Mark 14:3-11 Follow Up December 4, 2018

This week, in Mark 14:3-11, we saw an anonymous woman anoint Jesus with some very expensive, aromatic ointment, all as a beatiful act of adoration. We also saw two reactions from those who witnessed the woman’s adoration of Jesus. As we saw the entire story unfold, we made note of two things for Christians to be on guard against as we aim to adore Christ.

1. Outright Betrayal:

In verses 10-11, we saw Judas betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Matt 26:15), roughly the equivalent of $7,500 in modern times. Obviously, this is not a monumental sum of money, but it was significant enough for Judas to betray Jesus for. For us today, we might not have a group of chief priests tempting us with 30 pieces of silver, but we’re certainly tempted to betray Jesus with other things:

  • A shady business deal.
  • A moment of pleasure with someone who is not our spouse.
  • Cheating on a test.
  • Plagiarizing a term paper.
  • Presenting falsehood on taxes.

Anytime we’re talking about outright sin, we’re talking about betraying Jesus, just as Judas did. It might be difficult for us to identify ourselves with Judas, but it’s good for us to recognize the temptations that might lead us to an outright betrayal of Christ. As we identify those temptations, we must also guard ourselves from them by pointing ourselves to the gospel, reminding ourselves that Christ has been unashamedly faithful to us in taking on the human nature and the cross (Phil 2:5-11; Heb 12:2) to pay for the shame of our sin. It’s a truth that encourages and motivates us to live for him and his glory—to despise the momentary and selfish pleasure that comes at the expense of betraying Jesus.

But there’s a subtler form of disloyalty we also need to guard our hearts from…

2. Subtle Unfaithfulness:

In verses 3-9, we saw the anonymous woman use all of her ointment—worth about a year’s salary—in her adoration of Jesus. We noticed how the dinner guests became indignant over the seeming waste. After all, the ointment could have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor—a very good and noble motive. But Jesus tells the dinner guests to leave the woman alone, (1) because her act was beautiful (good; excellent; honorable), and (2) because her act was a timely preparation for his upcoming burial.

We learned: There will always be individuals to help, but at that time, the priority was to adore Christ. This might seem a bit odd to us. We know we’re commanded to help the needy (Lev 19:9-10; Prov 14:31; Matt 5:42), and we know that good works are a way to adore Christ (Rom 12:1; Eph 2:10). But the Bible also suggests there is a time for everything (Eccl 3:1-8), and so at that time, the priority for the woman was to adore Jesus.

Have you ever been tempted to think there might be better, nobler, benevolent things we could do with our time and resources on a Sunday morning than to adore Christ, together?

  • Evangelism.
  • Feeding the homeless.
  • Helping a friend move into a new apartment.

These are all good, altruistic things we could be doing. But, again, our story encourages us: There will always be people to help; sometimes, adoration of Jesus should be our priority. Here’s the thing: It will always be worth it to adore him! So let’s guard our hearts from this subtler form of unfaithfulness to Christ, and let’s do so by pointing ourselves—once more—to the gospel, reminding ourselves that Jesus, the innocent one, made us, the guilty ones, his priority (1 Pet 3:18), that we would be encouraged to make him our priority in all that we do. Sometimes, our adoration will take on the form of good works. But at other times, like on Sunday mornings, we set even good things aside to adore Christ.

So let’s guard our hearts from both outright betrayal and subtle unfaithfulness, and let’s continue to joyfully adore Jesus every Sunday morning, together! For further discussion, here is the order of worship insert with the small group questions: Mark 14.3-11 Insert.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abindantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Marttell

Mark 11:15-19 Follow Up November 28, 2018

This Sunday, we hit the pause button on our series through 2 Corinthians and started a miniseries for the holiday season, which we’ve entitled, Born for the Cross. If there’s one thing we know about the birth of Christ, it’s that he was born to save us through his eventual death on the cross. Our plan this Christmas season is to look at some of the events surrounding Jesus’ final week before going to the cross, and this Sunday we kicked off by looking at his confrontational cleansing of the temple, recorded for us in Mark 11:15-19.

