October 11, 2017

How Jesus Handled Crises That Came One After Another

Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. – Luke 22:42

Crises that come one after another move a person from overcoming concentration to deep emotional distress. Such were the crises that began to bombard Jesus as He neared the end of His earthly ministry. It is to our benefit to observe His coping mechanism.

Following Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, He faced a tempting crisis when the Greeks desired to embrace His ministry (John 12:20-27). Their acceptance placed before Jesus the choice of going to Athens to be an honored teacher or remaining in Jerusalem to experience the suffering of the Cross. John records that Jesus was troubled in His soul as he faced this crisis: Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again (verses 27 & 28). Jesus surrendered His purpose in life to the purpose of His Father and went on to Jerusalem!

Soon after the Greek crisis, Jesus faced a painful crisis in the Gallery where He celebrated His last Passover with His disciples (John 13:1-30). John records that Jesus was troubled in spirit as He revealed to His disciples that one of them would betray Him (verse 21). After releasing Judas to do his dastardly deed, Jesus declared: Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him (verses 31 & 32). Jesus surrendered His pain of betrayal to the purpose of His Father and chose the joy set before Him!

Immediately following Jesus’ crisis in the Gallery, He faced a crisis in Gethsemane of such emotional despair that it threatened a premature death (Matthew 26:36-46). Matthew records that His soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death (verse 38). Luke records that Jesus was in such agony that his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44). Although He pleaded with His Father to escape what was before Him, He declared: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt (verse 39). Jesus surrendered persuasion through prayer to the purpose of His Father and moved forward as a lamb led to slaughter.

Finally, upon the hill of Golgotha Jesus faced the ultimate crisis of the Cross (Luke 23:33-49). Isaiah prophetically describes Jesus on the cross as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). Surely no crisis ever faced by man produced any greater emotional distraught! When the jeering crowd demanded that Jesus honor His claims of being the Son of God by coming down from the cross, He responded: Father, Into thy hands I commend My spirit (verse 46). Jesus surrendered popularity on earth to the purpose of His Father and gave His body and blood for the sin of the world.

Crisis after crisis, one after another, came at Jesus as He neared the end of His work on earth. But each time, His response was the same – surrender to His Father’s will! Many crises, but one strategy and only one!

Oh that we would embrace Jesus’ strategy in these days of intense crises! Are we willing to surrender our purpose, our pain, our popularity, and even our persuasion through prayer to the purpose of our heavenly Father? Or do tensions mount up while fears and resentments pile one upon another for lack of surrender? May we learn to live a life that is in constant surrender to His will! May we escape the pain of the unsurrendered self!

Christ’s bondservants, Rob and Judy Finley

Christ's bondservant,
Rob Finley

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October 22, 2015

Accusing a Weak Brother

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The renowned Bible teacher, Dr. John Phillips, with his usual expository artistry, outlines Romans 14:1-15:7 as Accepting a Weak Brother (14:1-9); Accusing a Weak Brother (14:10-13); and Accommodating a Weak Brother (14:14-23).

Out of our mercy in Christ we should be ministering to our weaker brothers and sisters in Christ, but this is often not the case. The heart of this issue is found in Romans 14:10: But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

The Apostle Paul writes that there are two responses that we should NOT have concerning a weaker brother, judging and setting at nought. The first is more of an outward act, while the second is more of an inner attitude. Paul states that our response to our weaker brother will come back upon us at the Judgment Seat of Christ! So what does the apostle have in mind?

Our judgmental response reveals our true state of carnality. Who are we that we should judge another? To do so, reveals more of us than our weaker brother! Our response demonstrates our blatant carnality! To judge another in reality reveals that we are weaker than our weak brother! We are still carnal! We are the weak one!

And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?  Romans 2:3

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5

As we stood in front of the mirror this morning, did we see the reflection of a hypocrite starring back at us?

