Sunday, April 26, 2009

Family Ties That Bind

Yesterday, my mother’s family had a family reunion. I didn’t go. But I have attended a few times in the past. It was interesting to see people that you may have seen regularly during your life and get reconnected to some people you barely remember. Then there are some folks you meet that you have never met, discovering that you are family connected. Earthly family connections are powerful, influential, interesting and challenging. Maybe some of you have the memories of family members coming up to pinch your cheek or stories of I knew you when you were this high!
Once I preached a in a church in South Carolina, not too far from where we lived when I came into the ministry. I was invited for a series of meetings and on the first night there, there were many people of my family that came out to see what was going on. I thought they were coming to see if God had truly changed my life. Trust me, my life needed changing! But one dear relative left a lasting impression on me. After the sermon, she was introduced to me as someone that saw me as a child when I was about three years of age. I didn’t remember her. But I’ve never forgot her since that night. She smiled and said she wanted to ask me just one question. I anticipated a question such as, “How did you know God wanted you to be a preacher?” Or “What has changed your life in such a dramatic way?” Either way, I was getting my mind ready to give an account for the hope that is in me. Then she said, “Can you still sing You Ain’t Nothing But A Hound Dog?” Evidently, when I was three I was a dynamic little Elvis impersonator! I wondered what in the world that had to do with spiritual things.
Our message today brings us into an encounter between Jesus and his family. We pick up the narrative in Mark 3. The authority of Jesus has been a major theme for the Gospel writer. So far in our studies in Mark we have come to the understanding of His authority over disease and the demonic, the forgiveness of sin and over religious tradition, and the calling of disciples and granting them His authority. But how does the authority of being and becoming a disciple work itself out in our family connections? This certainly can challenge us in our spiritual journey with God. Let’s read the passage before us today and seek to discover the Lord’s word for us.

And He came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal. When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.” (Mark 3:20-21)

Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.” Answering them, He said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31-35)



...When his own people heard....they take custody of Him...

Here is the image of the first broken family where self-interest and self-preservation rules. After the fall in the garden, Adam shifted the blame for his actions on the woman for the influence she had over him and ultimately blamed God for her presence in his life. Adam was hiding from God and did not want God looking for him or looking at him. God’s presence is not welcome to the sinner.
The family of Jesus did not like the unwelcome attention. They thought Jesus was becoming a spectacle and was drawing attention to them. And not all of the attention was positive in their view. The family name was at stake. But was the family name all that reputable in the first place? Remember the scandalous context surrounding the birth of Jesus?
Even though Jesus did not please His family and meet their expectations, God the Father was very pleased with Him. How difficult it is to live up to the expectations of a family who are flawed on their very best day. They went to take custody of Him. They went to bring Him into account. This is the flaw in human thinking. We think we can manage God.
We can be encouraged to know that our identity as Christ followers is found in what God says. The crowds were there to hear God’s word revealed by Christ. They wanted to know what God had to say. They wanted to know who He was and who they were. So do I. I am not who my people say I am. I am who God says I am. My identity as a redeemed follower of Christ says that my family connections are influential but they are not determinative. I am not locked into my walk with God being bound to my family history. The way I have always been treated in my family is not an excuse for my ungodly behavior. God has something better in mind.
When family loyalty is our first consideration in our obedience to God, we must evaluate who is God to us. Our great challenge in the church of our day is to hear what God is saying to us and be obedient to His direction and not be bound in family tradition and church ownership issues. The world hears us say we follow God but they often see us protect earthly family interests. They often see us choose earthly preferences over eternal principles. Sometimes radical discipleship will embarrass people and we can be accused of being religious fanatics.


…for they were saying, “He has lost His senses”…

Here is the result of sin in family relationships where discouragement is the norm. We see this throughout biblical history. Cain envied the favor that God had for Abel’s sacrifice, he acted upon this in the ultimate discouraging way. He killed him. Wherever you see envy on display in God’s people, you will see every evil thing. Discouragement is deadly. Consider Joseph’s brothers when they realized he was wearing a symbol of Jacob’s favor. They wanted him to disappear. Consider David’s brothers as he entered the place where the army of Israel was paralyzed by the fear of Goliath. His brother told him in effect to go back to his job as the tender of sheep. The favor of God upon the life of a person can offend some of the family. Not everyone rejoices when we walk with God.
The reason they thought Jesus had lost His mind was that they were using theirs as a standard. The natural and the supernatural mind do not think alike. Spiritual thoughts are produced by spiritual minds. Without the mind of Christ there are no Christlike thoughts which produce Christlike actions.
The authority of Christ was on display and being questioned by those who needed to be under it. This passage about the family interaction is built around the passage about the religious leaders accusing Him of being in league with Satan. This was not lost on His family. The language here seems to suggest that they were caught up in believing the worst about Jesus. And they came to do something about it. Spiritual truth is not proclaimed in a neutral environment. Often there is open warfare in our families. Jesus has said as much when He said that He did not come to bring peace, but a sword. Peace comes after the war.
We can be a source of embarrassment to those who are convicted by the righteousness of Christ. Our worship of and the following of Jesus can be embarrassing to some family members, even convicting, resulting in downplaying the reality of transformed lives. Family members may say to a recently converted relative, “I don’t know you anymore. You act like a different person.” They would be right. The convert has been born again.
As a church family we will be challenged to live differently than other people’s recollections. A renewed church will be different and act differently. Don’t be afraid to follow Christ. Don’t be afraid to gather as a crowd to hear the word of the Lord. Don’t be afraid to do the will of God.


...standing outside they sent (word) to Him, and called Him...

