Sunday Main 09-16-12



Freed to Love IX.mp3

 Stir it up! – PDF

 Key Texts: Deut. 30:6; II Thess. 3:5


This week we began with a brief review of our key passages in Deut. 30:6 & II Thess. 3:5.

Then we began looking at the second and third expressions of love in our list of ways in which we are “Freed to Love” – namely…

  1. Stop wallowing in self-oriented story and accept the story He had written for you beginning with His agape’ love for you.
  2. Living for our brothers and sisters
  3. Forgiving

To begin our study on this topic we spent the bulk of our time in Matthew 18:1-15. The entire thing is dealing with restoration, forgiveness and not being an offense (a cause for stumbling into sin) to your brother.

The Beatitudes:

Before we continue I must encourage those who think that Jesus’ ministry was about the law.

While it is true that Jesus was born under the law to save those under the law… to do so He could not teach law apart from union with God or the Spirit – Gal. 4:4,5 & Rom. 7:6.

“But seeing that we have died to that which once held us in bondage, the Law has now no hold over us, so that we render a service which, instead of being old and formal, is new and spiritual.”~ Rom. 7:6

In what way is it new and spiritual?

Is it an entirely new set of standards for righteousness?

Is what was wrong now right and what was right now wrong?

No, the fruits of righteousness are the same as they ever were. Paul affirms that the law’s requirements were righteous. Those requirements are just that – REQUIREMENTS! The only difference is that now they are fulfilled IN us rather than expected out of us as an effort of our fallen flesh. We produce fruits of righteousness through our union with Him. No – the requirement has NEVER changed, just the way it is realized!

That such was the teachings of Christ is obvious. The beatitudes (Matt. 5) alone show His teaching to include not the strictness of the letter but the heart of the spirit in understanding the precepts of the law.

For an example lets just look at verses 43-45. If Jesus were JUST teaching the law He would have affirmed what God required in Lev. 19:18,

“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” ~ Lev. 19:18

Jesus however, did not end here. Jesus went on to refute a man made law of the religious class and affirm the spirit of what this command had meant all along.

Let;s look at the verse in question,

“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” ~ Matt. 5:43-45

The Rabbis had added a “fence law” phrase to God’s command that one should equally hate their enemy as love their brother. A “fence law” (Gezerah גֵּזָרה) was a law which created a boundary around God’s law so that if you did not cross this superficial man-made boundary you would never inadvertently cross God’s law. Though the intent was undoubtedly good, it had a corrupting effect on the heart of God’s intent behind the law.

Another example of this is God’s command that mankind was not to be employed in any labor on the Sabbath day (Ex. 20:10), but the Rabbinical “fence law” said that you should avoid even handling work tools (like a hammer) on the Sabbath. These fence laws were also referred to as “the traditions of men” by Jesus in His ministry and He often contended with those laws.

This example in Matthew 5:43-45 is a direct example of such a contention,

“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. ~ Matt. 5:43-45

 You see how Jesus…

  • took the straight forward command of God in the law (Green bold)
  • removed from it the man made additions (Green underlined)
  • revealed the heart of God in the command so that they could see the spirit led Kingdom principle it had been teaching all along. (Red)

Paul himself said that by the doing of the law no flesh could be saved. So it would be illogical to assume that Jesus would attempt to accomplish the impossible of saving the lost through teaching the law. Jesus taught the kingdom of God – Luke 8:1. This is not to say that the law and the principles of the kingdom are at odds. On the contrary, they say the same things! It is not the “what” of the law that was ineffective, it was the “how” of the law that was out of step with God’s kingdom. In the kingdom everything flows from unity with God and reveals His true character. We are branches, He is our vine (a kingdom teaching of Jesus’ ministry Jn.14 & 15).

You can see how Jesus explained the full understanding of the command in Lev. 19:18 by revealing the heart of God towards His creation who is at enmity towards Him. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

I only address this issue for the benefit of those who believe that Jesus’ teachings are not to govern us as New Covenant believers because His teachings were of the law. Any clear reading of the New Testament (both Gospels and the letters) make it clear that Jesus was preaching and teaching the kingdom and that as such EVERY SINGLE WORD APPLIES TO US IN EVERY WAY!

The divisions of the 18th chapter of Matthew are as follows:

Matt. 18:1-5      Jesus offers a brief encouragement towards humility before talking about sin, offenses and forgiveness (sounds strategic right?).

  • Here we pointed out that simple obedience  to His voice birthed out of trust in His person, is what makes one like a child – both humble and greatest in the Kingdom.
  • It is here that Jesus first introduces the understanding that to reject or offend one who has entered into relational trust with Him is to reject and offend Him.
    • This truth should not be seen simply as an expression of His love for us, but more organically as an expression of how we are now found IN Him and so therefore to be at odds with any part of His body is to be at odds with the head of that body. In other words, this truth in its proper context in the body of this teaching, is better understood of our oneness with and in Him (making Him the focus of the offense) rather than on His provisional, caring and defensive love for us. While the later is true, it is not in keeping with the focus and direction of the text to make that the purpose for the instruction.

