Mary: Mother of Jesus and Disciple of Christ

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Mary: Mother of Jesus and Disciple of Christ’

© May 13, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 13, 2018

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on May 11, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin May 11, 2014 

Announcements and Call to Worship, Prayer

Opening Hymn #99: Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners; Choruses

Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings

Responsive Reading #657 (Godly Womanhood – Proverbs 31)

 Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                    Mary: Mother of Jesus and Disciple of Christ’

Let us pray…

Good morning and God’s blessings to all, including all the mothers in the congregation, with our best wishes to you on this Mothers’ Day Sunday.

Today’s lesson entitled:Mary: Mother of Jesus and Disciple of Christ’, we will examine the influence of an extraordinary woman, who is well known as the mother of Jesus, the Son of God. However, sadly, scholars generally have not acknowledged Mary’s dedicated discipleship to Jesus, the Messiah.

I remember each time Sophie became pregnant with each of our four children, she would call me at work to share with me the happy news.

By contrast, Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph, the news of her first pregnancy would come in an unexpected way, with the potential of exposing the engaged couple to ridicule and criticism for a pre-marital pregnancy.  We read this account in Luke 1:26-35 (ESV):

Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[a] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[b] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[c]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be called holy—the Son of God.   

Footnotes: a. Luke 1:27 That is, legally pledged to be married b. Luke 1:28 Some manuscripts add Blessed are you among women! c. Luke 1:34 Greek since I do not know a man d. Luke 1:35 Some manuscripts add of you

We see in this account from Verses 28- 29 of the first Chapter of Luke’s gospel, Mary demonstrating her pragmatic side by her reaction to the angel Gabriel’s initial greeting, 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And when she was told that she was chosen to conceive a son, Jesus, the Son of the God, Verse 34 indicates more pragmatism, when she asks Gabriel, 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

Mary did not demonstrate an overt emotional reaction to the news that she was chosen to be the mother to the Christ, a Messiah that the Jews had waited for over eight hundred years since his birth was first prophesized.

Over the next few years, following the birth of Jesus, the family of Jesus would be visited by a host of angels, three Magi, and be forced to flee for their lives to Egypt.

But how does the responsibility of being a mother to a child destined to become God’s chosen king for her people forever affect Mary? We get a glimpse of how Mary and Joseph chose to treat the child, Jesus in what might be considered to be in a manner no different from any other 12-year-old son, as we see in Luke 2:41-51 (ESV):

The Boy Jesus in the Temple

BLCF: young Jesus in the Temple

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents[a] saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[b] 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

Footnotes: a. Luke 2:48 Greek they b. Luke 2:49 Or about my Father’s business

In this Scripture  Passage taken from Luke 2, we find an indication of the love and concern Mary had for her son. In an account that sounds a little like the film, Home Alone, Jesus is left behind in Jerusalem, or should I say he elected to remain in Jerusalem, following the annual Passover Feast. The young twelve-year-old Jesus is assumed by Mary and Joseph to be with others in a group of friends and family returning home to Nazareth. However, after a day’s journey, Mary and Joseph then realize that Jesus is missing from the group. Jesus’ parents return to Jerusalem to look for their son. Three days later, Jesus, now missing for several days, was found in the temple, talking to the elders. Those present, including Mary and Joseph, were amazed and astonished at young Jesus’ understanding of the Scriptures. This did not deter Mary, who was worried for her son’s safety, from chastising her son, verses 48 – 50, of Luke 2:

BLCF: Mary_Jesus_Temple

48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.

While not making excuses for Mary and Joseph for being separated from Jesus, as we shall see later in the lesson, it is recorded that Jesus was not their only child. The Scriptures indicate Jesus had at least six siblings, four brothers and at least two sisters, (Mark 6:1-6).

We also see that though the “Son of the Most High“ must be in his Father’s house, Jesus did not forget his place with respect to his parents, as we read in Luke 2, Verse 51 that:

51And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.

As she had done after her son’s birth, Mary treasured all these things in her heart. And though Jesus was raised to honour his parents, he obviously was instructed well with regard to the Scriptures, as he had demonstrated in the temple in Jerusalem.