The broken fellowship in the first family was the result of the fractured relationship with God. After Cain killed Abel, God confronts him. In Genesis 4:9-11, the word brother is used four times. This concept of brotherhood has a high priority with God. Sin is terminal spiritual disease. Sin destroys brotherhood. Sin destroys sonship. In a sense, Adam and Eve lost two sons when Cain killed Abel. One was dead and one was banished. Sin is genetic and without the intervention of God, it will destroy the entire human race. Apart from God, there is only a natural bond, never a spiritual binding together.
The natural inclination in the heart of a natural man is to be a discourager because life without Christ is discouraging. Perhaps you have been told all your life that you can’t be more than you are. That you never would amount to anything. That you never quite measured up to family standards. Home, home on the range may be the place in a song where seldom is heard a discouraging word. But most of us never grew up there. Is there a better way? For those without Christ we find our hope in Him.
Christ was not distracted by His family’s presence or enslaved by the need for their approval. Once I gave a major portion of my life to playing bluegrass music. We were active for a while in performing at various venues and traveling to bluegrass festivals in three states. We thought we needed to record an album to sell at the locations so we worked one whole winter on that project, traveling to a studio and recording late at night at least once a week. After we received the finished product, I gave my daddy a copy. After he listened to it I asked him what he thought. He said, “It was okay... but don’t quit your day job.” Approval can be an idolatrous tyrant. It can rob us of the joy of serving and working for Christ if all that we are doing it for is to earn someone else’s approval.
Sometimes the presence of our families can shape and influence our ministry for better or worse. The family of Jesus sent a message to Him. This translation says literally, they sent to Him. What did they send? Word is italicized but not in the original text. This is significant. Our families can send a message without sending a word. A glare or a stare can send us despair. Or when our families ignore us or shun us or shut us out it can be very painful. Fear of man is a strong motivation for ministry. Fear of God is a better one.
Unity in the church flows from unified commitment to Christ in the home. When godly unity at home is non-existent, you often see the conflict displayed in the church. When Christ reveals His purpose to a person, He commands them to take that witness home. When this happens, we must understand that our families often misunderstand us if they are not Christ followers. This is to be expected. After all, there are two different worldviews at war. But disunity can also happen in Christian families. We can have division between husband and wife, parent and child, and brother and sister when it comes to spiritual principles. If these are not resolved according to God’s word, they will not get better by themselves. What often happens is that we tend to ignore the disunity in our families and come to church as though everything is fine and become hardened and calloused to the change of heart that God requires. As a result, we see families drift apart and begin to treat each other as though Christ and His word is not relevant to their lives. The church will ultimately pay a price for compartmentalization of Christianity.
Am I saying that a family has to be perfect to be a part of church unity? No, but a family must learn how to appropriate the grace of the gospel, practicing forgiveness, and living in love to be a part of church unity. We live out in community what is designed to be practiced in the family.


...whoever does the will of God, …is My brother and sister and mother.

Blood connections are strong family ties. Once again in our passage in Genesis 4:9-11, God mentions the blood of Abel in two places. Once He says that the voice of Abel’s blood is crying out. It is like it is a living thing. In fact, God’s word says that life is in the blood. God sees life as precious and blood connections as strong. The old saying, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother,” speaks to a painting of a little boy carrying his brother around. This is the ideal for the family of God. Some people outside the family of God will argue that their closest family connection is their brother or sister or mother or father. But these are temporary and bound to this world.
When all you have is an earthly family your hope has a limit. Our physical existence here is fading away. What will the non-Christian do when their loved one dies? What hope do they have of an eternity with God and with one another? To be a child of the King, you must be born of the King. Our earthly hopes are binding to this world. Our earthly hopes have limits. Eternal hope is found in an eternal God.
The blood of Christ is our ultimate bonding agent. It is what holds the universe together. The blood of Christ is the cross of Christ. It is here that the people of God become a family. When we realize that His sacrifice is pleasing to God and His blood brings us into His family, we can be bound to the family of God by receiving His forgiveness for our sin. The blood of Christ brings about abundant living. It brings about restoration of broken things.
Overcoming fractured family realities requires that we do the will of God. In my translation (NASB) of the Bible, there are 365 entries in my concordance that refer to the word peace. God’s word reveals God’s will. Among these references we are told that we are to seek peace and pursue it. We are told that peace is a gift of the Holy Spirit. And we are also told that peace may not be possible in all instances. Some people would rather have the conflict. Some people want to hold on to their bitterness. But we are told that we as the church have a family obligation to one another. Romans 12:18 says, If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Our part is to actively seek and make peace, whenever possible. This is the will of God. Be prayerful. Be patient. God is able to change the hardest of hearts when people surrender to His authority.
As the church, we must conduct ourselves as children of God, pursuing our Father’s business. In multi-generational businesses, the ones that are the most successful are the ones that adapted to changing times without abandoning the foundational principles as to why they do what they do. How are we to do the will of God? We begin by knowing God, hearing, heeding and doing God’s word. We live out His love. We are heirs to the Father’s kingdom. We live by living with Him and living for Him.

Our So What for Today:

-If we really understand who we are in Christ, joint heirs and children of the Most High God, we will take better care of one another.
-There no shortcuts and detours in our relationships with God and one another.
-Jesus rejects earthly family authority as having ultimate authority.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Feathers In The Wind

You could have knocked me over with a feather! I think this expression conveys a sense of surprise and even shock. Maybe you have said these very words at some point in life. The world we live in today is changing at warp speed. We live in an unstable world in unstable times. New challenges are emerging that create a sense of fear and dread in the most faithful among us. Some folks can hardly get through one crisis before they are rattled by another. Their hearts are unsettled. Their minds are troubled. Where can the people of God find their hope and help?
I was reminded of these things the other day when I was in the downtown area. As I walked along the sidewalk, feathers kept fluttering down from out of the sky. I looked to see where they were coming from and was surprised to see them coming from the top of one of the city street lights. A bird of prey, I think it was a hawk of some kind, had perched atop this light pole and had a smaller bird in his grip. I assumed the smaller bird was dead since the hawk was plucking and eating him in the process. Sorry to give you this gruesome word picture, but it illustrates the way some of us are living these days. I mean, times are pretty tough when a hawk has to travel to the city to get something to eat! Lately some of us have made some pretty dramatic adjustments in our lifestyles to survive just like that hawk. And some of us feel like we are being pursued, harassed, trapped, and constantly being plucked and picked over by circumstances beyond our control. It’s almost like someone is eating us for lunch, so to speak. The bad news is that the people of God have an enemy who is on the prowl seeking who he may devour. The good news is that we can consider the plan of God when all other plans are unraveling before our eyes:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. (Psalms 91:1-4)
I am living and praying lately for the reality of God knocking us over with a feather. As we rest in Him, being covered by His feathers, we can remember this surprising promise of God in the midst of all that tests our faith. God is faithful to His people. He is faithful to His word. He is with us. And He can be trusted with our trust.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On The Road of Life With The Bread of Life

