All posts by Simon Twist

Mark 2:13-17 Jesus calls us to follow

We are in the middle of mission week. We heard last week how Jesus tells us what our greatest need is – forgiveness of sin. This week, in mark 2:13-17 we see how Jesus demonstrates the need for forgiveness to reach for beyond our comfort zone.
This is a shortened blog and I challenge you to grapple with this short passage and decide where it challenges your own life. Consider, by yourself and with your group, these few questions.

1) At the beginning if this passage, and in last weeks section, what is it that Jesus is busy doing? How does your answer challenge your week?

2) Jesus told Levi to follow him, and he did. How did Jesus call you to follow him? What about the stories of people in your group – have they got a story to share?

3) Jesus ate with Levi and a large number of people – some were known as sinners and tax collectors. It’s not that the whole crowd were – but it’s significant that some, perhaps many were. What type of people do you think that describes? How does this challenge us as a church and yourself in your engagement with people?

4) Jesus said that he came to call… He wasn’t simply dining out – in fact, the Son of God was slumming in his mission to call the sick. We heard last week that our greatest need is forgiveness. How does Jesus’ demonstrate an urgency for uncomfortable mission?

I hope this is enough to get conversation going. Be aware, as I’m sure you are, that we are amongst the sinners and tax collectors who Jesus came to heal. Your group is filled with them and many are slow to respond when Jesus calls. Pray for the people in your growth group.
Your brother in Christ,
Simon

Mission week#1: Mark 2:1-12

For the next 2 Growth Group weeks, we all have the opportunity to reflect on the universal mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s not to say we don’t think of that every week but here we are focusing our attention on it.

The sermons for the next two weeks will be on Mark 2:1-12 and Mark 2:13-17. Why not take these texts for your group to discuss together and commit the local mission week to God.

Here are some thoughts on Mark 2:1-12

Context:

It is very early in the book of Mark and therefore very early in Jesus’ public ministry. Chapter one declares that this book will be about the good news of Jesus Christ. John announced his arrival. Jesus began his ministry with the words: The time has come…the kingdom of God has come near – repent and believe the good news! This was his message from the start! By the end of this first chapter, Jesus has moved from being unknown to being greatly followed – the beginning of a popular ministry. His fame has much to do with his ability to heal. His popularity forced him to do business in remote areas away from the population.

Observations:

Only a few days in the remote areas was spent before he returned to Capernaum – a populated area.

Notice how ‘he had come home.’ Jesus was from Nazareth, not Capernaum. It is probable, as many commentators suggest, that this was the home of Peter where they stayed as a ministry team. Either way, it seems that the following account happens in the place where Jesus was staying.

More important than the fact that many people made their way into the house is what they came for – Jesus preached the word to them.

‘The word’ is something like – the message. We often use it as short-hand for ‘the bible’ but this is not as helpful as using it to refer to the message of the bible. When we say that God’s word never fails – we claim that the message of God stands firm – not that every ink on the page is sacred but that the word of God, the revelation of God to mankind conveys the message of truth, hope and salvation – and that stands forever. From Genesis to Revelation, the message of God has been that he is the king who loves us. We run rapidly toward destruction because we are bent on rebelling against God. God himself is the only port for salvation – not sword, or wealth, or good habit – but God.

Jesus’ ministry was a word-based ministry. He was definitely a healer, but he didn’t come to heal – but to preach the word: repent and believe.

What was the faith that Jesus saw? Wasn’t it the actions of the men bringing their friend to Jesus? The faith that God praised Abraham for was the extreme trust that Abraham had toward God in being willing to return his only son back to God (Gen 22). It’s one thing to imagine the four men sitting around their paralysed friend and thinking: ‘I bet Jesus could do something for us – wouldn’t that be great.’ It’s quite another to see the men lift their friend, take him across town, attempt the front door but then remain determined to get him to Jesus no matter how hard it seems. Jesus saw their faith.

Based on what Jesus saw, he forgave their sins. This is not to be misunderstood as works. Often, faith that can be seen can be mislabelled as works but it is just visible trust. The criminal who died by Jesus’ side on the cross put his trust in Jesus and was pardoned of his sins without asking for it. He didn’t say sorry, he simply confessed Jesus as Lord – Jesus welcomed that.

Jesus displays his divinity in a couple of ways in this passage. Firstly, he declares himself qualified to forgive sins. The bad guys in the passage hear exactly what Jesus is inferring. Secondly, he knew what the Pharisees were thinking! It would be silly for him to suggest he knew what they were thinking and then tell them what it was unless he knew that he was right! Thirdly, he heals this paralysed man by simply speaking to him! Far out! And he did all of that without even leaving the living room!

The hardest miracle to see in this passage is the one miracle that we need the most – the forgiveness of sins. Entrance to the kingdom of God requires it. Jesus can easily give it. All that is required on our part is faith.

Meaning

The power of God is not in Jesus’ miracles but in his words. Not, “you are healed,” but “you are forgiven.”

Application

  • What is the word of God that we preach or speak about? Is it the simple message of forgiveness of sins because the kingdom is near?
  • How far will we go to bring people to Jesus? Only as far as it is convenient?
  • Similarly, how important to we see that Jesus is for our friends and family?
  • Pray for your contacts and ask God to help you to bring them to Jesus – to listen to the Word of God.

Prayer for the week:

Almighty God, help us to help our neighbour by bringing the word of Jesus to them. Help us all to pay attention to the powerful message of the gospel and to praise your name for the gift of forgiveness. Amen.

