commanded to do.
In this short account we have seen how the lives of these men were deeply impacted when they encountered with Jesus and obeyed his commands to go. So, what does this mean for us today? What can we learn and what can we take home with us? What does being sent out by God look like for us today?
Chapter 14 takes a turn from the gloom of the Antichrist and the False Prophet and refocuses on the reward for the readers and their endurance by giving them glimpse of the final blessings during the judgment. Chapter 13 was a somber reminder of the impending doom of what lays ahead for the immediate future, thus a little encouragement is in order for the recipients of this letter. John now sees the vision of of the triumph of the followers of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.
Vs 1: This scene is intended to be an evident difference of the vision of the two beasts in the previous chapter. The followers in chapter 13 are stamped or marked with the mark of the Beast (666) on the right hand or forehead. It is in this new vision John sees the Lamb standing on Mt. Zion. This is appropriate because Mt. Zion had long been associated with divine deliverance. The mountain, however, in this vision is not the physical earthly mountain, it is the heavenly Zion because as we will see this is a scene that of praise that happens before the throne of God in heaven.
The 144,000 has been interpreted many ways, but some suggest that if we look forward to verse 4 it seems as though they are a select group of super saints that are consecrated to God. But others interpret the 144,000 as the entire body of the redeemed. When we compare the 144,000 of chapter 7 with the 144,000 in chapter 14, we see the saints in Ch. 7 as sealed against the woes that lay ahead, and the group in Ch. 14 are those who stand secure beyond the final torment. Once again, the number is not necessarily exactly or literally 144,000 and both most likely represent the full set of the redeemed throughout history.
The mark or the names on the forehead is a symbol of loyalty and allegiance to the lamb. Those who are sealed or marked have committed themselves to the Lamb. They are the overcomers whom Jesus has written his own name on them.
Vs 2 – 3: John hears a great voice that sounds like the roar of rushing waters, thunder, and a harp that is singing a new song. One would think this is a singular voice, but we find that it is the choir of the 144,000 singing the anthem of redemption. The voice is actually many voices because John writes that “they were singing”. This song is the new song of Revelation 5:9 and it is sung by those who have been purchased by the Lamb. This is a song reserved only for those who have experienced deliverance; thus they are the ones who are able to sing it.
These 144,000 had been redeemed from the world. This does not necessarily mean that they were taken physically out of the world but instead they were detached from the evil ways of the world and its false beliefs.
Vs 4 – 5: The 144,000 are now described as three characters
Vs 6 - 11: The Lamb and his followers are standing victorious on the heavenly Mt. Zion is then followed by three angelic decrees.
Vs 12: Here John encourages the believer to endure and keep their faith in Jesus
Vs 13: Another voice from heaven proclaims a blessing to those who are going to be martyred from this point on. The command to write emphasizes the importance of the message that follows. A blessing is upon those who faithfully give their lives for God will enter victorious into their rest.
Last week we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In our time together I talked about the importance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We discovered because of his death and resurrection there is hope and life in Jesus. So, after the events of the cross and the sepulcher what happened? If you recall, before Jesus went to the cross of Calvary, He made a declaration about his death and a promise to His disciples. He said in John 16:7 - 11, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” Jesus declares and promises to his disciples that after His death and resurrection the Holy Spirit would come and dwell in them. He was promising to fill them with the Spirit, resulting in the both the secular and religious world being turned upside down (or right side up) for the glory of God and through the Spirit dwelling in His people. He promised a Spirit-filled life which, in turn, would begin the Spirit-filled Church.
What does the Spirit-filled life and Spirit -filled church look like? How do we live a Spirit empowered life? What is the difference between a Spirit filled life and a flesh driven life? This week is the beginning of our four-week series entitled “On Fire”. In these weeks I will talk about what it means to be on fire with the Holy Spirit. The hope is that we will determine and understand that the Holy Spirit is most active in the churches where the people are most desperate for Him.
Let us dive in and see what happens when the Spirit begins to move in His people. The author writes in Acts 1:3 “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” The author, Luke, establishes early on the legitimacy and the significance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He writes that Jesus appeared to the Disciples on numerous occasions thus giving proof or evidence that He was and is alive. A few of these accounts are recorded Matt. 28, Luke 24, and John 20. These all give accounts of Jesus’ encounters with the disciples and also with the Mary’s. I Cor. 15:3 – 8 is in my opinion one of the most exciting statements about Jesus’ resurrection as it says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” The Apostle Paul tells us Jesus appeared to over 500 people at one time, to ALL of the disciples, and He appeared to the Apostle Paul. Paul established the centrality of the resurrection in the Gospel message. 1 Cor. 15:14 continues, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
In His final visitation with his disciples Jesus made a mandate for His disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit to come and empower them and when He does, they are to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the utter most parts of the world teaching them about the Kingdom of God.
Today we are going to look specifically at the fulfillment of this mandate of Jesus concerning the Holy Spirit. In chapter one of Acts, Jesus speaks of the promise of the Holy Spirit and chapter two details fulfillment of the coming of the Holy Spirit and everything that happens after.
Acts 2:1 – 13
Vs 1: It is Ten days after the ascension of Jesus Christ; we know this because this verse tells us the celebration of Pentecost was happening in Jerusalem. Pentecost is also known as the Feast of Weeks. It is held at the beginning of June precisely fifty days after the Passover, hence the name Pentecost, which basically means fiftieth. This feast was the second of three major Jewish feasts which took place annually in Jerusalem. It was believed to be one of the most well-attended feasts since the traveling conditions were prime this time of year.
The ESV says that disciples were all together in one place which not only means they were in the same physical place, but they are also of the same mind and sharing the same passion.
Vs 2: Suddenly a sound comes from heaven like that of a great and rushing wind and it fills the house in which they were staying. There are three occurrences in this passage that are important for us to understand because there is great symbolic meaning behind this unique incidence, and it gives us insight as to what is going on.