I went on a walk once and forgot where I was going. Have you ever done that? I not only forgot where I was going, I forgot how to get back to where I was when I had started. By the time I could get my bearings, I realized that I was a long way from my starting point. When I finally got back home, it was as if I had aged a lifetime. It’s kind of like that when we consider our journey through life is like a walk on a road… The Road of Life. We often don’t know where it is that we are going. Sometimes we forget our destination. We lose our bearings of how to get back to our starting point. And sometimes we feel that the change is very drastic. Somehow we are not who we used to be. We are forever changed as we move along this road. Today, our Easter message is about two disciples of Jesus walking along a road at a point in their life one day. In fact, it was the very first Easter Day. They walked on the road to Emmaus.
No doubt these two disciples had witnessed the Arrest, Trial, Crucifixion, and the Burial of Jesus. Defeated and desponded they had heard the story of the empty tomb. It was all quite hard to believe. What they experienced in this journey was nothing less than a life changing event. They were never the same again. Let’s read the story before us as we consider what it is like to be On the Road of Life With the Bread of Life.

And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were conversing with each other about all these things which had taken place. And it came about that while they were conversing and discussing, Jesus Himself approached, and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.
And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. And one of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?”
And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him up to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive. And some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.”
And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”
And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He would go farther. And they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” And He went in to stay with them.
And it came about that when He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” And they arose that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon.” And they began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:13-35)

The Word of God reveals man’s plight and God’s provision.


But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.

In the aftermath of any traumatic and overwhelming event, human beings often find themselves in the midst of a crisis. Sometimes a person in crisis cannot speak about what has happened. Sometimes this is all they want to do. We see these two men talking about the things that have happened. All of human history has faded into the past as the events of the last few hours have loomed larger than they can process. Think on this for a minute. They were witnesses of the event that was the tipping point of salvation history. The sinful man could now be redeemed. They were too close to the event to know the significance. They only saw the immensity of the circumstance. And it blinded them to the incredible purpose and presence of God.
Our unanswered questions of Why things happen can keep us from seeing the invisible hand of Who is behind it all. Like anyone in crisis, the human question is why did these things take place? Their eyes were not only prevented from recognition, their hearts were prevented from understanding that God was in control of all “these things”. Think back to the night of the betrayal in the garden where Jesus was in command of his own arrest. Think about the trials and beatings. He could have said what they wanted to hear. Think about the excruciating experience on the cross where He claims that He could call a legion of angels to abort this mission. But He was in control. And He still is. When we can no longer see His presence and know His purpose we can trust that He still guides the process in our salvation. He has not abandoned us when the road of life takes a hard turn. He has not stopped working when the road of life leads us to a roadblock.


And they stood still, looking sad.

What a powerful statement of humanity at large. Most of the time, in our progression through life, we often are immobile in the journey. Life has a way of stopping us, paralyzing us. Oh, we may be going through the motions, pretending we know where we are going and why we are going there when in reality, we are traveling in a zombie-like state, numb to feeling pain or sorrow or joy or love. Standing still and looking sad is a human dilemma. It is the plight of unredeemed man. It is the plight of people like these two who had hoped this Jesus was the Redeemer of Israel. They were in the midst of such crisis and grief, it showed upon their lives. Unresolved sorrow can be like a heaviness that cloaks our countenance. It is painful to be in pain. It is like sadness being worn as a mantle. Sorrow looks sorrowful. It is not pretty. When we look for God to manifest Himself in a certain way and that does not happen, we can easily think that He is absent in the process. To live with the idea that God has not met our expectations is a pitiful way to live.
When our expectations of God are shattered, we can discover that we have worshipped our expectations instead of God. How can sinful man have a reality of a proper set of expectations of the Living God anyway? How can the mind of man figure out the workings of a mysterious God in the first place? This is a fool’s errand. If you have ever been disappointed with God, it is more likely on account of uninformed and unrealistic expectations of God. Our God does things like we would not do them. The crucifixion was a necessary thing to have happened. It was the best thing ever to take place in these disciples’ lives and the lives of all disciples for all time.
When we keep hitting roadblocks and potholes on any road we travel, we are tempted to stop traveling on this road. It is not only damaging to our mode of travel, it can be painful to us as well. God comes to these disciples with a word of hope and provision. He comes to us today as well.


And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

All of God’s Word is about the Word of God. Wouldn’t you like to have been traveling with them to hear what Jesus said? A seven mile walk is the perfect walk when the Word of God is telling you about Himself. Are you weary in your walk today? Be encouraged to know that God comes to us wherever our road has led us. And He speaks of Himself. Disciples can never know themselves and their purpose until they know God and His purpose. He told them about the things about Himself that was in the word of God from the beginning. He told the great story of God providing man’s redemption.
Disciples have a responsibility to know about God’s word. How else will we know what we have been created to do? We are to tell the great story. We are to be God’s redeemed people. We are to live out our purpose. For that to happen, we must know God’s word to His people. And you don’t get that a few minutes a week. It is a lifestyle for a lifetime. We will not ever understand the Word of God if we don’t take the time to hear God’s word. -God’s Word is for our transformation, not merely information. He gives us His word to save us and keep us and conform us and transform us. We are becoming like Christ. Are you a Christlike disciple? Do you know His story?


And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.

