Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain Selects Running Mate

John McCain has selected Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his VEEP running mate. I think it is a masterful decision. I backed Huckabee for the nomination, but I belive he would have been an abysmal VEEP choice.

I was first introduced to Governor Palin and her family by Albert Mohler via his blog and radio program. Click
here and here to respectively read and listen to that material.

Here are some of the current reactions and reports to the announcement:

I'll say it again, I believe the pick is a good one. Sarah Palin is a sitting Governor and a former mayor. Translation: she has more executive experience than both Biden and Obama combined (and McCain). The experience issue is moot, even though the Obama campaign will (try to) make an issue of it. She is a definite Washington outsider. You cannot get further from the Beltway than Alaska. Palin is change, and she reinforces McCain's maverick style. Governor Palin is an National Rifle Association member, an avid outdoorswoman, a former high school basketball point guard (that's a plus for me), a wife, and a mother of five. She is also a former beauty contestant, which is neither a plus or minus for me, but I mention it because the DEMS will likely endeavor to make much of that fact.

Fiscal conservatives will like Palin because the Club for Growth does. Social conservatives will like her too, because she is staunchly pro-life, and the the Al Mohler links will provide more depth to that argument. I've already mentioned that she is a sportswoman and NRA member. She also has a son serving with the Army in Iraq. I should point out that Joe Biden, Senator Obama's running mate also has a son serving in Iraq.

Speaking of Biden, many in the Obama camp will spin Palin's selection as hypocritical. They will say that she lacks experience, particularly in foreign policy, and that has been the GOP's line of attack on Obama (not to mention Clinton's strategy).

Let them spin. Obama has waxed eloquent about change from the beginning. Last night in his acceptance speech he ran McCain down the road for being in Washington since the early 70's, pointing out that not much good has been accomplished in that time frame. Well his running mate is a career politician who has been inside the Beltway as long as McCain. Was Obama playing the hypocrite in selecting Joe instead of another (inexperienced) change agent? No. He made a smart political move.

Just like McCain. Palin is the best choice the Arizona senator could have made in my opinion. I'm looking forward to the Vice Presidential debates already!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Cardinals Uniform

Anheuser-Busch has accepted a $52 billion takeover bid from Belgium based InBev. As a result of that move, the St. Louis Cardinals have announced an alteration in their baseball uniforms; a change that is to take affect in the 2009 debut.

(HT to Ray Miller for the picture)

Monday, August 25, 2008

An Enslaved King

Why was the news and name of Jesus so disturbing to Herod? The mighty works accomplished by Jesus triggered thoughts of John the Baptist in the memory of Herod Antipas. That was a bad thing because Antipas had ordered John’ execution: “But when Herod heard [thereof], he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead” (v. 16). Herod Antipas was haunted by his guilty conscience over John’s unjust death sentence. He had attempted to suppress his guilt, to toss the thought away and never return to it, but then came word of Jesus and His ministry. The guilty conscience would lie dormant no more.

In the words of Alexander MacLaren, it is a natural tendency to “bribe or to silence our memories and our consciences.” It does not take much; a sudden sight, sound, or scent of the familiar, to bring the repressed conscience screaming back to life. Such was the case with Herod. Sadly, instead of being prompted to repent and believe the message that John had no doubt preached to the King (v. 20); Antipas superstitiously concluded that John had returned from the dead. There is a godly grief which produces repentance and salvation, but there is also a worldly grief that produces only death.

Why had John been executed? John was a man of conscience and moral courage. He was a man who practiced as well as preached righteousness and holiness. He had faithfully and fearlessly proclaimed the truth, and he had done so consistently. He called not only the common man out in the wilderness to repentance and faith; he heralded the same message to the religious and political elites. John was not one to speak in generalities, either. He told the King, who was guilty of adultery and incest, the plain truth: “It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife,” and he did so regardless of the consequences. He lost his head for such a high-view of the truth, but not his character or his conscience.

