Don’t Waste Your Pain

Sermon note for March 26, 2023

In this message we are focusing in on pain, and I believe God can use, and will use, pain in our lives for His purposes.

I’ve been reading a book recently about pain and God’s work through it:

‌Catherine Campbell’s book,Broken Works Best

The Truth

The truth is, I believe, we all want to avoid pain. None of us want to suffer. It’s not something we seek out in life. And I believe God gave us wisdom, and created our minds and bodies, to avoid pain as well. It’s a normal human attribute. However, pain is an absolute in this life we live on earth. So what do we do with it? How can we learn from, and not waste pain in our lives?

Don’t Waste Your Pain

The idea of pain and not wasting it came to me in one of the chapters of Catherine’s book…titled: “Don’t Waste Your Pain.” Catherine begins the chapter in the delivery room with a young wife crying out:

‌‌“I’ve changed my mind!” “I don’t want to have the baby now!”

‌‌The pain the mother to be was experiencing was excruciating. And, she was done. It had been a long period of labor, the author shares, and the woman had physically given up. She was too tired to push any more. She was hurting too bad to continue on.

To read the author’s details of the situation, the woman had nearly lost her mind. She was kicking, screaming, and even biting, she tells us.

‌‌And of course, she at some point blames the husband for this situation, telling him it was his fault, saying, “the next time you want to have a baby, you can have it yourself!”

‌Some you know what that’s like.

‌‌But there was a problem looming with the birth of this child due to the mother’s distress. From the author’s stand point, who was holding one of the legs of the young mother, the baby was there and ready to come out. All it would have taken was one good push, but the mother couldn’t do it any longer.

Because of the mother’s resistance against the pain, she was obstructing the delivery of the baby.

The baby’s heart rate was beginning to show the effects of tiring, just as the mother had grown tired, but it was threatening the child’s life now.

‌‌Finally a senior midwife entered the room, noted how precarious the situation had become and took charge. She grabbed the tired and spent young mother’s face in her hands and sternly gave her the correct wisdom at the correct time.

“Listen to me! Don’t waste your pain!”

“The pain is going to give you a beautiful baby. Now don’t waste it, use it!”

Don’t Waste Your Pain

‌‌You may be hurting now, and may be way more familiar with pain than I might be. And so you’re thinking, “yeah, I just want the pain to stop.” And I get that and truly feel for you in your suffering. So I pray you can find some hope and peace in today’s word as well, even while the pain rages on.

Forms of Pain

Of course, we are aware that there are many forms of pain and many things we would say that are painful in this life.

‌‌Pain can be physical, mental, emotional.

Pain can be distressing and discomforting

‌‌Pain is temporary, but can be permanent.

‌‌Pain cannot be avoided.

Pain can be useful And God can, and does, use pain for our good.

‌‌Pain can first and foremost lead us to rely on God more deeply.

‌We don’t tend to seek God in the midst of everything going great in life. It’s most likely when we’re suffering that we are most willing to cry out to Him for relief, for answers. And we may even cry out in anger, I and I believe that is okay too.

‌Like a Good Father, He desires for His children to lean on Him. He also desires that we trust Him. He can use pain to help us to see our own weakness, and to further trust in Him.

‌2 Corinthians 1:9 ESV

Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

‌Paul and his companions had been through some trying circumstances, and you can hear in his words how bad things were mentally for them. Yet he says, “it was to make us rely on God who raises the dead.”

‌‌And when faced with his own ailment, his own thorn in his side he spoke of, he asked God to remove it. God replied:

2 Corinthians 12:9–10 ESV

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

‌You see, Paul knew all about pain and suffering. Not only had he some kind of “thorn” ailing him, but listen to all that he shares he suffered:

2 Corinthians 11:23–28 ESV

Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

Yet he also says:

Philippians 4:11–13 ESV

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

‌I Can Do All Things

‌Friends it is that last, all to commonly quoted, word I want you to remember: I can do all things through Christ

‌You see, God uses pain in our lives for good…

‌This was His Word to the Jews living in exile through the prophet Jeremiah, and I tell you this is His Word to you today.

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

‌But, He may allow pain to get us to where He wants us to be… Maybe that’s to mold us, maybe it’s to call us to Himself, maybe it’s to cause us to trust Him more.

‌I promise you, there’s a purpose for your pain.

So Don’t Waste It

‌You see, if there is a purpose, then we have to continue on to get to that purpose right? Too often we want to stop in the middle, lay down on the ground and beat our fist until they bleed. Or like the story from the book, Broken Works Best, we want to stop pushing.

‌If we don’t push through the pain then we will miss out on the future glory He has planned for us.

‌That’s the truth of today that I wanted to get to.

‌If you hurt and give up, then you miss out on the blessing, on the purpose of the pain. You waste your pain. It’s like signing up to run a marathon and giving up in the last mile or two. You were almost there, you almost made the goal, but you quit. Don’t quit!

‌‌To be successful at running a marathon, you have to endure the pain of not only the race, but also the training and even recovery afterward. To get anything good really, to improve anything about ourselves, we have to endure some pain, some discomfort. We have to put in the work, the effort, to get there.

‌‌I think it’s important that Paul uses the runner analogy when he speaks of living out our faith. He says to keep running!

‌‌Hebrews 12:1–3 ESV

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

‌Don’t grow weary! Keep running! It is all loss if you don’t keep going.

Philippians 3:8–14 ESV

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Nothing was worth it unless Paul pressed on! And it was also all loss compared to the prize that laid ahead of him.

Press On!

You see folks, we must press on. We must push once more! One more time, take that deep breath in and push it out like your life depends on it! The prize, not only the eternal prize Paul speaks of, but even the purpose God has planned for you here, is within your grasp. But you’re going to have to push through the pain to get there.

‌And what if it truly is just one more push ahead? What if it takes pushing through one more wall or one more boundary to get to where you can see the Promised Land, the life He means for you to have here and now?

‌What if you have just one more wall to climb and when you get to the top, or to the other side? What do you see?

‌Do you see the person you want to be? Do you see the escape you’ve desired for so long? Can you suffer the pain to get there? Will you waste the pain, or will you use it as motivation to get to where God is wanting you?

Jesus Endured the Pain

‌How important is the future you desire to you?

‌Jesus knows all about the pain you’re suffering or the pain that lies ahead. He endured it all Himself, the mental anguish in the garden knowing the Cross lied before Him. The mental anguish of knowing He was going to have to suffer being so blackened by our sin before the eyes of His heavenly Father as He would hang on the Cross.

‌And oh the beatings He would suffer before the Cross. The betrayal of His friends, and the betrayal of the people He came to set free from the curse of the Law and sin. But He knew. He knew what was on the other side of that bark hole in the ground He was going to spend three days in. He knew His hope, His plan for humanity, was going to cost Him pain to get to the finish line.

Paul reminds us in Hebrews 12:2,

“For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

You and I are the joy He saw when He looked beyond the Cross. He knew that to get us to where He wanted us to be, He’d have to go through the Cross.

‌‌Jesus didn’t waste His pain, and neither should you. He’ll help you get there. He’ll see you through. He’ll give you just enough strength to get you to the other side.

Post Service

Read these words of Isaac Watts

Let me but hear my Savior say,

Strength shall be equal to thy day;

Then I rejoice in deep distress,

Leaning on all-sufficient grace.

I glory in infirmity,

That Christ’s own power may rest on me;

When I am weak, then am I strong,

Grace is my shield, and Christ my song.

I can do all things, or can bear

All sufferings, if my Lord be there;

Sweet pleasures mingle with the pains

While His left hand my head sustains.

The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. LVII Unparalleled Lovingkindnesses (No. 3,242)

If I were to look within my own heart for comfort and hope, I should often be in despair; but when I look away to my Lord alone, then I realize what he has done and is still doing for me, for he still “healeth” all my diseases.