They asked Him to remain with them. It was getting dark. Darkness in the midst of grief is an awful time for a person. It can be very hard to sleep. Because it is often hard to wake up to reality. In my greatest times of grief, I loved to sleep and I hated to wake up. Here we have a beautiful picture of God’s provision. Jesus remains with us as the day is coming to a close. He did not abandon His disciples.
Just as their eyes were prevented from seeing Him by their despair, they were opened by their desire. If you want Jesus to be with you, He will reveal Himself. He delights to be where He is desired. When Jesus blessed the bread, broke the bread, and gave the bread they saw the Bread of Life. Here is a reminder of God’s provision. As He was revealed miraculously, He vanished miraculously. And they believed miraculously.
In the ancient times of the history of God’s people, they were led out of bondage in Egypt. They were brought into a place of harshness and a place where their own ability and strength to provide for themselves was insufficient. God gave them manna. The name literally meant what is it. You may recall in the Exodus narrative that if a person tried to gather more than they needed for the day, it would spoil. They also were allowed to gather twice as much on the day before the Sabbath and it would not spoil. Walking with God is a daily thing. We trust in His provision daily and do not hoard for ourselves more than we need. For God is to be trusted every day. Human beings are notorious for forgetting their need for God’s provision. Do you want to be with Jesus? Do you know you need Him? He is your greatest need this moment. Greater than your need to be comforted is our need for the Comforter.


And they began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.

These disciples get a case of the “Holy Heartburn” when God shares His word with them. They must tell the story! They began to confirm to others that He is risen…He is risen indeed! The women’s stories of the empty tomb now made sense. The crucifixion was real. And the resurrection was the story that the church was built upon. There is joy in sorrow. And these disciples were no longer standing still and looking sad. Do you have a burning desire to tell God’s story in your life?
Are you still standing still and still looking sad? Your losses in life are real. But they pale in comparison to the gain. We have gained Christ. We have His Spirit living within us and among us. We recognize and remember Him every time we worship. And we worship all the time.
Are you looking for God in your circumstance or looking at the circumstance and missing God? Seek the Lord today in the breaking of the bread in the brokenness of life. He is risen. He is risen indeed.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Mangled Ear of a Man Named Malchus

My grandfather’s finger was a reminder to us all. His ring finger was shorter than his pinky. He wasn’t born that way but had lost one joint of the finger in a shooting accident. When he was in his late eighties, crows had become a nuisance to him and a threat to his crop of grapes. So he hid under the grape arbor as he poked the barrel of a sawed-off .410 gauge shotgun through the vines to take aim at the offensive critters. His left hand, the ring finger to be exact, was over the barrel as the gun discharged. The aftermath left a dangling, and horribly mangled, finger. The surgeon at the hospital reattached the damaged digit, minus the second joint. It resulted in the strangest looking ring finger I have ever seen. Every time I saw him afterwards, the finger served as a reminder that he should have been more aware of the potential power of life and death choices. Choices have consequences. I heard that Daddy hid his gun after that episode!
An encounter with Christ leaves a mark on a person. I am amazed at how some Christians cannot tell you how Christ has changed their lives. They will claim to have met Him, but their lives remain basically the same as before. It doesn’t seem as though Christ has made a serious impact. Then there are some people who are never the same after a Christ encounter. They are constantly reminded of the power and mystery that surrounds the episode and they continually tell the story to others. Sometimes it is in the aftermath of some affliction, some terrible trial that caused them to stop and consider the claims of Christ. Today’s passage is scripture heavy so let us get to reading two accounts of the same event recorded for us in two of the Gospels. It was the night before the crucifixion, just after Jesus had prayed in the Garden, and He was talking with His disciples about their need to pray to escape temptation. Hear now the word of the Lord.

While He was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this.” And He touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come against Him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as you would against a robber? While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours.”
Having arrested Him, they led Him away and brought Him to the house of the high priest; but Peter was following at a distance. After they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter was sitting among them. And a servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight and looking intently at him, said, “This man was with Him too. But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.” A little later, another saw him and said, “You are one of them too!” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, “Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:47-62)

When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples. Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples. Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I am He.” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Therefore He again asked them, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus the Nazarene.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am He; so if you seek Me, let these go their way,” to fulfill the word which He spoke, “Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one.”
Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave's name was Malchus. So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” So the Roman cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him, and led Him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people.
Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, but Peter was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought Peter in. Then the slave-girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the slaves and the officers were standing there, having made a charcoal fire, for it was cold and they were warming themselves; and Peter was also with them, standing and warming himself.
The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples, and about His teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said.” When He had said this, one of the officers standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, “Is that the way You answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?” So Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it, and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” Peter then denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed. (John 18:1-27)

The mangled ear of Malchus reminds us that we live and die by the choices we make.

The mangled ear of a man named Malchus reminds us of...

…the one called Judas, one of the twelve…approached Jesus to kiss Him.Judas… who was betraying Him… knew the place…
Where is the source of human betrayal? You can find the roots of this thing called betrayal already growing in the beginning of human history in the Garden that God made. Adam and Eve chose to exchange the good desires of God by listening to the voice of another and acting upon their own desires. The Bible tells us that Eve was deceived with the lie of the serpent in that she actually believed that the tree she was tempted to eat from was desirable to make her wise. She acted upon that desire. She wanted to please herself. Adam wanted to please Eve. Where was the root of this evil? It was in the garden with them. Rooted in this Ancient Serpent was the desire to be like God. The desire to act independently of God and treat God as irrelevant was found in the heart of the serpent. The root of sin was implanted in the human family because of a choice that these two made. The word that is translated serpent is also used for “shining one.” Whatever Eve was confronted with was not a slithering and repulsive snake. Lucifer, created by Almighty God to be the leader of worship in Heaven wanted to be the object of worship. He was not content with God’s desire. So this angelic creature acted upon his desires. He betrayed his Creator. We do what we do because we want what we want. We live and die by the choices we make.
Why did Judas choose to betray Jesus? Some people think he never had a choice. While it is true that one of these disciples would have betrayed Jesus, it was something in the heart of this one that made him susceptible. For some reason, he wanted to betray Jesus. Ask anyone who has ever betrayed the trust of another, and if they are honest, they will tell you that it was because they wanted something. It was because of some selfish desire. This selfishness isolates a person. It is not good for man to be alone. We read that Judas was “one of the twelve.” There is a difference between being one “of the twelve” and being one “with the twelve.” Here is a danger for us. When we are isolated because of our desires we are susceptible to being a traitor. Ask the husband whose wife has been unfaithful how closed off she became to him. Ask the wife whose husband was arrested for embezzling money from the company he worked for how distant he became. We live and die by the choices we make. Ask God who it is that is ultimately betrayed when people betray one another. Have you ever chosen to betray the trust of God? You cannot live with that choice. Repentance is the wise course of action. Forgiveness brings life to the dead.
Judas could not live with his choice. Isn’t it interesting that the scene of the severing of Malchus’ ear was in a garden? The treachery of Judas collides with Peter’s violent act. Sin begets sin. Judas knew the place. It was a place where Jesus often went to pray. The Second Adam was in community with His Father in a garden. Judas chose to deliberately undermine God’s work in Christ. The Bible says he regretted but did not repent. He went out and took his own life. The mangled ear of Malchus is our reminder that a person can become so isolated from other people of God and can become so very twisted in their thinking and they act on their own sinful desires. Sin is spiritual treason. Treason is a crime that promises death. We cannot live with the choice to sin against God and one another.