Matt. 18:6-10    Warning to those who would offend (be a cause of stumbling into sin)

  • This outlines the importance loving your brother and living a life-style which constrains (II Cor. 5:14) its personal freedoms for the benefit of our brother for Christ’s sake.

“For not one of us lives to himself, and not one dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord: if we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this was the purpose of Christ’s dying and coming to life–namely that He might be Lord both of the dead and the living. But you, why do you find fault with your brother? Or you, why do you look down upon your brother? We shall all stand before God to be judged; for it is written, “‘AS I LIVE,’ says the Lord, ‘TO ME EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL MAKE CONFESSION TO GOD.'” So we see that every one of us will give account of himself to God. Therefore let us no longer judge one another; but, instead of that, you should come to this judgement–that we must not put a stumbling-block in our brother’s path, nor anything to trip him up. As one who lives in union with the Lord Jesus, I know and am certain that in its own nature no food is ‘impure’; but if people regard any food as impure, to them it is. If your brother is pained by the food you are eating, your conduct is no longer controlled by love. Take care lest, by the food you eat, you lead to ruin a man for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let the boon which is yours in common be exposed to reproach. For the Kingdom of God does not consist of eating and drinking, but of right conduct, peace and joy, through the Holy Spirit; and whoever in this way devotedly serves Christ, God takes pleasure in him, and men highly commend him. Therefore let us aim at whatever makes for peace and mutual upbuilding of character. Do not for food’s sake be throwing down God’s work. All food is pure; but a man is in the wrong if his food is a snare to others. The right course is to forego eating meat or drinking wine or doing anything that tends to your brother’s fall.” ~ Rom 14:7-21

Matt. 18:11-14 Jesus describes the preciousness of each of His lambs and His pursuit of them when they wander due to offense.

  •  If Jesus pursues the lambs who are offended, be certain that He will equally chastise the one who caused the offense in order that He may say him as well.

Matt. 18:15-      We simply began reading this section to wet out appetite for next Sunday. But this explains who is responsible for going to who.

  •  The only point we mentioned here is that God is looking to the offended party to seek restoration with their brother NOT the one who committed the offense.
    • By way of speculation we offered a reason why God would place the burden of reconciliation upon the wounded instead of the one who inflicted the wound. We believe a primary reason for this is that the wounded has a broken heart and is open and vulnerable. God is close tot eh broken heart and such have not yet become hardened through self-defense. The one who callously inflicts a wound upon their brother is already less sensitive to God than the one who was wounded. God already does not have this ones ear or they would have immediately sensed the infraction and sought restitution with their brother.
    • We offered the example of divorce as a case in point. Consider the following dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees and determine whose heart Jesus was calling hard.

“Some Pharisees approached Him to test Him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He replied to them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses permitted us to write divorce papers and send her away.” But Jesus told them, “He wrote this commandment for you because of the hardness of your hearts. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife,] and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate.” ~ Mark 10:2-9

 What old testament verse being referenced here? The answer is Deut. 24:1,

“If a man marries a woman, but she becomes displeasing to him because he finds something improper about her, he may write her a divorce certificate, hand it to her, and send her away from his house.” ~ Deut. 24:1

Let’s consider several things here:

  1. The pharisees did not answer Jesus’ question. Jesus asked, “What did Moses COMMAND you.” They answered, “Moses PERMITTED us….”.
  2. Jesus realized that Moses had been given authority from God to govern Israel which is realized in the word Jesus used for this “permission”. It was the word, Entolē  (εντολή) and means a command which stresses the authority of the one who gave it. This command found its origin in Moses NOT God.
  3. Jesus made this further evident drawing a very strong line between what Moses allowed and what God intended from the begining, ‘But from the beginning of creation God made…” This was a VERY STRONG statement to a Jew (as it should be to anyone). What Jesus was saying here is Moses may have allowed a diversion from God’s original intent, but the One Who by His Own Power created everything in the beginning made the law of marriage inseparable.
  4. Jesus goes ahead and explains the reason for Moses’ allowance – it was due to the hardness of the heart of the man who desired the divorce, not the heart of the wife!

I hope you can see the issue here. The permission of Moses was conditional upon a man finding something “improper about her“. Again this is often lost on a Gentile audience, but the clear meaning in the Hebrew and the context is a something he considers unclean. Many are the beliefs concerning the meaning of these words, but considering the character of the man who gave the command and the fact that God did not intervene it is likely that this means some uncleanness about which he was suspicious but could not prove. This later became interpreted to mean, anything which the man did not like – even if it were only that she was not as beautiful as another woman he had found.

In the end, the point is still clear. The hardness of heart was not that of the wife but of the one who is divorcing her. In the passage quoted from Deuteronomy, there is NO clear proof of her uncleanness only HIS suspicions. So the heart which was hard would be the one seeking to severe the marriage.

The pattern is the same here – if a brother has offended you (either on purpose or not – whether it was a genuine sin or just idiosyncratic) – YOU as the offended party should seek reconciliation, not the one who caused the offense.

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!