It should be pointed out that in Luke 2, Verse 49, that Jesus indicated more than an academic knowledge of the Scriptures when he spoke to his parents, 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”, which reveals an awareness of the identity of his Father, as the temple where he was found is considered to be the house of God. Verse 50 of Luke 2 indicates an understanding of his Father’s identity that came from God, and not from Mary nor Joseph  as his parents initially understand the meaning of their son’s words, 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.

This passage in Acts is the last place in the Scriptures to mention Mary’s husband Joseph, who is absent from future gospel accounts of the disciples. I believe that Joseph had passed, as we will see later in our lesson, when Jesus spoke at Nazareth, some present recognized him as Jesus the carpenter and as the son of Mary. Joseph is not mentioned at all (Mark 6:1-6).

Our next Scripture passage, is taken from the second chapter of John’s gospel, has Mary telling Jesus that the wedding at Cana, where they were attending, with the disciples, has run out wine, expecting Jesus to remedy the situation,  John 2:1-11 (ESV):

The Wedding at Cana

BLCF: Miracle_Wedding_at_Cana

 2 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

Footnotes: a. John 2:6 Greek two or three measures (metrētas); a metrētēs was about 10 gallons or 35 liters

We see that Mary was more than a mother traveling with her son, she was traveling with Jesus and his disciples, as a disciple of Christ. And isn’t it just like a mother to ask her son to help provide the host of the wedding with wine. You will note that though Jesus had begun his ministry, that at this time he and his disciples accompanied his mother to a wedding. This indicates the human side of Jesus, who on more than one occasion honored his mother, by referring to himself as the “son of man” rather than the “Son of God”. And not to disparage his Father, we see later that Christ honored his Godly side by chasing out the money changers from the temple, his Father’s house.

Our next verse, Mark 6:1-6, shows us that while Mary had to deal with her son, Jesus, who also happened to be the Son of God, she had at least six other children to be concerned with:

Mark 6:1-6 (ESV): Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.

And he went about among the villages teaching.

Mary and Joseph, as well as the temple elders, were not the only people amazed by Jesus’ understanding of the Scriptures. We see a similar surprise to the Lord but a different reaction to Jesus’ knowledge of the Scriptures, by those who knew his family, in Mark 6, Verses 2-3:

And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?”

In addition to their astonishment to Jesus wisdom and to the miracles that the Lord had performed, the people identified Jesus as a carpenter, the son of Mary, having four brothers and at least two sisters. Since the sisters of Jesus are not named, we only know that there are at least two. And because the people make no mention of Joseph, we might infer that likely he has passed away.

Jesus, in turn, marveled that neighbors had questioned, with some even offended by Jesus’ wisdom and powers. The Lord indicated his disappointment, when he indicated how they had impugned his honour with their negative response, described in Verses 4-6 of Mark 6:

And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.

Just as Jesus had separated himself from his family while he had to be about his Father’s Business in the temple, the Lord had indicated who belonged to him as members of the Family of God, were related not by blood, but by faith and action in support to the will of their Father in heaven, Matthew 12:46-50 (ESV):

Jesus’ Mother, Brothers, and Sisters

Pharisees Jesus temple questioning Jesus

46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers and sisters[a] stood outside, asking to speak to him.[b] 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers and sisters?”49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers and sisters! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 12:46 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 4849 b. Matthew 12:46 Some manuscripts insert verse 47: Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak to you”

You may ask does Matthew 12:46-50 indicate  a lack of devotion to their Father in heaven on the part of Mary and Jesus’ siblings? The good news answer is the Scripture Passage which describes both the Lord’s mother and his siblings  as being identified as part of the body of devout disciples, who obediently gathered in the Upper Room chamber to await the arrival of the Holy Spirit to the believers on the Day of Pentecost. While they waited in the upper room, they went about their Father’s business, as described in Acts 1:12-14 (ESV):

Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas

 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers and sisters.

From the accounts of Jesus’ birth and  of his visit as a child to the elders of the temple,  Mary sought to give Jesus all her the love and dedication a son could ever expect, while maintaining both the faith and devotion expected to be given to Jesus, the Christ, as a disciple of the Lord. Her example of faith was followed by all of her children who assembled  faithfully in the Upper Room, demonstrating how the faith of a mother can, by her example, teach an invaluable lesson of discipleship to her children.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #126: Amen, Amen!