‌Spurgeon

What About When Healing Doesn’t Come

‌There are times when we have experienced brief physical pain, or great mental pain, that at first we simply want to give up, to give in, to throw in the towel.

But then we awaken, we give thought to the Lord and fall back in complete helplessness on the chest of Jesus. It is at this point that we give up struggling, and resign ourselves to His perfect will. And when we do that, we then experience that perfect peace, that great joy, that can not be experienced at any other time.

Discipleship Lessons from Gardening

Sermon notes on our Parable of the Sower series from Mark 4:1-20.

This series was applied to the work of disciple making. We spent four weeks on the parable and you can find the full teachings on our YouTube channel. Below is mostly sermon notes from the last teaching today but with a little background on the other soils from the parable as well. Feel free to comment, ask questions, or discuss.

My First Gardening Experience

Quite a number of years ago, I tried my hand at growing my first garden. I cut the grass off the top of the soil with a shovel and then using a hand hoe and rake, I tried “tilling” the soil a bit. I may have tried adding some fertilizer but I honestly don’t recall. However, after planting seeds and giving it a few weeks, I had little seedlings popping up through the dirt look as pretty as ever.

As those little seedlings began to grow, my excitement did as well. I couldn’t wait till they’d begin to put on “big leaves” and one day produce some fruit to eat. Eventually though, my excitement turned to aggravation. Along with the little seedlings, almost as if overnight, the grass and weeds began to grow all around my pretty little garden patch. I could see there was no winning the battle against them. Apparently, I hadn’t prepared the area well enough nor did I remove all the weeds and grass enough for my little garden to grow.

The Parable Explained

Jesus speaks of gardening in His parable of the Sower. In the parable, He speaks of a farmer sowing seed and says some fell on the path and was stolen by birds. Other seed fell on the rocky soil, sprung up quickly only to wither when the sun hit it because it had no roots. And yet, other seed fell among the thorns and the thorns choked out the plants that grew up. Then there was this other seed that fell in good soil and it grew and produced grain, some thirty times as much, some sixty times, and some a hundred times as much as was planted!

Jesus explains that His parable is about the Word of God being sowed into the hearts of men (and women). Some it can barely penetrate their hearts because they’ve become hardened to it. And He says Satan steals it. The seed that fell on the rocky ground was indicative of those that hear the Word, receive it with joy, and are glad. But then they do not persevere in the faith due to the trials and persecution for the Word that comes against them. And the seed that fell among the thorns? It was likened to those folks that receive the Word but then are lured away by the temptation of riches and the cares of the world.

Making Disciples

The parable is about making disciples and producing the fruits of repentance and the Spirit. The fruits of repentance is the turning from unbelief and sin to the Lord for salvation, and the fruits of the Spirit are those gifts that are expressed through the saved soul by the Spirit of God…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22). These are the fruits the disciple of Jesus should be producing.

So how does this effect making disciples? Well, I believe, like my garden, the lesson is in the soil, the preparation, and the nurturing of new disciples. You see, making disciples is not an easy task, like gardening isn’t easy either. Both can be hard, slow, and dirty. But, to produce fruit, one must be up to the task and use wisdom in doing so.

I did a 4-week video teaching on the subject if you want to go deeper, but I’m going to try and save you a little time by summarizing four weeks of teaching into one blog post here. Sound good? Cool!

The Hard Soil

The “beaten path” here is the one whose heart is nearly impenetrable due to the circumstances of life they’ve experienced hardening them to the Lord. They’ve been beaten down, and now have been hardened to anything concerning God. It doesn’t mean they can’t be broken; we can try and create cracks in the ground, using God’s Word, His commandments, and pointing out how we have all sinned, showing them the mirror of God’s Law and the salvation offered through Christ.

But, be forewarned. This is truly a hard nut to crack and should usually be dealt with by an experienced “gardener,” (gifted in evangelism). But I’ll dare say we should not simply give up on them! Pray for them for sure, in fact pray for all that need Christ before trying to disciple them!

The Rocky Soil

The rocky soil is the person who has no root, and the sting of hardships in life keep coming at them and has caused them to question the faith. Their initial joy is gone because they thought salvation meant their troubles would end, that they would now experience prosperity and peace in this world. For these folks, and anyone we desire to disciple, we have to be clear about the commands of Jesus and how He warned His followers that troubles and trials would come. We need to try and help them develop roots to protect them against the storms of life by helping them to go deeper into the world and make a deeper commitment to the Lord.

Weeds and Thorns

This is the seed that is choked out by the weeds and thorns of this life, those desires for things and riches of the earth. These wannabe disciples want to accept Christ but still live for the world. They’ve not crucified the desires of the flesh and instead are chasing after the wind. They are lured away by the advertisements of this world, offering them just what they need to have a good life.

If they are the disciple under our wing, then we want to help them to turn off the ads so to speak, to protect themselves from the things the world offers and desires to use to cause division as well. These need to be correctly pointed to the truth that dear old Solomon found…nothing is fulfilling without the Lord.

The Fruitful Spoil

The last of the soils is the fruitful soil and this is the goal of every gardener and disciple maker. It is also what we disciples ourselves desire to be!

My next year of gardening went better. I decided I needed to start fresh, in a way that I could control the environment of my plants. So, I built raised beds for my garden, filling them with fresh black soil and fertilizer. I controlled the soil, had no weeds to worry about, and had an available water source at hand as well. All that was left was to keep the plant supported through their growth and watch out for the pests that would occasionally attack them. Because of this care and wise gardening, I produced the most fruitful of small gardens. I had so much I was giving tomatoes, cucumbers, and hot peppers away!

I believe this taught me the key to helping make disciples and produce the fruit in my own life that Jesus desires of us. I want to be, and produce, fruitful disciples.

In His parable Jesus says this soil, with the seed sown into it, produces grain, or bears fruit, thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and even a hundredfold. This is what a farmer would call, “fertile ground.” Fertile ground is of course where good crops can grow. It contains the right atmosphere the right nutrients, and all the right support materials.‌

Discipleship is about more than getting someone to say a prayer. It is about helping lead another in the right way to live under the reign of Jesus in their lives.

Apprentices

Some say that the better word for making disciples may be “apprentices.” This is more closely aligned with what Jesus did with those first disciples. He taught them, but He also sent them out to be apprentices of His.

‌Paul did this with Timothy.

‌An apprentice learns by hearing, by watching, and then by doing. They are sent out to try the new skills they’ve been taught. So, if we consider this idea of apprenticing along with the seed sowing parable, what does that mean for us as disciple makers? What does it mean for us as disciples of Jesus ourselves?

The Environment

‌When sowing the Seed of God’s Word, we need to make sure the environment is right. For me and my own raised bed gardens, I was able to create the right atmosphere, the right soil conditions, for the plants I was planting.

‌How can we apply this to our own planting efforts?

‌Remember, it starts with fertile soil. It’s hard enough work in itself, but it is all the more difficult if the soil is like those other soils we’ve already looked at in the parable.

‌In sharing the Gospel, in seeking new disciples, we can’t just speak about Jesus anywhere and at any time and expect fruit to just pop up. The environment must be right.

When I used to drink, I was the best evangelist, or so I thought. I had the courage, false courage mind you, to share about Jesus to my friends, but the environmental conditions were wrong.

‌I myself was wrong of course, living in two worlds.

In years past, this “environmental change” was often done by inviting folks to a revival church service, or now, today, we may invite them into a regular Sunday at some churches so that the atmosphere, and the environment, could be controlled and made conducive to creating that emotional response inside a person.

‌I’ve even wanted to use music or some other media, or even a story, to help “soften the soil” you might say.

‌But the truth is, this may work well enough to get one to say the Sinner’s Prayer, or maybe come back to church again, but I’m afraid too often, you end up with one of the other soils Jesus speaks about. Usually the rocky soil or the weedy soil, cuz there’s no root to their faith.