Our judgmental response reveals our desire to usurp Christ’s rightful place as Judge. Do we dare run the risk of endangering ourselves at the Judgment Seat of Christ, by placing ourselves in the seat of Christ, Who alone has the rightful position to judge another?

For the Father judges no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.  John 5:22

How bold we must be to think that we can sit in Christ’s seat and pass judgment upon another! This response in our heart is near blasphemous! Was there ever a time in our life when God the Father saw our superiority to His Son, Jesus, and told us that we should be the ones sitting in His seat instead?

Our judgmental response reveals how we will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ! Jesus stated in Matthew 7:2: For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. Do we not fear the Judgment Seat of Christ? Do we want to be judged by Jesus Christ or by our own critical standard toward others? Jesus issued this stern warning often as He watched those around Him finding fault in others. Fault-finding was the very nature of a Pharisee:

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. Luke 18:11

But of course, we do not see ourselves in our response as a Pharisee or a hypocrite! We are not like other men. We are superior! Or so we secretly think.

But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.  Matthew 12:36

Our judgmental response reveals our lack of being teachable. To get down to this judgmental position, we must first resist or reject clear teachings of the Scriptures:

Judge not that ye be not judged.  Matthew 7:1

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged, condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.  Luke 6:37

Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.  John 7:24

Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.  Romans 14:13

Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.  James 4:11

Over and over again we are warned not to respond in judgment, and yet we persist in passing our harsh judgment upon others! Does this not reveal our lack of being teachable and a certain hardening to the Word of God?

Our judgmental response yields a whole list of people, victims whom we have condemned as beneath us! We have been deceived that in order for us to be spiritual, we must make others appear carnal. No doubt the current person we are tempted to judge is not the first! Will we allow the Spirit of God to replay in our conscience the list of others who have been victimized by our judgmental actions?

Consider Paul’s warning of the inner attitude of setting at nought another person. His phrase means to despise, to find contemptible, to make of no account! How callous is our heart that we do not detect an attitude of contempt toward our brother! Are we so insensitive that we do not feel our loathing of that weaker brother? Can we not see our hardened heart viewing another as someone who is of no account? Do we dare make him a nobody in our eyes?

How can we claim to be a strong Christian, or even a Christian, with such actions and attitudes? Has Christ not forgiven us of much worse than that which we so quickly pass judgment against our weaker brother? Do we even now see ourselves better than others? Is not pride again seeking to run our lives?

So now when we pray in all our holiness and cannot pray a prayer of forgiveness, do we not realize that our attitude has just passed sentence upon us?

And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.  Mark 11:25

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  Matthew 6:14,15

Lessons to be learned as God’s Spirit speaks to our lofty opinion of ourselves:

We should not confuse legalism with holiness. This confusion is easily made in our rush toward holiness through a keeping of certain rules and external conformities. We need to remind ourselves of the anonymous quote: In things essential, unity; In things secondary, liberty; and In all things, charity.

We should not confuse doctrine with truth. We may possess a system of teachings by which we with tunnel vision judge others. But is our narrow vision so narrow as to include only me? The Pharisees had a narrow system of teaching and Jesus did not fit within that system, so instead of rejecting their system and embracing Jesus, they rejected Jesus and kept their system.

May you enjoy the grace of the Lord as we have in confessing our past judgement toward others! And may we all be more alert to avoid the trap of judging others!

Christ's bondservant,
Rob Finley

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September 15, 2015

Forgive

 

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Forgive – click to play the audio

Transcript:

Mark Chapter 11, looking at verses 25 and 26, “And when you stand praying, forgive, if you ought against any, that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

If I were to ask you, “What is Jesus’ first teaching on prayer?”, I wonder if you would be reminded of Matthew 5:44 in the Sermon on the Mount, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you. And when you stand to pray, forgive.

Years ago, a Fuller Seminary Professor named Ray Anderson was eating at a restaurant and he slipped in to the restroom. When he came to wash his hands he noticed up on the mirror were these words, with a marker felt-tipped pen: “Judas, come home. All is forgiven.” Judas, come home. All is forgiven. Ray Anderson looked at those words and he wondered momentarily who could have written this? He first thought about maybe some prodigal son who’ve left home in a huff. He is out sowing his wild oats in San Francisco, and maybe had a longing in his heart to go home.

