Religion Sentenced The Messiah to Death

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Religion Sentenced The Messiah to Death

Mark 14:53-64

Last Sunday was Easter. I’m sure we all got dressed up in our nicest clothes, put on our biggest smiles, even though we fought with each other all the way there, and scurried on to the church building for our Easter service. For many, this was the only time they will gather with the Church all year, maybe one of two times. I’m sure we all heard pretty much the same message, the message of the cross of Christ.

I believe that Easter is the most important holiday we celebrate every year. It is imperative that we remember what Christ did for us on the cross, although we need to remember it more often than once a year.

Think about it; Christ’s suffering began long before the cross. It began on that morning when He left the perfection of Heaven to come here to this broken earth. Picture in your mind a king leaving his palace to live in the gutters as a homeless man; this was infinitely worse. Christ left a place more perfect than anything we could imagine, to come here, be born in the feeding trough of a stable, live a life of poverty, spend three homeless years ministering and being rejected, only then to be betrayed by one of His own, beaten and crucified. And, He did all this for me, wow!

Today I don’t only want to talk about the Easter story; I want to look a little deeper into why He was crucified. Look at Mark chapter 14, starting at verse 53 and going through verse 64. These verses are the section where Christ has been brought before the Jewish council in a mock trial.

First of all, there was no due process here. Jesus was taken from the garden and brought before the council in the middle of the night. Verse 55 tells us, “Inside, the leading priests, and the entire high council were trying to find evidence against Jesus, so they could put him to death. But they couldn’t find any.” So, after they brought Him before the council, they began their investigation, but couldn’t find anything, so what did they do next? The passage tells us in verses 56 through 59 that they brought in many false witnesses to testify against Him, but they couldn’t get their stories straight, so even in that kangaroo court, they had to throw out those witnesses.

Finally, in the act of desperation, the high priest stood up and asked Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” Mark 14:60. But Jesus didn’t answer him. Next, the high priest asked Him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Verse 61. This time Jesus did answer him. Mark 14:62 says, “Jesus said, ‘I am. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” Side note; if anyone tells you that Jesus never claimed to be God, take them to this verse. At this point, the Jewish leaders condemned Jesus to death for blasphemy.

The point of all this is to ask the question, why were the Jewish leaders so focused on condemning Jesus to death? Did they believe He was blaspheming? To answer this, we need to go back to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Look at the first two verses of John chapter 3. The beginning of John 3 is the story of Nicodemus coming to ask Jesus some questions. In verses 1 and 2, it says, 1 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. ‘Rabbi,’ he said, ‘we all know that you have come from God to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.’” Take a look at what Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader, said to Jesus. Nicodemus said, WE ALL know that you have come from God.” Who? All the Jewish leaders. You see, the Jewish leaders all knew that Jesus was from God, and they all probably at least suspected that He was the Messiah, which is why they had to get rid of Him.

These religious leaders had a good thing going. The people did whatever they told them to do, they had positions of authority and power, all respected them, and the people gave them whatever they asked. Religion had made these guys rich and powerful, sound familiar? They had a good thing going and weren’t about to give it up for anyone, not even the Messiah!

Because of their misinterpretation of scripture, they thought Christ was here to set up His Kingdom, and that would put them on the street. So, what did they do about it? In their ignorance, they fulfilled the scripture, “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” Isaiah 53:5. They kept their position, but at what cost? These men sold their souls for religion.

Sadly, many of us today are right back where these men were two thousand years ago. We are so caught up in our religion and traditions that we have forsaken Jesus. Read the New Testament. Jesus and His disciples spent their entire ministry fighting religion. Paul kept saying how he left the religion of his fathers to follow Christ.

There is only one verse in the New Testament that portrays religion of any kind in a positive light, that verse is James 1:27, which says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” You see, the only religion that God recognizes as pure and genuine is not religion at all in the sense that we know it. What God sees as true pure and genuine religion is simply, taking care of widows and orphans and keeping yourself pure from the world.

Lets all purpose in our hearts to practice God’s religion, not man’s. Let’s practice caring for widows and orphans while keeping ourselves pure. Don’t let the world or its religion corrupt you, don’t conform to its mold as it says in Romans 12:1-2. And, show God’s love, that’s true religion.

Tried by Fire

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Tried by Fire

1 Corinthians 3:12-15

            Last week Michelle and I took a long weekend to go to Redding California. It’s an eight-hour drive, and we mainly went to visit Bethel Church and see Amore and Terry, some friends we made in that area just a few months ago. A couple of the days we were in Redding we drove just outside of town to the Whiskeytown National Reserve. We took one of our weekly hikes out there and spent some time around Whiskeytown lake taking pictures.

Some of you may know that this is part of the area that was hit by the Carr Fires last Summer. The destruction left by the fire was so sad to see and yet had a beauty all its own. The burn area went as far as we drove, and further. We later found out that the devastation went on for thirty miles and was twenty miles wide. It was unfathomable how much loss there was. This fire burned 229,651 acres, destroyed 1,604 structures, a total of $1,659 billion in damages, and took eight lives. It is touted as the sixth most destructive fire in California history and after being there to see it first hand, howbeit almost a year later, I can believe it.