‌‌Man can’t live on bread alone, Jesus says. Bread has no real sustenance, we need real food. We need more than a one time prayer or Sunday church service to grow and be fruitful disciples.

‌‌I too want you, if you’re not saved yet, to say the prayer. But I also know, and honestly most Pastors know, that’s not the end of it.

Repentance

‌This is where I believe repentance needs to be taught and encouraged. Jesus said, “repent and believe.”

‌‌You see, sometimes in gardening we have to transplant little seedlings from indoor protection to the outdoors. This takes patience for one, as well as knowing the right time. In the Spiritual life of a new believer, many aren’t prepared for the outdoors yet. Many have believed the Gospel, but they’ve not come out of the old environment. When they’ve repented, turned from their old lives, then they’re ready for real salvation in Jesus.

‌The Sinner’s Prayer is more than a prayer, it is a dedication to, an agreement to persevere in Jesus.

‌The bible often speaks of believing in Jesus, and this leads to salvation. But to believe in Him, the bible means we are to trust Him, not just believe He exists, or even that He is who He says He is. To believe in Jesus, to have a faith that saves, is to give Him all of your trust, all of your faith, to place the bet that in Him you will find true life in this world and the next.

‌‌Disciples may need to leave friends behind, family behind, work conditions behind, and maybe even find themselves alone for some time as they leave the old environment of temptation and sin to live in the new ground of faith and obedience to Jesus. ‌‌Until you leave, or until you help your disciple to leave the old environment behind, spiritual growth will be stunted.

This is good soil, this is fertile soil that will allow the seed to grow into a new plant.

Soaking It Up

‌The goal of young seed should be to soak up nutrients, right? You plant it in the ground and then water it and feed it nutrients in the hopes it will soak it them and grow. A new disciple is often like that young seedling or plant. They’re hungry and need to be fed the right nutrients. Maybe they’re asking questions of you about Jesus, God, or the Bible.

This is great if so! Make sure you take the time, especially if you don’t know the answer right off, to share with them your thoughts or find the answers for them.

‌They’re usually hungry for God’s Word cuz this new relationship with God they are experiencing makes them want to get to know Him better. Give them the Word, point them to an app, give them a bible, invite them to a bible study with you, or just make sure you have time to spend together in the Word with them.

‌Feed the new plant wisely. Too much fertilizer can hurt the plants too! Be patient but supportive.

Soaking and Sprouting

Do you know anything about growing crops by soaking and sprouting? I read about this earlier; soaking some food items, like beans for instance, to make them sprout. Basically, you just soak them in some water for a time, in order to ultimately lead to a sprouted product. This soaking and sprouting process helps with nutrient absorption, human digestion of their fruit, and nutrient density.

‌‌We want new disciples to sprout! We want them to grow by absorbing all of God they can. And the truth is, when you’re helping one to grow, you’ll find you grow with them, you too will sprout new leaves, new buds, new flowers.

‌This process, in gardens, also helps the new seedling to grow new roots before placing them in the ground, so it can soak up more nutrients. The more nutrients it soaks up the more dense and healthier it becomes. For the new disciple, the more rooted we become, the better able we are to withstand the trials and temptations of life in this world trying to pull us from our faith.

Soaking and Baptism

‌Maybe this soaking is where Baptism comes into play for us disciples.

‌It is similar to Jesus’s words about a grain of wheat…

John 12:24 ESV

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

When a new disciple is baptized, it is as though they have been “buried” with Christ, or cleansed by Christ, and are now able to become fruitful disciples.

‌There are stats on that show baptized new believers have a higher percentage remaining in the faith than those that weren’t.

‌‌Baptism is more than just a display of the faith, or outward expression, as we tend to say of it, but it is a step of obedience to Christ, along with, I believe, a Spiritual transformation process. While not required for salvation, I believe it is required for our growth in the faith.

Further Care

Like my raised gardens, once I’ve done all the work with the environment, and given proper nourishment to the plants, or disciples, I find that it is easier to protect them. Weeds stand out against the new growth that has had some time to grow up a little.

‌Remember in my previous garden attempt, I couldn’t tell the difference between the seedlings and the weeds. However, a true disciple, even a new disciple, when raised up properly, can better see the weeds and thorns coming at them. Once they’ve become separated from, repented from, the old environment, it is easier to defend and stand against the trials and tribulations. It is easier to withstand the scorching and hard winds of the trials of life, because they’ve had time to become rooted in the Vine of Jesus.

‌‌John 15:5 ESV

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

‌‌When we abide in Him, we are protected from the elements of this world. They may hurt us, but they will not destroy us.

‌​John 10:28 ESV

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

The Right Lighting

‌There is one more thing we must have when properly sowing seed into fertile soil.

‌We must have the right Light. Very little will grow in the shadows. When I built my raised gardens, I did so in the most lighted area I could, because truly, it is the sun that gives flavor to your fruits. The same goes for the life of Jesus’s Disciples.

John 8:12 ESV

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Disciples cannot grow in the dark. They must have the Light of the world within them. It is the Son, the Light of the World, that makes us fruitful disciples.

Disciples cannot grow in the dark. They must have the Light of the world within them. It is the Son, the Light of the World, that makes us fruitful disciples.

Closing

To be fruitful, is our task in this world. If we want to bear fruit, and if we want to raise up other fruit bearers, we need to make sure we are connected to the Vine, Jesus.

‌We need to make sure we have repented and are repenting.

‌Make sure we’re careful of our own environment.

‌Soak up all his nutrients we can through prayer, Word, and service to the Lord.

Your purpose, and my purpose, is to bear fruit in this world. Fruits of our own discipleship and fruits in making other disciples. And may we all be about this for the glory of Christ.

Who Is Really In God’s Family?

We all claim to be God’s child, but are we really?

My family rarely does family reunions but my wife’s family has one every year. I’m not a fan. Not because I don’t like the people, but because there are always many there I don’t know. So I become self conscious. 

Sometimes when we have family reunions we have to ask, “who is that? I didn’t know they were in our family?” Or, we have to get the rundown on how so and so married in, had kids, been living so and so place, and this is how they came to be. And sometimes we have that annoying, or different family member that no one understands or wants to be seen with right?

In today’s Words from Jesus, He has been teaching, as we are stilling looking at Matthew 12, where He’s been responding to the Pharisees and religious leaders about His power to heal, and their hard hearts.

As He is nearing the end of His teaching, word comes to Him that His mother and brothers want to see Him and talk to Him but they can’t get to Him. And He poses an astonishing question, and comments about His family that we’re going to dive into.

Matthew 12:46–50 ESV

While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

In Mark 3, prior to this Scripture, we see where it is possible that His mother and brothers were concerned for His well being.

Mark 3:20-21 ESV

Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

Do you think this idea played a role in His family trying to get to Him?

It does sounds as if His family was just concerned for Him. 

Now, I don’t know about you, but I would think that if my mother and brothers couldn’t get to me because of people I don’t know listening to me, I’d probably make a way for them to get closer, or at least send a proper message to them. But Jesus doesn’t.

Jesus responds as if they aren’t even His family, saying, “Who is my mother and brothers?”

Did Jesus just disown His mother? I mean I can see maybe disowning His brothers as they never did really seem to see what the fuss was all about surrounding Him. They hadn’t believed He was the Messiah to come at this point. But His mom? Remember it was her who nudged Him to miraculously fix the wine at the wedding situation, where He turned 6 stone barrels of water to 300 gallons of the best wine the party had ever tasted.

I don’t believe believe Jesus disowned His mother of course. But He did use the opportunity to speak about the family of God. And I believe He was making a point that being bound by our faith in Him was more important than any human relationship…even including the parental relationship.

