Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chapter One...Preparation BY Jesus (Part 1)

This third section wraps up the rest of the chapter as Jesus establishes his ministry.  We divided verses 14-45 into five different passages.  1) Jesus' Message, 2) Jesus' Companions, 3) Jesus' Work, 4) Jesus' Purpose, 5) Jesus' Place.  Each one of these passages could easily be put together as a sermon or Bible Study.  There is a ton of stuff in them, but I'll only touch the surface on these as well.

Jesus' Message.  It was simple and to the point.  (15) "The time has come, the kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!"  In our discussion, we talked about the importance of the time issue.  Jesus is calling for a decision to be made and he's saying that right now is the time!  We also talked about repentance; the decision to change the way you think.  It's very possible to "repent" and ask for forgiveness, but not change the way you think.  I believe that repentance is only true repentance when we begin to change our minds.  Romans says to "be transformed by the renewing of your minds" (12:2).  David the psalmist wrote, "How can a young man keep his way pure?  By living according to your Word." (119:11).  How can we live according to the Word?  First of all, we need to know it!  Spending time in the Word will transform our minds and give us a hunger to spend time with Jesus.

We talked about how we need to "recognize" our sin, "confess" our sin, and "ask for forgiveness" of our sins.  But it doesn't stop there.  We'll continue to keep doing the same things over and over if we don't "change" our mind.  We need to refocus.  When we are caught up in sin, we're thinking of no one else but ourselves, our comfort, and our desires.  Instead of having our focus/eyes on ourselves, we need to change our focus/eyes to be on Jesus.  In Him, there is freedom!

We need to believe it!

The time has come!  The Kingdom of God (Jesus) is near!  Repent!  And believe the good news!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chapter One...Preparation OF Jesus.

It's been pretty busy the past month and our meetings have not been real consistent.  We're finally working on Chapter Two, but I will try to blog up to date as time permits of what we looked at in Chapter One.  Feel free to throw your "two cents" in on what you learn.

The second part of Chapter One focuses on what we called "Preparation OF Jesus" in verses 9-13; the account of his baptism and temptation in the wilderness...

As far as Jesus being baptized, a few questions come to mind.  What is baptism and why did Jesus need to get baptized?  Some believe we need to baptize children, some believe that we should be baptized as an adult, some believe that you need to be baptized "in the Name of Jesus", while others say "in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."  Without getting too detailed, the question is still, what is baptism or why baptize?  If we say that baptism saves us as some claim, then don't we negate the work on the cross?  Then again, if we don't get baptized, what is holding us back?  Do we really believe in the work on the cross?  Jesus said, "believe and be baptized and you will be saved."  Believe in what?  If he hadn't been to the cross yet, then he couldn't be talking about the "finished work."

Now that I've confused everyone, I'll get to our conclusions: Decision, Identification, Equipping and Approval.  Because the cross and resurrection hadn't happened yet we cannot look at this context through that lens.  For Jesus, this was a moment of decision.  After spending thirty years with the family business, he made a decision that changed his life on earth and it started with baptism...interesting for us?  John's baptism was that of repentance; a change of the way you live, a change of the way you think.  Since Jesus was sinless, he did not need to repent, but he decided to step out in ministry and it started as he identified himself with us and our need of repentance.  As he came up out of the water, the Spirit descended on him like a dove (equipping) and a voice from heaven was heard, "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased" (approval).  If you think about it, those are the best words anyone could hear from their Father; encouraging words of approval.  WOW.

All of this led up to what was next...the temptation (12,13).  It says "the Spirit sent him."  He was out there for "forty days" being tempted by Satan.  We spent a week looking at the cross reference in Matthew 4:1-11 that expounds on this event--Satan tempted Jesus where he was weakest, with a premature promise, and material possessions.  The interesting thing here is that the Spirit sent him.  Why in the world would the Spirit send someone out to be tested and tempted?  This was an opportunity for more decision making and more preparation.  Jesus needed to decide his Father's way or Satan's way.  It is interesting that after someone makes a decision to follow Christ, Satan usually is right there to send doubts into their mind and all of us are vulnerable in one area or another.  If we fail, we don't "lose" our salvation, but he makes us feel that losers.  If we make it through the trial, it only makes us stronger.  God is not so much interested in our comfort as He is in our character.  Jesus was no exception.  He was sent out into the desert (a lonely place) and was going through some character building.  What a way to identify with the human race!  So, in contrast to the "whoa is me, I'm being tempted, going through a hard time, etc." attitude, we can say "thank you Father for making me stronger in character and faith."

I am only touching the very surface of these five verses, there is SO MUCH here.  Take some time and meditate on these verses and let me know what you come up with.  What is God telling you?  Is He preparing you too?