Mark 1:1-15 (Wednesday Night bible Study)

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

Mark 1:1-15

  • Mark 1:1-4
    • The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. 3 A voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight! 4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
    • Mark starts the story of Jesus a long way back
      • Doesn’t tell the birth of Jesus
      • Doesn’t even begin with John in the Wilderness
      • It begins with the dreams of the prophets long ago
        • It began long, long ago in the mind of God
    • In other words, this has been God’s plan all along
      • Marcus Aurelius “The things of God are full of foresight. All things flow from heaven.
      • It has been said that the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts, and so are the thoughts of God
        • God is working His purposes out
        • History is not random; it is a process directed by the God who sees the end in the beginning
      • We are in that process, and because of that we can either help or hurt it
        • We are either working in the will of God to see His outcome, or we are hindering it from getting done
          • Make not mistake, it will get done, but we have a responsibility to be a part of the process
        • The prophetic quotation that Mark uses is suggestive
        • “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.
          • Originally from Malachi 3:1 and in its original context, it is a threat.
            • Priests were failing at their duty
            • Offerings were blemished
            • Service in the Temple was a weariness to them
            • The messenger was to cleanse and purify the worship of the Temple before the Messiah emerged
            • So then the coming of the Christ was a purification of life
            • Wherever Christianity comes in its pure form, it brings purification
            • In other words, where Christ is allowed to come, the antiseptic of the Christian faith cleanses the moral poison of society and leave it pure and clean.
        • John came announcing a baptism of repentance
          • Jews were familiar with ritual washings
            • Leviticus 11-15 details them
          • “The Jew washes himself every day because every day he is defiled”- Tertullian
          • Symbolic washing and purifying was woven into every aspect of Jewish life and ritual
          • Gentiles were necessarily unclean for they had never kept any part of the Jewish law
            • When Gentiles converted to Judaism, they had to undergo three things
              • Circumcision
                • The mark of the covenant
              • Sacrifice
                • Only blood could atone for his sin
              • Baptism
                • Symbolized cleansing from all the pollution of his past life
          • John’s baptism was asking Jews to submit to that which only a Gentile was supposed to need
            • John had realized (or told by God) that to be a Jew in the racial sense was not to be a member of God’s chosen people
          • John’s baptism was accompanied by confession
            • We must confess to ourselves
              • Sometimes it is hardest to admit to ourselves that we have done wrong
            • We must confess to those we’ve wronged
            • We must confess to God
              • The end of pride is the beginning of forgiveness
      • Mark 1:5-8
        • 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. 6 John wore a camel-hair garment with a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “One who is more powerful than I am is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of his sandals. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
        • Why did John have such an impact?
          • He was a man who lived his message
            • He stayed in the wilderness
              • Between the center of Judea and the Dead Sea; and it’s one of the harshest deserts in the world
              • In the OT it is referred to as Jeshimmon, or The Devistation
            • He wore simple clothing
              • Camel hair garment tied with a  leather belt
              • Reminded of the ancient prophets who lived close to the great simplicities and avoided the soft and comfortable luxuries which kill the soul
            • His food was the food of the poor
              • Locusts and wild honey
              • Each could mean two different things
              • Locusts
                • Could be insects (the Law permitted them as food; Leviticus 11:22-23)
                • Could be a kind of bean or nut, the carob which was the food of the poorest of the poor
              • Wild honey
                • Honey that the wild bees make
                • Sweet sap from certain trees
          • His message was effective because he told people what they knew in their hearts and what they were waiting on
            • The Jews had a saying that ‘if Israel would only keep the law of God perfectly for one day, the kingdom of God would come’
              • John was confronting them with a decision that they knew in their heart they ought to make (repentance)
              • Plato said that education did not consist in telling people new things; it consisted in extracting from their memories what they already knew