Benediction – (1 Corinthians 1:30):

“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” Go in Peace! Amen

 

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Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call

 

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call

© April 29, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Originally Shared at BLCF on March 13, 2011

BLCF Bulletin April 29, 2018

 

Announcements and Call to Worship, Prayer

 Opening Hymn #410: O What a Wonderful, Wonderful Day (Heaven Came Down); Choruses

 Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings

 Responsive Reading #636 (The Holy Spirit Promised – John 14 and 16)

 Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call’

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. The lesson for this Sunday morning is ‘Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call, where our Scripture passages look at two accounts of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to the Way of the Lord, Christ Jesus, that were told by Luke in his gospel, The Book of Acts.

We, as contemporary converts, can easily understand and identify with many of the aspects of Saul’s conversion.

Both Saul’s conversion, as well as our own conversions, took place after the Lord’s glorification, which is to say after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, and the Day of Pentecost.

For a look at the significance of the conversion of Saul, let us look at some of the points, courtesy of Grace Communion International:

Luke begins his description of Paul’s conversion in chapter 9 by continuing the story of his persecution of the church. “Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples,” says Luke of Paul’s campaign of persecution against the church in Jerusalem (9:1).

Paul even travels to other towns, Damascus in particular, in order to round up Christians. As he later tells King Agrippa, “I even hunted them down in foreign cities” (26:11). To Paul, stamping out the Christians is a necessary part of doing God’s will. They are teaching a blasphemous heresy that threatens the people of God (the Jews) and the sanctity of the law and temple. It is surely God’s will that such people should be silenced.

Paul can justify his actions against the church by looking to the heroes of Israel’s history. Phinehas killed an Israelite man and Midianite woman who were defying the law of God (Numbers 25:6-15). Elijah killed the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:40). Mattathias, the father of the Maccabees, used violence to root out the enemies of God and apostates among the people (1 Maccabees 2:1-28, 42-48).

Thus it is that Paul sets out toward Damascus with the zeal of an avenging prophet. He has letters from the high priest with authority to extradite any Christians he finds in the synagogues of Damascus. Paul will capture them and return them to Jerusalem for trial and punishment (9:2). Most likely those being hunted down are the Hellenistic Christians who fled Jerusalem, not those who lived permanently in Damascus. So far as we know, the high priest has no direct authority over the latter, since they are not in his immediate jurisdiction.

Later, Paul explains that the entire council signed the order of extradition he was given (22:5). Luke is pointing out that the Jewish leaders continue to be in the forefront of trying to eradicate the new sect of Jesus believers. Some questions have arisen over exactly what powers of extradition the letters from the high priest gave Paul. Two centuries earlier, Rome had decreed that Jews who fled to Egypt could be extradited to Jerusalem (1 Maccabees 15:15-24). They were then to be punished according to Jewish law.

Whether this authority to extradite exists in the time of Paul is not known. It’s possible the high priest still holds the power of extradition from the Roman authorities. If not, the Sanhedrin may be relying on its clout with local synagogues to cooperate in this matter. The political situation in Judea is unstable, with the Roman governor not wanting to intervene in “Jewish matters.” Thus, the council may hope to punish as many Christians as possible without the advance knowledge or intervention of the Roman authority.

https://www.gci.org/bible/acts9

Stoning of Stephen – Acts 7

We share with Saul, the burden of sins. Though we may not have been responsible for persecuting others based upon their beliefs, seeking to punish and ultimately execute others, who Saul was convinced were teaching a blasphemous heresy against the faith and God.

Just like some modern day religious zealots, Saul sought to use “violence to root out the enemies of God and apostates among the people.”

After all, Saul reasoned, he was only doing God’s will. Violence against these Christians was God’s will, he believed.

Saul was 100% wrong, for he was singled out in a direct encounter with our Lord on the way to Damascus, Acts 9:1-16 (ESV):

The Conversion of Saul

9 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”      

God has chosen prophets and leaders by revealing Himself or His will through dreams, visions, angels, and even a burning bush.