JC Ryle wrote:

Here is a pattern that all ministers ought to follow. Publicly and privately, from the pulpit and in private visits, they ought to rebuke all open sin, and deliver a faithful warning to all who are living in it. It may give offense. It mail entail immense unpopularity. With all this they have nothing to do. Duties are theirs. Results are God’s.

This does not mean that a pastor, or layman for that matter, should be pugnacious. One must be gracious as well as courageous to do this. Plus, before one confronts sin in another person he must first confront the sin in his life. Some people may think that John the Baptist was prying into affairs that were none of his business. Not so. Here again is JC Ryle:

If he believes a man is injuring his soul, he ought surely to tell him so. If he loves him truly and tenderly, he ought not to let him ruin himself unwarned.

Surely there were other religious leaders who recognized the sinful behavior of their King, and many may have even contemptuously spoken about the affair in secret. John, seemingly alone, had brought the Word of God to bear on the situation without compromise.

This open and plain call to repentance led to Herod’s internal conflict. John’s preaching caused Herod and Herodias to respond differently. Herodias was a veritable New Testament Jezebel and she “had a quarrel” with John. Who was this narrow-minded, unfashionable wilderness preacher who dared call their marriage sin? Roman society was fine with their arrangement. Who cared what the Bible said about it?! His public pronouncement that her marriage to Antipas was unlawful incensed the woman and she “would have killed him” had Antipas not kept her in check. Unable to kill her enemy, Herodias nursed a grudge against the righteous man and plotted her revenge.

No doubt Herod was just as offended by John’s proclamation as Herodias, but his response was not as virulent. Herod Antipas grudgingly admired John. He “feared John”. Kent Hughes says that Herod feared John because:
Goodness is awful. Or to put it another way, goodness is terrifying to evil. Someone has said, ‘That truth will make you free, but first it will make you miserable. King Herod stood at the outside fringes of this reality in uncomfortable fear. (emphasis mine)
This lustful, licentious, dirty politician respected John. He protected him from his scheming wife, observed him often, and “heard him gladly.” Amazingly, Herod Antipas liked to hear John preach. John was probably the one man who stood before Herod and, not only proclaimed the unadorned truth, but did so with no ulterior motives. Perhaps Herod liked listening to John because he felt that listening would somehow atone for his condition. It may be that Antipas, as a result of regularly listening to John preach made some attempts at self-reformation; did some good deeds. Whether he did or not, reform is not regeneration. Herod was apparently fascinated with the Baptist, but he was fascinated more with Herodias. John’s preaching caused him to do “many things”, but there was one thing that he would not do. He would not repent and turn away from adultery. Going part way but not all the way in repentance only compounds guilt. Herod would not repent, for repentance could mean only one thing: give up Herodias.

Here again are the words of Bishop Ryle:
Let us take warning from Herod’s case. Let us…cleave to no favorite vice. Let us…make sure that there is no darling lust or pet transgression, which, Herodias-like, is murdering our souls. Let us not be content with admiring favorite preachers, and gladly hearing evangelical sermons. Let us not rest until we can say with David, ‘I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way.’ (Psalm 119:128)
Herod was conflicted. He was torn between his convicted heart at the preaching of John and his complete desire for Herodias. He was in bondage to his sin, as are all men, and the only hope of freedom was through repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ. This is true not only of Herod Antipas, but of every man, every where, and in every age.

A double-minded man is unstable in all he does. Herod could not long continue on his vacillating course. Something had to give; unfortunately John’s head rather than Herod’s sin is what gave way; unfortunate for Herod more than John.

Herodias had not been idle during John’s imprisonment. Antipas could fear and listen to the lunatic preacher all he wanted. Herodias had other plans, and she seized upon the day of Herod’s birthday bash as the opportune time to satisfy her vengeance. She well understood her husband’s weaknesses, perhaps even better than he did. She knew that Herod was not only a lustful man, but he was full of self-importance and pride.