The Important Concern

Look, we can all understand Mary’s concern for Jesus. Even though she knew who He was, as she was the one it was revealed to at her conception by the Angel, she was still concerned for His well being. A mother’s love knows no bounds right? 

Was it her concern for Him not eating? How many mothers and wives out there worry that their spouse or son isn’t eating or drinking enough when the demands of work continue to pile on them? I joked with my mother-in-law Tuesday night because of the many times I’ve seen her continue to remind her husband to eat or drink while he’s out working in the garage on whatever project has been keeping him busy.

As for the brothers? I think they were just supporting mom! But maybe their brotherly love was their concern as well.

It was a messenger that told Jesus His family was outside wanting Him. So, He didn’t tell His family face to face to leave Him alone. But He took the opportunity to teach the messenger and those in His hearing, that what He was teaching in the moment was more important than His family’s concern for Him.

Interruption

In this moment, the family’s concern was an interruption for Jesus. He was busy teaching God’s principles, and God’s truths, and instead of His family listening to His Words, they were more concerned about their own earthly concerns.

I’m reminded of His Words to His mother and father when they lost Him in Jerusalem when He was twelve and His family had traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. They lost Him for three days! And when they finally found Him, I’m sure His mother was beside herself asking where He’d been. His response then was just as astounding as it is here.

Luke 2:49 

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

I can only imagine what my mom would have said, or done to me, if I disappeared for three days and responded like this when she finally found me. But for Jesus, He mission one was doing the Father’s will!

And here again, it’s almost as if His family had forgotten the importance of Jesus’s mission here on earth. He came to seek and save the lost. He brought God’s Kingdom to earth, the grace of God in this moment to people most in need of His grace and truth.

No one will thwart the mission of God, including Jesus’s mother or brothers.

The Family

After His questioning about who is His family, He turns…

Matthew 12:49-50

And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Woah, wait a minute! Here are His mother and brothers?

He points to the crowd and says, “You are my family…” But we can insert an IF in that sentence. Because it is an “IF” you do the will of His Father, then you are His family.

Remember the context of His teaching here. He was being denied by the Pharisees and religious leaders. They weren’t going to accept Him as the Messiah, much less the Son of God, though He’d been clear in showing and teaching this was the case. 

But, they thought presumptuously that because they were Jews, they were already God’s family. They were descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, (later renamed Israel). They were God’s family through blood right? 

How many people today walk around saying they are God’s child, yet they never obey a Word He has said. Much less their acceptance of Jesus as His Son, they don’t even believe the Bible, God’s Word. We’re all God’s children right? Well, I got news for you.

We’re Not

We’re not all God’s children. 

Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus is very clear when He tells the religious leaders:

John 8:42,47

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

This was the claim of the Pharisees, “Abraham is our father.” This is their great ancestor whom God made a covenant with to bless him and make from him a great nation of peoples.

Notice Jesus says, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did.” Abraham was obedient to God. These Pharisees are not. They are all about themselves, about looking good on the outside while inside they were evil. Jesus had pointed this out many times.

Their actions prove who their father is, and Jesus lays it out clear for them:

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.”

Created But Not His

I know some wrestle with this idea, because we are “created in His likeness” right? That’s what the bible teaches. But being created in His image does not mean that we are His children. I can hear you gasp at that comment. Let me explain.

Look at your life. Are you obeying God as your Father, or is He simply that “big man in the sky” that is there to make you have a good life? Is He the Father loves you, or is He the one you say, “sends people to hell”,” so you want nothing to do with Him.

You see, He created you and gave you a choice. And when sin has taken hold of our lives, we choose to deny Him as our Father. It isn’t He that divorces us, it is we that divorce Him. It is we that choose this life over an eternal life with Him because we’d rather live our best life now.

Listen to these words for the letter of 1 John.

1 John 3:8-10

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

We’ve talked a lot about the fruit of our heart, that is our words and our deeds. Here Scripture says that if our fruit is the practice, the continued sin, then we are of the devil. We act just like him. If we are God’s children then God’s seed, His Holy Spirit abides in us, and we cannot keep sinning because we have been born of God. 

Go all the way back to when we talked about the Pharisee Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night and Jesus telling Him, “You must be born again, you must be born from above.” That is we must be born again of God, regenerated you might hear it said. This is done by us trusting in and believing Jesus is the Savior, the Son of God, and asking Him to be the Lord of our lives. And when He is the Lord of our life, we will seek to obey Him and the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit within us. 

But you have to hear these words! That’s the problem the Pharisees and religious leaders had in Matthew 12, they didn’t want to hear it. They didn’t want to receive it. So Jesus says this:

John 8:47

Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

If you are of God, you will hear and heed His Words. But if not, then you prove you are not a child of God.

Faith and Blood

So Jesus waves His hand over the crowd in front of Him and says, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

He’s saying, “look my mom and my brothers are family by blood here on the earth, but you have the choice to be my mother and brothers if you will obey my Father as I have.”

You want to know God’s will for you?

Believe on the One He has sent.

How do we obey God? By placing our faith in Jesus His Son.

What made Abraham so great to God that He made a covenant with Him? Abraham believed God. He heard His Word, He trusted His Word, and He obeyed God because He believed.

We’re not part of God’s family by our fleshly blood. We are part of His family because we choose to be, by placing our faith in Jesus. Faith over blood you might say.

Romans 8:9 says, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” 

Romans 8:11 says, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

Who Is Your Father

The question we have to ask ourselves is “who is my Father?” Look at your life and see the fruit of your own heart. Are you hearing God, listening to Him, obeying Him? Have you placed all your faith and hope in Christ?

If you’ve heard and believed then praise God because He has adopted you into His family.

Romans 8:15b

but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Your Extended Family

So here’s the other great lesson in this Scripture. One day we’re going to have that great reunion in eternity. And in this reunion you’re going to get to see many who are in your family that you had no clue about.

My hope is that you already know many who are in your spiritual family. And that you treat them as brothers and sisters, and mothers and fathers. With love, dignity, and respect. 

If you are in Christ, then you are one of a large family of believers. You’ve got brothers and sisters you don’t even know yet. But I tell you, we welcome you as family. We want you as family. You belong in God’s family with us. Your faith in Christ, makes you my brother, my sister, my mother, my father, by faith, by Jesus’s blood.

I taught this message Sunday August 7, 2022. You can find the video here on YouTube.

3 Ways to Stay Full

Sermon notes based on Mathew 12:43-45.

Idea: It takes more than a prayer to keep the house cared for.

Intro

I don’t like to go on vacation much. It is stressful for me, and I find myself looking forward to being back home, in familiar surroundings…specifically my own bed.

I believe one of the common things to do before going away on vacation is to clean the house. Because who wants to come back to a dirty house right? When we return we’ve then already gotta unpack and put away all the dirty clothes, which just makes for more work for us.

And when we leave, we usually lock the doors, turn on the alarm, have the mail picked up or stopped, and many of us will leave a light on. 

That light is left on so that someone thinks you are home right? Because a robber won’t typically break into an occupied home. And that gives us a little comfort.

When a home is occupied, no one else can move in either.

A Strong Man’s House

A few weeks back, when we first began looking at this interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees, Jesus said:

Matthew 12:29 ESV

Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.

Today He tells a story about a demon returning to an empty house. 

Jesus is telling this parable to teach about the condition of the Pharisees and religious leaders, and those that did not follow His teaching.

This Scripture has caused concern and fear for many of us because it is difficult to discern the meaning of. So we’re going to try and give some insight to this and make an application of it in our own lives.

Scripture

Matthew 12:43–45 ESV

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

Jesus tells this parable in light of the fact He had just banished a demon from a young man’s life. At that healing the Pharisees made the claim that He did so by the power of Satan. To which Jesus gives the response of entering the strong man’s house to plunder.

What He is saying there is that He, in God’s power, while here on earth, Satan, the strong man, was bound. And He had plundered, stolen from Satan this young man He’d healed, cast the demon out of.