Then as Ray Anderson looked at those words perhaps, he thought, it was a father, a father who had spoken in haste to his rebellious son as he walked out the door and called him Judas. Now, in desperation, he’s going from restaurant to restaurant, leaving a message that perhaps his son will see it, “Judas come home.” Being in San Francisco and being a seminary professor he thought of perhaps a seminary student, a theological student going from restaurant to restaurant, from restroom to restroom leaving this gospel graffiti: Judas, come home. All is forgiven.

Dr. Ray Anderson looked at those words and he began to wonder, “Could this even be true? Would Jesus have forgiven Judas?” Do you recall when Jesus was resurrected? For forty days He ministered and walked about. Do you ever wonder what He was doing? Well, one of the things He was doing was going back to those who needed forgiveness. He came to the disciples who had deserted Him, left Him to hang on the cross. He wanted them to know He has forgiven them. He came to Peter personally. He wanted Peter to know, “All is alright, Peter. I’ve forgiven you.”

He came to Thomas just so Thomas could know that in spite of all of his doubts Jesus wanted him to know he is forgiven. He came to Paul; Paul, with all of his defiance, with all of his rage of persecuting the Christians. He came to Paul, who was then called Saul of Tarsus, just to let Saul know, “I’m alive and you are forgiven.” He came to his brother, James, who for years did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. He came to James just to let him know in spite of his disbelief he wanted him to know he was forgiven.

Would Jesus have forgiven Judas? That’s really a subject that I’m going to share with you tonight – What is betrayal? Because Judas betrayed Jesus. What is betrayal? Betrayal is love turned against itself. Betrayal is love turned against itself. The illustration in the Scripture is that of leprosy where that leprosy begins to eat away at its own body. This is sin; a sin perhaps at its worst is betrayal. I think it’s one of the hardest sins to forgive. Let me share with you why.

First of all if you have your outline you’ll notice the first insight is love contains the seeds of betrayal. Love contains the seeds of betrayal. Only where love and the bound of commitment exist is there a potential for betrayal. So when Judas would say to Jesus, “I love you,” and gave Jesus a kiss, it was a kiss of betrayal.

Before we go much further you and I need to realize in our saying to Jesus Christ, “I love you,” it has the seeds of betrayal in that statement. You see when we see betrayal in someone else we call that person a Judas, but when we see that betrayal in our own heart we call it as a Simon Peter. There’s not a lot of difference between betrayal and denial. Simon Peter denied Jesus. Judas betrayed him.

When we went to Chelm, Poland in Krakow, we visited Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. One of the great lessons that God taught me there in that extermination camp is that the Holocaust shows us, shows what man is capable of doing. It shows what we are capable of doing. It shows each one of us, what I am capable of doing. For until you see what your heart is capable of doing you’ll never understand betrayal. Betrayal is love turned against itself.

Matthew 27: 1-5, “When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.’ And they said, ‘What is that to us? See thou to it.’ And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”

The disciples only gave Judas credit for remorse and not repentance. You see what’s the difference between remorse and repentance? Remorse is the regret of having gotten caught. Let me say that again. Remorse is the emotional regret of having gotten caught. It’s the Jimmy Swaggart alligator tears rolling down his cheeks, only months later to turn around and do it again. It’s the Bill Clinton trying to play fancy word games instead of being broken – only remorse of having gotten caught; whereas repentance, repentance is that change of character that includes reformation. There is a change that takes place when you repent genuinely. There is a retribution. You’re wanting to restore financially back to someone that you have taken something from them. There is reconciliation, a desire to be one with that person you have offended. True repentance means a change of character. With Judas, because he went and hung himself, we don’t know if there’s a change of character or not. He went and threw down the money and acknowledged he had betrayed innocent blood. But was there a change? We don’t know.