Roman rulers and nobles often held stag birthday parties that were characterized by indulgence on every level; gluttony, excessive drinking, and sexual indulgence were the common elements of such parties. John MacArthur writes in his commentary that the phrase “Herod’s birthday” in Latin is “Herodes dies” and that phrase became an eponym for orgiastic festivals. John Philips says:
Many a person has lost his soul at a party, when drinks are flowing, bawdy jokes are flying, passions are inflamed, morals are lowered, and restraints are removed.
That was certainly true of Herod Antipas.

On the convenient day and at the opportune time Herodias dispatched her daughter Salome to do a salacious shimmy-shake before the drunken men. Salome’s step-father/great-uncle was sexually excited by the young girl’s (she was probably only a teenager) sensuous routine. Antipas was caught up in the illicit excitement, and in a moment of foolish and drunken boasting the tipsy tetrarch made a promise he lived to regret: “Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom” (v. 23).

For this moment Herodias had patiently waited. She had used her young daughter to draw out this very response from her immoral husband, and now she counseled her daughter to ask for John the Baptist’s head.True to form the young girl did her mother’s bidding, and proved that like mother like daughter for she added a twist to the gruesome request: “Give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

Herod was suddenly sober, and, according to Mark, “exceeding sorry”. The Greek word translated as “exceeding sorry” is perilypos and it is used by Mark only here and in 14:34 to describe Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion (Matthew also used the term in 26:38 and Luke used it to describe the rich young ruler who “was very sorrowful” in 18:23-24).

At least for a moment, Herod Antipas was greatly distressed and his conscience was torn. The time for a decision had been forced upon him by his manipulative wife. Would he trust in the message and the God of the message that John had regularly proclaimed, or would he finally and ultimately reject the message?

Just as reform is not regeneration, so too remorse alone is not repentance. Herod was sorry that his drunken tongue and proud boasting had landed him in this mess, but he was not sorry enough to follow that which was right. Repentance demands change; it is change. The only right way out for Herod would have been to deny the girl’s request, endure the ridicule and spite of his family and friends, and then put away Herodias for his marriage to her was not lawful in the first place.

Herod had counted the cost, and he decided the cost was too high. He would rather lose John than his pride. He chose Herodias over John, and, ultimately, over Christ.

The order was given, and John the Baptist was beheaded. His severed head was placed on a platter and delivered to the young girl Salome, who promptly presented the ghastly gift to her mother. Thus ended the life of the Christ’s forerunner, the man Jesus described as being truly great.

It should never be a surprise when faithful Christians when faithful Christians – those who clearly, consistently, charitably, and courageously proclaim God’s truth – are hated and reviled. To call sinners to repentance is to engender the hatred of the world. Christ warned His followers of this very thing in John 15:18-27. “If the world hates you,” Christ said, “know that it has hated me before it hated you.” Being disliked and maligned by the wicked and ungodly is no disgrace. It is being like Jesus and like John.

Christ’s followers should also never be surprised when that hatred leads to persecution. “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you,” is what Christ said. John the Baptist was only guilty of obeying his Lord. He did not deserve to be imprisoned. He certainly had done nothing to earn execution. Nevertheless, like his Lord before him and like Stephen and James to follow, a violent death at the hands of wicked men would be his last experience on this earth.

Far too many modern Christians assume that faithfulness to Christ equals earthly success, fame, and praise, but the abundant life that Christ provides does not mean that the believer will experience his best life now. An eternal rather than earthly reward is that for which the believer is to strive. Writing in 1857, during the Victorian period of England’s history, JC Ryle stated that…
Histories like these are meant to remind us that the true Christian’s best things are yet to come. His rest, his crown, his wages, his reward, are all on the other side of the grave. Here, in this world, he must walk by faith and not by sight; and if he looks for the praise of man he will be disappointed. Here, in this life, he must sow, and labor, and fight, and endure persecution…but this life is not all. Heaven will make amends for all.
Paul said to the Roman and Corinthian churches respectively:
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time [are] not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17)
The last mention of Herod Antipas comes from Luke’s inspired pen. During Christ’s pre-crucifixion trial Pontius Pilate learned that Christ was a Galilean, and he sent Jesus to be judged by Antipas. Herod was delighted, but for all the wrong reasons. He wanted Christ to give a demonstration of His mighty works; as if Jesus was a talent show contestant. He questioned Jesus at length, but “he answered him nothing.” Not only did Jesus refuse to perform for Herod, but He would not even speak to “that fox.” Herod stood face-to-face with Jesus Christ and he saw nothing in him. Even worse, Jesus Christ saw nothing and said nothing to Herod. Having rejected the preaching of John, Antipas ended his life rejecting the One whom John proclaimed. In the end, God had nothing to say to Herod.

