Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Leading a Rebellion: The Thief on the Cross

Leading a Rebellion: The Thief on the Cross

-A rebel is a person who resists any authority, control, or tradition.

The Story So Far: Most of what we’re going to be talking about involves the 12 hours leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. I want to set the scene a little bit before we get into our rebel for the evening.
-Mark 14:32-42 Jesus is under serious distress and takes His three best friends and asks them to go off into the woods a little bit and pray for Him, as He goes a little further into the woods. Three times He came back to find them sleeping.
-Mark 14:43-52 Jesus was betrayed by one of His twelve disciples, He was arrested, and watched all of His closest friends run away and abandon Him at His greatest hour of need, including the author of the Gospel of Mark, who when grab by his clothes fled away naked into the town.
-Mark 14:66-72 One of Jesus’ closest friends, Peter, denied three times to a slave girl, the lowest of the low on the social totem pole, that he even knew Jesus.
-Mark 15:16-20 The roman soldiers mocked Christ.
-Matthew 27:39-44 Everyone who passed by mocked Jesus. The religious leaders mocked Jesus. The thief crucified next to Him mocked Jesus.
-The only people standing there watching Him that were not mocking and insulting Jesus was three different Marys, and the apostle John. Everyone else had abandoned Him or was mocking Him.
-We also need to understand that the Roman Empire crucified people to make a point. When they crucified people it was in a very public place, and the person being crucified was naked. Imagine being nailed up on two beams of wood, naked as the day you were born, in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  
-Psalm 22 was written by David several hundred years before Christ was even born, but describes perfectly what Jesus suffered through on the cross. We could talk extensively about this Psalm but tonight we’re just going to focus on the scene and not what He went through.

Psalm 22:6-8 But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;

    they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
12-13 Many bulls encompass me;
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,

    like a ravening and roaring lion.
16-21 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet[b]
17 I can count all my bones—

they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.
19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
    O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,

    my precious life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued[c] me from the horns of the wild oxen!
The Rebellion: Now that we understand the scene a little bit better, and we can grasp just how popular of a guy Jesus was on that particular day, we can get into the rebellion.
-It was at the height of the hatred towards Jesus that one man, an unlikely hero of the story spoke up and defended the condemned Christ.
-Have you ever found yourself in a situation where everyone is ripping on someone? Picking on a defenseless kid, or the outcast for no reason at all? Everyone is piling on that person, the most one-sided mob scene ever? This type of behavior is not uncommon in school. Have you ever stood up and defended the person? Have you ever thought, “Hey, this isn’t right. I should say or do something,” but then you don’t do anything. Just sit there and watch a helpless person get humiliated.
-Also being crucified that day were at least two other people.

Luke 23:39-43 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,[a] saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
-One of the two criminals joined in the mocking and said, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us?” At best he was only interested in saving his skin. At worst, he was piling on and joining in on the mocking.
-But the second one, knowing that there was no one else jumping in to stop the mocking of Jesus, knowing that he was the only one with the guts to say anything said, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
-Have you ever thought about this thief’s life? Who was he? What did he do? What was his purpose in life? We can look at JBAP and say his purpose in life was to prepare the way of the Lord. We can look at Paul and say his purpose was to reach the gentile world for Christ. We could even say that the purpose of Judas’s life was to betray Jesus. Was this thief’s purpose in life to repent, and receive salvation, verified by Jesus Himself, at the very end of his life to establish the validity of deathbed conversions?
-Many people receive Christ on their deathbed. It is the first time that the ever really looked death in the face and had to actually consider the claims of Christ. If the thief on the cross didn’t ask for and receive salvation then it would leave the door wide open for all kinds of questions like: “How could he be saved if he didn’t get baptized?” or “How could he be saved if we never saw the fruits of his salvation?”
            -Nope. This cat died without getting baptized, and without doing any good deeds upon salvation, and Jesus still said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Application: There’s a real temptation to say, “Hey I’m young. I have my whole life ahead of me. I can live the way I want and get saved right before I die.” The problem is we’re not guaranteed another week, day, or even another breath. Christ could return in the snap of a finger. You could die on the way home tonight. We don’t know.
-A few years ago, we had a young man stay with us at the Cold Weather Shelter named Tommy. He stayed with us a lot. He used to use my phone in my office. Pastor Brian used to give him rides to work. We used to help him get warm clothes that would fit him, because he was a bigger guy. We even offered to help him get into a very effective center to help him get off of alcohol. Brian shared the gospel with him, and asked him several times over the weeks that we knew him if he was ready to accept Christ. He kept saying no because he was a young man, only in his 20’s, and would accept Christ when he was older and done having fun. A few weeks after the shelter was closed we got a report that a body washed ashore behind Crabs on Pensacola Beach. It was Tommy. We can only hope that in the last few moments of his life that he accepted Christ, but with the alcohol coursing through his veins, the chances of that are slim.
-You can’t wait to accept Christ. You may never get another chance.
-If there is anyone here who knows that if they died tonight that they would go to hell, please come and see me.    

