Monday, July 29, 2013

Leading a Rebellion: Jesus Turned People Away on Purpose

Leading a Rebellion: Jesus Turned People Away on Purpose
Luke 14:25-33; John 6:1-69

Rebel: Anyone who goes against authority, control, or tradition.

Intro: John F. Kennedy announced he was running for president on January 2, 1960 just eleven months before the general election where he defeated Richard Nixon. In that time he had to first win the democratic primary before his name would even be on the November ballot. Officially Barak Obama announced he was running for president on February 10, 2007, 23 months before the general election. Unofficially it is suggested that he began his candidacy in 2006, or even in 2004 when he gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention that gave him national attention.
            It’s a disturbing trend that the national elections are beginning earlier and earlier each election year. When the campaigns last longer, they cost more, have less productive things to talk about, and ultimately resort to tearing down their opponent. But even worse than that is the constituents, you and me, have to watch and listen to commercial after commercial of mindless political advertisements.
            What is a political campaign, with its commercials, public speeches, debates, and photo opportunities designed to do? They are designed to either make Candidate A look good and desirable as an elected official and thereby garner your vote, or to make Candidate B look bad and undesirable as an elected official and thereby garner your vote.

Youversion Poll Question: If you didn’t know anything about a politician’s views, which of these would you say is most important?
A: Appearance
B: Smile
C: Good Sense of Humor
D: Their ability to “Work” a crowd

How did Jesus work a crowd?

The Rebellion: Jesus rebelled against the culture because whether you believe Jesus was reforming Judaism or starting what came to be known as Christianity, He didn’t do it the way you and I would have done it. Every time a large crowd gathered around Jesus, He spoke in difficult to understand parables and them to do extremely difficult and painful things. In short every time a large crowd gathered around Jesus, He turned them away on purpose.
            Imagine if you will, Mitt Romney or Barak Obama in front of 10,000 people and saying something like “You must hate your mom, dad, sisters, brothers, and your own children before you can vote for me. Get yourself an electric chair, plug yourself into it everyday and then vote for me. If you’re not willing to do that, go find another candidate.” That would be ridiculous, right? Politicians are always making their path the easier, and pain free choice.

Scripture: We have two passages of scripture tonight that illustrate clearly Jesus insisting that His followers take the harder and more painful path in life, turning people away by the thousands in the process.
Luke 14:25-33: Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

            The first verse says there were great crowds following Him, so He turned and said some of the harshest words in all of scripture. The cost of discipleship that Jesus is laying out for His followers is not the cost of discipleship that some “ear-pleasing” American preachers are laying out for you today. In fact much of what they’re saying is the exact opposite of what Jesus said.
            Not only did Jesus demand that His followers do extremely hard things, He also spoke in confusing and downright disgusting parables and illustrations.
            In the next passage Jesus feeds 5,000 men plus women and children, and seeing that the people were going to force Him to be their king He departed alone up a mountain. His disciples got in a boat and crossed over to Capernaum by themselves. Jesus walked on water, met His disciples in the middle of the sea, and when they received Him into the boat, they immediately came to their destination. While in Capernaum they were greeted by a multitude of people who had just been miraculously fed and also crossed over the sea. Jesus knew that the people weren’t interested in following Him with His high cost of discipleship, they were interested in what they thought was their meal ticket. The people seeing Jesus, and knowing He didn’t get in the disciple’s boat were confused. They asked a legitimate question, “Rabbi, how did you get here?” Jesus, never one to satisfy mere curiosity answered this way:
John 6:26-69: Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread[a] the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus[b] said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
The Words of Eternal Life
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Application: How many of you are afraid of a challenge? How many of you when faced with a difficult challenge get excited and pumped up rather than shrink back in fear? Being a real Christian is not easy. You will be made fun of. It will cost you friendships, maybe jobs, pay raises, freedom, maybe the creature comforts of living in the 1st world, and perhaps it could cost you your life.
            When Jesus said take up your cross daily and follow me, He meant your life as you know it is now over. If He is your Lord, you have to do what He tells you to do. Most of us are cool with Him being our savior but we don’t like being told to do things that make us feel uncomfortable. We don’t like the “Lord” thing. When I baptize people I say, “Dead in Christ, buried (dunk ‘em in the water), raised to live a new life.” But that new life is not yours to live—it’s Christ’s.
            If you’re going to be a Christian, you’ll be challenged to do uncomfortable things on a regular basis. All week during VBS the kids were invited to take part in the “Strong Man Challenge”. It takes a strong man or woman to share their faith and do uncomfortable things for God. My “Strong Man Challenge” for you is to do something uncomfortable for God and then come back and tell us about it. It’s time to put on your Big Boy and Big Girl pants and do something for God. Some examples for you: Fast (food, electronics, cell phone), pray for an extended amount of time, share your faith, buy a pack of tracts and pass them all out, buy a homeless person a meal, read straight through one of the gospels, invite a friend to our youth VBS next week….          