            • The people of Israel were well aware that for 3-400 years the voice of prophecy had been silent
              • They were waiting for some authentic word from God
          • His message was effective because he was humble
            • “ I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of His sandal”
              • Taking a position lower than the lowest slave
          • His message was effective because he pointed people to something bigger and beyond himself
            • “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”
            • John’s one aim was not to occupy the center of the stage himself, but to try to connect men and women with the one who was greater and stronger than he; and they listened to him because he pointed, not to himself, but to the one whom we all need.
      • Mark 1:9-11
        • 9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. 10 As soon as he came up out of the water, he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased.”
        • Jesus’ baptism was four things
          • It was the moment of decision
            • In every life there comes moments of decision which may be accepted or rejected
            • Jesus knew when John emerged that the moment of decision had come
          • It was the moment of identification
            • Jesus didn’t need to repent from sin
            • There was a movement of people back to God, and Jesus chose to identify himself with that movement
          • It was the moment of approval
            • No one lightly leaves home and sets out on an unknown way
            • In Mark’s telling of Jesus’ baptism, God’s voice talks directly to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased”
          • It was the moment of equipment
            • He is equipped with the Holy Spirit 
      • Mark 1:12-13
        • 12 Immediately the Spirit drove him into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and the angels were serving him.
        • As soon as the joy of His baptism takes place, Jesus faces the battle of temptations
          • The Spirit leads or drives Jesus to the wilderness to be tested
          • In this life it is impossible to escape the assault of temptation; but one thing is sure—temptations are not always sent to make us fall, but to strengthen us
        • Satan is the one who tempts Jesus
          • Hebrew for Satan simply means adversary
          • OT the word is used of ordinary human adversaries and opponents over and over
          • I begins to mean one who pleads a case against a person
            • The task of Satan was to say everything that could be said against anyone
          • The other title for Satan is the devil
            • Greek for diabolos
          • In the OT, Satan is still an emissary of God and not yet the malignant, supreme enemy of God. He is the adversary of human beings
          • In the NT, we find that it is Satan or the devil:
            • Behind human disease and suffering (Luke 13:6)
            • Seduces Judas (Luke 22:3)
            • Whom we must fight (I Peter 5:8-9; James 4:7)
            • Power is being broken by the work of Christ (Luke 10:1-19)
            • Who is destined for final destruction (Matthew 25:41)
            • Satan is the power which is against God
          • Here we have the whole essence of the temptation story
            • God is saying take His love to mankind, even if it ultimate takes you to the cross and death
            • Satan is saying conquer mankind with your power and obliterate your enemies
            • God says set up a reign of love
            • Satan says set up a dictatorship of force
          • Mark’s vividness
            • The animals were His companions
              • Leopard, bear, wild boar, and jackal would have been common in this area
              • “On that day I will make a covenant for them with the wild animals, the birds of the sky, and the creatures that crawl on the ground…” Hosea 2:18
            • Angels attended Him 
              • When Elisha and his servant were trapped in Dothan, Elisha opened his eyes to the horses and chariots of fire that belonged to God that surrounded their enemies
              • Jesus was not left to fight His battle alone—and neither are we
      • Mark 1:14-15
        • 14 After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God: 15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
        • Three great, dominant words of the Christian faith
          • Good News
            • Truth (Galatians 2:5; Colossians 1:5)
            • Hope (Colossians 1:23)
            • Peace (Ephesians 6:15)
            • Promise (Ephesians 3:6)
            • Immortality (II Timothy 1:10)
            • Salvation (Ephesians 1:13)
          • Repent
            • The Greek word metanoia literally means a change of mind
            • We are apt to confuse two things—sorrow for the consequences of sin and sorrow for sin
            • Real repentance means coming not only to be sorry for the consequences of sin but to hate sin itself
            • Repentance means that anyone who was in love with sin comes to hate sin because of its exceeding sinfulness
          • Believe
            • Jesus calls us to believe the good news that He is preaching