I wonder what would have happened to Judas if the disciples had forgiven him? We’ll never know, will we? Because where were the disciples? Hiding. They had deserted Jesus and they were hiding for fear of the Romans that they, too, might end up on a cross. Did not Jesus say, “Take up your cross and follow me”? And now they are hiding. No room for repentance. No room to receive Judas and forgive.

But I want to you to see a second insight tonight and that is that love chances the shame of betrayal. Love changes the shame of betrayal. To love is to risk betrayal. In some ways it’s like a fatal attraction. When you love you risk. Remember Jesus spend all night in prayer to the Father asking the Father to send him some disciples? The next day Jesus started calling the disciples. The Father answered his prayer, gave him his disciples including Judas. Jesus accepted these disciples including Judas, and in doing so he risked.

Do you remember the Lord’s Supper – and I shared this about a month ago – when Jesus said, “One of you shall betray me”? Did you notice in my message I did not say they all turned and looked at Judas? Because they didn’t. They all looked within their own heart that to love is to risk betrayal.

You ever notice in the Scriptures the list of disciples? I get tickled when I look at the list of disciples. It states after Judas’ name, it says, “Who betrayed Jesus.” Wait a minute. Why don’t you put after Peter, Simon Peter, who denied Jesus or put after Thomas, Thomas, who doubted Jesus? Why don’t you put after James and John who connived and maneuvered so that they could have the chief seats when Jesus entered into his kingdom? You see the disciples never would forgive Judas. Every time they wrote his name on the list of disciples they would write down, “Who betrayed Jesus.” Love risks. It changes that shame.

Thirdly, I want you to see that love cancels the sin of betrayal. Love cancels the sin of betrayal. Love overcomes the consequences of betrayal. At the very moment when Judas was hanging himself Jesus is on his way to be crucified. His death, Jesus’ death, his blood on the cross would cancel out that betrayal. His blood would pay the price of Judas’ sin. Betrayal has the tremendous power to destroy, but love has a greater power to heal and to restore. 1 Peter 4:8, “For love shall cover the multitude of sins.” Proverbs 10:12, “Love covereth all sins.”

When I come to this message and I come to this area of betrayal I see in the Scripture seven areas that are very, very difficult to forgive. There on your sheets you’ll notice those seven areas. I want to touch on them just momentarily. The first is sexual betrayal. Sexual betrayal of love turned towards somebody else. Adultery, pornography, homosexuality, can these sins be forgiven? In John 8:1-11, they brought a woman caught in adultery. Jesus gave us the example. He said, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more”. He didn’t cover up the sin; he recognized it was sin. But there was forgiveness in the heart of Jesus.

Luke 7:36-50 is the story about a rather loose woman who came to Jesus with an alabaster box and anointed his feet and dried his feet with that ointment, her tears with her hair. Jesus said unto her, “Your sins, which area many, are forgiven.” The story of the prodigal son there in Luke 15:11-32, the whole story is about a prodigal son who’s coming home. His father doesn’t wait for him. He is looking for him. He’s on the path. Perhaps he had a daily route walking out on the path, hoping on the horizon he would see his son. In the story Jesus tells the son comes home. His father immediately forgives him, puts shoes on his feet, ring on his hand, put clothes on his back, and told him to get a fattened calf and get it ready, “We will celebrate tonight.” Forgiveness.

Then you have financial betrayal: stealing, exhorting, running a scam. Perhaps you’ve been a victim of it. There is still that bitterness in your heart. Jesus, in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:12, says, “Forgive us our debts.” Forgive the financial betrayal that is there. In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus told of a parable of a king who forgave an enormous financial debt, a debt that could never be repaid in a multitude of lifetimes. It was sending a message that God the Father is ready to forgive.