The mangled ear of a man named Malchus reminds us of...

…Peter was following at a distance…
…The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord…
What was it that the Lord said that Peter remembered? Specifically, we find the exchange earlier in Luke 22:31 and following: Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; During this conversation Peter claimed that he was willing to go to prison or even die with Jesus. To which Jesus responded: I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.
We see in the text at this point that Peter followed at a distance. Peter discovered that when we choose to increase the distance between us and God, it becomes easier to deny Him.
Why is it that we choose to deny Christ at critical times in our lives? There is a fear factor. Over and over in God’s message to His people is “Fear not…I am with you.” The closer the gap between God and man, the more courageous a human becomes. The greater the distance, the more we deny. Peter’s fear of man was greater than His fear of God. Distance can do that. How is it possible that one so close to Jesus could become so distant from Him? The same way it can happen for us. We can slow down so much in our following that we can fall far, far away. I am reminded that the Prodigal Son left the influence of his father and wound up in the “far country”. Can you ever get so far away that you think God doesn’t notice? Does He ever forget us? Is His eye still upon us?
God sends His people reminders of the distance in our following. In giving Peter reminders, the Bible lets us know God remembered him. In our lives, we are confronted with reminders as well. At the age of 12 years old, I was baptized into the Christian faith and I desired to follow Christ closely. Then as a teenager, I began to put some distance between me and God. And I lived and died in the far country for many, many years. God kept sending me reminders of where I was and where He was. One such reminder was when my granddaddy asked me to come to church one Sunday. It was a special day where he was asked to preach in the church where my mama had grown up. They were having a meal afterwards and I went for the food and to get him off my back. I was living such a godless life at that time, I felt extremely out of place. I couldn’t wait for the end of the sermon. Then my granddaddy called for all who had ever worn the name of Christ to come to the altar and pray for God to move in the hearts of that church family. I stayed in my seat. But I heard that reminder. I was deceived to think that I was too far away from God for Him to reach me. I believed that I was too far away for Him to notice me. God never forsakes His own. He relentlessly pursues us. He never stops looking.
The Lord…looked at Peter. And He continued to look. The Lord continues to look my way. He is the God who restores. God saves us to keep us. I have never been able to work my way back into the grace of God. When I repented and returned to follow Him, He restored my life. By the grace of God, I stand before you today. By the grace of God, I have had the opportunity to preach the gospel from that very place where I denied my Lord. I have confessed my denial before men. More importantly, I have confessed it to God. A close walk with God closes the distance. Close the gap today. Come closer to Christ.

The mangled ear of a man named Malchus reminds us of...

Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people.
The High Priest Caiaphas was the right man in place for wrong times. It was against Jewish law that Jesus was tried in the middle of the night. For this to take place it would take the unrighteous actions of an unrighteous man. Caiaphas was God’s man for the madness of the moment. As High Priest he was authorized to bring judgment upon people charged with blasphemy. This was the trumped up charge. And Caiaphas was offering up Jesus as a price to be paid for the nation’s peace with Rome. Political unrest was a serious threat to the priestly temple culture and the occupying Roman government. It’s amazing how God uses the actions of the ungodly to accomplish His godly purposes. Make no mistake about it. The arrest, trial and execution of Jesus was not an aberration. Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, and Caiaphas’ refusal to acknowledge the innocence of the purest life in history was all under the direction of a most righteous and holy God and all in His sovereign plan. But God often leaves a reminder of our wrong choices.
Malchus was the slave of the High Priest Caiaphas. For the days after the Crucifixion and Resurrection, Malchus would have been in close proximity to the High Priest. Malchus was his personal slave. When Caiaphas looked upon him, there was the ear. The mangled ear of Malchus was a symbolic reminder of a confrontation with Christ and the wrong choices that religious people can make. I wonder if the high priest would remember hearing about multiple accounts of Jesus teaching where He ended His discourse with the phrase, He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Malchus was no doubt a constant reminder to Caiaphas of the refusal to hear and believe the truth when Truth stood before him. One translator says that the name Caiaphas literally means “depression”. This can be a lesson for us. The quickest route for a human being to become depressed is to refuse to believe the claims of Christ. Unbelief and depression go together.

The mangled ear of a man named Malchus reminds us of...

