Tag Archives: Pharisees

The Church and Salvation:  Learning to Receive Criticism and Instruction

Today’s message summary of December 31, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

There are periods when Jesus spent time with his apostles to train them for what was to come after He turned over His ministry to them.

How much do you like criticism?  Many of us don’t, but there are times when criticism is necessary.  For those of us at the forefront of ministry, this criticism is indeed constructive and beneficial.  The apostles had to receive instruction in this way in order to make sure that (1) they were living in the right way, and (2) to demonstrate before others a life of service in Jesus Christ.

We are to respect those who criticize us, because they are ultimately watching us.  It is the act of analysis or of the qualities as an evaluation in comparison to others.  There may be a finding of fault or even disapproval of what is being done, but it is in the spirit of correction.  (We are often not as critical of ourselves as we should be.)

Being a Christian is not easy.  It starts with obedience to Him, and it involves a surrendering to the Holy Spirit, who is developing you into the person that will serve Jesus.  This is how you can experience success–in spite of the flesh.

If you were to pick twelve people to do a task, and only one of the twelve failed, how would you grade yourself?  This was the result of Jesus’ training of his apostles.

There is a historical contrast between Jesus, the Jewish leaders, and John the Baptist.

The Jewish teachers and John the Baptist didn’t choose their disciples.  Their disciples chose them.  Jesus, in contrast, hand picked each of His disciples in order that they would become His apostles.

They were not self-made.  They had to stay chose to Jesus in order to continue to develop, learn and grow.

John 15:16

You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.

Mark 3:13-15

Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, to send them out to preach, and to have authority to drive out demons.

This was a change from what was the religious norm of the time (instead of what happened with John and the Jewish leaders).  Jesus wanted the apostles and appointed them.  He wanted them to be with Him.  He would sent them out to preach, and gave them authority to drive out demons.

The real wonder of the apostles lies in the making and development of the men for their ministry.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!

The real wonder of a Christian is their growth and development.  Jesus wants to not just give salvation, but He wants to be with the believer to help him grow.  Where the old has left, the new has come.

The apostles reveal what is going to happen in the life of those who will accept Jesus as Savior.  The old has gone, and the new has come.

They had to learn to take criticism from other religious people.  There were many (Jews and Pharisees) who were watching them.

Mark 7:1-13

The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him. They observed that some of his disciples were eating bread with uncleanthat is, unwashedhands. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, keeping the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they have washed. And there are many other customs they have received and keep, like the washing of cups, pitchers, kettles, and dining couches.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, Why dont your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders, instead of eating bread with ceremonially unclean hands?

He answered them, Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written:

This people honors me with their lips,

but their heart is far from me.

They worship me in vain,

teaching as doctrines human commands.

Abandoning the command of God, you hold on to human tradition. He also said to them, You have a fine way of invalidating Gods command in order to set up your tradition!  For Moses said: Honor your father and your mother; and Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death. But you say, If anyone tells his father or mother: Whatever benefit you might have received from me is corban’” (that is, an offering devoted to God), you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many other similar things.

 

“Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders?” (from Mark 7:5)

Jesus reminded the critics of the words of Scripture in defense of the disciples and noted that those who professed to follow the Lord had hearts that were not following Him.  He teaches the critics with the words of Isaiah.

Isaiah 29:13-19

The Lord said:

These people approach me with their speeches

to honor me with lip-service

yet their hearts are far from me,

and human rules direct their worship of me.

Therefore, I will again confound these people

with wonder after wonder.

The wisdom of their wise will vanish,

and the perception of their perceptive will be hidden.

 

Woe to those who go to great lengths

to hide their plans from the Lord.

They do their works in the dark,

and say, Who sees us? Who knows us?

You have turned things around,

as if the potter were the same as the clay.

How can what is made say about its maker,

He didnt make me?

How can what is formed

say about the one who formed it,

He doesnt understand what hes doing?