From Herod we must learn that the sin we will not silence will end up silencing our conscience. Unless God’s Word is obeyed, the day may come when God’s Son is despised. Then God will have nothing more to say.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Better to Lose Your Head than Your Conscience

One of the most pathetic passages, not only in Mark’s Gospel, but in all the New Testament; indeed in all scripture, is Mark 6:14-29. This section of Mark details the collapse of a conscience, the hardness of two hearts, and the senseless, savage murder of God’s mightiest prophet. In this passage we find two men who are enslaved. Only one experienced freedom. In this passage we find a man who lost his head (literally) but kept his consience, and a man who not only lost his conscience but who rejected Christ in the process.

By the beginning of Mark 6:14 news of the many marvelous and mighty works of Jesus had spread across the country like a prairie fire. All ears heard the reports of demons exorcised, diseases healed, and daughters raised from the dead. The message of repentance was being preached, not only by Jesus but by His twelve apostles. By those stories the depraved ruler Herod Antipas was hauntingly disturbed.

Herod Antipas was just one in a long line of immoral and ruthless rulers that descended from Herod the Great (who was actually not so great). Antipas’ father had ruled, with the approval of Rome, a kingdom that was comparable in land area to that of King David, but Herod was no David. He was, however, a skilled, albeit pitiless politician. He had his uncle, a brother, one of his wives, and three of his sons killed, and that is only his close relations. Many political rivals and dissidents were murdered, and it was Herod the Great who ordered the slaughter of all males two years and younger in Bethlehem following the birth of Jesus. Archelaus, one of Herod’s sons and a brother of Antipas, so cruelly ruled the Judeans and Samaritans that the Emperor banished him to Europe. Herod’s grandson, Agrippa I, was the ruler of Acts 12 who ordered the imprisonment and execution of James and Peter. James was beheaded, but God busted Peter out of prison. Not long after that Agrippa suffered an ignoble and painful death. Luke writes that “the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost” (Acts 12:23). This is the ultimate end of all those who reject the Lord.

There is more to this family’s sad and sordid history. The son of Agrippa I, he was called Agrippa II, was the one to whom Paul gave his defense in Acts 25-26. It was this Agrippa who said, “Paul, almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (26:28); which is another of the most pathetic passages in the New Testament. The Herodians always seem to be involved in such texts of Scripture.

In Acts 25-26 a woman named Bernice is always described as being at Agrippa’s side. This woman was Agrippa's consort. She was also his sister. No surprise there, that sort of thing was common among the Herod’s. Antipas, the Herod of our text, had seduced Herodias into divorcing her husband and marrying him. She agreed, but only on the condition that he divorce his wife also. Antipas consented, and therefore Herodias divorced her uncle Philip to marry her uncle Antipas.

I’ve climbed that distasteful family tree to provide the reader with a picture of the ruling family in Judea during John the Baptist’s and Jesus Christ’s time. Political leaders do not have to be paragons of moral righteousness for the Gospel to thrive. The message of Christ and the mission of His churches is not dependant upon an upstanding civil leadership, or citizenry for that matter. What is necessary is for God’s people to trust God as they clearly, consistently, charitably, and courageously proclaim God’s truth. This truth is for all peoples of all ranks and for all time.

This is what John the Baptist had faithfully done, and this is why Herod Antipas had such a guilty conscience. Which is what we'll develop next time.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Ultimate Grill

What man would not love having these beauties in and for his backyard?!