And He touched his ear and healed him.
Malchus was the last man healed before mankind was healed. Jesus had healed many kinds of chronic afflictions, physical deformities, and leprosy. He had restored sight to the blind and healed those who could not hear or speak. He even raised the dead. But this is the only record of healing a flesh wound. He we see Him intervene after one man chooses to violently damage another man and immediately heal the victim. Here we see Him heal a flesh wound before He is wounded in His flesh to heal mankind’s terminal spiritual affliction. Jesus chose to stop His own arrest and seizure to stop sin’s death grip. Jesus reached out to heal someone who was His enemy by nature. But Malchus had to make a choice, even in the midst of his pain. He had to stop and be still.
Malchus chose to let Jesus touch his mangled ear. We live and die by the choices we make. We can live without an ear. But we cannot live without a touch from Christ. How difficult it must have been for Malchus to focus on the touch of Christ through the searing pain and the flow of blood, in that turbulent and chaotic moment. Malchus learned what we are reminded of today. The touch of Jesus will heal hurts that seem beyond hope. And we must be be healed. Be still and know that He is God.

The mangled ear of a man named Malchus reminds us of...

So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I am (He).”
The name Malchus means kingly, regal, or majestic. And yet he was a slave. This slave king was healed by the Servant King. This last act points to the actions of the Servant King. A few hours away from the excruciating physical and spiritual pain of the cross, He gives those in that dark garden on that dark night a true picture of who He really is. He is a King in ultimate power and control. He is King of all earthly kings, who are at best slaves themselves to God or sin. He is King of all kings and all slaves, including you and me. Let us not forget the one who is described here. This is not some mild mannered Savior who tries to convince us that His way is best. This is a Warrior King who invades the darkness and is in total control of His own destiny and ours. How will you answer this question: “Whom do you seek?” Is it Jesus the Nazarene? Then come today and fall down before Him.
I am, He said. The pronoun He is not in the original text of this passage. I am is what He said. This was the personal name of the Great God Jehovah that He revealed to Moses in preparation of leading His people out of bondage. Tell the Pharaoh that I am has sent you to deliver His people was the message to Moses. That night, this same God was going to deliver His people from bondage. “Whom do you seek?” was the question. You have found Jehovah when you have found Jesus was the answer. More appropriately, Almighty God had found them. When God reveals Himself to humans, there is only one response if we want to live to tell the story.
They drew back and fell to the ground. Consider the crowd that night. A Roman cohort was at least five hundred trained soldiers. The priests, elders, slaves and temple guards (which was no small contingent) showed up with Judas. They brought weapons and torches and lanterns. They came out against Jesus to capture Him. But you don’t capture God. He captures you! He stopped the proceedings long enough to heal the mangled ear of a man named Malchus. This Second Adam did not hide in fear, but charged the crowd and asked the question, Whom do you seek? Pagan soldiers and religious people alike drew back and fell to the ground. Jesus was in total control of everything that happened that night. He is Lord. And He is God. Whom do you seek?
The message today is not as much about the renewal of Malchus, or the betrayal of Judas, or the denial of Peter, or the refusal of Caiaphus as much as it is about absolute authority revealed in the majesty of the King of kings and Lord of lords in the person of Jesus, the Nazarene. If you hear my voice today, know that He has found you. And this is your reminder to come and bow low before the Most High God. Surrender your life and repent of your sin. Believe that His sacrificial death was necessary for you so you could be free to worship this Warrior God. Believe that He was raised from the dead in the power of the Resurrection that testifies that all God has said will be accomplished. Come and follow Jesus. He is the One you seek. And He is the One seeking you.
What is it in your life that reminds you of the grace of God?
What will be your response to Christ today?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Leadership Team

In the town I grew up in there were three Little League baseball teams. Three local business sponsors made it possible that the teams had uniforms but the teams were best known not by the names of the businesses, but by their colors. I was on the Red team. There was a Blue team. And then there was the Green team. When this little town organized this activity, only two teams were planned. The Red team and the Blue team were selected and the players were pretty evenly distributed as to their ability. The Green team was like an afterthought. It was made up of players who weren’t chosen to play on the other two because of their inability. So instead of redistributing the players to make up a third team that was relatively equal in potential, the games began with two-and-a-half teams, as some would say. On any given game day, it was anyone’s guess as to who would win in a Red-versus-Blue game. But it was never any doubt as to who would win anytime the Green team took the field. The other team was always the favorite. The Green team never won that whole first season. Most of their players had never played the game. After my team had thoroughly trounced the Green team one day and I was doing my share of boasting, I remember thinking that my daddy didn’t know very much about baseball because of something he said. On the way home he said the Green team would become the best ball team one day. He predicted that those boys would learn to play the game the best, not because they were the best players, but because they were the best learners. They depended more on their coach than the other teams did. And they knew they were helpless without him. I laughed out loud. And the next year the Green Team won it all.

Often in church life, leaders have been chosen from among those who have shown their ability to excel in life and are often innovators and initiators, independent thinkers and self-starters, movers and shakers, leaders and not followers. As we are confronted with massive change occurring in our culture, we lament the state of the church today as being seen as irrelevant to shape the culture. In fact, some of us can be pretty critical that the church is not much different than many secular organizations in structure and function. Sometimes the core values that guide our decision making in the church are not grounded in biblical truths but in cultural norms. Could it be that what we are lacking is a more biblical model in our church constitutions for choosing our spiritual leaders? Could it be that we need to see ourselves like the Green team and acknowledge our inability, always knowing that we are first followers who are becoming leaders, constantly aware of our utter dependence upon Christ?

Our instruction today is relevant and timely to us as a church. We can learn some lessons from how Jesus chose spiritual leaders. Let’s read the passage before us.

And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons. And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter), and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, "Sons of Thunder"); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot; and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him. (Mark 3:13-19)

Jesus rejects worldly methods to choose spiritual leaders.



...He ...summoned those He Himself wanted...