 

Isnt it true that in just a little while

Lebanon will become an orchard,

and the orchard will seem like a forest?

On that day the deaf will hear

the words of a document,

and out of a deep darkness

the eyes of the blind will see.

The humble will have joy

after joy in the Lord,

and the poor people will rejoice

in the Holy One of Israel.

 

The disciples were observant of the dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees, but they were observing and learning from the exchange.

They learned how to move from answering their question to stating a fact about the accusers (Mark 7:9-13).

Now Jesus takes the question from the Pharisees to the multitude of people and His disciples–a much larger group.  He turns the question into a teachable moment for all who are listening.

Mark 7:14-19

Summoning the crowd again, he told them, Listen to me, all of you, and understand: Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.

When he went into the house away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, Are you also as lacking in understanding? Dont you realize that nothing going into a person from the outside can defile him? For it doesnt go into his heart but into the stomach and is eliminated (thus he declared all foods clean).

Remember that his disciples–soon to be apostles–were raised in Jewish tradition.  They had to see how these traditions were not nearly as important as the heart of the person.  The heart is to lead all of the actions for the glory of God.  Are things being done out of tradition, or are they being done out of a love and obedience for God?

Mark 7:20-23

And he said, What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of peoples hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, self-indulgence, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.

Jesus brings all of the observers into the discussion and shares this important truth.

Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ should always be mindful of where their hearts are and remain obedient to the Lord–and not grieve the Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Judas and His Heart

Today’s message summary of April 2, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

What was it that caused Judas to lose his heart for Jesus?

It is possible that Judas was originally drawn to Jesus because of his view of Him as the Jewish Messiah–believing in Him to be as such–and expecting Him to be successful as Judas would share in the victory of the Messiah?  In other words, he likely had the wrong view of Jesus.

John 6:15

Therefore, when Jesus knew that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.

This passage was disappointing to Judas because he was relying upon Jesus’ success in order for him to be able to realize his own ambition to be someone.

His second disappointment was when the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus for a sign.  The sign would seal Jesus’ claim as the true Messiah.  When Jesus was challenged, He did nothing to substantiate His claim to be the Messiah.

Matthew 16:1-4

The Pharisees and Sadducees approached, and as a test, asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them: “When evening comes you say, ‘It will be good weather because the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘Today will be stormy because the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to read the appearance of the sky, but you can’t read the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Then He left them and went away.

Luke 11:16

And others, as a test, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven.

Mark 8:11-12

The Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, demanding of Him a sign from heaven to test Him. But sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, “Why does this generation demand a sign? I assure you: No sign will be given to this generation!

Judas had struggles about who Jesus was throughout the period of ministry as he expected that Jesus would emerge as the Messiah, but it didn’t happen in the way that he expected that it would.  Jesus would not show a sign from Himself or from heaven.  Note that the Pharisees and Sadducees had already observed Jesus healing others, but that wasn’t sufficient for them.  They wanted to see a sign from heaven.

Are there any similarities in this view by Judas and how you may also have the same struggles with knowing Jesus?  It is not about merely knowing Jesus based upon what someone tells you, but rather that you get to know who Jesus is for yourself.  You have to develop a relationship with Him to get to know who he really is.

When Jesus backed away, Judas became more disenchanted with who Jesus was.

I also believe that today there are many people in Christian circles are also disenchanted with what they see today.

The challenge for everyone is to believe in Jesus Christ and be obedient to Him.  Judas lacked the ability to have faith and love in Jesus Christ.

How many of us are willing to dig deeply into His Word and to live in faith for Him in obedience.

Judas became more and more disenchanted in his heart.  His confidence in Jesus may have been adversely affected when John the Baptist was beheaded (Mark 6:24).  Jesus would not meet the public challenges of the Pharisees.

Two things that Jesus lacked:  faith and love.

He lacked the faith to believe what he had been taught and what he had already experienced with Jesus.