(HT to Ray Miller and Dave Rueter for these pictures)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Goodbye Griffey & Dunn

It's been almost two weeks since Griffey Junior was traded to the Chicago White Sox for very little (pitcher Nick Masset and infielder Danny Richar). Much more recent is the Reds trade of Adam Dunn to the Arizona Diamondbacks for next to nothing (pitcher Dallas Buck and two players to be named, one of whom may be pitcher Micah Owings).

I've already stated my opinion that trading Griffey was a good idea, specifically to an AL team, hopefully to a contending team. Both of those criteria were met in his Chicago White Sox trade, and for that I'm happy for Junior's sake. He has already contributed to his new team offensively and defensively, and he has demonstrated that he is still able to play center. Ozzie Guillen has Junior batting sixth or seventh in the lineup, which is where he should have been hitting with the Reds, for his own good and the team's. My only problem with the Griffey trade was the lack of return, but I guess something is better than nothing. Junior was not part of the Reds' future. Shipping him now, and to an AL contender made sense. I don't know why the media were surprised by the trade. Junior displayed a lot of class by sending the Reds' fans a public "thank you" letter after the trade. Cincinnati fans rarely treated Griffey well following his inaugural Reds season. I was glad to see him leave like he did.

The Dunn trade I don't like at all. For starters, the Reds received nothing in exchange for a player who has hit 40 homeruns in four consecutive years, and will likely make it five consecutive years before the season is finished. Yes, he only homers, strikes-out, or walks, but he does all three a lot. You have to take the good with the bad. Dunn is a presence in any line-up, and the Reds don't have anyone to step into that now massive void. Sure, Dunn will never win a gold glove, but he played an adequate LF, and he's only 29. I would have liked to seen the Reds lock him up to a big and lengthy contract. It would have been nice to see a player the Reds drafted and developed stick with the club for most of his career while smashing and setting records, and (hopefully) being part of the team's resurgence.

Griffey's trade made sense. Dunn's trade, while not as surprising to the media, doesn't make sense to me. I'm glad that he, like Griffey, now has a shot at the post-season. I just would have liked to seen the colossal slugger stay in a Reds uniform for many more years.

Pray for Rain?!

Focus on the Family produced, published, and then removed a video encouraging people to "pray for rain of biblical proportions" on a certain evening in August. People were prompted to pray that the deluge be focused on a certain Denver venue - Mile High Stadium; the venue to be used by the DNC for their convention. Evidently, enough "Family" members protested that the video was in poor taste and Focus yanked it from the web sometime yesterday. Not fast enough, however, for the video still lives!

Stuart Shepard is the director of digital media at Focus Action, Focus on the Family's political arm. Shepard wrote and appeared in the production, and he stated that the video was meant to be "mildly humorous."

In my judgment, producing the video was a bad decision. Focus on the Family should focus on what they do best and parody videos is not their strength. Personally, I do not believe there is anything offensive about the video. I just think that it's stupid. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Political POstMOdernism

This is a must read Jonah Goldberg column on the PoMo candidate of the 2008 election - Senator Barack Obama. Click here to read the opinion piece.

I have also blogged here about Postmodernism.

Special thanks to Philip duBarry for the hysterical Obama graphic.

Go & Tell: the Campaign

After being commissioned and commanded by Jesus, the Apostles embarked on their campaign. Mark 6:12-13 tells us: “And they went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed [them].”

Why did they herald the Gospel? Because that is what Jesus did; Christ never commands us to do that which He has not already exemplified. At the very beginning of His ministry Christ proclaimed: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). That is what He trained them to do, and what he commissioned and equipped them to do. In Matthew’s record of this commissioning Jesus is quoted as saying: “And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Why did John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and then the Apostles preach repentance? The reason is simple, repentance is necessary for salvation. Repentance is the only useful response to the Gospel message. “What about faith?” Repentance and faith are opposite sides of the same coin, and they are required if ne will be saved.

