Meeting Jesus: Finding Rest by Heeding His Call

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Meeting Jesus: Finding Rest by Heeding His Call’

© April 30, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 30, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                        Opening Hymn #547: Jesus, We Want to Meet; Choruses                                  Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings             Responsive Reading #671: God’s Love and Ours (1 John 4)                                  Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                     ‘Meeting Jesus: Finding Rest by Heeding His Call’

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF’s Sunday morning Praise and Worship Service in the heart of Toronto.

Our Lesson today, ‘Meeting Jesus: Finding Rest by Heeding His Call’, continues on the subject of forgiveness from sin through Jesus. And with forgiveness comes rest or peace from the Lord, which falls in line with the with the Scripture found posted in the Church Sanctuary and on front of today’s bulletin “Know Jesus – Know Peace; No Jesus – No Peace”, which paraphrases the Scripture 2 Peter 1:2 (ESV): May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

You may recall in last week’s lesson, we looked at how, on the night Jesus was arrested, Simon Peter sinned against the Lord on three separate occasions when he denied that he knew Jesus. Later, after his resurrection, Jesus asked Simon Peter three times whether he loved his Lord, which the disciple acknowledged each time. In his acknowledgement of his love for Jesus, Simon Peter was then forgiven and invited to follow the Lord.

So this begs the question: Is Paul’s forgiveness of his transgressions by Jesus an example of special dispensation towards his disciple or is the same dispensation available to all sinners? For an answer to this question, let us look at the first of today’s Scriptures, Matthew 11:25-30, titled as:

 Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest

 25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[a] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 11:26 Or for so it pleased you well

In verse 38 of Matthew 11, Jesus offers rest to “all who labor and are heavy laden”.  When we see that all, you may ask is this rest from the Lord available to all disciples or anyone who may have sinned? The answer is found in our next Scripture passage, Luke 7:36-50, titled as:

A Sinful Woman Forgiven

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among[a] themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Footnotes: a.Luke 7:49 Or to

We see in Luke 7 that Jesus accepts an invitation to dine at the home of a Pharisee and that a woman, who is a sinner arrives, where she washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and dries them with her hair; kisses his feet and anoints his head with ointment. All of these actions should have been performed by the Pharisee as host for the meal. Instead of taking ownership for his own mistakes as host, Simon focuses on the fact that the woman was a sinner, likely a harlot, and that Jesus had allowed the woman to touch him. Jesus praises the woman’s actions while admonishes inactions of his host sounds very much like the comparison of the goats and sheep described in The Final Judgment in Matthew 25:31-46, which happens to be the Mission Statement that BLCF has adopted for the BLCF Café Community Dinner.

Jesus then tells the Parable of the Two Debtors, after which he gets his host to acknowledge that if both debtors are forgiven their debts, the one whose debt is ten times greater would be more appreciative. In the same regard, the woman whose greater sins are forgiven would be able to not only receive salvation from the Lord, but his peace as well.

We see that forgiveness is available to disciples and sinners, but what about those who are viewed not to be a member of the faith? Jesus gives us a clue to the answer in John 12:20-26, titled as:

 Some Greeks Seek Jesus

 20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

In verse 26 of John 12, we see that anyone who serves Jesus will be honored by the Father in heaven.

So far in today’s lesson, we see that salvation is available to all, regardless of whether they are disciples, sinners, or gentiles. This brings us to the final question: What do we do about the sin of a brother or sister and is there a limit to how many times a person can be forgiven? Our answer comes from today’s next Scripture passage, which is Matthew 18:21-35, titled as:

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

 21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.[a] 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.[b]25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant[c] fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,[d] and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,[e] until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 18:23 Or bondservants; also verses 2831 b. Matthew 18:24 A talent was a monetary unit worth about twenty years’ wages for a laborer c. Matthew 18:26 Or bondservant; also verses 2728293233 d. Matthew 18:28 A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer e. Matthew 18:34 Greek torturers

When Peter asks Jesus how many times he must forgive a brother’s sins, the Lord replies seventy-seven, which is an unlimited number for that time. After all, Jesus forgave Peter three times for committing the same sin over and over again.