He lacked a love for the person of Jesus through the relationship that had been established for over two years.

At some point, Judas began to see Jesus differently than the other apostles saw Him.

1 John 2:19

They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.

With this, Jesus could only watch and see what Judas would do.

Part of our struggle with Judas was that he was born to be the traitor that he was.  If that was the case, Judas had no choice to do what he did.

If Judas was chosen merely to be a traitor, this would make God responsible for the betrayal.  If God is responsible for the betrayal, then Judas’ act would exonerate him from all blame.

From God’s point of view:  Because He is God, He knows all things.  Even the heart of each person, and the very intent of the hearts of each one.

John 2:24-25

Jesus, however, would not entrust Himself to them, since He knew them all and because He did not need anyone to testify about man; for He knew Himself what was in man.

Judas was given every opportunity to be true to Jesus in the same way as the other apostles.  Was he not empowered, along with the other apostles, to teach, heal and cast out demons? (Mark 3:14-17, 19)

Judas was chosen to learn and act for Jesus, but he chose to act for himself—a different way of living:

  • A life of a thief (John 12:4-6).
  • A person who was going to gain for himself (Matthew 26:14-16). (Satan had not entered into Judas at this time.)
  • The love of money was real in Judas’ heart (1 Timothy 6:16).

Judas did not speak with the motivation of the perfume being sold to help the poor (John 12:4-6).  He spoke only in selfish terms here.  This was another indicator of a series of bad decisions that he made.

Satan entered into Judas at the Last Supper (John 13:27).

John 13:27

After Judas ate the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Therefore Jesus told him, “What you’re doing, do quickly.”

Betrayal can come in many different forms.

1 Timothy 6:9-10

But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

Judas reveals one can be knowledgeable of Jesus, associate with other believers, be in the church, and be in service for Jesus, but NOT have Jesus in their heart and Lord and Savior.


Divorce: Not Commanded by God but Allowed (from continuing series on Marriage and Family)

Today’s message of November 6, 2016 from Pastor Gus Brown:

Divorce is never commanded by God but it is allowed.

God hates divorce.  He knows the pain and damage that it brings, and only He can heal it.

Malachi 2:16

If he hates and divorces his wife, says the Lord God of Israel, he covers his garment with injustice, says the Lord of Hosts. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously.

Divorce scars everyone in the entire family.  It hurts children the most, because what was once stable and secure at one time is no longer the case.

In the beginning, marriage was the union of a male and female (Adam and Eve), and there was no divorce.

When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, they tried to see if they could trap Him into something that would put Him in a negative light.  Not long before this dialogue, John the Baptist was beheaded for his comments of disapproval over Herod and his marriage to his sister.

Matthew 14:3-4

For Herod had arrested John, chained him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, since John had been telling him, “It’s not lawful for you to have her!”

Matthew 19:4-12

Havent you read, He replied, that He who created[a] them in the beginning made them male and female, and He also said:

For this reason a man will leave

his father and mother

and be joined to his wife,

and the two will become one flesh?

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.

Why then, they asked Him, did Moses command us to give divorce papers and to send her away?

He told them, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of the hardness of your hearts. But it was not like that from the beginning. And I tell you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.

His disciples said to Him, If the relationship of a man with his wife is like this, its better not to marry!

But He told them, Not everyone can accept this saying, but only those it has been given to. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mothers womb, there are eunuchs who were made by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way because of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.

Exodus 20:14

Do not commit adultery.

 

God deals with adultery as He is forming a people for Himself.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4 (dealing with Jewish women)

Deuteronomy 24:10-14 (dealing with a foreigner)

Nehemiah 10:30

We will not give our daughters in marriage to the surrounding peoples and will not take their daughters as wives for our sons.