So, what does this all mean? On this day of Pentecost nearly 2000 years ago God had pre-ordained this day to be the day when he would breathe his Spirit into the believer and fill him with himself (God’s presence is in the believer) thus empowering and enabling the believer to live the Spirit-filled life for his glory. It was on this day that God Himself takes up residence in the believer to be empowered by Him to do a task that brings glory to his name. This applies to us as believers today. Pentecost was not a unique one-time occurrence that will never happen again. Being filled by the Spirit is ongoing that all of us may or have experience. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit. When a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ he is regenerated or born again by the Spirit of God. This is the point where we are identified with Jesus Christ and we publicly acknowledge our union with Him. It is the point where Rom 8:11 says, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”
Vs 5: When the Jewish believers were empowered the onlookers marveled at what was happening. Those looking on were devout Jewish men, religious men, pious men and educated men from all parts of the known world at this time. They spoke various languages because they were from different parts of the world at this time. When they saw these uneducated Galilean men speaking in different languages, they could hardly believe what they were hearing.
Vs 7: They asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?” Galileans were not educated men, in fact, they were despicable men from whom nothing learned or polite was to be expected. Jesus was thought to be a Galilean, and his disciples were as well. They were considered unlearned and ignorant men. This was truly an astonishing sight for these onlookers to witness.
Vs 8: These men were not uttering unknown words but instead were speaking the language of Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians. What the onlookers heard were the Galileans praising God and His wonderful works in their own native tongue.
Vs 12: The only reasonable explanation these onlookers could come up with was that these men were drunk and didn’t really know what they were doing. Peter answers their ludicrous claims in his sermon to follow which resulted in 3,000, yes 3,000 people coming to faith in Jesus Christ.
This truly was a strange Pentecostal day, but it is important for us to recognize and to pray for in our own lives. It is important for us to understand what happened on this day. These individuals were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they were not just given the help to do something; they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to do something they couldn’t possibly do in their own strength. Author and Pastor Jim Cymbala writes that this day was, “a typhoonlike visitation of the Spirit of God.” How many of us could benefit from this kind of visit by the Spirit of God? How much would our church benefit from a downpour of the Spirit of God? Pastor and author John Stott writes, “As a body without the Holy Spirit is a corpse, so the church without the Holy Spirit is dead.” Could this be the one thing that is missing in the church today? Are we depending and putting our efforts into human strength, wisdom and programs instead of the Holy Spirit? When was the last time you said, “God I am dropping my agenda and I ask that I can empty myself of me so there can be room for you in my life, my family, my work, and my church.”? It is human nature to want to be in control and when we do we often get in God’s way when He wants to do something that will completely blow our minds. Here are three keys to living a Spirit-filled life and having a Spirit-filled church…
If you are a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, you have the Spirit of God in you? Now I don’t want you all getting weirded out and think this means you all must speak in tongues and do odd things that make you look strange. No, it is more of knowing the truth of when the Spirit dwells In you and you are emptying yourself of yourself and allowing God to empower you? May we, like the Apostles, allow God’s life-giving Spirit to empower us in a more intimate and powerful way than we have ever known? The Holy Spirit brings new life to those who believe in Jesus, and with that life comes a continuing power to those who are filled with the Spirit
In chapter 13 we are introduced to two more revolting creatures to whom Satan uses to continue his war against believers. They are beasts and they emerge from the waters and the earth respectively. The first beast is a dreadful seven headed beast and the second a little less gruesome in appearance, but still powerful and having the ability to deceive humanity with his miracle working power. The dragon from chapter 12, and the two beasts of chapter 13 make up an unholy trinity of Satanic wickedness.
As the dragon from chapter 12 becomes furious with the escape of the offspring of the woman (the Church/believers) he stands on the sands of the shore he calls upon his dreadful legions to help destroy her offspring.
Revelation 13: 1 – 10
Vs 1 - 2: The creature who emerges from the waters has ten horns, seven heads, ten crowns on the horns, and blasphemous names on its head. This beast had similarities to the four beasts of Daniel 7:3 - 8 that emerge from the sea. Now, the ancient world would commonly associate the sea with evil, and the final enemy of God’s people to emerge from this evil is entirely appropriate.
Ten horns: These represent 10 kings who wear crowns. The crowns being placed on their horns instead of their heads so, this would suggest that his claims to authority rests on brutal force.
Seven heads: The seven heads shows that there is a relationship between the dragon of chapter 12 and the beast of ch. 13. In fact, it would suggest that the beast gets his power from the dragon (Satan). We know the number seven represents completeness; thus a seven headed beast would be symbolic of for the ultimate or complete enemy of the church.
So, who is the beast? Since he gets his power from Satan, blasphemes the name of God, makes war against the saints, and is worshiped by the pagan world, it would suggest that the beast is the Roman Empire who persecutes the church. Yet, it is also believed to be more than the Roman Empire… it is suggested that the beast could and does also represent the deification of secular authority or government.
Vs 2: The beast had the appearance of a leopard, feet like a bear, mouth like a lion, and this most likely symbolizes a final empire (since the beasts of Daniel represent four kingdoms) that will be more dreadful than any other. Yet, it is not an empire that is powered on its own, it is an empire that is powered by Satan.
Verse 3: One of the heads of the beast was wounded, we are not told how the wound was received, but that is not important… what is important is that it appeared to be mortal, and it was healed. Many writers who attribute the beast as the Roman Empire say that the beast represents Nero. Nero was so evil that when he did die, people refused to believe his death was final. Many expected him to rise again and appear in a resurrected form. Others believe that this goes to show the buoyance of the beast. The secular authority seems to be wounded but returns with increased strength.
Vs 4: The inhabitants worship the beast and the dragon. Deification of secular power is in fact worship of Satan. The people worship the beast because of the authority he wields and that authority is Satan himself. The motivation behind the worship is the mere power of his influence.
Vs 5 - 6: In verses 5 to 7 the statements “was given” or “was allowed” is mentioned four times. This shows that not only the beast subservient to the dragon (Satan) but to John’s readers, they would know that he speaks of God as the ultimate source of power. The reign of the beast is only because God allows it to happen. He operates within the limits that are set by God. He is allowed to have authority for forty-two months. This is the traditional period for religious persecution. It is during this forty-two month that the beast aggressively carries out the will of the dragon.
Vs 7 - 8: The beast exercises his authority by waging war on the saints and by demanding universal worship, it extends to every tribe, people, language, and nation. Everyone on the earth with worship the beast with the exception of those whose names are written in the book of Life. The saints will be persecuted and killed (overcome) by the beast, but the real victory belongs to them.