But here’s the thing, amongst all that destruction you would come across a structure made of stone or metal that, although being burned, was still standing. Last week we talked about building a good foundation that others could build on. We mentioned how we must make sure it is deep enough and take into consideration the elements it will have to endure, but another thing we must take into consideration is the materials used to build it.

Back in the old west, around the turn of the twentieth century, this was a problem that existed. You see, wood was abundant, and it was a quick way to build. During the gold rush, some of these cities were practically going up overnight. Because of them building these cities almost completely out of wood, fires were a constant problem, especially since that’s how they heated the structures. Wikipedia has a page called, List of Town and City Fires. Take a look at how many fires there were in the 1800s and early 1900s that wiped out entire cities; it’s staggering.

This is the issue that Paul was addressing with the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, when he said, 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Paul tells us that one day our foundation will be tested with fire, so we had better take a look at what it’s made of. There’s an old song I love, written in the 1980s by Ron Hamilton, called O Rejoice in the Lord. I got to hear Ron give his testimony of this song in person. He said that he went to the eye doctor for a routine visit and the doctor didn’t like what he saw. He set Ron up for a surgical procedure and told him that if it were nothing, he would wake up with a sore eye, but if it was cancer, he would wake up with his eye removed. Well, after the surgery, Ron woke up to realize that they had removed his eye. Many people would have gotten mad at God at this point. Ron was serving God as a worship leader in his church and loved the Lord with all his heart, and now this. But Ron didn’t react like that, in fact, while laying in that hospital bed he wrote this song:

God never moves without purpose or plan
When trying His servant and molding a man.
Give thanks to the LORD though your testing seems long;
In darkness, He giveth a song.

I could not see through the shadows ahead;
So I looked at the cross of my Savior instead.
I bowed to the will of the Master that day;
Then peace came, and tears fled away.

Now I can see testing comes from above;
God strengthens His children and purges in love.
My Father knows best, and I trust in His care;
Through purging more fruit, I will bear.

O Rejoice in the LORD
He makes no mistake; He knoweth the end of each path that I take,
For when I am tried
And purified,
I shall come forth as gold.

The story goes on that Ron did come forth as gold. His first Sunday back in church, now with a patch over his eye, a young boy came running up to him and said, “Mr. Hamilton, you’re a pirate now!” From that, Ron launched Patch, the Pirate, and if you grew up in Church in the 80s and 90s, you knew Patch the Pirate, my kids loved him.

Because Ron had built his foundation on gold, silver, and precious stones, when the fire came, he just got better. Had he built his foundation on wood, hay, or stubble, it would have burned up in that fire, and he would have lived the rest of his life, a miserable man, blaming God for his deformity. What did verse 13 say? “Each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.”

Maybe your fire already came, and your foundation burned up. Maybe you’re one of those people who is sitting there blaming God for your problems. If that’s you, then get up and start rebuilding, but this time, use the right materials and make sure that foundation is deep.

If your fire has not come yet, then start inspecting. Just because you go to church once a week and pray before your meals doesn’t mean you’ll withstand the fire. I’ve talked about this before, but if we just tithed our time, if we just gave God ten percent of our time, that’s 17 hours every week. So, ask yourself, do I give God 17 hours a week? If not, that’s a good place to start.

Withstanding the Storm

Thomas Guesthouse
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Withstanding the Storms

1 Corinthians 3:10-11

The picture above is the Honeymoon Cottage in Cedar Key Florida. This structure was built as a guest house in 1959 by the Thomas family of Gainesville. The Thomas’ had a vacation home on Cedar Key and in 1959 decided to build this guest house. When they originally built it, it looked much better than this, and many people stayed in it over the years, including a famous author. After a local couple used it as their honeymoon suite in the 1970’s, it was given the name, The Honeymoon Cottage.

The problem with this guest house is that it was not built to survive the elements of the Cedar Key area. You see, Cedar Key is not part of the “Florida Keys,” it is off the Gulf Coast, just below the Panhandle of Florida. This area gets some terrible hurricanes that will stall in the area and stay right over Cedar Key for what seems like an eternity, and that’s exactly what happened in 1985. Hurricane Elena came up the Gulf of Mexico and, as usual, built intensity over the warm waters of the Gulf. By the time it got to Cedar Key it was a category 4 hurricane and it stalled over Cedar Key. There wasn’t much left of the Honeymoon Cottage after that and by that time State regulations had changed that banned the building of structures over the water, so they were not allowed to restore it. But, because of its name and the condition it was in, the Honeymoon Cottage became one of the most photographed structures in the state of Florida, you’ll even see it on postcards sold in other countries, like Germany.

Ask any builder and they will tell you that the most important thing to think of when building any structure is the foundation. And, yes, they did sink the polls deep enough for the Honeymoon Cottage, but there is much more to think about in the building of a foundation.

This is what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 when he said, 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” When Paul planted the church at Corinth, he did it like a wise builder by laying a good foundation, while taking all the elements into consideration. You see, Paul knew that he wasn’t going to do all the building of the church himself, so he wanted to make sure that when others came to build on it, they had a firm foundation to work on.