But it wasn’t limited to just this one instance with this one man. Jesus was here, on the earth, rescuing many from Satan’s hold. And he is still doing so today.

So in essence, Satan was at that time, “cast out.” The Kingdom of God was at hand in Jesus’s presence, giving rest to the people that accepted Him as the Messiah.

When He was gone, those who remained in unbelief, would face a worse state. And this truly happened.

Between the ascension to Heaven after his resurrection and the fall of Jerusalem to Romans, the Jews had truly fallen into a worse state than prior to Jesus’s coming the first time. And for many, their rejection remains, hence their “unforgivable sin” of remaining opposed to Christ as their Lord and Savior as we discussed a few weeks back with that other fear producing Scripture.

Application

So that’s a brief explanation of the text, as we broke it down even further Tuesday night, but what about now? What can we learn?

I want to give you three applications of this text today.

The Prayer

Many of us became Christians by saying what is known as the sinner’s prayer. Classically it goes like this: Confess I’m a sinner, I agree to repent from my life of sin, and I trust in Jesus’s death on the cross, and ask Jesus to live inside my heart. 

If you pray this then we say you are saved.

The truth is, this prayer isn’t actually in the bible. There are some Scriptures that point to such a prayer such as…

Romans 10:9 ESV

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

The idea being the same, confess, and believe. And you can find many other Scriptures about confessing our sins, believing the death and resurrection, and the Holy Spirit living within us afterward.

Yet, many of us know someone that has told us they prayed the prayer, and for a while they lived a better life, only to at some point fall away from belief altogether. 

What about them? What happened?

I believe this is such a case as Jesus speaks of here in this parable.

The person lives for themselves, then at some point comes to Christ praying a prayer, they clean up their life, but then later on find themselves in a worse state of affairs.

Seed Planting

What I believe often happens is similar to Jesus’s parable of the farmer planting seed. One part of the parable speaks of seed that fail on rocky ground, it sprang up quickly but the soil was shallow and had no root, and withered away.

Sometimes we pastors make it too easy on our listeners. We want you saved. And that is why this little rote prayer came about.

Unbelief

So we have convinced people to say a prayer and they walk away believing they are saved in that moment. But so much can go wrong with this.

Was the confessing and believing truly from the heart of the person? Was their heart true? Was their believing true and lasting?

We don’t know the heart of a person. We can only see and know the fruit. And for many, they say the prayer and then try and clean up their lives on their own and fail. Because their faith wasn’t truly real, they didn’t receive the Holy Spirit. So they try to become something they aren’t, a regenerated soul.

Jesus said, the house was emptied and cleaned up. Maybe they had a reprieve from sin for a while, but they still had an empty house. It didn’t have the Holy Spirit’s presence in it to keep it filled.

This is why the truly saved, the truly born again, do not need to fear this verse. Your house, the temple, is full of the presence of God.

A Return to the Old

The other example is of that person that said the prayer, but when they went home they didn’t truly leave their old life.

It’s like being an alcoholic, and God giving you relief from that addiction, yet you’ve never cleaned out the cupboards of the house of all the alcohol you’ve stored up. So for a time, you thought the house was empty, but then you open that cabinet of temptation and fall right back into an even worse state than before.

Again, you wanted to be saved, but you just weren’t quite ready to give up all that you were…the old life. So you return to who you were before, and man is it harder to come back into the light after returning to the dark.

This is one way our prayer system fails.

Jesus never taught His followers to say a prayer. He told them, “follow me.” He told them to pick up their cross and follow Him. He told them to leave their riches behind, even when it came to mother and father, He is to be the most important to us.

But many of us say the prayer, but don’t give Him our lives. Our hearts are still far from Him.

When we truly want to be saved, and our hearts are truly ready, we will give Him all of us. We will leave all behind to follow Him. We will obey, glorify, live for Him daily. We will lose this life to gain His.

Filling the House

This third application goes along with the second. When you leave the old life, when you empty yourself of those old desires, what do you fill your house with? We already mentioned the Holy Spirit. But the Spirit needs to be fed. It too needs to be kept full. It needs to abide in the source of life, Jesus.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, and…”

John 15:4–6 ESV

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

To abide, we must keep building on that relationship with Christ, and God the Father. We do this by remaining in His Word. His Word helps us to get to know Him better. It keeps that connection up between the Holy Spirit in us and the Father. It feeds the soul, it fills the house.

When we aren’t in His Word, when we aren’t spending time soaking up the Father, we can grow cold. Our house may have the Holy Spirit in it, but we’ve cut it off from the source of life…the Vine. We become weaker, unable to resist the temptation to go back to the old ways of life. I’m not saying we lose our salvation, but I am saying we can find ourselves in a position we don’t want to be in for sure. We can still face dire consequences for our wrong actions in this life even if we gain eternity in Heaven afterward.

God’s Word builds up the soil and nourishment for the seed that is planted within us to grow and produce fruit.

Along with keeping in God’s word, our lives need to be filled with prayers between us and the Father. Communication is foundational to any relationship. The Father wants us to communicate with Him, and He will with us. This too is abiding in the Christ, because Christ Himself spent much time with the Father in prayer.

That Fruit

That fruit He mentions is a life filled with Godliness. It is the result of our abiding in Him. It is the fruit of a truly changed life, redeemed, regenerated, born again by the Holy Spirit.

We don’t act all holy because we fear hell once we’ve been truly saved, we obey God and his Law because we are saved. Because He says for us to obey His Word. If we love Him, we will do what He commands.

John 14:15 ESV

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Protecting the Home

I want to leave you with one more idea…that is protecting the home.

Just like when you leave your house for vacation, you arm the alarm. For some us, we keep ourselves armed in the home just in case.

We have to treat our lives the same way. Scripture tells us here, the demon came back. In the story, he came back with a vengeance (7 is complete). Scripture tells us that Satan prowls like a lion seeking our ruin. So he will attack, he will try to find an open door or open window. so we must arm ourselves against him.

How do we arm ourselves?

Ephesians 6:10–18 ESV

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Closing

Trust in the Lord, place all your faith in Him and abide in Him the rest of the days of your life.

Look, if you’re going to confess Christ as your Savior, then you’d better mean it. You’d better take into account all that is required to do so. It is more than a prayer, it is your word, and it is your heart. Don’t come to him half hearted, Scripture says He’ll spit you out. He wants all of you. The question is, do you want all of Him and will you give Him all of you.

If you’re going to have an empty house, you’ll need to fill it with the right thing. Feel it with Jesus. Fill it with the Holy Spirit of God the Father. And then abide in Him every single day.

John 14:23 ESV

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Find Belonging in a Digital Church

For many of us, our fondest memories of the church experience, at least here in the states, are filled with being together physically in a space, usually in a building called, “the church.” When I first began to envision starting a new church in my own community, that is exactly what I pictured we would become as well.

Bring on Covid in early 2020, and everything changed. Most churches went digital. I at first resisted, until Easter 2020 when I began doing recorded messages. We didn’t really have a “congregation” at the time, but this was a way for us to minister to folks at home. Fast forward two years later, and while most churches have decided to no longer focus on digital but instead put most of their effort on those physically present, we have remained, and even expanded, our digital only focus. God opened my eyes to a need for those that cannot or do not choose to attend physically.

The truth is, there is a prevailing attitude among many Christians that if you aren’t physically in the building then you are not part of the Church (Big C). I’d never personally thought that, but my eyes were awakened to it for sure especially since all the arguing around Covid and “closing the doors” to now receiving messages about us not being a church because we are digital only. My wife has severe anxiety issues, and with Covid, a heightened sensitivity and fear of contracting the virus. She’s not the only one, there are many others out there still not comfortable, or due to health reasons, can’t gather physically. And that is okay. You still need a church community, a family, a place to belong to, to encourage you, to help build you up in the faith, to pray for you, to include you in the life of the Church.