Vs 11, 12: The second creature comes out of the earth. This beasts job and purpose is to promote and glorify the Antichrist. He is a deceiver. His two horns like a lamb represents or gives the appearance of being harmless and gentle. He accomplishes his purpose by using his power to work miracles. In John’s time a reference to this beast would probably suggest a local priest of the imperial cult or the provincial council of Asia Minor who enforced emperor worship. In the final days of Antichrist, the false prophet stands for the role of false religion and forcing the people to yield to the worship of this secular power.
Vs 13: We are warned throughout the Bible about false prophets who will attempt to (and succeed) lead people astray and worship other gods through signs and wonders. This second beast deceives people into worshiping the Antichrist by imitating the miracles of true prophets of old.
Vs 14 – 15: This beast is only able to deceive unbelievers. Why? Because if one is truly a believer in Jesus and serves God with all his heart, He will not be tricked by the miracles of the one who deceives.
The second beast then instructs his followers to “make an image of the beast” or Antichrist. He was given the power to give life to this image so that it could speak. The grammar of the verse insinuates that the statue not only speaks but it also approved the death sentence upon everyone who would not worship it or it could mean that the second beast was the one who instituted the death penalty on the all who refused to worship.
Vs 16 - 17: In order to identify all who worship the first beast all are required to get a mark on their right hand or forehead. There are no exceptions. Religious tattooing was common in the ancient world, and followers of a particular god were often marked to show their steadfast loyalty. This is a mockery of the sealing of God’s elect in chapter 7. The elect are sealed to escape God’s judgment, and now the followers of Antichrist are sealed to escape his wrath against the church. This loyalty to Antichrist will certainly clearly determine the line between God’s people and Satan’s.
The mark not only shows loyalty to the Beast, but it also enables the recipient of the mark to buy and sell on a daily basis. Those without the mark cannot get the necessities for daily living.
Vs 18: The Apostle John now provides a way for the intelligent reader to determine or compute
the beast’s number. He does not give much indication other that the fact that is the number of man and that number is 666, and interestingly some texts translate it as 616. It is believed that the number is specific to one certain historical person. Throughout history there have been multiple guesses as to who this person is or will be. Some take the number to be more as a symbol than a code. 666 is the number that falls short of perfection in each of its digits. I agree with theologian Robert Mounce who writes,” it seems best to conclude that John intended only his intimate associates to be able to decipher the number. So successful were his precautions that even Irenaeus some one hundred years later was unable to identify the person intended. An additional 1,800 years of conjecture have not brought us any closer to a definitive answer.”
Thus, we see the stage is set for the final encounter. This is a place of tension because for the believer we are living in the already, but not yet. This simply means that Jesus was victorious on the cross, thus giving us victory, but the end has not come so evil will persist until that final battle between God and Satan.
When we were together this past Friday night, we concluded our time together, commemorating the Savior crucified, dead and buried. I established that the events of this dark night were indeed violent and horrific, but absolutely necessary. Necessary because this was God’s plan for the redemption of humanity. The Lamb of God, Jesus, was slain on the cross of Calvary for the iniquities of the world. However, however, the slain Lamb of God would not remain in the grave.
We are told in all four Gospel accounts that on the third day after the crucifixion Jesus rose from the dead. You see Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. Many Christians (especially Pastors) spend much time talking about Jesus’ death and we should. Yet, we often ONLY talk about the death of Jesus. The Gospel is incomplete without the resurrection. According to Romans 4:25, “He (Jesus) was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.” (NLT)
The reality for us today is that we put all our confidence in the fact that Jesus Christ died on a cross, and He rose from the dead. Today, I am not going to have the traditional Easter message where I recount the events of that Easter morning, instead I have chosen a passage in Romans that will help us see who Jesus is and why He is significant to the Christian faith. We will look at four aspects of Jesus (Jesus the man, Jesus the divine, Jesus the God man and Jesus our Lord) to help us better understand who is risen indeed!
Romans 1:3 – 7
Jesus the Man
The O.T. prophets lived in hope and in anticipation for the day when the appointed Messiah (Christos – Christ) would come. There were prophesies about the Messiah and the prophets of old lived-in expectation for the coming Messiah.
In verse Romans 1:3 the Apostle Paul establishes first, that the Messiah (who was promised beforehand and later find out is Jesus Christ) was descended from the seed of David according to the flesh. What does this mean? It simply means, the Messiah would be a human being. Through the lineage of King David, the Messiah would come as promised by God throughout the O.T
What Moo is saying is that it is important for us to know that the Messiah (Jesus) was a human, but his human(ness) did not merely qualify him to be Messiah it is only a part of the equation. The Messiah was to be a human, but he was also to be of divine origin. So “According to the flesh” establishes first that Jesus was a descendant of David, He was a human being, and He was born of a woman (Isaiah 7:14) all of these are attributes of Messiah.
Jesus the Divine
Romans 1:4 tells us that Jesus is also the Son of God. He was “declared” the Son of God in the “power of the Holy Spirit”. The word “declared” means appointed, ordained, a decree – a divine oracle. Jesus was appointed the Son of God according to the Spirit and according to his resurrection. This does not mean the resurrection is what made him the Son of God. He wasn’t suddenly transformed at the moment the Spirit raised him from the dead. According to theologian Charles Hodge, “Christ was not predestined to be the Son of God. He was such from eternity.”  In other words, Christ did not become the Son of God after he rose from the dead (or even when he was born, baptized and betrayed) he always has been the Son of God from eternity past, present and future.
In verse 4 the text implies that Jesus was publicly declared the Son of God through the resurrection. The resurrection was his declaration of who he is. We now can accept, acknowledge and draw near to God because of the resurrection of Christ. We must also note it is not Paul (or any other disciple for that matter) who declares him the Son of God. God is the one who declares him. The Spirit/God publicly declares Jesus divine but scripture tells us that he has always been divine.
Thus, Jesus is also divine in nature or more specifically He is an equal to God according to scripture. In John 5:17 – 31 Jesus calls God his Father and also claims equality to God. It also says that Jesus…
Jesus the God Man
So far, we have seen that Jesus is fully human and fully God. His humanity is important for us to grasp because as Hebrews 4:15 states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” We should take comfort in this because we know that the one we serve and worship has been in our shoes. He has experienced what we have experienced. He can truly say, “I know what you are going through.”