Introduction to Mark (Wednesday Night Bible Study) (6-8-22)

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

Introduction to the Gospel of Mark

  • The Synoptic Gospels
    • Matthew, Mark, and Luke known as the synoptic gospels. What does that term mean?
      • Two greek words meaning to see together
      • They can be set down in parallel columns and their common matter looked at together
    • Mark can be argued that it is not only the most important of the three, but maybe of any book in the world
      • It is agreed by nearly everyone to be the earliest recording of the life of Jesus that we have.
  • The Pedigree of the Gospels
    • Oral history and finally recorded in written form…would have had to have been hand copied, so there were not numerous copies of everything
    • How do we know that Mark was the earliest?
      • The synoptic gospels contain the same incidents often told in the same words; and they contain accounts of the teaching of Jesus which are often almost identical.
        • Feeding of the 5,000 (Mark 6:30-44; Matthew 14:12-21; Luke 9:10-17)
          • Story told in almost the exact same words in the same way and order
        • Healing of the Paralytic (Mark 2:1-12; Matthew 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-26)
          • The accounts are so similar that even a little parenthesis- ‘he said to the paralytic’- occurs in all three in exactly the same place
        • So closely related there are only two conclusions
          • All three are taking their material from some common source
          • Two of the three are based on the third
      • Mark can be divided in to 105 sections
        • 93 of theses occur in Matthew
        • 81 in Luke
        • Only four are not included in either Matthew or Luke
      • Mark has 661 verses
        • Matthew has 1,068; Matthew has 606 (51% of Mark’s actual wording) of Mark’s 661
        • Luke has 1,149; Luke reproduces 320 (53% of his actual wording)
        • Of the 55 verses that Matthew doesn’t have, 31 are found in Luke
        • Only 24 verses in Mark do not occur in Matthew and Luke
        • Looks very much as if Matthew and Luke were using Mark as the basis of their gospels
      • Matthew and Luke very largely follow Mark’s order of events
        • Matthew and Luke both alter the order of events, but never at the same time
        • One of them always follows Mark’s order of events
    • A close examination of the three makes it clear that Matthew and Luke had Mark before them as they wrote. They added material where they felt it would benefit, but they more than likely had Mark as a guide.
    • It is thrilling to remember that when we read Mark’s gospel we are reading the first recording of the life of Jesus.
  • Mark, the Writer of the Gospel
    • Who is Mark?
      • Son of Mary (wealthy woman in Jerusalem, whose house Peter went too after being freed from prison by an angel in Acts 12). This means Mark was brought up in the very center of the Christian Fellowship
      • Nephew of Barnabas (accompanied Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey before deserting and returning home) (Acts 13)
      • When Paul starts to set out on the second journey, Barnabas again wants to take Mark. Paul refuses and this causes Paul and Barnabas to part company
      • Tradition has it that Mark then went to Egypt and is responsible for the founding of the church at Alexandria (we do not know if this is true or not)
      • When he does reemerge in Scripture it is in the most unexpected way
        • When Paul writes to the Colossian church from prison, Mark is listed as being with Paul (Colossians 4:10)
        • Paul numbers Mark among his fellow workers in Philemon
        • II Timothy 4:11, “Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry”.
    • Mark’s Source of Information
      • We saw earlier that his home in Jerusalem was a center for the church early on, so he had probably heard a lot of the stories there, but it is most likely that he had as a source, an eyewitness of the life of Jesus.
      • Papias, toward the end of the 2nd Century, liked to obtain and transmit such information as he could glean about the early days of the Church. He tells us that Mark’s gospel is nothing other than a record of the preaching material of Peter.
        • I Peter 5:13 references “My son Mark”.
        • Mark, who was Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, all that he recollected of what Christ had said or done. For he was not a hearer of the Lord or a follower of his. He followed Peter, as I have said, at a later date, and Peter adapted his instruction to practical needs, without any attempt to give the Lord’s words systematically. So that Mark was not wrong in writing down some things in this way from memory, for his one concern was neither to omit nor falsify anything that he had heard.
      • We have two great reasons why Mark should be considered a book of great importance. 
        • It’s the earliest of the gospels
          • If it is written shortly after the death of Peter, it would be dated around 65 A.D., less than 40 years after the resurrection.
        • It’s the direct preaching notes of Peter
  • The Characteristics of Mark’s Gospel
    • It’s the nearest thing we will ever get to a report of Jesus’ life.
      • Mark’s aim was to give a picture of Jesus as he was
      • B. F. Westcott called it a transcript from life
      • A. B. Bruce said that it was written from the viewpoint of loving, vivid recollection and that it’s great characteristic was realism
    • Mark never forgot the divine side of Jesus
      • Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God
      • They were astounded at his teaching (1:22); The were all amazed (1:27); these types of phrases occur over and over again.