We see Paul building this foundation in Acts chapter 18. This passage says that Paul devoted himself to the scriptures and preached Christ to the Jews first, then when they rejected him and blasphemed, Paul went to the gentiles. Paul then went and started a home group at he home of a man named Titius Justus who lived next to the synagogue. Then, Crispus, the leader of the synagogue who believed in the Lord, joined them and it says, “and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized.” Acts 18:8.

Apparently Paul was worried about the Jews coming after him, because it says in verses 9-10, And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; 10 for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.’” So, God had to calm his fears and let him know that He’s got this. Then it says that Paul spent a year and a half there teaching the word of God among them. Here’s the thing, preaching is good as we read in 1 Corinthians 1:21, “God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” But there is no foundation without sound teaching. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” In fact, the Bible tells us to preach the gospel to the unbelievers, and to teach believers. Look for yourself, the word preach is used 109 times in the New Testament, interestingly it is only used 8 times in the Old Testament, but every one of the 109 times it is used in the New Testament, it is talking about preaching the gospel to the unsaved, or the message you were preached when you believed.

Far too often pastors stand in front of their congregation and preach when they should be teaching them so they can preach. If you are a pastor, you should be both a preacher and a teacher. You should be out in the world preaching the gospel to the unsaved, and you should be with your church teaching your church and giving them a foundation so they can preach to the world, then you deserve a double honor as it says in 1 Timothy 5:17.

Think about it, if every person sitting in a pew on Sunday was taught to be a preacher and was equipped and commissioned to go out and preach the gospel to all the world, how many more people would be coming to Christ?

This is what Paul did with the church at Corinth. He laid a solid foundation with good teaching. He taught them good biblical principals for them to build on. Yes, there were some problems that he had to correct later, they were humans and messed up here and there, but because of the foundation he laid with good Bible teaching, he was able to make the corrections and move on with doing the work of the Lord.

God Makes Us Grow

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

God Makes Us Grow

1 Corinthians 3:4-9

 

Michelle and I live in a 3rd-floor apartment about 20 miles east of Los Angeles. About six months ago, we were at a farmer’s market, and she saw a stand that sells succulents. She talked about how she wanted a succulent garden, so we bought six or seven of them and put them on our balcony.

For a couple of months, I was pretty faithful to go out there about once a week and water them. The problem was, to get to the balcony, I had to open the blinds, take the stick out of the top of the sliding glass door, take the other stick out of the bottom of it, unlock the door, open the door and screen, then go out and water the plants, if I remembered what I was doing by that point. Once I got them watered, I had to do all that in reverse. So, needless to say, I didn’t stay faithful to it for long.

Last week, Michelle opened the blinds and noticed all those succulents that had not been watered in about three or four months and then decided to go out there and water them herself. Yesterday I looked at them again, and they were green and perked up. That’s the beauty of succulents; they are really hard to kill.

Let’s take a look at 1 Corinthians 3:4-9 which says, When one of you says, ‘I am a follower of Paul,’ and another says, ‘I follow Apollos,’ aren’t you acting just like people of the world? After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.”

So, those baby Christians were arguing about who they followed. But do you see what Paul said? Paul might plant, and Apollos might water, but it is only God who can make the plants grow. You see, Michelle didn’t make those plants grow, she just watered them, God made them grow.

I think we all do this at some point in our lives; it’s human nature. We see some Pastor or Evangelist and place them on a pedestal. Sadly, that is what has happened to most of the body of Christ today, only instead of Paul and Apollos, we say “I am of Calvin” or “I am of Wesley.” We need to realize that it is the same thing that the church at Corinth was doing. We are as much spiritual babies as they were. Calvin may plant, and Wesley may water, but only God can give the increase. We get so caught up in listening to what men have told us that we don’t do the work of studying it for ourselves.

The problem is that the pastors today think it is their job to spoon feed us, but we can’t blame them, that’s the only option we give them. As we talked about last week, we leave a church because “we weren’t being fed there.” Here’s a news flash, it’s not your pastors’ job to feed you! We also talked last week about needing to take some time to desire the sincere milk of the word of God. If we do that, we will grow up and learn how to feed ourselves. We can’t be satisfied with being fed for the rest of our lives, we must work towards feeding ourselves, and that’s your pastor’s job, to get you to that point.

So, if we grow up and learn to feed ourselves, we won’t find ourselves following the teaching of men, we will follow the teaching of God. We will learn to do the work of studying the Bible in the context of the whole Bible. We will study the original language; we will read and study the entire Bible; we will look at the history of what was going on at that time. Again, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t listen to the preaching of men, but we must do the work of checking what they say against the truth of scripture. We must study it even further than they taught us. We must “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15.

What it all comes down to is that we need to choose who we will follow. Joshua posed this question way back in the early part of the Old Testament, when he said, 14 “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. 15 But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15.

If you put anything or anyone above God, that thing or person is an idol. If you say, “I am of Calvin” or “I am of Wesley,” you are making those men an idol, whether you realize it or not. So, stop now and ask yourself, “Who am I going to serve?” Am I going to serve Calvin? Am I going to serve Wesley? Or, am I going to serve God? As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord!

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