Then there’s the physical abuse, the physical betrayal, whether it is physically beaten or perhaps verbal. You have that betrayal. Matthew 5:38-48. It’s in the context when Jesus said, “If someone smite you on the cheek, turn to him the other,” that Jesus gave that teaching. Love, bless, do good, and pray for those. When Jesus was on the cross being physically abused, verbally abused, he said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”

Then there’s the resentful betrayal. Perhaps some disability there, genetically or through an accident, hard to forgive, to blame God for what has happened. John 9:1-3, Jesus was asked about a man that was born blind. Jesus said, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest.” There needs to be forgiveness. And then there’s Psalm 103:3, “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.” Sometimes there is that need for this betrayal and this forgiveness to take place.

Then there’s the heretical betrayal. When a family member, a friend, embraces false teaching, goes off and gets involved in a small cult or maybe even gets involved in the occult. Mark 3:28-29, “All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies.”  God can forgive even the heretical embracing of false teaching.

Then there’s the disgraceful betrayal: slander, scandals, rumors. Maybe somebody said something about you that was untrue. Maybe it was even true, but they spread the scandal and rumor anyway. 2 Samuel 19:18-23 is a story about a servant who came seeking forgiveness because of the slander that he had committed. Revelation 3:1 and 2, the story about the Church of Sardis who had a great reputation, but as a reputation of being alive when it was dead and Jesus told it to repent; willing to forgive.

Then there’s the continual betrayal; the repetitious, continual addictions, habits when these keep reoccurring and they come and they’ll cry and they’ll ask forgiveness and you forgive and next month here they come again and then they come again and they come again and they come again. In Matthew 18:21 and 22, Peter asked Jesus how many times, how many times shall I keep forgiving this person? Jesus said seven times seventy. Keep forgiving, keep forgiving.

I find in the Scriptures that these are seven very, very difficult areas in our relationships with others to forgive. Perhaps you remember the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves where Snow White stood in front of her mirror and said, “Mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all?” Sometimes we shape our questions by the answer we want. Why didn’t Snow White stand in front of the mirror and say, “Mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the ugliest of them all?” We don’t want that answer to come back to us. So who’s the prettiest?

Do you ever go to the fair and you see those distorted mirrors and they show us all twisted, overweight, skinny? You choose the one you want. You get in front of that one mirror that makes you look 800 pounds. You say, “Well, that’s not me.” You go to that one that looks like you weigh 75 and you say, “That’s me!” Distorted reflections. There’s something inside of us that’s twisted as much as that distorted mirror. It’s called iniquity. We have embraced some lies and it shaped our life and we need forgiveness.

I wonder tonight if there’s a Judas inside of you that needs forgiving tonight. Jesus has asked this servant to come and to give you the message of forgiveness. God wants you to know you are forgiven. He loves you. He’s paid the price for that forgiveness. Perhaps there’s a family member who needs forgiveness. I wonder tonight if you’ll take this message, you’ll go home and pray it through. Leave your gift at the altar and go and be reconciled. Go to that person and say, “You are forgiven.” Perhaps someone you haven’t spoken to for years. There’s a hurt there. I know there’s a hurt. Go and forgive.

Judas, come home. All is forgiven. Jesus said, “And when you stand praying, forgive, if you have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

One of the songs we sing and we love to sing it What a Friend We Have in Jesus.

Are we weak and heavy- laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? (Can I change the word slightly?)
Do thy friends betray thee and forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer! In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there— A place of peace, a place to be still. 

Would you bow with me for a prayer? We’re human all of us. There’s none that is without sin. Jesus wants you to know you are forgiven tonight. Not the just the past sins, even the present sins and even the future sins. He paid the price for all sin. He wants you to come home. Come home. Come back to him. Maybe that you’re here and you need to become a Christian, to receive his love in the first place; He want you to come.

Thank you Father for your grace, your love; you’re so ready to forgive. You overflow with grace and mercy. It’s astonishing, Father, how you could love us. We’ll never completely understand it, but we relish in it. We treasure it. For an eternity we’ll thank you for it, in Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Christ's bondservant,
Rob Finley

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