So to you that cannot, or maybe choose not to, attend a physical gathering for a church community. We want to say, you still have a place of belonging with many digital churches out there. You are still part of the body of Christ! We, Innovate Christian Community Church, apologize for those that have demeaned you for not attending. We recognize there are many physical and mental barriers for some that keep them from physically gathering. And we’re here to tell you, “that’s okay.” Our hope is that you would find a community, digitally, to belong to even if it isn’t ours.

The truth is that most of us enjoy gathering together, as those are our fondest of memories of the church experience. Maybe you can’t right now. Maybe not ever with a large group. You can still gather digitally and make new memories of belonging, family, and be included.

I still get questioned, “when are you going to open your doors,” i.e. gather physically, become a physical church, etc. The truth is, we aren’t! I am thankful to God that He has opened my eyes to this need and thankful for every person He has brought our way to minister to…and with! The “with” is the other part of this. You have gifts, talents, abilities, and a calling (purpose) God has given you. We want to encourage, empower, and equip you to make use of these gifts for the Lord’s glory.

I don’t want this to be a sales pitch for us, but an encouragement to you if you’ve been made to feel there is no place to belong in the Church for you, there is. There are many churches, digitally focused on including you, and welcoming you into their family. We are just one of them! It is important to me to let you know, you have a place of belonging and are not to be left behind just because you don’t gather in a church building.

Innovate Church includes the homebound, the anxious, the depressed, the lonely, and the forgotten, in a caring community for the purpose of building God’s Kingdom together with Him.

Canceled Debt

Sermon Notes/Deeper Study

Contained below are the notes and some of the research found for my recent sermon on Luke 7:36-50. This Scripture contains Jesus’s interaction with a Pharisee named Simon that invited him to his home for a meal. While there a woman of ill repute comes in and washes Jesus’s feet with her own tears and then dries them with her hair and anoints them with perfume. This was her display of faith and love for Him. Simon protests that Jesus shouldn’t have let “such a woman” to touch Him. To this Jesus responds with a parable about two men that owed a debt each to a certain moneylender they could not repay. Still, this moneylender forgives their debt.

Luke 7:36-50

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he canceled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Intro

This section of Scripture follows Jesus’s speaking of how the commoners and tax collectors accepted John’s words and baptism, but the Pharisees did not.

Today’s story illustrates just that fact.

Invited 

We begin today’s study looking at an invitation for Jesus to come and dine with a Pharisee.

It was the custom when inviting a guest, especially a special guest, you would have made ready a wash basin for the guest’s feet before entering the home. The person would likely be greeted with a kiss as many still do today, and due to the dry dusty, windy air, oil would be offered for one to fix their hair.

Though invited, the Pharisee did none of this for Jesus.

We have a woman that shows up to the meal…uninvited.

There were others there that were not invited guests but had only come to likely listen in on the conversation. It was customary to leave the front door open for others to come in and take seats by the wall.

What is it that makes this woman special?

The Sinner

Luke calls her a “woman of the city, who was a sinner.” Most believe her to have likely been a prostitute, or at the least a woman of no good reputation.

But what Luke tells us about her is her actions towards Jesus when she hears that He is there at Simon’s.

She stands behind Jesus’s feet weeping, and she begins to cleanse his feet with her tears and her hair.

Ancient Seating and Eating

For most of us here in the west we picture eating being done at a table with everyone sitting upright and knees/feet pointing inward under the table.

Think about the picture of the Last Supper. That is a completely western view of the event.

But this is not how the ancient Jew or Greek would have done so at this time.

As we note the text says Jesus was reclining and His feet were behind Him.

Here we can see how they would have been seated and how she would have accessed His feet.

Her Humility

After weeping and cleansing His feet, she lets down her hair to dry them.

It was considered a disgrace for a woman to let her hair down in public.

She then proceeds to kiss His feet.

Kissing the feet is said to have been a sign of utter humiliation and servitude before the feet of a rabbi.

While kissing His feet, she anoints them with the perfume she brought in with her. (In later stories of Jesus being anointed, it is said the cost of the perfume was possibly 300 denarii).

It was customary to anoint the head of the guest. But she, being so humble, could only anoint His feet.

Nothing mattered to her in that moment but Christ.

All the Pharisee could see and think was how sinful a woman she was and his unbelief that Jesus, a supposed prophet, would let her touch Him.

The Debtors

Instead of seeing the good and humbleness of the woman, Simon, the religious Pharisee, only sees her past misdeeds. And he questions how Jesus could let such a woman touch Him.

Simon’s heart was hard towards this sinner…and probably all sinners.

How often we might find ourselves hardheartedly judging someone whom we know there history.

How often we might play the same comparison game Simon has in his own head that we see Jesus draw out using the parable of the debtors.

Jesus knew Simon’s question, and He goes right to the cause of the question…Simon’s thinking he is better than she is.

The debts mentioned are 50 and 500 denarii. Basically two month’s wages versus two years of wages.

No matter the debt, both debtors were in the same situation, they couldn’t pay. 

By the grace of the moneylender though, they are both forgiven.

How would you respond? If you only owed 2 month’s worth of your salary or two years worth? How much would your debt affect your gratitude towards having it wiped off the books?

Debt Forgiven

Simon was comparing himself to her and thinking he was better than her because he wasn’t as bad as her. Jesus asks him the question, which person in the parable loved the moneylender more?

Through pursed lips you might imagine, Simon recognizes it is the one with more debt.

Just like the two debtors in the parable, you cannot repay God for the debt you owe Him. You must be forgiven.

The point wasn’t about which one loved Jesus more as much as it was about how you may compare yourself to another thinking, “at least I’m not as bad as that guy.” Neither could pay their debt. Both are sinners in need of forgiveness.

Faith in Love

Jesus then points to the sinner woman, and says to Simon, “look at her…”

“You judged her a sinner, and that is true, but she has recognized her sin and the debt she owed. Here’s how I know…”

Through her actions, she proved her faith in Jesus.

Through her actions, she showed her love for Jesus.

James is famous for pointing out that faith without actions is dead. Well here you have the opposite that is also true.

As Paul says in Gal 5.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. Galatians 5:6 ESV

Jesus doesn’t question that she is a sinner. However, He recognizes her sins are forgiven because of how she displays her love to Him. To which He then says to Simon…

“Her sins are many, but they are forgiven, and she has shown this through her love for me.”

And He flips the tables on Simon telling Him, in my words here:

“You don’t love me as she loves me because you don’t think you need forgiveness. You believe you’ve sinned only a little.”

Jesus Forgives

Jesus then tells her those words that we should all desire to hear: “Your sins are forgiven.”

And this blows the mind of all the others that were in that room watching this interaction play out between Jesus, Simon, and the woman.

It was just one of many things, many sayings that Jesus did that showed who He was. For He was God in the flesh, and His claim to forgive sins proved this, and angered the Jews. They knew that only God could forgive sin, and as Luke reports of their questioning of Jesus’s forgiving sin elsewhere in his gospel, it was blasphemy for a man to claim to forgive sin, or do anything else only God could do.

And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Luke 5:21 ESV

Nonetheless, the woman recognized her need for forgiveness and sought out Jesus, but the Pharisee did not believe himself to be such a sinner in need as she.

Saved by Faith

Notice, Jesus tells her in verse 50, it is her faith that has saved her.

It wasn’t her cleansing of His feet. It wasn’t even her love for Him…though I dare say you can’t love Christ and not be forgiven. But it is her faith that saved her.

By faith alone are we saved, and our reaction, or fruit, of being saved is the same love and devotion as she has displayed here. Jesus shall be our everything, our master, our husband, and Lord. And if He is then we are indebted to show Him our love and devotion.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1 ESV

Salvation is Free

Like the men in the parable, Simon, and this woman, you owe a debt to God. We all do. But it is a debt you and I cannot pay. In truth, some of us may owe more or a little less than others, but it isn’t the amount that matters.

