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Heart for God

June 24, 2018 | Mark 12:28-30 | three commitments

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Christ’s Great Commission commands us to be a disciple-making church. But what kind of disciples? What qualities are we to instill in the disciples we make? That’s where today’s sermon comes in. For the Lord has not only given us the Great Commission. He has also given us the Great Commandment. Today, we’re going to focus on the first part of the Great Commandment which calls us to make disciples who have a Heart for God. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus was asked to name the greatest commandment. In a sense he was asked to simplify all of the writings of the Bible down to one simple statement. He didn’t pause. Jesus told his hearers that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your being, essentially with all your heart. Through Jesus, we can have a heart for God.

“Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone” (Mark 16:15 NLT).

March 12, 2018

ARE WE OBEYING CHRIST’S COMMISSION?
Jesus commissioned His disciples to share the “Good News” to everyone in “all the world.” Are we obeying this commission? What are we doing as a church and what are we doing as individual believers to answer this call? Do we pray for the gospel to be preached in every nation and language? Do we give financially to support those who carry the Good News to every “people group” (An ethnic group which identifies based on similarities such as common ancestry, language, society, culture or nation)? Are we willing to go personally to see that the gospel is offered to everyone?

According to the Joshua Project, there are 16,970 people groups in the world out of which 7,040 groups have yet to be reached. This means that 3.14 billion people, out of the world’s total population of 7.48 billion, have not yet heard the gospel!

There are two important spiritual questions that we must ask ourselves: 1) What did we do with Jesus? and 2) What did we do with the gospel? How have you answered these two questions in your own life? If we have believed Jesus then we must obey His commission.

“But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise” (Mark 15:5 NLT).

March 11, 2018

JESUS WAS SILENT
As Christ’s accusers made charge after charge against Him, Pilate was surprised at His silence. Pilate already suspected that the Jews were acting out of “envy” (Mark 15:10), but he was amazed that Jesus offered no defense. No doubt he was accustomed to seeing the accused blubber out a passionate defense when facing his court. Yet, Jesus uttered not a word. Certainly, he must have also marveled at Christ’s dignity and self-control. He had never seen a man such as this.

Jesus could have easily offered a verbal defense that would have made Pilate see Him as innocent and His accusers as fools. But Jesus said nothing. Jesus could have responded with a devastating military defense, as He had told Peter when he tried to defend Jesus in the garden, “Put away your sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53). Yet, Jesus took no action.

As the prophet Isaiah prophesied concerning the Messiah, “He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth” (Isa. 53:7). Jesus was silent.

And as the chorus of Ray Overholt’s 1958 hymn declares:
“He could have called ten thousand angels
To destory the world and set Him free.
He could have called ten thousand angels,
But He died alone for you and me.”

“You have all heard his blasphemy” (Mark 14:64 NLT).

March 10, 2018

WHY WAS JESUS ACCUSED OF BLASPHEMY?
The high priest asked Jesus, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” (Mark 14:61). Why was it blasphemy for Jesus to answer the high priest’s question in the positive? The question itself revealed the first century expectation that the Messiah would also be called the Son of God. It has been well documented from the Dead Sea Scrolls that many first century Jews and rabbis thought the Messiah would be called the Son of God. So, why was it blasphemy for Jesus to reply, “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” (Mark 14:62)?

They called Him a blasphemer because they rejected His claim. They saw Him as a challenger to their position and power. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, they were so concerned with the great crowds following Jesus, that they called a special council meeting, concluding, “If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation” (John 11:48).

Yet, calling him a blasphemer was a stretch. The law concerning blasphemy states, “Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death” (Lev. 24:16). Notice that the law concerning blasphemy makes no mention of claiming to be the Messiah or Son of God.

Jesus was not a blasphemer because He did not “blaspheme the name of the Lord,” nor did He make a false claim by answering the high priest in the positive. I can find no other instance in history when Jewish authorities accused and executed a so-called Messiah. And there have been many. Jewish author, Jerry Rabow, wrote a book entitled, “Fifty Jewish Messiahs.” None of them endured the rejection and accusation that Jesus did. Why?

It was always God’s plan for His Son to come as Messiah, to be rejected and killed and on the third day to be raised again, so that we might be saved.

“Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives”(Mark 14:26 NLT).

March 9, 2018

WHAT HYMN DID JESUS SING THE NIGHT BEFORE?
On the Thursday night before His crucifixion, Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn together after finishing the Passover meal. My first observation is that Jesus sang. O what joy it must have been to hear His voice sing praises to God! How wonderful to have been one of the disciples who joined with Him in harmony. But what hymn did they sing?

The Greek word translated “sang a hymn” is “hymneō” (ὑμνέω). Literally, “They ‘hymned’ as they went out.” We don’t have a verb for “hymning,” but we did borrow the Greek noun, “hymnos,” for our English noun, “hymn.” What is a hymn? The dictionary says, It is “a religious song or poem, typically of praise to God.” Yet, in both Jewish and Christian circles, the word hymn is used in a more precise way.

In their book, “Sing With Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Hymnody,” authors Eskew and McElrath describe a hymn as a kind of poem set to music. They write, “It should be simple and metrical in form, genuinely emotional, poetic and literary in style, spiritual in quality, and in its ideas so direct and so immediately apparent as to unify a congregation while singing it.”