We read in the Bible about Jesus’ humanity in that he got angry, hungry, and tired. He experienced sadness, pain, suffering, poverty, anxiety and temptation as a human and yet, was still without sin. We also take comfort in knowing that Jesus will never leave us ill equipped to face the difficulties in life. Whatever difficulties you may have faced in life Jesus has been through it as well. This makes him an approachable Savior who can empathize with our earthly struggles.
On the other hand, he is also fully eternal God. Colossians 1:15,16 says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For BY HIM all things were created… ALL things were created through him and for him. Only God creates and this shows that Jesus is also Creator making him equal to God.”
Jesus Christ Our Lord
Romans 1:5 says that through Jesus or because of Jesus we have received (seized, taken upon ourselves) grace (God’s loving kindness) and apostleship (people commissioned and sent as messengers) to bring about obedience of faith for God’s name’s sake to all nations…
Through Jesus we have received God’s grace, we have obtained the right to become apostles of Jesus (this is not something we deserve but through God’s loving kindness we have) and thus we are required to walk in obedience of faith. Obedience and faith go hand in hand. The idea behind this is that our faith produces obedience. We obey because of our faith and not because we feel we “have to.” The word faith in the Greek is pistis and it means the conviction of the truth of anything. In the NT it is a conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things. Obedience should always accompany faith. Why? For God’s name’s sake. When we walk in obedience of faith, we are glorifying God and bringing honor to the name of Christ. The opposite to walking in obedience of faith (especially to the believer) is walking in the flesh thus disgracing the name of God. When Christians act and walk according to obedience we are bringing glory to God to all humanity. Again, Douglas Moo writes, “Paul saw his task as calling men and women to submission to the lordship of Christ, a submission that began with conversion, but which was to continue in a deepening, lifelong commitment… Paul called men and women to a faith that was always inseparable from obedience.” This, my friends, is what the Christian life should look like. The key is not obedience because we cannot truly be obedient to Christ without faith; the key is obedience OF faith. Submitting to God’s way and proclaiming the lordship of Jesus in your life is what Paul is talking about here. Obedient faith is only obtainable because of who Christ is and what he has done. Jesus, who is without beginning or end, took on the form of a man and experienced life on earth as a human. He willingly gave his life as an offering to God, He rose from the dead and then ascended to the Father so that all who believe in Jesus in faith can also share in the resurrected life. Truly this is a Savior who is worthy to follow in obedience in faith and to proclaim to all the nations.
Since today is Easter it is imperative for us to know and believe that Jesus lived, died and rose again so that we can live; die and rise again. This should give you hope, strength, faith and a desire to live fully for Him. He died willingly for His children so we may have life and have it abundantly. This is a promise given to us by the Savior in John 10:10. Jesus is victorious over death and in his victory, we too may be victorious in death. Sure, we are all appointed to die at some point in our lives. As believers in Jesus Christ we have hope and we live in the hope of knowing that death is only temporary, and it has absolutely no dominion over us whatsoever.
For those of us who believe and are fully committed to Jesus Christ we put all of our stock in the truth that Jesus Christ died on a cross and rose from the dead. As believers we have placed all our cards on the table in hope and anticipation of the resurrection. We know a dead Jesus in a tomb is not good news. A risen Jesus who has ascended to the Father for our justification is Good News, it is GREAT NEWS, in fact it is the only news worth declaring!
 Moo, Douglas: The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996, p. 47
 Hodge, Charles: Romans- The Geneva Series of Commentaries. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust 1983, p.19
 Moo, Douglas: The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996,
Tonight, is Good Friday. It is a somber night. It is a dark night. It is the night we reflect on the death of Jesus Christ and the cross of Calvary. This doesn’t sound so good, does it? So, why do we call it Good Friday? It is called good in that it is a holy night, because this is the night Jesus suffered and died on the cross for our sins as the sacrificial Lamb of God. It is the Good news that our savior willingly died so that we may have life. Good Friday is indeed a good Friday for us, but it was a gruesome Friday for our Savior.
Tonight, we will spend our time together recounting the events that led to the cross of Calvary. We begin at the governor’s headquarters where the Roman Governor Pilate meets Jesus Nazareth and hears the case of the religious leaders against Jesus Christ. He tells the Jews, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” To which the Jews demanded NO! Crucify Him!
John 19:1 – 16
I find it interesting in this account that Pilate finds no fault in Jesus, yet he caves into the wishes of the mob. The flogging Jesus faced was probably done to try and appease the masses; however, they would not be satisfied with a token beating; they wanted death. Some had even thought that bringing Jesus out to the people in his robe and crown of thorns that the crowd would think he was punished sufficiently.
When he failed to convince the Jews, he tells them to take him and crucify him, but he knew they could not because Jews were forbidden to crucify. Instead, they brought up the law and one of Pilate’s jobs was to maintain the law and keep the peace among the people. Failure to do so could end badly for Pilate.
Pilate takes Jesus into the Praetorium and questions him. Pilate tells Jesus he has the power to set Him free, yet Jesus informs him that he has no power over him whatsoever. Pilate must sentence Jesus to death in order for Jesus to accomplish his purpose.
John 19:17 – 27
The death of Jesus is graphic and gruesome. Many of you have either seen movies, read books or imagined what this horrific night was like, but I do not think we can fathom what happened at all. The death Jesus suffered was painful, humiliating and violent, yet it was necessary in order to accomplish the will of the Father. Crucifixion was a method of capital punishment used by many nations including Greece and Persia. The Romans used it as a means to execute slaves and criminals.
The Death of Jesus
As Jesus hung on the cross for what seemed an eternity the dreadful event concludes with what the Gospel of John are the final two statements Jesus made. The first a personal need, “I thirst” and the second is a declaration of completion of the task, “It is finished!” What was finished? Jesus has accomplished what he came to do. The law has been fulfilled, redemption has been made, the cross of Calvary has been atoned for.
Through Jesus’ death humanity can have now have peace with God. He has bore the penalty of sin for humanity so that those who believe and obey would not face this penalty.
Piercing the Side
The Sabbath before Passover (which was a high celebration and certainly significant that Jesus was crucified at this time) was drawing near and the process of death needed to be sped up by breaking the legs of those being crucified. Basically, they wanted to get this over so they could go ahead and get to the Passover celebration. Of course, we know Jesus had already given up his spirit and was lifeless so there was no need to break his legs (to fulfill prophecy). In order to ensure he was in fact dead the Roman soldier pierced his side. Blood and water poured from his side. The blood and water were certainly significant to John and there are many theories on why he put it in this account, but in fact it was written to show that Jesus did in fact die a normal human death.