      • To Mark, Jesus was not simply one of us; he was God among us, constantly moving people to a wondering amazement with his words and deeds
    • No gospel gives such a human picture of Jesus
      • Mark called him the carpenter (6:3). Matthew changes it to “Carpenter’s son”
      • Immediately the Spirit drove him into the wilderness (1:12). Matthew and Luke change “drove” to “led up by”
      • Mark tells us more about the emotions of Jesus than any of the others
        • Jesus sighed deeply in his spirit (7:34; 8:12)
        • He was moved with compassion (6:34)
        • He was amazed at their unbelief (6:6)
        • Moved with righteous anger (3:5, 8:33, 10:14)
        • He loved the rich young ruler (10:21)
        • Jesus felt the pangs of hunger (11:12)
        • He got tired and needed rest (6:31)
      • The sheer humanity of Jesus in Mark’s picture brings him very near to us
    • Over and over again, he inserts little vivid details into the narrative which are the hallmark of an eyewitness
      • Mark adds in the story of Jesus having the children come to him that not only does He call them, He takes the child in His arms
      • In the feeding of the 5,000, only Mark describes them sitting down in groups of hundreds and fifties
      • When Jesus and his disciples were on the last journey to Jerusalem, only Mark tells us that Jesus was walking alone, ahead of the group, relating to us Jesus’ loneliness.
      • In the story of Jesus calming the storm, only Mark relates that Jesus was asleep on a cushion
    • Mark’s realism and his simplicity come out in is Greek style
      • His style is not carefully developed and polished
        • He tells the story the way a child would relate it
          • He adds statement to statement connecting them simply with the word ‘and’
          • In chapter 3, in the Greek, there are 34 clauses or sentences on after another introduced by ‘and’ after one principal verb
          • It is the way in which an eager child would tell the story
      • He is very fond of the word “immediately”
        • Occurs almost 30 times
        • “Stories march” but Mark’s story does not so much march; he rushes on in a kind of breathless attempt to make the story as vivid to others as it is to himself
      • He is very fond of the historic present
        • In the Greek he talks of events in the present tense instead of in the past 
          • “And when Jesus heard it, he says to them, ‘Those who are strong do not need a doctor, but those who are ill’” (2:17)
          • ‘And when they come near to Jerusalem, to Bethpage and to Bethany, to the Mount of Olives, he sends two of his disciples, and says to them, “Go into the village opposite you…”’(11:1-2)
          • ‘And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, on of the Twelve, comes’ (14:43)
        • Generally speaking, we do not keep these historic presents in translation because in English they do not sound well; but they show how vivid and real the thing was to Mark’s mind, as if it was happening before his eyes
      • He quite often gives us the very Aramaic words which Jesus used
        • Jairus’ daughter, he said ‘Talitha cumi’ (5:41)
        • Deaf and Mute, he said, ‘Ephphatha’ (7:34)
        • Dedicated gift is ‘Corban” (7:11)
        • In the garden, ‘Abba, Father’ (14:36)
        • On the cross ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ (15:34)
        • There were times when Peter could hear again the very sound of Jesus’ voice and could not help passing it on to Mark in the very words that Jesus spoke.
  • Special note (14:50-52) 
    • Then they all deserted him and ran away. Now a certain young man, wearing nothing but a linen cloth, was following him. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth behind and ran away naked. 
      • These are strange and fascinating verses. At first sight they seem completely irrelevant. they seem to add nothing to the narrative and yet there must be some reason for them being there.
      • In Acts, it appears the center of the Church in Jerusalem is Mary’s house, the mother of John Mark. It is at least probable that the upper room in which the Last Supper was eaten was in that same house. There could be no more natural place than that to be the center of the Church.
        • It may be that Mark was actually present at the Last Supper. He was young, just a boy, and maybe no one really noticed him. But he was fascinated with Jesus, and when the company went out into the dark, the slipped out after them when he ought to have been in bed, with only the linen sheet covering him. It may be that all the time Mark was there in the shadows listening and watching. That would explain where the Gethsemane narrative came from. If the disciples were all asleep, how did anyone know about the struggle of soul that Jesus had there? It may be that the one witness was Mark as he stood silent in the shadows, watching with a boy’s reverence the greatest hero had ever known. 
        • From John’s narrative, we know that Judas left the company before the meal was fully ended. It may be that it was to the upper room that Judas meant to lead the Temple police so that they might secretly arrest Jesus. But when Judas came back with the police, Jesus and his disciples were gone. Naturally there was an argument. The uproar wakened Mark. He heard Judas propose that they should try the garden of Gethsemane. Quickly Mark wrapped his bedsheet around him and sped through the night to the garden to warn Jesus. But he arrived too late, and in the scuffle that followed was very nearly arrested himself.
      • Whatever may be true, we may take it as fairly certain that mark put in this passage because they were about himself. He could never forget that night. He was too humble to put his own name in, but in this way he wrote his signature and said, to anyone who could read between the lines, “I was there as a boy.”