In the above Scripture passage, we see that it is Saul of Tarsus who is a living example of a person who twists God’s Word and HIS will, in order serve his own interest by committing great evil and by offends the Lord, which prompts the Lord to reveal himself to Saul and ask:

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (Acts 9:4-6)

In our second Scripture passage, taken from Acts 2, Luke tells the amazing account of the conversion of Saul to discipleship to the Lord. The reborn disciple gives the following testimony, Acts 22:6-16 (ESV):

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[a] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

In our second Scripture passage, Paul identifies the Lord as speaking to him from heaven with a light brighter than the noonday sun:

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ (Acts 22)

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

In acknowledging and renouncing his own sins, Paul is baptized in the Holy Spirit and becomes an apostle or messenger of the Lord.

Paul had offended God, by persecuting followers of the Way of Christ, though he had been deluded into believing that by persecuting and harming them he was somehow fulfilling the will of God. Again we see repeated, the sins of Adam and Eve, who sought to raise themselves to the same level of God, as well as their son Cain, who sought to murder Abel, who was perceived as a threat.

Through the redeeming power of the Lord Jesus, Saul could be forgiven of his sins against God by confessing these sins and receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Paul had heard the Lord’s voice and had heeded the call of the Lord, which is all that He expects from us. As for what benefit(s) do the Apostle Paul and we, as believers in the resurrected Christ, receive at the time of the Spirit’s baptism? The answer is found in John 16:7-13 (ESV):

Jesus and Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit and Christ

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

Jesus, having borne the judgment for all sinners’, which is everyone on the face of the earth, since the Day of Pentecost, had to ascend to and be glorified in heaven, beside God, in order give us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Only then will understand and follow God’s will in our lives:

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  (John 16)

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #417: What a Fellowship, What a Joy Divine

Benediction – (1 Corinthians 1:30): “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” Go in Peace! Amen.

 

Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call

BLCF: hearing Gods voiceheeding the call

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call’

© January 18, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Originally Shared at BLCF on March 13, 2011

BLCF Bulletin January 18, 2015

BLCF: Proverbs 16_9

BLCF: living_the_Great_Commission

 

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #636 (The Holy Spirit Promised – John 14 and 16); Prayer      

Opening Hymn #410: O What a Wonderful, Wonderful Day (Heaven Came Down); Choruses

Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings

Scriptures: Acts 9:1-16; 22:6-16

BLCF: forgive-those

 

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. The lesson for this Sunday morning is ‘Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call’, where our Scripture passages look at two accounts of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to the Way of the Lord, Christ Jesus, that were told by Luke in his gospel, The Book of Acts.

We, as contemporary converts, can easily understand and identify with many of the aspects of Saul’s conversion.

Both Saul’s conversion, as well as our own conversions, took place after the Lord’s glorification, which is to say after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, and the Day of Pentecost.

For a look at the significance of the conversion of Saul, let us look at some of the points, courtesy of Grace Communion International:

BLCF: Sauls_conversion

Luke begins his description of Paul’s conversion in chapter 9 by continuing the story of his persecution of the church. “Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples,” says Luke of Paul’s campaign of persecution against the church in Jerusalem (9:1).

Paul even travels to other towns, Damascus in particular, in order to round up Christians. As he later tells King Agrippa, “I even hunted them down in foreign cities” (26:11). To Paul, stamping out the Christians is a necessary part of doing God’s will. They are teaching a blasphemous heresy that threatens the people of God (the Jews) and the sanctity of the law and temple. It is surely God’s will that such people should be silenced.

Paul can justify his actions against the church by looking to the heroes of Israel’s history. Phinehas killed an Israelite man and Midianite woman who were defying the law of God (Numbers 25:6-15). Elijah killed the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:40). Mattathias, the father of the Maccabees, used violence to root out the enemies of God and apostates among the people (1 Maccabees 2:1-28, 42-48).

Thus it is that Paul sets out toward Damascus with the zeal of an avenging prophet. He has letters from the high priest with authority to extradite any Christians he finds in the synagogues of Damascus. Paul will capture them and return them to Jerusalem for trial and punishment (9:2). Most likely those being hunted down are the Hellenistic Christians who fled Jerusalem, not those who lived permanently in Damascus. So far as we know, the high priest has no direct authority over the latter, since they are not in his immediate jurisdiction.