Once Jesus was dead Joseph and Nicodemus asked to take the body of Jesus so they could bury him. It is believed that both Joseph and Nicodemus were Sanhedrin and followers of Jesus. Joseph must have been a person of influence because typically a person who was crucified was just thrown in a common grave. The fact that Pilate allowed this shows he must have had influence. They placed him in a tomb and bound his body with linens and spices and left his lifeless body in the tomb.
We all know the story does not end here. This account is gruesome, brutal, and somewhat tragic but altogether necessary. The death of Jesus Christ ultimately establishes God’s new covenant of grace, atonement and redemption with humanity.
It is important that we understand, everything Jesus did on this earth was for a higher purpose and one the people of his time had difficulty understanding. He took the world by storm and exposed the religiously pious leaders of their errors and showed the public the true meaning of what it means to be a child of God. For us, we are truly the beneficiaries of the completed work Jesus has done on the cross. We know that by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus anyone who believes, trusts and obeys his commands have been given the true grace of life everlasting (This is the Good News, this is the Gospel). Eternal life is available to ALL who believe and obey Jesus and put their trust and faith in Him regardless of race, gender, or social status. God established a new way through Jesus Christ that does not depend on works and legalism but instead is evidenced through good works. Our relationship with God is not based on the sacrifice of animals but on the sacrifice of the Lamb. This new way promotes freedom through submission. It upholds living through dying. It endorses loving all. It demands faith in God instead of faith in humans or circumstances. This way is available to us because Jesus willingly gave himself up to die on the cross so we could be made right with God.
Every year millions of people in the Christian religion observe Lent. The word Lent is derived
from the Old English word “Lencten” which means Spring. The season of Lent begins forty days prior to Easter, not counting Sundays, and ends on Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday. The fortydays are a reminder of the forty days Jesus was tempted by the Devil in the wilderness.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and for the forty-day period believers often fast, or
abstain from certain foods, vices or activities (i.e. alcohol, smoking, chocolate, carbonated drinks, sweets, Social Media, etc.). It is intended as a time to spend reflecting on our human sinfulcondition, prayer and the teachings of Jesus Christ.
The forty days do not include Sundays as they are considered “mini-Easters” and are set aside
for joy and celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and not for abstaining and
fasting. As I stated already Lent ends on Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday (the night before Good Friday) but fasting and abstaining from certain foods or activities is still in effect through Good Friday and Saturday. The true celebration and breaking of fast happens on Easter morning when Jesus’ resurrection is observed and celebrated.
Today is Palm Sunday and this day is the beginning of what is called holy week. We will be looking at a few accounts in the Gospels that are referred as Jesus’ triumphal entry or more commonly known as Palm Sunday. This is one of a relatively few occurrences that is recorded in the life of Jesus in all four Gospel accounts. While all four are similar in subject there are some differences in the way the accounts are re-told. Today we will look at these accounts and see and celebrate the significance of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry.
John 12: 1 - 8
Six days before Passover Jesus goes to Lazarus’s house. This is the same man who Jesus resurrected from the dead. At his home a meal is prepared, and Jesus is anointed with very expensive perfume by Mary Magdalene. She uses her hair to wipe his feet. This is an act of worship on Mary’s part. In this act of worship, she is declaring the true value of Christ to her. This was a very costly act of worship. We are told that the cost of the perfume was a year’s wage. In this act Mary was declaring that there is nothing, absolutely nothing more valuable to her than Jesus.
Judas questions the “wastefulness” of this expensive oil. In reality, Judas had no care for the poor he was just a greedy thief. He tried to spiritualize his narrow sightedness by stating they could use the funds to give to the poor, but John tells us he had zero concern for the poor. Jesus rebukes Judas. He tells him to leave Mary alone because what she is doing is a good thing. There will always be opportunities to serve the poor and meet their needs, but what Mary is doing now super cedes the needs of the poor.
Mark 11:1 -11
After the meal Jesus prepares for his royal entry. Jesus and his Disciples went to Bethpage, which was near Bethany (approximately 2 miles east of Jerusalem) to the Mount of Olives. A great crowd of people followed him, and they were probably people making their pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. According to the historian Josephus, there was one Passover where over two million people participated in Jerusalem. We are not sure if this was the normal crowd or not, but there was certainly a large gathering of people present at this time.
Matthew 21:1 - 7
Once Jesus drew near the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples to go into town and get a colt/donkey and bring it to him. The Gospel of Matthew states that this all takes place to fulfill the words of the prophet Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” This passage is believed to be a prophecy about the coming King of Zion or the Messiah. In the prophecy the people of Israel are told to rejoice and shout because the King is coming soon. They are called to rejoice because He is a righteous king who brings salvation. This king will be a gentle and humble king and it will be evident because he will be riding on a colt’s donkey. Jesus is the TRUE king, and He could have ridden in as a warrior on a war horse, but instead he came as the King of peace and humility.
Matthew 21:8 -11
As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey the people began shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The word Hosanna in the Greek transliteration is “Save us!” Their shouts were an exclamation of exaltation, praise, and rulership. The praises of the people were reflected by the words of Psalm 118:25, 26 “Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord.” This Psalm is one of many Egyptian Hallel or praise psalms to remember God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt. These Psalms were chanted, recited, and sung during Passover and other major festivals and feasts.
The people shouted and rejoiced and put their cloaks and palm branches on the ground for Jesus to walk on. This was a sign of honor and the palm branches symbolized victory. According to theologian N.T. Wright, “They waved branches they’d cut from the trees to make a celebratory procession for him. This carried royal implications. In the long folk memory of Jerusalem and its surrounding villages, stories were still told, and some of them by this stage were written down, about the famous Judas Maccabaeus who, 200 years before, had arrived in Jerusalem after conquering the pagan armies that had oppressed Israel. He, too, was welcomed into the city by a crowd waving palm branches. And he was the start of a royal dynasty that lasted for over a hundred years.”
According to the Gospel of Luke 19:39 – 40 the religious leaders approached Jesus and told him to rebuke his disciples.