The truth is, we are all in debt.

But God’s forgiveness is offered. He gave Jesus Christ to cancel that debt. The debt wasn’t forgiven, it was paid for by His only Son on the Cross.

Our payment was written in red on the check that is Christ’s body on the Cross. And we know the check was cashed when God raised Him from the grave three days later.

But you have to accept the gift, by faith. But you can reject it and it will be of no good to you.

Listen to this parable…because God’s forgiveness is free, but it isn’t automatic.

we can reject His grace if we will. In 1830, a man named George Wilson was arrested for mail theft, the penalty for which was hanging. After a time, President Andrew Jackson gave Wilson a pardon but he refused to accept it! The authorities were puzzled: should Wilson be freed or hanged? They consulted Chief Justice John Marshall, who handed down this decision: “A pardon is a slip of paper, the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged.”

 The Bible Exposition Commentary (Chapter Six: Compassion in Action (Luke 7))

Discussion Question

Can you love Jesus and not have faith in Him?

Extra Notes

The posture at meals was a reclined one with the feet out behind.

Her sins were ten times those of Simon…at least in Simon’s mind.

The woman didn’t come to dine. She came to show her love to Jesus.

She anointed his feet with perfume, not just oil. Possibly 300 denarii worth…a year’s wages. Mark 14:5 

Two years’ wages for one and two months for the other…neither could repay. Denarius was one day’s pay.

There was contempt in Simon’s “this man” comment.

Jesus knows the sinful condition of both the woman and Simon.

Jewish rabbis did not speak to nor eat with women in public.

Exported from Logos Bible Software, 1:47 PM July 3, 2022.

Waiting

Most of us really despise waiting. In today’s society we don’t have to wait for many things we want. I mean, who doesn’t love Amazon Prime and same day receiving when you can get it? Waiting stinks! I want it now!

Gardening

If you’ve been a gardener or even just planted a flower bulb then you know what it’s like to wait. To wait for the fruit of the plant to show. How much more of a wait it is to enjoy the fruit of the garden. A good ripe tomato, the first of the growing season, oh yeah! But it takes about 90 days for that tomato to show itself. And some flowers? They take a year after planting the bulb. For the right fruit, we have to wait.

Pentecost

Last Sunday was Pentecost Sunday. The Christian Church recognizes this day as the day the apostles, (the twelve disciples), received the Holy Spirit. But it has Old Testament roots found in what is also known as, “The Feast of Weeks.”

The Feast of Weeks was to occur for the Israelites, the Jewish people, in the Old Testament, seven Sundays after the Passover. (If you don’t know what Passover is, read this article). The following day, if you’re good at math you know is the fiftieth day…Pentecost Sunday. The Israelites were to collect grain from their harvest and make various offerings to God of their “first fruits” to consecrate or dedicate the harvest to the Lord in thanksgiving to Him.

“You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord." - Leviticus 23:15–16 ESV

For the apostles, they too had to wait for Pentecost. But on this day, instead of making an offering to the Lord, they received the Holy Spirit from the Lord! It wasn’t about giving to Him as it was receiving from Him. But, they didn’t know it was going to happen this day. All they knew was:

He (Jesus) presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” - Acts 1:3–5 ESV

Again for the math nerds, Jesus taught them for 40 days after His Resurrection, and then He ascended into Heaven telling them He’d send them the Holy Spirit “days from now.” It just so happened, the “many days” ended up being, ten days…

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. - Acts 2:1-4 ESV

Praying

For ten days after Jesus ascended to Heaven, the disciples had no clue what to do other than wait. During that time all we know from Scripture is that they remained in the “Upper Room”, were altogether with the women, (including Mary), in one accord and were devoting themselves to prayer. They waited on the Holy Spirit in prayer. Other than selecting a replacement apostle, they prayed. They didn’t take it upon themselves to go out and begin preaching, trying to perform miracles of healing or anything. They waited.

How about you? Do you find that you tend to move in your own time and speed to get things done instead of waiting on the Holy Spirit’s guidance? I know I do often. I am impatient on one hand. On the other hand I fear “not doing anything” is lazy and disobedient to God. Yet the truth is, many times, we need to wait. I know there are many cases where if I’d waited before making a decision I would have saved myself some trouble. If I’d have prayed, and waited, I would have definitely been better off.

Fruit

Whose fruit do you want to enjoy? Your own, from your own garden, or that of God and what He has planned for you? We all grow restless when waiting. I’m sure it was difficult for those first disciples to wait after they’d spent 3 years with the Master seeing all the works He’d done and then now He was gone from them. He said to wait. But…why? Because He was planning a huge harvest this Pentecost Sunday that they had no idea was coming.

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. - Acts 2:41 ESV

Once the Spirit came upon Peter he was empowered and emboldened to get up and preach one of the most convicting sermons ever taught…to the very ones that had weeks before cried “Crucify Him” to Pontius Pilate. These were the people responsible for the death of Jesus on a Cross. Yet, Peter tells them face to face with the power of the Holy Spirit speaking through him…

this Jesus... you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. - Acts 2:23-24

Peter preached the Gospel of Jesus before the very ones that had Him crucified. I can imagine him pointing the finger and saying, “YOU DID THIS!” Bold! But in being so bold, the power of the Holy Spirit also brought about the salvation of some three thousand that day. The birth of the Christian Church had begun on the day of Pentecost.

It takes time for fruit to be produced. Our prayers are the seeds of future desired fruit.

Sometimes we’ll see fruit in an instant, but more commonly it means waiting. Waiting on the fruit of our prayers, our hopes, our dreams, our healing, the Lord’s will to come about. To that I encourage you, keep waiting, and in time you will receive the fruit the Lord has planned for you. Be at peace knowing that He has said…

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. - John 15:8

What Are You Waiting For?

You cannot produce fruit on your own. You need the Holy Spirit to produce fruit. So what are you waiting for?

the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. - John 15:4-5 ESV

Jesus is the vine spoken of in these verses. Without Him, you cannot bear fruit. This fruit is only produced by the work of the Holy Spirit within us. So, you have to know for yourself; have you repented from unbelief and sin, and do you trust that Jesus died on the Cross to pay the penalty you deserve for your unbelief and sinfulness? If you can say “yes,” then Scripture says you are saved. You are made new and have received the Holy Spirit. And the proof of the Holy Spirit, or the fruit, is found in this…

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. - Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

Thanks for reading! I did a 10 minute teaching on Pentecost if you’d like to learn a little more.

Connect with me and our church, Innovate Church if you enjoy my blogs!

A One Man Mission

Is it possible to be on mission alone?

This was the question we posed and wrestled with during our Tuesday night study session of “Find Your People.”

You may be a one person band trying to follow God as best you can. I’ve been there, and in some ways, am there now trying to lead our church community. As always we need to look to Christ for these answers. If we are to model, follow, how He lived then let’s do so.

Individual Purpose

Every one of us has an individual mission. Something tugs at your heart and you respond, “I want to make a difference in this area.” Your first steps will generally be alone, but I bet you’ll also be looking at the experience of others to learn. Maybe a first step is to join an organization that is already about that mission, or maybe you’ll begin by sending support to them.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

Paul explains that we are each purposely created to do good works that God has prepared us to do beforehand. You have a God given purpose. You have work to do, even alone, no matter your situation. The great thing about this verse is that it says this purpose is prepared beforehand. Elsewhere we read about how God has gifted each one of us in specific ways, again proving He has prepared us for the work He has for us to accomplish. This includes you, no matter what your situation is in life. Homebound, in prison, mentally ill, no matter, you can still fulfill God’s purpose for your life, and you have a specific mission to be about.