Ezra 9:1 (detestable practices)

Ezra 9:2 (mingling of the holy race)

Ezra 9:14 (intermarrying with people who commit detestable practices)

Ezra 10:3 (sending away)

Ezra 10:11 (separate)

God calls us to separate ourselves to Him

 

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? What agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what dies a believer have in common with an unbeliever? And what agreement does God’s sanctuary have with idols? For we are the sanctuary of the living God, as God said: I will dwell among them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people. Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord; do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty.

1 Corinthians 7:15

But if the unbeliever leaves, let him leave. A brother or a sister is not bound in such cases. God has called you to live in peace. For you, wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?

With all of this, a Christian should never marry an unbeliever under the premise that he or she can “change” the other person.

All the schools of thought were in agreement that divorce was lawful.  The only question was as to the grounds for the divorce.  Why should it take place? (Note that God did not originally put into place any provisions for divorce.  He did not want to lower the standard of marriage.)

Jesus holds to the original plan…divorce was not the option to take.

What divorce does reveals is that what we often don’t want to face…it shows that God understands that, in a fallen world, the ideal of marriage can not always be realized.  God’s best for us is not always acceptable to us.

At a given time, God’s ideal for us is not always achievable.  His ideal doesn’t change to accommodate the failures of people.

God has given man the truth from the very beginning, but man has not always accepted it, and has made truth whatever he or she wants to accomplish.

John 18:37-38

“You are a king then?” Pilate asked. “You say that I’m a king,” Jesus replied. “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.” “What is truth?” said Pilate.

1 Samuel 8:6-9, 19-20

When they said, Give us a king to judge us, Samuel considered their demand sinful, so he prayed to the Lord. But the Lord told him, Listen to the people and everything they say to you. They have not rejected you; they have rejected Me as their king. They are doing the same thing to you that they have done to Me, since the day I brought them out of Egypt until this day, abandoning Me and worshiping other gods. Listen to them, but you must solemnly warn them and tell them about the rights of the king who will rule over them.

The people refused to listen to Samuel. No! they said. We must have a king over us. Then well be like all the other nations: our king will judge us, go out before us, and fight our battles.

 

Just as God never commanded remarriage of divorced couples, this doesn’t mean that He never permits it.  Note that the idea of divorcing someone for the sole purpose of marrying someone else is indeed adultery.  Adultery takes place in the mind and the heart of a person well before the bill of divorce was given.

If you wind up marrying three or four times, then it is time to try marriage according to God’s way rather than your own way.

There is a difference between what God commands and what He allows.

The subject of divorce is spoken of in greater detail in the book of Mark (written originally to the Romans–in Roman culture both men and women could write certificates of divorce).

Mark 10:1-12

He set out from there and went to the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Then crowds converged on Him again and, as He usually did, He began teaching them once more. Some Pharisees approached Him to test Him. They asked, Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?

He replied to them, What did Moses command you?

They said, Moses permitted us to write divorce papers and send her away.

But Jesus told them, He wrote this command for you because of the hardness of your hearts. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female.

For this reason a man will leave

his father and mother

[and be joined to his wife],

and the two will become one flesh.

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate.

Now in the house the disciples questioned Him again about this matter. And He said to them, Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. Also, if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.

 

When you send someone away you lose the right to have authority over the other person.

God does allow divorced couples to remarry as He recognizes the fallen state of man.  He offers forgiveness and mercy throughout the process.

If you make up your mind to marry according to God’s way, there is a better chance that the marriage will last.  God’s expectations are for the husband to be a godly man and for the wife to be a godly woman.  That standard has never changed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Gospel of John: Jesus and Nicodemus

Akron Alliance Fellowship Church extends a special thanks to our guest speaker, Rev. Alfonso Tyler, for bringing today’s message.  We also welcome his wife, Mary, and look forward to both returning to worship with us in the future.