 

Romans 13:1-7 – under the authority under God

Context

Romans 1:16-17 Know the gospel. Paul is so impressed by the gospel of God – the good news that is the all God’s work to save us. We are saved by faith and credited the righteousness of Jesus. How incredible is that!

Romans 12:1-2 The gospel is life changing. So, the knowledge of God’s mercy and grace will affect our lives. You can’t embrace the gospel without seeing how transforming it is on us. God has shown us such great love and we are now devoted to him because of it.

Romans 12:9-21 The change is a reflection of who God is. Our lives will be defined by love – sincere, genuine, true blue love – the kind of love that comes from the Father.

Romans 12:19-21 Our knowledge of God allows us to love others and let God avenge evil. God is the ultimate authority in the whole universe. The logic behind loving our enemies is that God will bring justice when the time is right – leave it to him. With the ultimate almighty God on the side that we are now on, where does that leave us in relation to the authorities in this world – how should we relate to governments?

Also, if we are to live at peace with all and to love our enemies, how can God maintain justice in this age?

Observation

Verses 1-2 – notice how often the word ‘authority’ appears in these to verses. The authority in view here are the rulers of your culture and city and country etc. it refers to those who, mostly, are elected by the people to be in charge. But notice who is ultimately in authority over all of this process. God is always in charge and no matter who is in power at any time, they are in power because God has allowed it, he has ordained it and he has, to some degree, orchestrated it. These verses tell me that the people in authority are hands and legs for God. They are established by God and instituted by Him.

So living out of sync with the government is to live out of sync with God. You can’t rebel against the government without making the statement that you do not trust God.
Question

It won’t surprise me if every Growth Group will have somebody ask something like: what if the government is evil or communist or unfair or money hungry or….? There’s no doubt that there will be examples that we can either invent or recount that would make this instruction difficult. What do the words say though? They tell us that it is God who has instituted and established these authorities. God does not make mistakes. The promise is not for godly governments but for God ordained authority. We diminish God’s sovereignty if we claim that some governments are in power that God would not have put there. So, governments serve God in bringing order and justice (with a little ‘j’ to this world).

The Christian is just as subject to the land’s authority as the next person but even more so when they learn here that doing so is to be obedient to God.

Verses 3-4 – The rulers of this age serve God to protect those who follow the law and to judge those who break it. Even though we Christians have direct access to speak with God and request his help in all things, we are also subject to the laws of the land. God is not the God of disorder but of order. He will use even an ungodly government to serve his purposes.

Verse 5 – here is the sum of it all. Two reasons for submitting to government: a) they have the power and right to punish us if we do not submit and b) God has put them there and rebelling against them is to rebel against God.

Verses 6-7 – the words here are straight forward. Notice though that we are told here that we owe the government! We pay taxes because we owe them for the work that they do. They are God’s servants but they are also ours. Without them, we have anarchy or strife or mayhem or…I don’t know. It is God’s plan that we operate under the authority of others.

Don’t bad mouth the government. Don’t skimp on taxes or whinge that we have them. But go beyond paying taxes by paying the government respect and honour. Even in our Australian culture of cutting down the tall poppies, we Christians have a call from God to pay respect and honour to those who govern us.

Meaning

What we have here is an insight into how God governs from above. He orders the affairs of people to accomplish his will.

The bible has many examples of how this all works. Daniel was a man of God who worked in close relationship with the kings of Babylon. He respected the kings in everything that he did. He showed respect and honour and served the king more impressively than any of the other men in the king’s court. Only when a law was made that directly offended God did Daniel choose to obey God over the King. Daniel’s reputation was not of a man who rebelled against authority, but of a man who was always God’s man first.

Joseph has a similar story to Daniel. He always did his best to serve whoever he was a servant to. It didn’t matter that he came from the chosen people of God. He found himself, under God’s will, to be subject to Pharoah. And he obeyed.
Even Moses showed respect to Pharoah while following the commands of God to request that the people of Israel be set free.

It’s Isaiah 46:11 that captures the interaction between God’s plans and man’s plans. In that verse, a man of prey is summoned from the east to fulfill God’s purposes. This was an enemy of Israel that God called upon to conquer Israel for their rebellion. The army that defeated Israel would not feel like they were accomplishing God’s will – they just feel how powerful they are in their ignorance of the almighty. But God knows that they are doing exactly what God has designed for them to do. This is the sovereignty of God.
Finally, The Lord Jesus Christ stood before governor Pilate and submitted to the punishment that Pilate ordered to occur. Jesus respectfully informed Pilate that He was not jus ‘a’ king but the one with all authority. He said this calmly and Pilate concluded that there is no guilt in Jesus. Read John 19:11, 35-37 at least to see some interaction between Jesus and Pilate as the one in authority being questioned by the one who was placed in authority by Jesus.

We live in a world where people are n charge. The Christian faith celebrates this and recognises it as a gift from God.

Application

Our governments are really great. We have plenty of avenues to question them, request change from them, disagree with them and vote against them. These can all be done in a perfectly legal way that doesn’t involve assassination or civil war. Praise God for the order that we have in this country.

Pray for our government that they will be fair, wise and just. That they will care for the vulnerable and only ask from their country what they need to ask.

Speak well of all the politicians. Agree or disagree but do it with great respect and honour.

Know that God has got everything under control. This really is the underlying point of the seven verses. Nothing is above God.

Prayer for the week

Sovereign Lord, we pray for your guidance over those who are in authority in this land. We thank you for the peace that we enjoy and ask that this will continue. Please help our governments to be wise and thoughtful in their decision making. Help us too, Father, to respect, honour and care for our governments by the words we use of them, the way we interact with them and the taxes that we owe to them. Amen.