BUT, you are not meant to be alone. In fact, in many Scriptures we see where we are told how great it is to have friends, others, teammates, to help us in our life journey. This includes having a team to be on mission with.

Jesus on Mission

Did Jesus have an individual mission?

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:16-21

Here we read Jesus’s own mission. He had an individual mission He was about. And if we follow Him throughout the Gospels, we find this is exactly the mission He completed.

However, after Jesus’s baptism by John and His time being tempted by Satan in the desert, (tempted to shortcut the mission), Jesus began His mission by choosing teammates. That’s right, the Son of God, deity in the flesh, accomplished His mission by gathering others to help Him.

Teammates

Jesus began His mission, His three years of mission activity, by choosing the least likely persons to help Him accomplish His goal of saving us from slavery to sin. He didn’t do it alone, He recruited a team. After some “grooming” of this team, we see where He sends them out, on mission, without Him with them, to prepare the “fields” for His work, (Luke 9:1-6).

Along the way, Jesus gains more followers. Some of these were more than just fans, they were true followers. He chose from them, seventy two to send out on mission again, (Luke 10:1-23). In this instance we see Him specify they are to go, “two by two.” He sent them in teams of two to announce His coming, “into every town and place where he himself was about to go.” They were the teams of ground tillers and seed planters for Him to come through later reaping the harvest. But He actually gives them instructions to, “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” In other words, more workers, more teammates, to help accomplish the mission He was given.

A Lone Ranger

Here’s the bottom line. We all have a mission, and we should all be about recruiting others to join us in this mission. Sure, it may start with a personal mission or calling, and you may be able to do some good work alone. But with a team, with others backing you on the same goal, you can do so much more. A football team isn’t a winning team with a quarterback alone. He needs blockers, defenders, receivers, even a coaching staff, to help him accomplish the goal of winning. Jesus, the Son of God, recruited a team of players to help Him accomplish His mission. If He needed a team, so do you and I.

What’s your plan? If you don’t know, maybe I can offer some tips:

  1. Let others know about your mission. What is your passion? What breaks your heart?
  2. Be intentionally on the look out for others that share your passion, desire to do something.
  3. Make friends, but more importantly, find teammates.
  4. Jump start by finding organizations that are about the mission you are called to and jump in.
  5. Pray, not last but first. As the Lord says, “Pray for laborers.”

Heed the command of the Lord for the seventy two, take others with you! Recruit someone else to go alone with you on your mission. It is not safe, nor good, to go it alone. You need others and they need you!

Who are You Hanging With?

Check out the teaching video on YouTube here.

Choosing the right friends is really important when we talk about friendship and community. We have those people in our lives that we don’t really want to hang out with. And we have our reasons, which usually may be they’re negative attributes, their divisive, selfish, or simply bad influences. 

We hopefully also have a few friends that have positive effects on us. They cheer us up, they bring joy, they are positive and caring, and probably are good influences on us.

So when we talk about being intentional in finding friendships and community, then we need to keep some things in mind. Because who we hang out with can effect us in good and bad ways. So for the ultimate wisdom, let’s turn to the Scriptures and see what wisdom we can find there.

The Bible is full of wise counsel when it comes to the friends we choose such as this opening verse for us:

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

Proverbs 13:20

We are who we hang out with. If you wanted to be the smartest kid in the classroom, then you should have been hanging out with the “nerds” right? Yet many of us, myself included, hung out with the fools. In our workplaces, if we want to move up the ladder, then we need to be sure we’re making friends with those that are workers as well. If we want to be wise, we’ll find wise people to befriend.

If we choose bad company…

Bad Company

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

1 Corinthians 15:33

This is one of those verses you may have heard as a “wise old saying.” Especially when you were young and hung out with that “wrong crowd.”

In my own life I got in a lot of trouble numerous times because of the people I was hanging out with. They were friends that lived life on the wild side, and it was a community I found myself in. 

Sometimes when we’re looking for a community to belong to, we’ll lower our standards. Hang out with people that might be a little more risky than we are, just so we have a place of belonging. Self confidence plays a role in this for sure. Because if we aren’t confident about who we are, then we might find ourselves trying to be something we aren’t because we simply want to fit in. And sadly, most of the time, we end up trying to fit in with the wrong crowd instead of the right ones.

Sometimes when we’re looking for a community to belong to, we’ll lower our standards. Hang out with people that might be a little more risky than we are, just so we have a place of belonging.

Angry People

Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.

Proverbs 22:24-25

We don’t have to go far today to find angry people right? There are so many issues today that strike up anger in those given easily to it. And it so easy for us humans to give into it. It doesn’t take much of a spark to ignite the flame of angry passion within us. So we must be guarded from those that tend to allow anger to rule within them.

Do not go with a wrathful man. Don’t take a trip with one bent on revenge is what I’d say here. You might find yourself in a predicament you don’t want to be in! Hence the snare…the trap, the situation that you didn’t ask for.

Positive Friends

I’d bet that you, like me, would much rather be surrounded by friends that help build me up, speak life to me, and again, are a joy to be around.

Listen to these positive verses on having the right people around you. These verses define what kind of friends we should desire to have as we as what kind of friend we shall be.

Encouragers

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Who doesn’t need encouragement? Who doesn’t need to be built up every now and then?

In this world it is so easy to find ourselves discouraged and beat down from all that is thrown at us in a typical day. How pleasant it is though to have someone around you that will be there to encourage you, to help pick you up. This is what a good community of friends should be for one another.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 1-:24-25

Another great reminder not only to be encouraging to one another, but to “stir one another to love and good works.” As Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

Good friends help us keep the right things in focus. They’re not going to distract us from doing what is right. They understand purpose, and will be there to encourage us in finding and staying on our purpose as well.

I love this word from Paul in his letter to the Romans…

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

Romans 1:11-12

This is understanding that we have gifts to give to one another for the encouragement of one another. Like I said last week, sometimes we need to remember that when we seek out others to befriend, we need to see it as us giving that person a gift. Taking the focus off of ourselves and seeking to serve the other person’s needs.

Give and Take

Community and friendships are always two way streets. They require give and take in the relationships. You have something to give someone else and at times you’ll be on the receiving end of someone else’s gifts to you.

Again, the Scriptures help guide us in being good community together.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:12-17

First notice, this a word to us as believers. It is a charge given. We are to put on these characteristics Paul lays out here: Compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and love.

Isn’t this the kind of community you want to belong to? It should be our goal to be this kind of community. Intentionally striving.

And then he reminds us, “we are called in one body.” We are in this together. We are to be encouragers just as well as we sometimes need encouragement. We need to be the burden bearers and sometimes need someone else to help bear our burdens.

We are in this together. We are to be encouragers just as well as we sometimes need encouragement. We need to be the burden bearers and sometimes need someone else to help bear our burdens.

He says that love binds all these together in perfect harmony. You need people that love you, and you need to be loving to those around you. When we love each other, we care for one another’s needs above our own. We’re willing to seek the best for one another.

We are to teach and admonish one another. I pray we learn to do this better every day.

You weren’t created to do life alone. You need others and others need you. You need the gift of friendship and community and others need you as their friend and their community.

Wise Words

But let us remember to be wise in who we befriend and are in community with, because it’s easy to be a fool in this life. It takes no effort, and there’s lots of other fools we can easily pick from.

It all takes wisdom and intentional action to find the right people to include in our lives. And I think we do a better job if we actively seek out those in need of friendship and community.

The Best Friend

In closing, I love this word I found from the book of Job.

Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house, 5 when the Almighty was still with me and my children were around me,

Job 29:4-6

Has God’s intimate friendship blessed your house? Are you a friend of the Lord’s?

As we read last week, Jesus said to His disciples…

I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

To be a friend of God, you have to believe in the One He sent. And if you’re a friend of Jesus then you are a friend of God.