What does it mean to repent? The Greek word translated “repent” is “metanoeo” and it means “to change one’s mind.” This change, however, is not just a fickle flicker of the mind. Biblical repentance involves a turning with contrition from sin to God. Repentance always results in changed behavior; not a perfected behavior but a directed behavior, directed towards the Savior. While repentance is an inward response, its outward result will be a changed and changing life. The person who repents and believes will still sin, but he will no longer love his sin because he is a new creature; the old has passed away and the new has come. Repentance is a spiritual about-face where the one who has repented leaves off following sin and turns to following Christ.

We read, “And they went out, and preached that men should repent” (v. 12). Of course that’s what they did, and it’s obvious that we should be doing the exact same thing. To call people to repentance is the business of the church no matter what culture, what era, and no matter the social ranking of the called or the caller. God’s people are commissioned to call all men every where to repent. That is because all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
All [men] need to be brought to a sense of their sins, to a sorrow for them, to a willingness to give them up, and to hunger and thirst after pardon. All…need to be born again and to flee to Christ. - (JC Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Mark)
There are no impenitent people in Heaven.

While repentance unto life is a one-time event, those who are saved must live a life of repentance. As the beloved disciple wrote:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)
Reading and reflecting on Mark 6:7-13 requires you to consider the following:
How do you respond to the message Christ has sent you in His word?
Are you willing to repent?
Do you call others to repentance?
Are you traveling light, dependent on Christ for all things, urgently and sober-mindedly heralding His message?

How do you answer?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Go & Tell: the Commands

Along with the commission to service there are commands to follow. First, these commands dictate that the ambassador of Christ must fully depend on Christ. For the Apostles, faith and unbelief had just been juxtaposed (end of Mark 5 with the beginning of Mark 6). As the Lord sends out His messengers they are to completely trust Him for their provisions. They are to be adequately supplied, but not to the point of ceasing to live by faith. The minimum of provisions was meant to call out the maximum of faith. The Apostles were to depend on Christ, not their bank accounts, supplies, or the largesse of others. They were called to travel lightly, and this is a principle to which we must adhere.

American Christians and churches are in danger of having too much baggage. Instead of the freedom that traveling light brings, we are mostly in bondage to “things” . Through this text Christ warns us about being encumbered with too much stuff. The only thing the believer is to carry is his cross as he daily dies to self and follows Christ. Dependence is vital if we are to meet and evangelize a lost world. We are not on a pleasure cruise. We are not tourists. This is not where we are called to experience our best life. Yes, we will have joy and pleasure, and we will experience the best of this life, but only if we totally depend on Christ as we are sent forth to preach.

One cannot help but also notice the sense of urgency in the Lord’s commands. Christ was never in a hurry, but He did display a sense of urgency. There is a big difference between the two. There were men with one purpose, and nothing was to detract them from it.

The same is true of us. Our message – the message Christ and the Apostles proclaimed – is life or death urgent: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). Their message was urgent, and that urgency was even visible in their deportment, their provisions, and their accommodations. Everything about them was to indicate that their visit would be brief: the villagers must respond now!

Christ’s representatives were to do as Jesus Himself would have done. They were to be about the Father’s business. There would be times for rest, but this was not one of them. The tone of their conversation, the style of their lives, everything about them was to reflect their Master; everything was to give expression to the seriousness and urgency of the message they brought from Him.

The commands that Jesus gave His apostles demonstrated the absolute dependence upon Him that was needed, and the absolute urgency of the message. This was (and is) literally a life and death situation. As such, His commands also signify the seriousness of receiving or rejecting the Gospel. The Lord had instructed the Apostles to shake off the dust from their feet as a testimony against those folks or the community that would not hear the Gospel. Christ even said that “It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.”

How could that be?! How could the wickedly immoral cities of Sodom and Gomorrha fare better in the day of judgment that Jewish cities and towns? Surely a community or culture that, while not wholly regenerate but shaped by the Judeo/Christian ethic, surely such a place would be more leniently judged that the utterly vile and vulgar Sodom?!

Evidently not.