Later, Paul explains that the entire council signed the order of extradition he was given (22:5). Luke is pointing out that the Jewish leaders continue to be in the forefront of trying to eradicate the new sect of Jesus believers. Some questions have arisen over exactly what powers of extradition the letters from the high priest gave Paul. Two centuries earlier, Rome had decreed that Jews who fled to Egypt could be extradited to Jerusalem (1 Maccabees 15:15-24). They were then to be punished according to Jewish law.

Whether this authority to extradite exists in the time of Paul is not known. It’s possible the high priest still holds the power of extradition from the Roman authorities. If not, the Sanhedrin may be relying on its clout with local synagogues to cooperate in this matter. The political situation in Judea is unstable, with the Roman governor not wanting to intervene in “Jewish matters.” Thus, the council may hope to punish as many Christians as possible without the advance knowledge or intervention of the Roman authority.

https://www.gci.org/bible/acts9

We share with Saul, the burden of sins. Though we may not have been responsible for persecuting others based upon their beliefs, seeking to punish and ultimately execute others, who Saul was convinced were teaching a blasphemous heresy against the faith and God.

Just like some modern day religious zealots, Saul sought to use “violence to root out the enemies of God and apostates among the people.”

After all, Saul reasoned, he was only doing God’s will. Violence against these Christians was God’s will he believed.

Saul was 100% wrong, for he was singled out in a direct encounter with our Lord on the way to Damascus,  not to continue to persecute Christians, after his conversion Paul sought to minister the gospel of Jesus, never again to take another life, which was the true will of God, Acts 9:1-16 (ESV):

The Conversion of Saul

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9 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

 

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10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”       

In the above Scripture passage, we see that it is Saul, a living example of a person who twists God’s Word and HIS will to commit evil and offend the Lord, prompting the Lord to reveal himself to Saul and ask:

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (Acts 9:4-6)

In our second Scripture passage, taken from Acts 2, Luke records the conversion of Saul, in the convert’s own words, Acts 22:6-16 (ESV):

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“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[a] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

 

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heeding the call

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

In our second Scripture passage, Saul, who now goes by the Christian name Paul, identifies who is the Lord, who spoke to him from heaven with light brighter than the noonday sun:

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ (Acts 22)

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

In acknowledging and renouncing his own sins, Paul is baptized in the Holy Spirit and becomes an apostle or messenger of the Lord.

Paul had offended God, by persecuting followers of the Way of Christ, though he had been deluded into believing that by persecuting and harming them he was somehow fulfilling the will of God. Again we see repeated, the sins of Adam and eve, who sought to raise themselves to the same level of God, as well as their son Cain, who sought to murder Abel, who was perceived as a threat.

Through the redeeming power of the Lord Jesus, Saul could be forgiven of his sins against God by confessing these sins and receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Paul had heard the Lord’s voice and had heeded the call of the Lord, which is all that He expects from us. As for what benefit(s) do the Apostle Paul and we, as believers in the resurrected Christ receive at the time of the Spirit’s baptism? The answer is found in John 16:7-13 (ESV):

BLCF: hearing Gods voice

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

heeding the call

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

Jesus, having borne the judgment for all sinners’, which is everyone on the face of the earth, since the Day of Pentecost, had to ascend to and be glorified in heaven, beside God, in order give us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Only then will understand and follow God’s will in our lives:

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  (John 16)

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But which is the greater act of obedience, and more amazing lesson: the faith-conversion  Saul of Tarsus, the great persecutor of Christians, to become the Apostle Paul, one of the greatest proponents of the Christian church and author of half of the books found in the New Testament; OR the faith of Ananias, who despite knowing that Saul of Tarsus was responsible for the persecution of Christians, obeyed the Lord and ministered to Saul by healing Him by the power of the Holy Spirit, to restore his vision and directing Saul to share his testimony and the Gospel of Christ with everyone he met?

Both conversions are significant lessons, one in the growth of the Christian Church in general, while the other a significant lesson to all believers that the Lord expects us to share his gospel, despite any per-conceived opinions we have about guilt, character or actions of those with whom we share the gospel message. We cannot use another’s reputation or past history as an excuse not to share the love of Christ and God’s provisions for salvation and sanctification through Jesus.

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Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #417: What a Fellowship, What a Joy Divine

Benediction – 1 Corinthians 1:30: “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” Go in Peace! Amen.

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