“And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
The Pharisees knew Jesus was accepting the praise of the people as the Messiah. They would have opposed the excitement of the crowds cheering on Jesus and they absolutely did not want to see Jesus proclaimed as Messiah. They did not support the use of force unless the practice of their religion was directly involved, and they would have resisted anything that might intensify Roman intervention. There was no hope of calming the commotion by engaging the people, so they tell Jesus to quiet them down. Jesus responds by affirming that the shouting is inevitable. He says that if he were to silence them then the stones would cry out in praise to him. This was His time! This was a fore ordained moment in history. There was absolutely nothing that could silence the praise of the Messiah. It was foretold, it had to be. The Pharisee’s tell Jesus to rebuke his disciples, but Jesus rebukes the Pharisee’s for failing to see that this moment is a God ordained moment.
It is sad to see throughout the Bible how often the religiously pious miss out on or oppose those moments that God appointed. It is in these moments they are so objected to change or seeing the moment to be outside of their tradition that they convince themselves and try to convince others that God is not blessing the moment, when in fact the moment is the time that God is in fact blessing and ordaining. May we never be so blind or set in our ways and traditions that we too, miss out in the moments where God is moving, blessing, and ordaining.
Palm Sunday is a beautiful Segway into Holy week. Today, we proclaim with the people of Israel and say, “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!” We acknowledge and worship the true King of kings and Lord of Lords. But as we have looked at this account, we are left to answer a few questions and consider some truths regarding Jesus and Palm Sunday.
To be continued…
 Wright, N.T. (2004) Matthew For Everyone Part Two p. 67 Westminster John Knox Press
We all worry at some point in our lives. Maybe you are consumed with worry at this moment. So many of us are or have been affected (usually negatively) in some way or other by worry. Worry can be defined as giving way to anxiety or unease; to allow one's mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles. Worry takes place in the mind and it is often based on real and present issues in our life. We worry about multiple things… finances, the future, life altering decisions, sickness, politics, religion, and so on. There have been times in my life where worry had consumed me that I was nearly paralyzed with fear. And let’s face it, worry is generally rooted in fear and anxiety. There were times in my life where I worried about finding a job when I was unemployed. I worried about making ends meet. I worried about my health. Worry, can take up so much of our mental energy and thoughts that sometimes we can feel paralyzed by fear and worry.
When I was a kid, I used to collect Mad Magazine. If you remember Mad Magazine was an American satire magazine that poked fun at politics, pop culture and many times was just plain stupid. The magazine had a mascot or fictitious cover boy named Alfred E. Neuman. He had a saying or slogan that said “What, Me Worry?” I think he was on to something because this slogan, I believe, was intended to have the nonchalant attitude of, “Forget about it! There’s nothing that’s going to get me down. I don’t care what you think or what I may be facing, I’m not going to concern myself with worry!” In some ways, this attitude reminds me of the Apostle Paul has a similar thought in writing to the Philippians as he continually goes back to this idea of not worrying and rejoicing.
Today we are going to conclude our series in Philippians as we will spend some time in chapter 4 and Paul’s truly concluding thoughts.
Philippians 4: 1 – 7
Vs 1 – 3: Chapter 4 begins with Paul dealing with first things first by mentioning two individuals in the church at Philippi who are apparently having a disagreement of sorts. We are not sure what the issue is, but it obviously is concerning enough for Paul to address them. These were women who worked with Paul at some point in his ministry and it is obvious these two women were believers in Jesus Christ, since their names were written in the book of life. However, Paul admonishes these two women to drop their differences and seek unity in the Lord. Which is always a good way to settle a conflict. He continues to encourage unity in the church in order for the church to stand in the difficult times that they will be facing.
Now, Paul comes back to his continual exhortation to rejoice once again! Rejoicing and joy is the common thread that is weaved throughout this letter. Yet, this time he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” The word “always” gives no exceptions to rejoicing regardless of circumstances. Paul is continuing to tell the Philippians to find their joy in the Lord rather than in the reality they are facing. I really, really think he is trying to tell the church and even us today something very important, because Paul says to “rejoice” and having “joy” about 16 times in Philippians. He writes that regardless of life circumstances…Rejoice! Why is Paul so determined for the people (and you and I for that matter) to rejoice? If things are not going our way and we are facing difficulties in life what can possibly trump our current difficult situations? The answer, we may rejoice, we will rejoice, we must rejoice because of what Christ has done. We rejoice in Him!
After Paul exhorts the church to rejoice in the Lord, he then reminds “The Lord is at hand” or the Lord is near, thus he encourages them, “do not be anxious about anything.” Anything??? ANYTHING! Instead of worrying and being anxious about the things that are overwhelming or looming over the Philippians, go to God in prayer. Paul says, “Let your requests be known to God.” This is another way of saying take your concerns to the foot of the cross and leave them there. Do not let your anxiety and worry consume you. Give it to Jesus and once you do, you will experience peace. Not your regular peace which generally refers to the absence of conflict, but the true peace of God that surpasses all understanding. Now, I realize it is not a logical peace. It doesn’t make any human sense because the issues that are causing distress are still in front of you, but when you give your worry and anxiety over to the Lord you gain a true and genuine sense of peace that is rooted in Jesus. When we experience this peace, it will guard our hearts and minds. This means that in those times when worry or anxiety pop back into our heads or our hearts we can be protected from worry because we are in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4: 8, 9
Finally! Here is that word again… But this time Paul means it. In response to all he has written Paul gives a practical suggestion in how we can find joy in turmoil and have peace instead of worry. Since worry is an issue of the mind, Paul is telling the Philippians that instead of focusing on that which is causing worry, they need to think on these things… whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. These whatever’s are to become the new reality. When you are at work, home, school, in the car, at church, etc. choose to think on these things or live in them. Paul calls his readers to essentially write these virtues into their lives by putting them into practice instead of worry and anxiety. There are so many things that can drag our minds and attitudes into dark places, but we cannot set our minds on those things, we must set our minds on God and trust that he can and will walk with us through our worry and anxiety, thus giving us the peace we long for.
Philippians 4: 10 - 13
As Paul concludes we need to be reminded again of the context of Paul’s situation in writing this letter. Paul is not vacationing on the beaches of Ostia near Rome, nor in a luxurious palace people waiting on his hand and feet, nor a comfortable home where he can relax and enjoy his time in Rome. No, Paul is writing from prison. He is in chains. His living situation is not the ideal setting for having a thankful or joyful attitude, but Paul again and again tells his readers to have joy and explains that he is filled with joy as well… regardless of his situation.