Celebration (Spiritual Disciplines Study)

Corporate Disciplines

Celebration

  • Augustine of Hippo
    • The Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot!
  • Celebrations is at the heart of the way of Christ. 
    • He entered the world on a hight note of jubilation.
      • Luke 2:10
        •  10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people
    • He left the world conveying his joy to the disciples
      • John 15:11
        • 11 “I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.
    • The carefree spirit of joyous festivity is absent in contemporary society. Apathy, even melancholy, dominates the times. Havey Cox says that modern man has been pressed “so hard toward useful work and rational calculation he has all but forgotten the joy of ecstatic celebration…”
  • Celebrations Gives Strength to Life.
    • Celebration brings joy into life, and joy makes us strong.
      • Nehemiah 8:10
        • 10 Then he said to them, “Go and eat what is rich, drink what is sweet, and send portions to those who have nothing prepared, since today is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
    • Celebration is central to all the spiritual disciplines. Without a joyful spirit of festivity the disciplines become dull, death-breathing tools in the hands of modern Pharisees. Every discipline should be characterized by carefree delight and a sense of thanksgiving.
    • Joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit. Without joyous celebration to infuse the other disciplines, we will sooner or later abandon them. Joy produces energy. Joy makes us strong.
    • Ancient Israel was commanded to gather together three times a year to celebrate the goodness of God. Those were festival holidays in the highest sense. They were the experiences that gave strength and cohesion to the people of Israel.
  • The Path to Joy
    • In the spiritual life only one thing will produce genuine joy, and that is obedience.
      • Luke 11:27-28
        • 27 As he was saying these things, a woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the one who nursed you!” 28 He said, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”
        • It is a more blessed thing to live in obedience to have been the mother of the Messiah
    • Hannah Whitall Smith
      • Joy comes through obedience to Christ, and joy results from obedience to Christ. Without obedience joy is hollow and artificial.
    • To elicit genuine celebration, obedience must work itself into the ordinary fabric of our daily lives. Without that our celebrating carries a hollow sound.
      • For example, some people live in such a way that it is impossible to have any kind of happiness in their home, but then they go to church and sing songs and pray, hoping that God will somehow give them an infusion of joy to make it through the day. They are looking for some kind of heavenly transfusion that will bypass the misery of their daily lives and give them joy.
        • But God’s desire is to transform the misery, not bypass it.
    • Joy is not found in singing a particular kind of music or in getting with the right kind of group or even in exercising the charismatic gifts of the Spirit, good as all these may be. Joy is found in obedience.
    • Celebration comes when the common ventures of life are redeemed.
    • Scripture commands us to live in a spirit of thanksgiving in the midst of all situations; it does not command us to celebrate the presence of evil.
  • The Spirit of Carefree Celebration
    • Philippians 4:4-8
      • 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.
    • Matthew 6:25
      • 25 “Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?
    • Christians are called to be free of care, but we find such a way foreign to us.
    • The spirit of celebration will not be in us until we have learned to be “careful for nothing”. And we will never have a carefree indifference to things until we trust God.
    • If we fill our lives with simple good things and constantly thank God for them, we will be joyful, that is, full of joy. And what about our problems? When we determine to dwell on the good and excellent things in life, we will be so full of those things that they will tend to swallow our problems.
  • The Benefits of Celebration
    • Far and away the most important benefit of celebrations is that it saves us from taking ourselves too seriously.
      • After all, Jesus rejoiced so fully in life that he was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton. Many of us lead such sour lives that we cannot possibly be accused of such things.