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Leading a Rebellion: Jesus the Story Teller

Leading a Rebellion:
Jesus Told Stories Making the Bad Guys Look Good and the Good Guys Look Bad
Luke 10:25-37; 20:9-19

Rebel: Anyone who goes against authority, control, or tradition.

Intro: Who is the best story teller you know? Some people are really good at telling funny stories, like Bill Cosby or Jerry Clower. They can take an average situation, turn it into a 15 minute story, and have you crying because you’re laughing so hard. Other people can tell stories that can just pull on your heart strings and make you so sad you start to cry.Rebekah, Caleb, and I went to the grand opening of a library in Pensacola, mainly because I heard that they had cake there, but we heard a woman who was really good at telling children stories about a spider. There is definitely an art to storytelling.

The Rebellion:
            Jesus often spoke to the crowds, and taught the crowds through parables, or what we would call “stories.” He did this for several reasons. Sometimes He spoke in parables to confuse people on purpose. This is a different topic for a different day, but look at the things Jesus said when the crowds were the largest. That’s when He said some of His weirdest stuff. Sometimes He spoke in parables because it’s an easy way to remember what’s been taught. And still other times He spoke in parables because it was His way of making deep theological issues understandable by everyone. One aspect of the genius of Einstein is he was known to be able to explain extremely difficult issues of physics and make it easy enough for a sixth grader to understand.
            But tonight we are going to look at how Jesus rebelled by telling stories that made the bad guys look good and the good guys look bad, and this really ticked off a lot of people.
            Let’s look at our first passage of scripture tonight.

Luke 10:25-37: And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

            Many of us have heard that story before. A man is beaten and robbed, and a priest and a Levite, the part of the Israelite family where the priests come from, both avoided even coming in contact with the man. But who should help him? The good Samaritan. Why is this shocking? Because Samaritans weren’t good—they were hated. There were three types of people in the Biblical world: Jews, Gentiles (Non-Jews), and the Samaritans (which were a mix between Jews and Gentiles). The Jews hated the Gentiles, the Gentiles hated the Jews, and both hated the Samaritans. Samaritans were never seen as good people. Priests and Levites were good people. Jesus just told a story that made the evil villain out to be Mother Theresa, and the saintly people out to be terrible people. This was not a tactic from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. He was irritating and alienating the most powerful people in Jerusalem.
            But it got worse…or better depending on your perspective. Jesus spent the last week of His life teaching in the temple. He answered questions from the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees throughout the week. On one particular day, the chief priest, scribes, and elders got together to question Jesus on whose authority He was preaching and teaching. After frustrating their efforts, He told them the parable of the wicked vine dressers.

Luke 20:9-19 And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. 10 When the time came, he sent a servant[a] to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. 13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” 17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone’?
18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
19 The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.

            This parable was a story about Jesus and the religious leaders of the day, and they knew it. It made them angry. Angry enough to do the exact thing that Jesus said they would do in the parable. They killed Him.

Application: Jesus did a lot of things differently than we would have, or anyone else would have for that matter. He was a rebel. We think of rebels as people who enjoy doing bad things like drinking, smoking, sex outside of marriage, drugs. Jesus rebelled by doing the good things we should have been doing, being nice to people that society would deem unworthy to be nice to, and by looking past the false exterior these religious leaders had put up just so people would honor them—Jesus didn’t honor that.
            You can be a rebel, too. Who is the rest of society flocking to as some great person only because he has money, a particular skill set like playing music, or athletics, maybe they’re in a position of power, but past that front they are not worthy to be honored? Some politicians have highly esteemed positions of power, but are not necessarily worthy of honor. If Jesus came to Washington D.C., do you think He would be impressed with all of the power and influence there?
            And then there are the people that are easy to disrespect. Homeless people, drug addicts, alcoholics, inmates…Jesus spent time with them, which was the biggest sign of honor in Jesus’ time.
            So how can you be a rebel like Jesus? Look past the fluff and non-sense of the false selfs people put up. Respect people for who they are, a person created by God, no better and no worse than anyone else. Show compassion for the poor and beaten down.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The People Nobody Talks About