In fact, Paul says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Paul admits that contentment was not something that came naturally, he had to learn to be content. He had to learn because he knew what it meant to have much and to have little. He had to learn because he knew what it meant to be respected and honored and to be low and humiliated. He had to learn because he knew what it meant to have an abundance of food and to have nothing and face hunger. He tells the Philippians I have learned that in any situation “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” We have all heard this verse. It may be your favorite verse. You may tell yourself this before you do something that you are scared to do. You may tell yourself this to psyche yourself up before a sporting event, musical concert, a speak, a test, you name it. We need to look at this verse in context. This is not intended to be a kitschy wall plaque to hang in a locker room or in your front hall. Nor is it a saying intended to cause you to look deep inside yourself and gather the faith you need to accomplish a difficult task. Of course, this verse does imply that you can do whatever you want to do, if you just put your mind to it. It is a truth of contentment. Paul is saying that in plenty in want he can do what God is calling him to do. Whatever comes Paul’s way, he has the strength to meet it. I like how R. Kent Hughes writes, “If he is brought low, he is a man in Christ; if he abounds, he is a man in Christ. In any and every circumstance he is a man of Christ he is content regardless of the situation.” So, the verse taken in context would say that if you are following Jesus’ call in your life, you are serving him faithfully in these tasks that he has called you to do, then you certainly can trust and believe that whatever God calls you to do, you can do it through Christ who strengthens you.
Now, as we conclude this chapter and this series, we can sum both up in the following truths and applications in our lives.
Chapter 12 is another break in the Apocalypse. Before John writes about the remaining plagues in Ch. 16 he turns to explain the primary cause of the violence that is about to break upon the church. This is the classic conflict between God and Satan which reports of the persecution the church is about to experience. The symbolism is heavy, and John is encouraging the believers to hold fast in the coming tribulation.
The stage is set for the final confrontation in the chapters to come.
Verses 1 - 6
Vs 1 – 2: A woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars. We will start with determining who the woman is not… She is not Mary the mother of Jesus. She represents the true messianic community, or it would not be a long stretch to understand he as the church.
“Clothed in the sun” – The world may despise the true Israel, but from God’s vantage point she is a radiant bride.
“The moon beneath her feet” speaks of dominion.
“The crown of twelve stars” represents royalty.
The woman is about to give birth to a child and “crying out in birth pangs” and this shows us that she is the true Israel in her pre-Messianic pain and anticipation.
Vs. 3: Another sign, this time it is a red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven Crowns. There is no doubt as to who the dragon is as we see him named in vs. 9, He is Satan AKA the Devil. Mention of dragons in the OT was common. They often referred metaphorically to Israel’s enemies. Thus, the red dragon in this chapter would be insinuated as the archenemy of God and His people. Red symbolizes the lethal personality of Satan. The seven crowns represent his universal power (7 is the number of completeness). The crowns are Satan’s audacious claim of royal power over the Messiah.
Vs 4 - 5: The dragon stands ready before the woman, so when the child is born, he can devour it. He is determined to devour the child, so he waits for his victim to be born. This describes the vicious opposition the Christ child faced in the early years of his life. It stars with King Herod’s desire and plot to destroy the Messiah and climaxes at the crucifixion.
However, the child was born and caught up to heaven. The noteworthy theme is that Satan’s plans were thwarted because of Jesus’ ministry, his death at the cross of Calvary, and concluded by his ascension and exaltation.
Vs 6: The woman flees to the wilderness. Fleeing is something the Israelites have historically resorted to. The Israelites fled from the Egyptians, Elijah fled the pursuit of Jezebel, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt in response to Herod’s decree. However, the intent of verse 6 is not to so much the church fleeing as a way of God sustaining her. Instead, the wilderness is often symbol of God’s divine provision and fellowship. It was in the wilderness where God spoke to Israel, protected her, and provided for her. Thus, this verse is intended to promise those facing martyrdom that God has prepared a place for spiritual protection for them and he will empower them to stand fast against the devil.
Verses 7 – 12
Vs 7 – 8: A war arises in heaven between Michael the Archangel and his angels and Satan and his angels. This is an all-out attempt on Satan to regain his position in the presence of God. The end result is Satan is cast down. Apparently up until this time Satan, in some respect has access to heaven. His defeat now forfeits his ability to access heaven. It is noteworthy to mention that it is Michael who wars against Satan and not Jesus. Satan and his angels are cast down to earth
Vs. 9: The great dragon is now identified as the devil and Satan. The word satan was not originally a proper name. Satan is the Adversary, the accuser, and deceiver.
Vs 10: The voice crying from heaven is most likely the collective voices of the twenty-four elders. They proclaim victory!
Vs 11: Satan is defeated by the archangel Michael, but he is also conquered by the faithful believers as well. Their victory lies in the blood of the lamb.
Vs 12: The heavens rejoice because of the victory of Jesus, but it is also a cause for woe upon the earth and sea. Satan’s time is short between the time of his defeat in heaven and the time for his final judgment. It is during this short time that he will launch an earthly attack on the church and the persecution that is forthcoming.
About seven or eight years ago, I was in a men’s morning Bible study and prayer group. Weekly, we would meet and discuss a Bible passage or read a book together and then share our thoughts, struggles and insights with each other and then end with prayer.
One morning one of the guys said, “I think we should all run a 5k together.” He proceeded to give his reasons as to why he thought we should do it. He said, “it will be fun” … “it will build comradery” … “it will be healthy” … blah, blah, blah.
The other guys nodded their heads in agreement and I heartily shook my head NO! I said, “This all sounds great and all, but I am not a runner! I have never run more than one country block in the past 20 plus years and quite frankly, I don’t plan on starting… So, I am out.” The man responded, “Before you say no, I know of a realistic and attainable running program called ‘From the Couch to 5k’ that I think might work for you. Would you at least consider it?” I thought for a moment and agreed to consider it.
He gave me the outline and as I read it, I thought, hmm I can do this. Yes, it was going to be a challenge and a huge commitment on my part, but I agreed to do it. So, I contacted another friend who was one of the local high school football coaches and I asked if I could join him in his morning workouts at the school workout room. He agreed. I started the program and after the first day I thought I was going to die. But I committed to staying the course. I determined that instead of thinking negatively towards running, I was now going to embrace it. Yes, it was hard work. It was not fun. I could have thought of 195 things that I would rather do on any given morning at 6 am other than running.