As we looked at this particular event, we learned one main lesson about the temple:

The temple was supposed to be an all-access pass to God

The temple mount itself had several courts. Starting with the furthest court from the most holy place within the temple proper, the court of the Gentiles was the area where anyone could enter, regardless of ethnicity or gender. Next, the court of women was the place where Jewish women could enter. Then, the court of Israel was the place Jewish men could enter. Eventually, there was the court of priests, and ultimately, the most holy place, where only the high priest could enter once a year.

When Jesus approached the temple mount, we’re told that he “began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons” (Mark 11:15). This would have taken place in the court of the Gentiles. Why would he do this?

First, it was the time for Passover, and Jewish men from everywhere would have been travelling to the temple to pay the annual temple tax (Exodus 30:13-16). And while foreign currency was accepted everywhere in Jerusalem, the temple only accepted the temple coin (or the Galilean coin) for the annual temple tax at the temple. This explains the many tables that were set up for currency exchange. The issue at hand was that the money changers unfairly doubled the exchange rate for the temple coin.

Second, officials who sold animals for sacrifice would do so at either 5 or 15 times the actual value (depending on how you translate). This was detrimental for the poorest of Jews who needed to make the most affordable sacrifice (doves or pigeons; see Leviticus 5:7). Even if they brought their own spotless, blemishless pigeon, temple officials would reject their sacrifice, forcing them to buy one of their approved pigeons. Imagine that, the $5 pigeon you brought to the temple just turned into $75!

Verse 16 further tells us that Jesus also “would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.” In the Greek, the reference is to vessels for goods, informing us that Jesus wasn’t allowing anyone to carry their merchandise (specifically) through the temple mount. Why? By that point, Jews had become accustomed to take the “short cut” right through the temple mount to the gate that lead to the main road toward the Mount of Olives (thus saving themselves from a significant walk around the city walls). In other words, Jews had become accustomed to nonchalantly passing through the temple grounds, without reverence for the Lord.

No wonder Jesus drove everyone out! And as he did, he quoted the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah (verse 17). What God intended to be “a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7), the Jewish religious leaders turned into “a den of robbers” (Jeremiah 7:11). The one earthly location that was supposed to the place where all people could draw near to God in prayer—even foreign Gentiles (Isaiah 56:3, 6) and eunuch slaves (Isaiah 56:4)—was turned into a high-priced market of oppression and theft (Jeremiah 7:6, 9). People were being robbed financially. But worse, with the temple mount being turned into a crooked swap meet, people were being robbed access to God. Hence, the righteous anger of Christ.

Throughout the Scriptures, anytime people are being led away from God in idolatry or anytime people are being oppressed, you find the righteous anger of God. And here, people were being denied access to him. The result: Jesus’ confrontational cleansing. What does all of this mean for us, today?

We are now the temple

1 Corinthians 3:16 and 2 Corinthians 6:16 both remind us that Christians are now the temple of God. This being the case, we are now the all-access pass for others to God. So here’s the challenging question we were confronted with on Sunday: Is there anything that needs to be overturned or driven out from our hearts because its making it hard for others to see god?

One of our goals as a church is to always be an assembly of believers where anyone—no matter their background or walk of life—could draw near to God. We want to be a church where people know they are lovingly welcomed; where they could come to God just as they are.

Of course, this does not mean issues of the heart are overlooked and never dealt with. We know God lovingly accepts people—by grace through faith—just as they are, but we also know God loves them too much to let them stay that way. He wants to grow us in holiness and Christlikeness. As a church, then, we want people to find us to be a place where they could experience a relationship with God as they see Jesus reflected through us, and when sin is addressed, we hope all people will find us to be a place where those matters are dealt with in love and gentleness (Galatians 6:1).

Let’s continue being that all-access pass for others to God. And if there is anything in our hearts that needs to be overturned or driven out, let’s be humble enough to allow the Spirit of God to cleanse us—his temple—so that Christ’s lovingkindness could be reflected through us to all people; so that none would ever be robbed access to God.