But what happens if Christian claims to love God, but refuses to forgive the sin(s) of a brother or sister? The answer comes from our final Scripture passage, 1 John 4:20 (ESV):

 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot[a] love God whom he has not seen.

Footnotes: a.1 John 4:20 Some manuscripts how can he

If a Christian refuses to forgive the transgression of a brother or sister is a hypocrite and should not expect God to forgive them. This is an expensive price to pay for the self-indulgence of keeping a grudge and not forgiving a sin.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #509: Is Your Life a Channel of Blessing?

 Benediction – (1 Peter 5:10): And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

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Christ Is Risen Indeed!

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for

Easter Sunday:

‘Christ Is Risen Indeed!’

© April 16, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 16, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                         Opening Hymn #163: Christ the Lord Is Risen Today; Choruses                         Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings              Responsive Reading #623: The Risen Lord (Matthew 28 and John 20)              Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Christ Is Risen Indeed!’

                                             

Let us pray…

 ‘He is Risen!’ (Reply: ‘He is Risen Indeed!’)

Good morning and an Easter Blessing to all. Today we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.

To begin today’s lesson on the resurrection, let us read from the Scripture account, from John 20:1-29 (ESV):

 The Resurrection

 20 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’[a]head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[b] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[c] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Jesus and Thomas

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin,[d] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Footnotes: a. John 20:7 Greek his b. John 20:16 Or Hebrew c. John 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time d. John 20:24 Greek Didymus

There is a popular expression: “seeing is believing”, as it seems to have been the case with Thomas, who did not believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead until he saw and touched the Lord’s wounds inflicted from the crucifixion.

We see that Jesus makes an observation about Thomas and all of humanity in general about the root of true faith, in 1 John 4:20 (ESV):

 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

There are some legalists, who will only believe the evidence of their own eyes, believing that this contemporary concept that originated from Missouri, as this American state is known by the moniker of ‘The Show-Me State’:

Unofficial State Nickname of Missouri

Missouri’s most well-known nickname is; “The Show-Me State.” Although the nickname has not been officially recognized by Missouri’s Legislature, it can be seen on Missouri license plates. All State Nicknames

There are several stories concerning the origin of the “Show-Me” slogan. The most widely known story gives credit to Missouri’s U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver for coining the phrase in 1899. During a speech in Philadelphia, he said:

“I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”

The phrase is now used to describe the character of Missourians; not gullible, conservative, and unwilling to believe without adequate evidence.

http://www.statesymbolsusa.org/symbol-official-item/missouri/state-nickname/show-me-state

Researching more reveals an earlier origin of the expression, which is rooted in the Gospel of Christ:

Seeing is believing is an idiom first recorded in this form in 1639[1] that means “only physical or concrete evidence is convincing”. It is the essence of St. Thomas‘s claim to Jesus Christ, to which the latter responded that there were those who had not seen but believed. It leads to a sophistry that “seen evidence” can be easily and correctly interpreted, when in fact, interpretation may be difficult.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seeing_Is_Believing

We can see that the application of “eye-witness” evidence is commonly used in secular law.

Even Darwin’s evolutionary theories rely almost exclusively upon conclusions drawn from physical observations, as is described in:

Charles Darwin and Victorian Visual Culture 

By Jonathan Smith. Cambridge University Press

Smith explores how Darwin used images to support his scientific claims as well as the cultural influence of his evolutionary explanation for beauty.

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/316/5821/54

While there are those who attempt to disprove the Word of God by pitting the Theory of Evolution against Faith in God’s Creation, there are others who desire to adopt Science as a Theology, with the aim of finding eternal life by way of a religion that worships science and technology.