He knows us when He calls us. The relationship has already begun. Those He calls, like sheep with a Shepherd, know His voice. Adam heard the sound of the Lord God in the garden. It was something God had initiated. Here Jesus restores the personal call from God to man. God calls because He acts out of His personal desire.
A person cannot come to God until Christ calls. Maybe you have heard the old joke, “What do you call a dog with no legs? It doesn’t matter. They can’t come anyway.” I always thought that was funny. But here is a similar thought that is not very funny at all. A person cannot come to God until Christ calls because they do not have ears that can hear. They are dead. Dead men have to be made alive to hear Christ. This is the summons. Consider a summons to appear in court. The summons must be answered in person or the person can be found to be in contempt. Here is the position of the unbeliever, the non-Christian. They are in contempt of the call of Christ. So they do not respond. Their non-response is a response. It is contempt for the authority of God.
Christ desires to seek and save that which was lost. We have already read that Christ had called some men to follow Him. Here He summons them. It is for the transference of the authority of God. And Christ has a desire to place that authority upon His disciples. He came to seek men who will wear that authority and exercise it. His kingdom has come.
Disciples fulfill the desires of Christ. This thought is almost too heavy for light thinking within human minds. Do not hear me say that God saved us because we were deserving of His love and mercy. God saves us because of who He is. He saves us despite what we deserve. We are saved because God desires to show mercy through Christ. When someone says to God, Lord I believe You and trust You with my life. I want to follow You and serve You, and I need your forgiveness and grace every day. I want to be with You. I believe Christ delights in that. A follower of Christ who is a learner of His ways is a disciple. Disciples are desired by Christ.
The church is to call its leaders following the example of Christ. Worldly systems often appoint those with the most seniority, or the best qualifications, or the greatest experience to be trained as leaders. Often it is about who you know rather than what you know and sometimes the experience is not as deep or the knowledge as great that has been represented. We may have seen the negative outcome of someone padding a resume. The Christian Church is to be led by the Spirit of Christ in choosing leaders. And in this regard it is all about Who you know…and what He knows. We must be known by Christ to be appointed by God and know Christ to appoint leaders.


...they came to Him...that they would be with Him...He appointed...

We were designed to be God’s companion. Here is the beauty of the call of God. Not only is Jesus the fulfillment of the Immanuel prophecy in Isaiah, God with us, He wants us to be with Him. Have you ever wanted to be with someone who does not want to be with you? When I was sixteen years old, I was infatuated with a girl who was a cheerleader. Each day after school, I went home, put down my books and grabbed my helmet. I rolled my motorcycle out of the garage and roared out of the driveway, on the way to my part time job. I took a detour by the ballfield where the cheerleaders practiced.
One day as I rode by, she waved. The next day she waved and I stopped. She came up to me on the motorcycle, (be still my heart) and put her hand on the face shield of the helmet. It left a print on the shield. For a week, I would ride that motorcycle, looking through the handprint, and think about that cheerleader. I had big plans for our companionship as I stopped every day that week and talked to her. I was trying to work up my courage to ask her to go with me to the county fair. On the final day of that week, I turned up the street and saw her walking with one of the football players going to practice, arm and arm. She didn’t even look my way as I shifted gears on my motorcycle. I didn’t even blow the horn. When I got to my place of employment, I got some Windex and paper towels and squirted and wiped her handprint off my faceshield and her heartbreak right out of my life! Aren’t we glad God does not treat people like people treat people? God designed us for holy communion and companionship. With Him and with one another.
It is not our idea to be called…it is for His purpose. The non-Christian does not get up one morning and decides to seek God. The Bible says there are none who seeks after God on their own initiative. So if you have a desire to come closer to God today, know that this is evidence of God working within you that gives birth to that desire. It is God’s idea for us to be called by Him. Today is your day. Answer the call.
Christ calls us to come to Him despite life’s challenging circumstances. Here we see Jesus climbing a mountain and calling disciples to Him. He doesn’t call them to come to a place He hasn’t already been. Have you noticed that we often have ears to hear when life is most challenging? He tells people to “rise and walk, stretch out your hand, remove the stone, come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden”. These all seem to be overwhelming challenges to people of His day and to people in our day.
He calls us come into His presence wherever He is. Have you responded to Him by coming to Him? Have you climbed the mountain to get to Him or are you waiting for Him to come down? How much further does He have to come but the way He came and the way He left?
He looks for disciples who have no ability other than availability. The Lord does not seek to call the most qualified. He will qualify those He calls. He looks for disciples who have no experience as the world seeks after. The Lord seeks after those who have surrendered their lives to Him, willing to abandon it all to follow Him. Here is the message to our church. Are we willing to follow Christ, wherever that might lead us? Are we available to come or are we too consumed and attached to what we think we might lose to see what we can gain? Are we available to climb to our mountaintop mission?


...that He might send them out to preach... they might have authority to cast out demons...

The Ruler of the Universe once again gave ultimate authority for men to rule. The Genesis account where the man is created in the image of God and in His likeness was given the opportunity to rule over the creation. They were to rule as creation managers on behalf of the Creator. To be God’s stewards. All through the history of man, Satan, the enemy of our souls, has tried to damage this image beyond repair. Consider Job, the servant of God. In the beginning of the story, Satan pledged that if God would remove His protection, then he would make it so that Job would curse God. Jesus warned Peter that Satan demanded permission to sift him like wheat. Here is a reinstatement of spiritual authority by the Second Adam who had endured this enemy’s temptation in the desert. Disciples are granted authority to preach and cast out demons. This is but another chapter of the fulfillment of the prophecy in Genesis 3 where the seed of the woman crushes the head of the serpent. Humans are given authority over the demonic realm to which they have been enslaved. Christ, The Absolute Ruler of the Universe, invaded our planet to crush Satan’s rebellion and reestablish the order of God and bring all things under His authority. We are only granted this authority if we operate under the authority of the One who is sending us.
Man must be granted authority to operate on this planet because we do not have any on our own. There are only two sources of authority. One is legitimate and ultimate. That belongs to God. The other source is illegitimate and inferior. And it belongs to Satan, whose purpose is to grab the authority of God for himself and deceived mankind into serving him and rebelling against God. So who are you serving? There are only two masters. And man is not one of them. We are either slaves to God and His holiness or slaves to Satan and sin’s wickedness. To the one who may be saying today, I have no control of my life and I am helpless to bring order to the chaos, I say this. There is good news for you. If you can hear the summons of Christ to come and be with him today, then come. Why would you continue to resist Him? Who wants more chaos?
Christ calls us to send us. A preacher is not exclusive to the one who stands before you on Sunday mornings. The text says He called the disciples to preach. In that day, these people were called apostles, or the ones who were sent. To preach means simply to proclaim the truth. Now many people never proclaim the truth of God to others. There can be several reasons for that. One reason is that some don’t know what to say. They don’t know what to say because they don’t know what Christ has said. They are content to let the preacher who is paid to preach do the preaching. That is not the biblical mandate. We are called to speak the truth of God wherever we are. It will have an impact. Preaching at home, at work, or at school is our calling. But we have to answer the call of Christ to come to Him to understand what He wants us to say. We come to go. He calls us to send us.
We are to go where God sends us, not where we want to go. The key is to be sent. God determines our mission field. We hear the word of God revealed and trust that He knows what He is doing. Often you see people wanting to go on mission to places and to people that are comfortable. Our lives as missionary disciples, and I believe this is what we are in our culture today, are to be spent in hearing God’s heart as to where we are sent. When I was in the military I was given a choice of duty assignments and asked to list a first, second, and third priority. Most of the time, I got what I asked for. But this was during peacetime military operations. In times of war, the priority is determined by the commanding authority. So is the mission. God is always at war in the spirit realm. He assigns the mission. He is the commanding authority.
We are to carry authority that does not belong to us. We are granted authority to use as God would use...for the advancement of His kingdom. The church is to be like the embassy of a foreign kingdom. Every disciple is an ambassador. Ambassadors are not diplomats. Diplomats try not to offend and will compromise on many levels. But the ambassador speaks on behalf of another’s authority. We must consult the King.