So, the hymn is a unique form of worship music that usually begins as a poem before music is added. It is easy to sing, metrically precise, and sounds as good to the ear with or without accompaniment. It can be read aloud in private devotions, sung alone or together. Hymns are rich with words and doctrines from Scripture.

There are other types of worship songs. The apostle Paul encouraged singing three types in his letter to the Colossian church: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16).

So, what hymn did Jesus sing the night before His crucifixion? Jewish tradition called for singing the Paschal Psalms, Psalms 113 through 118, after the Passover meal. These psalms surely fit the definition of a hymn. They also match perfectly with the moment in time that Jesus faced.

Take a moment and read through Psalms 113 through 118. Pay special attention to the words of Psalm 118. Imagine you’re with the disciples as Jesus sings, while walking out into the night through the Eastern Gate of Jerusalem and up the Mount of Olives to pray.

“I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.” (Mark 14:9 NLT).

March 8, 2018

ONLY WHAT’S DONE FOR CHRIST WILL LAST
On the Wednesday of Passion Week, Jesus and His disciples took a day of rest a short distance from Jerusalem in a town called Bethany. While eating a meal at Simon the leper’s house, a woman anointed Jesus’ head with an expensive perfume worth a year’s wages. This was an incredible gift, so costly that Judas Iscariot was offended by its extravagance. Yet, Jesus rebuked Judas and commended the woman for her gift. Her deed has been remembered to this day, just as Jesus predicted.

This reminds me of a line from a poem by C. T. Studd:
“Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

“Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear” (Mark 13:31 NLT).

March 7, 2018

GOD’S ETERNAL WORD
Jesus answered the disciples’ question concerning the last days by describing the signs leading up to it. He talked about how many things would come to pass, but concluded that His words would never disappear.

When we study, memorize and apply God’s Word, we are investing our lives in that which will never disappear. There is no other investment greater. Even as the ages roll on, we will still be chewing on and growing in our understanding of God’s eternal Word!

“Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money” (Mark 12:41 NLT).

March 6, 2018

JESUS WATCHES THE OFFERINGS
Jesus sat near the Temple collection box so that He might watch who was giving and how much they were giving. He did this to illustrate a lesson to His disciples. As they witnessed the rich tossing handfuls of coins into the collection box, the heavy coins made a loud metallic sound as they rattled down the trumpet like opening of the Temple treasury. Surely everyone nearby could hear when the rich gave. Then, a poor widow carefully dropped in two small coins. They barely made a sound as they rolled into the treasury.

Christ’s teaching on this scene was that while the rich seemed to be giving a lot, it was in fact only a tiny part of their surplus. But the poor widow quietly gave all that she had.

Yet, there is another lesson here that Christ gave not by words, but by behavior. Christ is interested in our giving. He watches our generosity. He cares about our giving, how much we give and what motivates our giving. Therefore, when we give, we shouldn’t care whether others are watching, only that Jesus is watching.

“Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures?” (Mark 12:10 NLT).

March 4, 2018

HAVE YOU NOT READ THE SCRIPTURES?
Jesus questioned whether the religious leaders and teachers had read a particular Scripture from Psalm 118 concerning the stone the builders rejected. Even as they rejected Jesus, His question pointed them to the biblical prophecy which predicted their rejection. Shouldn’t biblical evidence have changed their view of Him? It should have, but it didn’t. Their view of Jesus was not based on a study of the Scriptures, but on their own political interests.

Believers today, especially those that are called to be teachers and preachers of the Bible, must be careful to base their lives, teachings and sermons on the Bible itself. Human opinion has no authority or power. Only God’s Word can be trusted. But it must be read, studied and taught with the illumination of the Holy Spirit in order to be understood and applied.

In an age when most of us have a Bible in every room and access to dozens of translations online, what an embarrassing question it would be to hear from the lips of Jesus! “Have you not read the Scriptures?”

‘Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.”‘ (Mark 11:22-23 NLT).

March 3, 2018

FAITH THAT CAN MOVE MOUNTAINS
On the Monday morning of Passion Week, Jesus cursed a fig tree that was barren of fruit. The next morning as He and the disciples passed by the tree, Peter pointed out that it was “withered from the roots up.” In response, Jesus offered a lesser to greater argument (i.e. “fig tree to mountain”) that the disciples would be able to do even greater miracles if they only had faith.

As we consider this amazing promise from Jesus, let us be careful not to misunderstand the doctrine of faith. First, faith is not some neutral force with a power of its own. No, faith requires an object. And as Jesus taught, the object of biblical faith is God. Notice how Jesus began His teaching, “Have faith in God.” Jesus did not teach us to have faith in faith, but to have faith in God. We can believe something with all of our heart, yet nothing will happen unless God acts. Second, having recognized that biblical faith’s object is God, we must recognize that our requests must be according to God’s will. Consider these two Scriptures:

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3).

So, our faith must be in God whose power and will are paramount. Yet, having understood this, we must not forget the point of Christ’s teaching: Our faith in God can move mountains! Don’t focus on the mountain. Focus on the God who can move the mountain! For it’s not the size of your faith, but the size of your God that counts. As Jesus taught, just a little faith in a great God can move mountains!

“For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt. 17:20).

It is not great faith in God, but faith in a great God that moves mountains!