This godless religion seems to be a modern day example of an approach not unlike the technocrats who sought to reach heaven by way of their ‘Tower of Babel’ as described in the book, To Be a Machine, authored by Mark O’Connell and reviewed by John Gray for the online New Statesman:

 

Dead of the world, unite!” Appearing in a manifesto published in Petrograd in 1920, this arresting slogan encapsulated the philosophy of cosmism, which promoted interplanetary exploration as a path to immortality. Mixing scientific futurism with ideas derived from the 19th-century Russian Orthodox mystic Nikolai Fedorov, cosmism was summed up by the rocket engineer Konstantin ­Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935) as “the perfection of man and the liquidation of all imperfect forms of life”. Liberated from the Earth, human beings would become pure ether, bodiless and undying. The belief that death could be conquered by science was embraced by a renegade section of the Bolshevik intelligentsia, including Maxim Gorky, and informed the decision to immortalise Lenin’s cadaver – first by refrigeration, in an early experiment in what would later be called “cryonic suspension”, and then by embalming when freezing failed. Cosmist thinking went on to find a home in the Soviet space programme and continues to influence Russian science to this day.

Nearly a century after the cosmist manifesto, a group of transhumanists gathered outside Google’s corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California, carrying placards reading “Immortality now!” and “Google, please, solve death”. Death could be solved, the group believed, by the development of “cyber-consciousness” – a task requiring new technologies for uploading the contents of the human brain into cyberspace, which the group called on the tech company to fund. Google was already investing substantial resources in life-extension techniques and, in 2012, the company hired Ray Kurzweil, long associated with programmes aiming to achieve immortality through cryonic suspension, artificial intelligence and mind uploading, as its director of engineering.

The weird mixture of science and religion that typifies much of contemporary culture is illustrated in questing, faintly sad figures who blend transhumanist “anti-deathism” with Buddhism, Mormonism, Wicca or the UFO cult Raëlism, whose members believe the human species was created by aliens.

http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2017/04/john-gray-dear-google-please-solve-death

In his review, John Gray seems to recognize humanity’s desire for immortality, but Gray argues that a bio-technological solution seems doom to fail because of its flawed dependence upon some degree of technological infrastructure that is not perfect or perpetual. In other words if science and technology could transplant the mind of a person into a machine, no machine exist that will last forever.

I would argue that such a creation would be profane and would be devoid of any soul.

Back to perfect resurrection of our Lord and the doubts of Thomas because he was absent when Christ first visited the upper room. We should recall that Mary Magdalene, Peter and John were skeptical until they had physically saw Jesus resurrected before each of them.

Let us look at an excerpt from the article, Seeing Is Believing. Really?, by Dianne Bergant, originally published on August 02, 2004 in America, The Jesuit Review:

 

The phrase “seeing is believing” is well known to us all. It suggests skepticism; it implies that we will not accept the truth of something unless we can somehow see it. While the phrase may validly express a concern for verification, it contradicts basic religious ideas. To paraphrase the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews: “Not-seeing is believing.” In other words, we do not believe what we see; rather, we believe what we do not see. Confusing? But then so is real faith.

The author turns to Abraham as a perfect example of such faith. Without knowing exactly what he would find as he followed the inspiration of God, Abraham left his home of origin and journeyed through a foreign land. Abraham did not see, yet he believed. He clung to God’s promise of descendants, even though to him it seemed an impossibility. He did not see, yet he believed. The greatest test of his faith came when he was asked to sacrifice the very child who was to fulfill this promise of descendants. “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”

The instructions given by Jesus in the Gospel require the same kind of faith. But the focus there is not the seeming incredibility of the object of faith, but the need to cling to that faith even when its fulfillment is long in coming. The followers of Jesus are told not to seek security in the realities of this world, but in the treasures that belong to the reign of God.

https://www.americamagazine.org/content/the-word/seeing-believing-really

There were hundreds of faithful, who have witnessed Jesus after he was resurrected, just before he ascended and millions who believe solely on faith. Just because they were not an eye-witness to the Lord’s resurrection does not mean that it did not take place.

We know that the Gospel of Jesus assures that our faith in the resurrection of Christ gives believers the gift of the Holy Spirit, the promise of the resurrection, and eternal life. The Apostle Paul explains this very well in 1 Corinthians 15:1-26 (ESV):

The Resurrection of Christ

15 Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

The Resurrection of the Dead

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[b] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Footnotes: a.1 Corinthians 15:1 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 6315058 b. 1 Corinthians 15:19 Or we have hoped

It is on that final day, when the last enemy is destroyed, death will be destroyed and eternal life will be restored to the faithful.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #284: Yesterday He Died For Me

Benediction – (Revelation 1:5b-6):                                                                                   To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.