...He went up... and summoned...and they came...

The call of God once again comes from a high and holy place. Consider and compare the God of Sinai and Jesus on this mountain. At Sinai the people of God could not come close or touch it lest they die! They asked Moses to go up on the mountain and see what this great and awesome God wanted. Come back and give a report, they said. Here in our text, God in Christ is coming close to His people. He calls to give life, not death. He summoned those He wanted. The Most High God calls. He is high and holy and lifted up and yet He calls from that high place to us in our low places.
Strangers to Christ have spent too much of their lives in the valleys to know much about the mountains. The mountains in the lives of those who live apart from Christ represent the challenges they try to overcome without the wisdom or the power of God. Some of these challenges are so daunting that they remain in the valleys because they have failed in their attempts to climb the mountains so many times. Their strength is sapped because overcoming an overwhelming mountain is only accomplished through spiritual authority. And ultimate spiritual authority is only granted by Christ.
Christ calls from the mountaintop so that He may be clearly heard. Our world today does its best to shout down the witness of Christ. Throughout history, man wants to be the occupant of the mountaintop high place. We see this in our Old Testament accounts of worship on the “high places”. I do not think it an accident that Christ is communicating His message from the mountaintop. He is taking the high ground back. He speaks from this high ground so His message must be clearly heard. With any military conflict, whoever holds the high ground has the advantage. Christ is our mountaintop commander. His voice is clear today. Christ bids us to join Him on the high moral ground. When we live our lives making godly moral choices, we can hear His voice clearly.
The servants in God’s Kingdom are appointed by the King. Is the Lord’s call still the greatest experience in your life? Do you marvel at the fact that God has called you just as surely as He called these twelve men? Look at them. Fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, and even a traitor. He called common men to an uncommon destiny. The highest calling of the most High God is to be His servant. Of all the humans who have ever lived, there have only been a few. Do you strive to live as one of them?
Do we as a church really understand the call’s implications, applications, and expectations? We are to share its benefits and advantages and assume its responsibilities to live out this private call publicly. It is a privilege to be a part of this congregation. Christ is calling you to it today. The church at Mount Olivet has a high calling before it in an immediate and future context. We have the privilege to be a part of what Christ is doing in the building up of His body in the selection elders in His church. The leaders who are appointed will shape the future direction for our church. It needs to be taken seriously and soberly. We, as a church, are called to choose from among us those who will lead. We are not selecting apostles as Jesus did on the mountain. But we are to choose those who are willing to pursue the high calling of Christ to follow Him and challenge our church to follow Him and grow in Christlikeness. This is the calling before us today as the church.
Our so-what today is more like a so-how. So how do we as a church do the spiritual work that Christ requires us to do in the immediate application of selecting elders? The first thing is to rely on spiritual principles rather than personal preferences.
What are some foundational principles of godly leadership? According to our passage today, here are some observations. Understanding that these men Jesus called were not elders in a New Testament church, there are guiding principles here about leadership that form the foundation of the call of a spiritual leader. These apostles that were called by Jesus that day formed the basis of the New Testament church leader of the first century. He called them to follow Him. A good leader will first be a good follower.

1. An elder should demonstrate that he has heard and answered the call to Christ. Their lives must show evidence that they are becoming Christ-followers. These are men who are well aware that they are not perfect and are in need of the gospel everyday. They follow Christ out of their desire to be more like Him.
2. An elder should be a man that has been with Christ. It should be apparent that he is not a stranger to His Lord and because he has been with Christ, his life resembles the One who calls him to be with Him.
3. An elder will go where God sends him, not where he wants to go. He is willing to lay aside his preferences for kingdom principles. Knowing that it is easy to do the popular thing or go the way of the crowd, he will be willing to stand with God, even if he stands alone.
4. An elder should be a man who is authorized to preach and able to teach. The message of the gospel will have so impacted this man’s life that he speaks much of Christ and His grace, to those inside and outside the church family and inside and outside the church culture.
5. An elder should wear spiritual authority well. Spiritual authority is granted to him with an understanding that he is under authority. He will give an account of how he engaged the enemy and how he reacted in the battle. He is one who does not fear the demons of hell, because he knows that he has One greater that lives within him. He is also a man who is well aware of his human limitation and his fallen nature in the realm of spiritual authority and is utterly dependent on the power of God. He will be eager to guard against the temptation to abuse the power that can come with being entrusted with authority.

Jesus rejects how worldly authority chooses to do spiritual things.