May we, “being rooted and grounded in love… be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).

With love in Christ,

Pastor Marttell

2 Corinthians 4:1-6 Follow Up November 19, 2018

As Christians we are all called to minister to one another, but ministry can be filled with many sources of discouragement along the way. In 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 Paul gives us 3 ways in which he did not lose heart in his ministry.

1. Love the Ministry.

Verses 1-2 tell us that Paul did not lose heart in the ministry because he had been entrusted with the ministry of the Gospel. Paul did not engage in Gospel ministry with ulterior motives. He was not motivated by having his ego boosted, or money, or controversy, or political power. Paul loved the Gospel, and loved the ministry itself. Often we lose heart in the ministry because we don’t really love the ministry.

2. Expect Rejection.

In verses 3-4 Paul tells us it that he knows that people are blinded to the Gospel by the god of this world (Satan). We can be faithful, loving, gracious, and winsome as we minister to others, and we will still face rejection because people are blinded in their hearts. We do not need to lose heart or second guess the message of the Gospel just because we face rejection.

3. Trust in the Light.

In verses 5-6 Paul reminds us that even though people’s hearts are dark, God creates light. The same God who said, “Let there be light,” in creation shines light into the dark and unbelieving hearts of people. Only the Lord can do this, so we are freed to simply minister to others with faith and trust in God’s creative ability.

May we take this passage to heart as we seek to persevere in the ministry which God has given us. Here are the discussion questions from Sunday’s sermon: 2 Cor. 4.1-6 Notes.

 

-Pastor Nathan Hogan

2 Corinthians 3:12-18 Follow Up November 12, 2018

In 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 Paul talks about our spiritual transformation as Christians. This is the process where we are made to be more and more like Christ throughout our lives. In verse 18 of our text Paul describes this process as us being transformed from one degree of glory to the next. In Sunday’s sermon we asked and answered 3 questions about spiritual transformation.

1. Why do we grow?

The short answer to this question is: we grow because the Holy Spirit indwells us as Christians and we have turned to the Lord. The Lord has saved us to make us holy. Paul makes this point by reminding us of the fact that Israel has a veil over their hearts and minds. They read the Bible, but do not see Jesus Christ or their need for a Savior. All are in this state apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. As Christians, however, this veil has been removed. We have turned to Jesus and believed in Him. This means that we now grow to be more like Jesus Christ.

2. Who grows?

The short answer to this question is: we all grow. In verse 18 Paul makes it clear that Christians all grow to be more like Christ. There are no exceptions to this. We are not saved because we grow, but our salvation necessarily results in our growth. This does not mean that we all grow at the same pace, or that we don’t stumble along the way. This does mean that we should all desire to grow in the glory God has for us. We should hunger and thirst for righteousness.

3. How do we grow?

The short answer to this questions is: by beholding Jesus Christ. In verse 18 Paul says we grow as we behold Jesus. We become what we behold. We imitate what we worship. The more we behold Jesus Christ in adoration and worship, the more we become like Him. Whenever we behold Jesus Christ in the Scriptures and in worship with faith, we are made to be more like Him. May we strive to behold Jesus Christ more and more!

Here are the discussion questions from Sunday’s sermon:  2 Cor. 3.12-18 Notes.

 

-Pastor Nathan Hogan

2 Corinthians 3:7-11 Follow Up October 31, 2018

In 2 Corinthians 3:7-11, Paul reminds the church in Corinth of how much more glorious the New Covenant is than the Old Covenant (the Law), and he does so with a threefold comparison between the two. It is interesting to note that while the Christians in Corinth struggled with a lot of things, it seems that Judaizing the faith was not one of their struggles. After all, they were primarily Gentile believers. Yet, even though the Corinthian church did not struggle with going back to the Law, Paul still made it a point to remind them of how much more glorious the gospel is over the Law. So we realized: Just as the Corinthians, we also need the gospel as we struggle against sin and temptation—particularly, as we fight against the influence of the world. So, as Paul argued for the surpassing glory of the New Covenant over the Old, we learned of three things to remember about the New Covenant as we fight against worldliness and as we aim to live lives that are pleasing before God’s sight:

1. The New Covenant Gives Life

In verses 7-8, Paul describes the Old Covenant as a ministry of death and the New Covenant as a ministry of the Spirit (who gives life; see verse 6). By doing so, he reminds his readers that the Law reveals the death our sin earns (Romans 6:23), because we could never keep the Law. The New Covenant, on the other hand, promises intimate, relational knowledge of the Lord and the forgiveness of sins (Jeremiah 31:34), glorious promises that are fulfilled in Christ, the innocent one who died that we—the guilty—might receive everlasting life. In Ephesians 2:1-5, Paul describes this ministry of the Spirit as one that brings us from death to life. What a glorious truth to remember! Especially as we, like the Corinthians, fight against the influence of the world in our own hearts. My dear church: Do you want to live in a way the honors our Lord? Remember that the Holy Spirit—through the promises of the New Covenant—brings everlasting life! In Christ, your sinful transgressions are already acquitted. This means you already have Spirit-generated and Spirit-empowered life, so live as if you’re already forgiven, because you are. And live as if you already have intimate, relational knowledge of the Lord, because you do. In short, live a life in submission to the Spirit, who empowers you to the holy living meant to be experienced by the rebirth and regeneration that only the Spirit of God gives.

2. The New Covenant Gives Righteousness

In verse 9, Paul describes the Old Covenant as a ministry of condemnation and the New Covenant as a ministry of righteousness. By doing so, he reminds his readers that the Law reveals the verdict of condemnation against us because of our own lawlessness. Being sinners by nature and by choice, we cannot keep the Law, and so we stand condemned, short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The New Covenant, on the other hand, promises the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and a new, God-honoring heart (Jeremiah 31:33 ; Ezekiel 11:19-20), glorious promises that are—again—fulfilled in Christ, the one who perfectly kept the Law for us because we never could; the one who gives his righteousness to us (Romans 1:17; 3:21-22). Once again, what a glorious truth to remember as we fight against worldliness! Do you want to live in a God-glorifying way? Remember that the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to you. Remember that the Spirit of God lives within you. Remember that you have a new heart, that you might obey the Lord. So once again, live as if you have the righteousness of Christ, because you do. Live as if the Spirit has made his dwelling within you, because he has. Live as if you have a new heart, because you do. In short, live in submission to the Spirit, who has already given you everything you need to walk in righteousness.

3. The New Covenant is Permanent

In verse 11, Paul describes the Old Covenant as being brought to an end and the New Covenant as being permanent. By doing so, he reminds his readers that the Law has become obsolete (Hebrews 8:13), all because the New has superseded it with its eternal nature. In fact, under the New Covenant, God has promised, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 11:20), a promise which has an unending nature to it; a promise that—once more—is fulfilled in Christ, who is preparing our eternal dwelling place (John 14:1-3), that we might enjoy him forever (Revelation 21:3). Once more, what an infinitely glorious truth to remember as we fight against worldly living! Lake Murray: Do you want to honor the Lord with your redeemed life? Remember that the good news of the New Covenant being fulfilled in Christ comes with everlasting promises! These promises will never end. These promises are secured in Christ. These promises will go on forever, even into the age to come. So once more, live as if you belong to Jesus forever, because you do. In short, live in submission to the spiritual presence of God, who has graciously promised to be your God, forever.

For at least these three reasons, Paul reminds us that the New is so much better and so much more glorious than the Old (verse 10). Let’s remember these glorious truths as we aim to live in total Christlikeness in this world, even though we are not of the world (John 17:14).

And for small group discussion, here is a PDF copy of Sunday’s order of worship/sermon note sheet with follow up questions to the sermon: 2 Cor. 3.7-11 Insert. “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

-Pastor Marttell Sánchez