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Review of What Matters Most

A Review of What Matters Most by Leonard Sweet
By Adam Koppin

            What Matters Most: How We Got The Point But Missed The Person, previously released as Out of the Question… Into the Mystery, is a scholarly work by Dr. Leonard Sweet. Sweet is the founder of SpiritVenture Ministries, a professor of Drew University, a visiting professor at George Fox University, and as the reader will find out through reading, he has, and had his finger in several other pies.
            The book is 199 pages long, 12 pages of chapter-divided “Questions for Personal Contemplation and Shared Conversation,” and several pages of endnotes. Many people dismiss the number of endnotes as evidence of the scholar’s research, but it is something I look for in a work. The author clearly has done a lot of research, and has a wealth of knowledge, that he put into this book.
            What Matters Most focuses on the Christian’s relationship with others and the world around him, so it has that awkward feel of a cross between a devotional read, and scholarly effort. I would have a hard time finding a lay Christian reading this as a devotional, it is more of a scholarly read for vocational ministers and pastors. There were a lot of passages that really made me stop, and reconsider how I have been reading scripture. Sweet asks a lot of thought provoking questions, and fills the pages with anecdotal evidence and quotes. This is what I really appreciated about the book.
            What I didn’t like about the book is that I kept having to ask myself, “What’s the point?” At times I had trouble finding the connection points between anecdotes, passages, chapters, and sections.
            The book is divided into eight sections. The first sections describes that faith is a relationship, and each section after that breaks down our relationship with God, God’s story, other people of faith, those outside of the faith, God’s creation, symbols, and spiritual world. Personally, I turned off when I got to our relationship with God’s creation as I felt it got a little “green.” But again Sweet has the ability to ask questions that really makes you think. For instance, “Why do we have more of a problem with people worshiping trees, than we do when people worship money, titles, and possessions?” That’s a good question, but my answer would be, “Because they are actually worshiping that tree.”
            The book has a lot of redemptive qualities, but on the whole, I won’t read it all the way through again, and probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone either.
                I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Leading a Rebellion: Zacchaeus

Leading a Rebellion: Zacchaeus
Luke 19:1-10

Rebel: Anyone who resists control, authority, or tradition.

-In Acts 2:37-38, the audience listening to the first Christian sermon were shaken to their core, and asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter responded, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
            -Repentance: To feel such regret for past conduct as to change one's mind regarding it; To make a change for the better as a result of remorse or contrition for one's sins.
            -What if you committed a crime and got away with it? Should you turn yourself in to the authorities?