Here is what the good Bishop Ryle wrote on this topic:
Thousands appear to suppose that as long as they go to church, and do not murder, or steal, or cheat, or openly break any of God’s commandments, they are in no great danger. They forget that it needs something more than mere abstinence from outward irregularities to save a man’s soul. They do not see that one of the greatest sins a man can commit in the sight of God is to hear the Gospel of Christ and not believe it, to be invited to repent and believe, and yet remain careless and unbelieving. To reject the Gospel will sink a man to the lowest place in hell.
This is why Jesus commanded His Apostles to shake the dust from their feet if a city rejected their message. It was in no way an act of superiority. It was an act that the Jews of the 1st century would have immediately recognized. Orthodox Jews would carefully and ceremonially shake the dust of foreign lands from their sandals and clothing. This symbolically dissociated them from the pollution of the pagan lands and the judgment which was to come upon those lands. Therefore, when Christ’s representatives were rejected, which is tantamount to rejecting Christ remember, they were to shake that city’s dust from their sandals as a merciful, prophetic act designed to make the people deeply consider their spiritual condition.

This is serious. No one can afford to play around with this. What are you doing with the Gospel? Christianity as a cultural force has waned in this society, but it is still the predominate “brand” of religion. Bibles may be found in nearly every home, bookstore (physical or online), hotel room, or hospital waiting room. Church buildings dominate the landscape. The language of the Gospel, while receding from public consciousness, is still vaguely familiar.

Has it been received and believed? That is the question to be answered. Has the Gospel been obeyed? Have you laid hold of the hope that is set before you, taken up your cross, and followed Christ?

If the answer is “no” then you may not realize the severity of your situation. Those who hear but reject the glorious Gospel of Christ, and to reject it is to not believe it, are in jeopardy of facing a far worse judgment than even Sodom and Gomorrha. Search your heart and take heed that you do not ruin your own soul.

Go & Tell: the Commission

In Mark 6:7 the Twelve transition from discipleship to apostleship (not that being an apostle meant they were no longer disciples). The Greek word translated “send” in verse 7 is “apostello”, from which the word “apostle” is originated. That word signifies some one who has been sent out on a mission under the authority of and with the authority of the sender. Jesus deployed His disciples with His own authority. They carried the authority of the One who sent them.

They were not preaching their own message. They were to proclaim, and restricted to proclaiming, the Good News of Jesus Christ. They had no message to preach except for the message of Christ. They also had no authority over unclean spirits or disease except for the authority given them by Jesus Christ.

These particular apostles were uniquely gifted by Christ to perform miracles just as He did. This was also true of Paul, the apostle who was “born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:8), and, we have to assume, of Matthias as well (Acts 1:21-26). Besides these fourteen men (this includes Judas Iscariot) no other men have been apostles in the like manner as they; insofar as performing exorcisms, miraculous signs and wonders, and being used of God as building blocks for the early churches.

Here is the point of this little detour: there are not now, never has been since, and never will be again apostles like these men were apostles; capital “A” apostles. They held a unique and temporary office. The supernatural signs they performed was authentication that they and their message were from God. The Lord used these men to steer and strengthen the early churches, but there are no Apostles now. There haven’t been since John died.

Nevertheless, all believers are literally “sent forth to preach”, and in that sense we are all apostles of Jesus Christ. Our calling is to herald, proclaim, gossip, and otherwise make known the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ; the message of Christ crucified for our sin according to the scriptures, buried, risen from the dead, according to the scriptures, and coming again. Our commissioning was given by Christ to the institution of the church as stated in Mark 16:15, "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

That commissioning is for all believers, but for these Apostles, the commissioning of Mark 6 was for a specific ministry, but the principles are lasting.