      • Celebration helps us relax and enjoy the good things of the earth.
    • Celebration also can be an effective antidote for the periodic sense of sadness that can constrict and oppress the heart.
      • Depression is an epidemic today and celebration can help stem the tide. (Not making lite of the idea of counseling)
    • Another benefit of celebrations is its ability to give us perspective
      • We can laugh at ourselves
      • We come to see that the causes we champion are not nearly so monumental as we would like to believe.
      • In celebration the high and the mighty regain their balance and the weak and lowly receive new stature.
      • Thus freed of an inflated view of our own importance, we are also freed of a judgmental spirit.
    • Finally, an interesting characteristic of celebration is that it tends toward more celebration. Joy begets joy. Laughter begets laughter.
  • The Practice of Celebration
    • One way to practice celebration is through singing, dancing, and shouting.
      • What do little children do when they celebrate? They make noise, lots of noise.
      • When the children of Israel had been snatched from the clutches of Pharaoh by the mighty power of God, Miriam the prophetess led the people in a great celebrations dance. 
      • David went leaping and dancing before the Lord with all his might.
      • Singing, dancing, and noise-making are not required forms of celebration. They are examples only, to impress upon us that the earth indeed is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. We are free to celebrate the goodness of God with all of ourselves.
    • Laughing is another way we practice celebrations
      • The old adage “Laughter is the best medicine” has a lot going for it.
      • Why not! Jesus had a sense of humor—some of his parable are positively comical.
      • Poke fun at yourself. Enjoy wholesome jokes and clever puns. Relish good comedy. Learn to laugh; it is a discipline to be mastered. Let go of the everlasting burden of always needing to sound profound.
    • A third way to encourage celebration is to accent the creative gifts of fantasy and imagination.
      • Harvey Cox
        • There was a time when visionaries were canonized, and mystics were admired. Now they are studied, smiled at, perhaps even committed. All in all, fantasy is viewed with distrust in our time.
      • Only those who are insecure about their own maturity will fear such a delightful form of celebration
    • Relish the creativity of others
    • Another thing we can do is to make family events into times of celebration and thanksgiving
      • We can also celebrate lesser, but equally important events like finishing a major project, securing a job, receiving a raise. In addition, why not from regular rituals of celebration that are not connected with special events. Set up regular times to play games or to watch movies or read books together. Turn visits to relatives into celebrations of your relationship. 
    • A fifth thing we can do is to take advantage of the festivals of our culture and really celebrate.
    • Celebration gives us the strength to live in all the other disciplines. When faithfully pursued, the other disciplines bring us deliverance from those things that have made our lives miserable for years which, in turn, evokes increased celebrations. Thus, an unbroken circle of life and power is formed.
  • We have come to the end of this study, but only to the beginning of our journey. We have seen how meditation heightens our spiritual sensitivity which, in turn, leads us to prayer. Very soon we discover that prayer involves fasting as an accompanying means. Informed by these three disciplines, we can effectively move into study which gives us discernment about ourselves and the world in which we live. 
  • Through simplicity we live with others in integrity. Solitude allows us to be genuinely present to people when we are with them. Through submission we live with others without manipulation, and through service we are a blessing to them.
  • Confession frees us from ourselves and releases us to worship. Worship opens the door to guidance. All the disciplines freely exercised bring forth the doxology of celebration.
  • The classical disciplines of the spiritual life beckon us to the Himalayas of the Spirit. Now we stand at timber line awed by the snowy peaks before us. We step out in confidence with our Guide who has blazed the trail and conquered the highest summit.