            “January 19, 2004—the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s office received a tragic call: a mother, Renee Coulter, had discovered her 19-year-old daughter, Ashley Wilson, dead in her apartment. A pillow case was over her head, and the cord from her high school graduation gown was wrapped around her neck. It looked as though she’d hanged herself.
            We received a call to investigate a death. This one looked very cut and dry because of the way the whole situation played out The evidence in the apartment suggested that there had been a suicide—the way the body was positioned, the door being locked from the inside, and a note suggesting suicide.
            All the evidence pointed to suicide. A letter was found that could be interpreted as a suicide note. ‘While it didn’t actually say she was going to kill herself, it did state that she was extremely depressed because she was pregnant and the person she was pregnant by was not going to be there for her to raise the child.
            March 2004—Less than six weeks after Ashley’s death, The Passion of the Christ came to Richmond, a small town outside of Houston. Like most other locations around the country, the theaters were packed as a result of all the buzz about the film. A young man bought a ticket and went into the theater for an experience that would change his life forever. Shortly thereafter, that man walked into the Fort Bend County sheriff’s office and turned himself in for the murder of Ashley Wilson. The police were perplexed. That case was closed. Her death was a suicide. There was no murderer. Dan Leach convinced them otherwise.
            Sheriff Wright: When he came in, he was very, very cooperative and gave us explicit details of how he had planned the murder committed it, and the things he had done nobody else could have known because the information was not public knowledge. He had to have been there because he had knowledge of what had gone on during the murder.
            The authorities were stunned. What makes this case most peculiar is the fact that this person had already gotten away with it, but he could not live with his conscience. Just a couple of days after [committing the crime], his conscience began to eat at him and eat at him and eat at him. He became very ashamed, very disgusted with himself over the crime. He needed to tell someone; he needed to get back in God’s grace. He wanted to do that, but he really didn’t know how.
            Dan struggled for about six weeks after the alleged crime. Then he went down by the river and prayed to God for an answer He was torn; he already had gotten away with it and he wanted to get right with God. At that point in time, he felt that God spoke to him and told him: “Go confess.”
            It was in the midst of making the decision to confess his crime that Dan went to see The Passion of the Christ. There was no turning back. Experiencing the killing of an innocent man was more than he could take. Seeing the thief on the cross being executed, and knowing that he was going to be with Jesus in eternity, no doubt spoke directly to Leach’s equally dire circumstances. He was compelled to come clean on the heinous crime he had committed—knowing full well that in Texas, they kill you for crimes like that. When asked why he came forward now, Dan said that The Passion of the Christ had moved him spiritually.
            On August 11, 2004, Dan Leach’s trial began. Leach changed his plea to “guilty,” stating, “I assume full responsibility for my actions.” Leach wept and displayed a tremendous sense of remorse in the courtroom as the jury was to shortly determine his fate. He told his attorney, “It doesn’t matter what they give me.” Attorney Gonzalez told me, “He has more faith and courage than I do.” Two days later the jury pronounced the sentence: 75 years. Twenty-one-year-old Leach will not be eligible for parole until 2041, when at least half of the sentence has been served. “Dan Leach got away with a perfect crime,” said Attorney Gonzalez. “He got away with it, but he could not live with the fact that he took a human life.” God had changed a murderer’s heart.” (http://www.cbn.com/entertainment/screen/Passion_eldred_texaspassion.aspx)

The Rebel: Zacchaeus
            -Sing the “Zacchaeus Song”
-It’s troubling that Zacchaeus was a wonderful godly man, a biblical example of repentance and recompence, and the only thing 99% of all Christians know about him was that he “was a wee little man.”

The Rebellion: Luke 19:1-10
He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

-There are at least four rebellions in this passage. The first is that people like Zacchaeus, people with money, power, and influence generally weren’t as interested in seeing Jesus as Zacchaeus seemed to be. Secondly, men in that culture, especially rich and powerful men did not climb trees, even more especially to see a religious man walk by. Third, Zacchaeus was a Jew, taxing other Jews for the hated, occupying Roman army.
-But we’re focusing on the fourth act of rebellion.
-Zacchaeus was a tax collector. Tax collectors purchased their job, much like a franchise owner purchases the right to own a hamburger chain. Tony Pietsch, purchased the right to sell Firehouse Subs in the Milton, Pace, and Pensacola area. The way the tax collector made money was that Rome demanded a certain amount of money from each village, but anything above and beyond that which a collector could get, was profit.
-Zacchaeus acknowledged that he did wrong. Taking more money than was necessary, or even worse, more money than the people could afford to pay. He vowed not to do that anymore. That’s repentance. Then he vowed to restore any money wrongfully gained four times what he originally took. That’s recompense. Making what you did wrong right.
-Paul wrote about the difference between Godly Sorrow and Worldly Sorrow in 2nd Corinthians 7:10. Basically, Godly sorrow leads to repentance, which leads to a changed life, which leads to making things right with the people you have wronged. Worldly sorrow can be defined as, “Oh crap! I got caught.”
-The man in Texas knew that he would either get life in prison or the death sentence if he turned himself in. Did he have Godly sorrow or worldly sorrow?
-Zacchaeus was just doing what every other tax collector had ever done, but when he met Jesus, he repented and made recompense. Did he have Godly sorrow or worldly sorrow?
            -Jesus answered that question by saying, “Today salvation has come to this house.”
-What about you? Do you generally have Godly sorrow? Or do you generally just feel bad you got caught?
-Maybe you have never known God, or paid much attention to this Jesus guy. Or maybe you feel like you used to be close to God but now there is a big chasm between you and Him. If you’re saying to yourself, “I don’t know God, but I would like to,” or maybe, “I used to feel close to God, but not anymore,” I will tell you the same thing Peter told the people at Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized.” Repent and then make recompense. Change your life and then make things right.