I started by run/walking 1 mile, then 1.25, then 1.5 and so on… after 4 months I was running 3 miles every other day. As time passed running became easier AND I was enjoying it. This did not entail that it was easy… No, it was tiresome, it was exhausting, it took discipline. There were times I ran, and I would be halfway into my run and I wanted to quit, turn around and go home. But I kept pressing forward and enduring to completion.
Finally, I was ready. That following summer I ran four 5ks. It was an accomplishment I would never have achieved had I not endured hardship and press forward. Unfortunately, over the years I have stopped running. I don’t have a good excuse other than I don’t have time, but really it is not a great excuse. I know that if I started back up again it wouldn’t take much time to get back to running 3 to 3 ½ miles. Some days I think I should start back up but then the memories flood back and I let my attitude defeat me, because I know running is hard and I don’t like hard. I prefer easy. Sitting home on the couch is much easier for me than running. It is tiresome, sweaty and I get thirsty, but in the long run (pun intended) pressing forward and shooting for a goal is the right thing to do.
This leads us into today’s message in Philippians 3 where Paul talks about doing the hard things to attain the prize. He equates the Christian life to pressing forward (like running) so we may receive the prize which is the upward call of Jesus Christ.
Rejoice in the Lord
Philippians 3:1 - 9
Vs 1: “Finally…” Some Pastors and bible readers get a little chuckle out of teaching Paul’s opening statement in chapter 3. It is similar to the story where a little boy who is in church says to his father, “What does the preacher mean when he says ‘finally’? To which his father muttered, “Absolutely nothing.” This is true with the Apostle Paul concluding by saying, “finally” and then continuing to write for two more chapters… I know… typical pastor.
He encourages his readers once again to “rejoice in the Lord.” He mentions that he does not grow tired of telling the Philippians this because the Lord himself is both the point and source of joy. There is safety in rejoicing. The joy of the Lord will keep us safe and guarded when our spiritual foes try to take us down and destroy us.
Vs 2: Paul abruptly turns from calling for joy to the Philippians to issuing a warning to certain people, most likely Jewish Christians who insisted Gentile Christians should observe and submit to the Mosaic law, including circumcision. According to former Pastor and commentator R. Kent Hughes, “Paul here engages in searing rhetoric with three alliterated insults that all begin with the letter kappa (k): ‘Look out for dogs’ (kunas), ‘Look out for evil doers’ (kakous ergatos), ‘Look out for those who mutilate the flesh’ (katatome).” But what is more than the alliteration is the ironic sarcasm that is meant to be insults to the Judaizers.
He starts by calling them “dogs”. Ancient Israelites did not have pets. In fact, dogs were considered scavengers who ate garbage, carcasses, and were despised street animals. Dogs were images for what was unclean. To call a person a dog was neither a compliment nor flattery. He warns the Philippians to stay away from Judaizers because they were dogs. Yes, this was intended to be an insult to them.
Next, he calls them “evildoers”, and this is a retort on the Judaizers because they claim to keep the law and thus do what is right in God’s eyes. Paul was literally saying they were not righteous, instead they were evildoers. The reality is that instead of their legalistic demands to keeping the law to make them more righteous, they were driving themselves away from righteousness
Lastly, he calls them mutilators of the flesh. This is a sarcastic wordplay on circumcision. For the Jew circumcision was the greatest source of pride and Paul is saying their circumcision is a mutilation of the flesh, thus showing them that they have no part in God’s people.
Vs 3: “For we are the real circumcision” Paul declares that those who worship by the Spirit of God are the true circumcised. He says those who rely on their circumcision for their righteousness are putting their confidence in the flesh and not in Jesus. If your boast is in Christ, your confidence cannot be in yourself. The Christian has no room to boast in his works of the flesh.
Vs 4 – 6: Paul now says that if our boast is in the works of the flesh then he has every reason to boast. He was…
Vs 7 – 9: “Whatever gain I had…” It did not matter what Paul thought he had gained from all of his righteousness because it was counted as loss. In fact, Paul counts everything that he considered useful and productive as rubbish, dung, or excrement. Everything he thought (before meeting Christ) that was drawing him closer to God was in fact keeping or pushing him from Christ.
In Paul’s economy everything was considered loss because in comparison to what he received from Christ; all of his human accomplishments were added up to a dung heap. However, his relationship with Christ was the greater investment. In reality there was no loss on Paul’s part. Everything he accomplished equaled nothing, and you cannot lose more than nothing. You can only gain when you have nothing at all. Paul’s gain was Christ and his righteousness. Paul went from giving up all HIS accomplishments (works and pride of the flesh) in exchange for righteousness from God that depends on faith.
Philippians 3:10 - 21
Vs 10 – 11: In gaining righteousness Paul’s desire is to know Jesus more and to know him in such a way that his life that would be identified with the Christ and that it would be radiated through his life. His desire is to…
Vs 12 – 21: Paul continues in humility to share that he is far from reaching the place he desires to be as a Christian. He admits he has not obtained the relationship he desires with Christ. He longed to know his savior more, and he longed to grow in Him. What we see in the first part of vs 12 is a type of holy discontent. Paul is not satisfied, he wants to know Jesus more and more, and this translates to a good thing. Paul’s holy discontent shows us that he has an active faith that is continually growing, and this is a blessing.
He then equates his journey to straining forward and pressing on toward the goal of the prize. He is not focusing on his past accomplishments. No, his journey is a forward moving journey like a marathon or race. He is so focused on the prize which is knowing Christ fully and experiencing perfect fellowship with him that no matter how difficult, exhausting, or tiresome this race is, he will keep pressing forward.
Vs 17: Paul invites his readers to join in imitating him by doing what he is doing. He is calling them to discipleship by saying, “Come, join me as we press on together in pursuing Christ.” Unfortunately, there are some who has taken the path of walking as enemies of Christ. They found the race is not worth running. They have chosen to invest in worldly affairs which leads to destruction and shame. But to those who pursue Jesus, we are citizens of heaven and we wait patiently for the day that we will become like Christ and we are transformed to our glorious bodies by the power of the Spirit.
So, FINALLY my dear friends how can we apply all this to us today individually and as a family of God? We can look at what I have just talked about and apply these three thoughts…
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I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.