Paired Messengers
First, the men were sent forth in pairs, not as lone rangers. The Preacher wrote:
Two [are] better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him [that is] alone when he falleth; for [he hath] not another to help him up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Bishop Ryle has some wisdom of his own in this regard:
Two men together will do more work than two men singly. They will help one another in judgment, and commit fewer mistakes. They will aid one another in difficulties. They will stir one another up when tempted to idleness, and less often relapse into indolence and indifference. They will comfort one another in times of trial, and be less often cast down.
Rarely in scripture do we find any of God’s people working alone, specifically in the New Testament. The one instance when Paul is alone is in Athens (Acts 17:15-34), and that was a difficult time for the Apostle. We need one another! We must work together in our own church, and we should work together with out sister churches.

Authorized Representatives
Second, as has already been stated, they went forth as the authorized representatives of Jesus Christ. The same is true of us today. The church is the New Testament vehicle ordained, authorized, and empowered by God to take the Gospel message into the world. This authority carries with it an immense responsibility. After all, it is King Jesus we represent! Our manner of life, conduct, and ministry should match such a high calling.

While it is true that those who receive and reject the representatives of Christ are actually receiving and rejecting Christ. Matthew 25:40 says, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me.” It is likewise true that believers must properly represent our Lord before a watching world. As Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

As ambassadors of Christ we are both messengers and representatives of the One who has called us and sent us. As such we must faithfully proclaim His message, and righteously represent our Lord, the High King of Heaven.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Go & Tell pt. 1

In the face of near wholesale rejection from His hometown people the Lord Jesus Christ did not fold up the Gospel ministry and quit. He was despised and rejected by those who had the most intimate knowledge of Him and experience with him, but this did not cause Him to despair. Marveling at the unbelief of Nazareth, Jesus went about among the villages and continued to teach. The resentment and unbelief of some would not prevent our Lord from taking the life giving gospel message to others. Other villages would receive the awesome benefit which the Nazarenes despised.

Not only did Christ continue to proclaim the Good News, but he dispatched His followers to do likewise. In Mark 3:13-19 Christ chose twelve men out of His many followers, and He ordained the twelve to be with Him so that He might send them out to preach. Before He sent them out, however, He trained and prepared them for the task. Every day, every encounter, every conversation, every situation was a learning opportunity. The twelve ministered to and learned from Christ as they followed Him around Galilee. Christ determined to send forth the disciples to preach the gospel immediately following His Nazareth rejection. That may seem like odd timing to us. Why not wait until a more positive “launch date”? It would seem that the right time to send out the disciples would have been following the glorious victories recorded in chapter 5. That way the disciples would have had some momentum to ride.

Christ thought differently. By His own example in Nazareth the twelve were taught, as are we, that opposition, rejection, and resentment must be faced by those who will faithfully, clearly, and charitably proclaim the Gospel. They learned, as should we, that opposition, rejection, and resentment are no cause for despair. In the face of all the above (and more) the servant of Jesus Christ is called to continually follow his Lord; called to continue to do what he has been called and separated to do. What is that? It is to proclaim the Gospel!

Mark 6:7-13 says:
And he called [unto him] the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits; And commanded them that they should take nothing for [their] journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in [their] purse: But [be] shod with sandals; and not put on two coats. And he said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. And they went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed [them].
Batman and Robin are known as the “Dynamic Duo”, but they were not the first. Mark records that there originally existed 6 dynamic duos, and they had a much bigger, much more significant task than the caped crusaders. Instead of combating the Joker, Penguin, and the Riddler, these pairs squared off against the forces of Satan. Instead of being powered by the bat-mobile and a utility belt, these men were empowered by the Spirit of God to “preach that men should repent…cast out many devils” and heal the sick.

While Nazareth nursed its nastiness, Jesus deployed the apostles to blanket the land with the Gospel. This was an advanced training cycle for the men. Already they had been learning from Christ as they followed and attended Him, but now Jesus sent them away from His side. This was to prepare them for that time in that not-to-distant future when they would be physically separated from the Lord following His crucifixion. Christ would not have His church led by untried, unproved, and inexperienced men.

These men were not just set loose and told to “Go make it happen.” There was order and direction to their sending, just as there is order and direction to all that Christ does (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40). Therefore, the next two or three posts will describe the apostles' commission, commands, and campaign..