The People Nobody Talks About
John 13:36-37; John 19:1-16; Luke 9:18-20

            We like to put people into categories: Black-White; Republican-Democrat; Men-Women; Rich-Poor; Smart-Dumb. Sometimes we like to put ourselves into categories. “I’m Irish so I …” “I’m Catholic so I…” “I’m a Gators fan so I…”
            When we tell Bible stories, or talk about Jesus we tend to talk and think about two categories of people. We think about Jesus’s disciples and His followers.
John 13:36-37 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
            And we also think about the religious leaders of the day, who were extremely focused on destroying Jesus, His ministry, and all of His followers.
John 19:1-16 Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
            12 From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13 So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.
            But there is a third group of people that nobody talks about. I don’t even have a scripture passage to reference, because nobody ever talks about them. There is a passage in Luke 9 where Jesus had just fed five thousand men plus women and children. As they were gathered together in groups eating, Jesus asked His disciples a quick poll question: “Who do these people say that I am?” There is a lot more unpacking we could do with this question, but the fact that Jesus had drawn together such a vast group of people who didn’t even really know who they were gathering around says something.
Luke 9:18-20 “Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” 20 Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”
            The general consensus was that Jesus was JBAP, Elijah, or one of the prophets.
            So let’s get on with it. Who do you think the third group is that nobody talks about? I’ll give you a hint: The three groups still exist today exactly as they did 2,000 years ago.
            Who can tell me what the Bell Curve is? In a scientific poll you will find about 10-15% of the population on one end of the spectrum, about 10-15% on the opposite side, and the remaining 70-80% in the middle somewhere. 10% of students at high school will get A’s. 10% will get F’s. And 80% will get something in between. If you go out into public and took a huge sample of people you will find about 10-15% of people are passionate about God, another 10-15% passionately hate God, and even pretend in their minds that He doesn’t exist. And then you’ll find the remaining 70-80% that are somewhere in between. They may know who Jesus was, or that He even died on the cross for their sins, but it really doesn’t make a difference in their lives.
            Let’s look at another example, how many of you know that the Tour de France is going on right now? How many of you are passionate bicycle race enthusiasts? How many of you passionately hate bicycle races, to the point where you want to stop all of them from even existing? How many of you all could not care less about bicycle races in general and the Tour de France specifically?
            That’s the same way with Jesus now and 2,000 years ago. Some are passionate followers willing to lay down their life. Others passionately hate him willing to stake their soul on it. And the majority of the people don’t care, or at least don’t care enough to make up their minds, or change the way they’re living.
            What happens to people when they die who passionately follow Christ? They go to Heaven, and that makes sense. What happens to people when they die who passionately do everything they can do to destroy Christ’s ministry? They go to hell, and that makes sense. What happens to people when they die who never really make up their minds one way or the other? They go to hell, too. And that confuses people.
            The problem is we view life like a trip to a nice restaurant. At the end of the meal we can choose to eat dessert if we want to, and in this analogy that would be like going to Heaven when we die. But others choose not to eat dessert, and we view that as “Okay, it was still a nice meal. Let’s go home and watch a movie.” But that’s not what it’s like. We can choose to go to Heaven and be assured of that, but if we choose not to go to Heaven we are choosing to go to hell, where God’s wrath will be poured out on us for all of eternity. The problem is that even when we choose not to decide we still have made a choice.
            A better analogy would be we are all at a fancy restaurant, but we have no idea when they close. Some will eat their meals first and decide to have dessert only after the waiter pushes the dessert cart around. Others will say, “I don’t wanna miss out on the good stuff. Bring me the ‘Death by Chocolate’ now and if I have time I’ll have the T-bone steak.” Some will order their food, tell the waiter they don’t believe in desserts, and make fun of the people who are eating them. And finally there are people who will eat their meals, but the restaurant will close before they have a chance to order dessert.
            None of us know how much time we have on this planet. Jesus could come back before the end of this sentence. Our hearts could explode. We could die in a car wreck on the way home. We don’t know. We need to make a decision to follow Christ while we still have time, because deciding against following, and deciding not to decide right now, could cost you everything.