The Gospel of John is our focus this week, where John, one of the more prominent members of Jesus Christ’s Twelve Apostles, and as a disciple of Christ, wrote the gospel at a time when there was much discussion about the legitimacy of Christ, His deity, and the emergence of false prophets and teachers.  John, according to what we know, was the oldest living apostle at around age 90 when he wrote this book, and was believed to be the only one of the apostles to have died a natural death (all of the others were martyrs).  He declared, “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down.  We know that his testimony is true (John 21:24).” He also wanted readers to know that “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name (John 20:30-31).”

John began the gospel with the declaration that Jesus Christ was there with God in the beginning, and that He was a part of creation.  This was to communicate the true deity of Christ. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created (John 1:1-3).”  John is to be considered a credible and believable witness for Christ, because, by his account, he fellowshipped with Jesus Christ, and was referred to as ‘the disciple who Jesus loved (John 13:23, 19:26-27, 21:20).’

From John’s account, we will explore Jesus Christ’s interaction with Nicodemus (within John 3:1-10).  Even though his account of the discussion between them begins in Chapter 3, note that the prelude to this discussion actually begins a few verses earlier, which reveals Christ’s omniscience.  He knew the people that he was ministering to:  “While He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many trusted in His name when they saw the signs He was doing.  Jesus, however, would not entrust Himself to them, since He knew them all and because He did not need anyone to testify about man; for He Himself knew what was in man (John 2:23-25).”  Then we learn about the “man from the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews (John 3:1).”  Nicodemus was not just an ordinary man; he was an educated man with authority.  He had a seat on the Sanhedrin council.  He was a Pharisee, who, as a people, believed that they were the descendants of Abraham, which they believe elevated them to a special status and that they were not slaves to sin—‘“We are descendants of Abraham,’ they answered Him, ‘and we have never been enslaved to anyone…(John 8:33a)” “We weren’t born of sexual immorality,’ they said. ‘We have one Father—God” (John 8:41b).  It should also be noted that Nicodemus is not a Jewish name, but a Greek name, which means “victory of the people.” As one of the Pharisees, there was an implied sense of superiority and authority, yet Jesus “knew what was in man” and what was in their hearts.

Nicodemus knew the Scriptures, and was respected as a teacher, but Jesus knew the heart of Nicodemus, and that he needed more.  “Jesus replied, ‘I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’” (John 3:3).  The Jews wanted liberation from the Romans, and were looking for God to provide an answer, where Jesus answered those who were willing to listen that their true kingdom would be obtained when they focused on being born again.  Nicodemus countered: “But how can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked Him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?” Jesus answered, “I assure you: Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:4-8).  John the Baptist made this similar statement to prepare everyone, including the Pharisees, of the Lord’s coming.  John the Baptist referred to the Pharisees as “snakes” because he knew their hearts and they were not interested in hearing about the coming Messiah (Matthew 3:1-12).

“Whatever is born of the flesh is of the flesh… (John 3:6a).”  We, as believers in Jesus Christ, need to know, understand, and use the power of the gospel.  The non-believer knows about Christ, but the believer has the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.

Nicodemus was perplexed with Jesus’ statement that he needed to be born again. “‘How can these things be?’ asked Nicodemus. ‘Are you a teacher of Israel and don’t know these things?’ Jesus replied (John 3:9-10).” Jesus informed Nicodemus that he needed to be born again, even with Nicodemus being a respected teacher of the law.  We can conclude from this that, at that time, Nicodemus did not understand that Jesus was not just a teacher, as he was…He was the Messiah that Scripture had referred to.  Sadly, there are many in a position of authority within churches as pastors, elders and teachers, and yet they may have never fully committed to Jesus Christ as Savior.  The dilemma and bewilderment of Nicodemus shows that even the well-educated people of stature still need to make room in their hearts for Jesus Christ.

If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, God is now speaking to you with a small, still voice.  He desires for you to recognize Him as the One who loves you unconditionally and who provides forgiveness of your sins.  His desire is to have a relationship with you.  It will forever change your life and secure your eternity in fellowship with Him.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17).