Guidance (Spiritual Disciplines Study)

Corporate Disciplines

Guidance

  • George Fox
    • Dwell in the live and love and power and wisdom of God, in unity one with another and with God; and the peace and wisdom of God fill your hearts, that nothing may rule in you but the life, which stands in the Lord God.
  • In our day heave and earth are on tiptoe waiting for the emergence of a Spirit-led, Spirit-intoxicated, Spirit-empowered people. All of creation watches expectantly for the springing up of a disciplined, freely gathered, martyr people who know in this life the life and power of the kingdom of God. It has happened before. It can happen again.
  • Much of the teaching on divine guidance in our century has been noticeably deficient on how God leads us through Scripture and through reason and through circumstances and through the promptings of the Spirit upon the individual heart. There has also been teaching—good teaching—on the exceptional means of guidance: angels, visions, dreams, signs, ad more. But we have heard little about hour God leads through his people, the body of Christ. 
  • Perhaps the preoccupation with private guidance in Western cultures is the product of their emphasis upon individualism. The people of God have to always been so.
  • The people of the Church in Acts were gathered who lived under the immediate, theocratic rule of the Spirit. With quiet persistence Jesus showed them what it meat to live I response to the voice of the Father. He taught them that they, too, could hear the heave sent voice and most clearly when together.
    • Matthew 18:19-20
      • 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them.”
    • In those words Jesus gave his disciples both assurance and authority. There was the assurance that when a people genuinely gathered in his name his will could be discerned.
    • The superintending Spirit would utilize the checks and balances of the different believers to ensure that when their hearts were in unity they were in rhythm with the heartbeat of the Father.
    • Assured that they had heard the voice of the true Shepherd, they were able to pray and act with authority. His will plus their unity  equaled authority.
    • Acts 4:32-33
      • 32 Now the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. 33 With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them.
    • Acts 13:1-3
      • Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off.
      • It was beautifully illustrated in the calling forth of Paul and Barnabas to take the good news of the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire
  • With all our modern methods of missionary recruitment we could profit by giving serious attention to this example of corporate guidance. We would be well advised to encourage groups of people to fast, pray, and worship together until they have discerned the mind of our Lord.
  • Acts 15
    • Great example of corporate guidance.
    • 6 The apostles and the elders gathered to consider this matter. 7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you are aware that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the gospel message and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he also did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why are you testing God by putting a yoke on the disciples’ necks that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11 On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way they are.” 12 The whole assembly became silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul describe all the signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they stopped speaking, James responded, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has reported how God first intervened to take from the Gentiles a people for his name. 15 And the words of the prophets agree with this, as it is written: 16  After these things I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. I will rebuild its ruins and set it up again, 17 so that the rest of humanity may seek the Lord—even all the Gentiles who are called by my name—declares the Lord who makes these things 18 known from long ago. 19 Therefore, in my judgment, we should not cause difficulties for those among the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but instead we should write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For since ancient times, Moses has had those who proclaim him in every city, and every Sabbath day he is read aloud in the synagogues.”
  • It was more than a victory regarding an issue; it was a victory to the method used in resolving all issues. 
  • They had dared to live on the basis of Spirit-rule; not fifty-one percent vote, no compromises, but Spirit-directed unity. And it worked.
  • The Spiritual Director
    • In the Middle Ages not even the greatest saints attempted the depths of the inward journey without the help of a spiritual director.
    • What is the purpose of a spiritual director?
      • Dom Augustine Baker
        • In a word, he is only God’s usher, and must lead souls in God’s way, and not his own.
      • He is the means of God to open the path to the inward teaching of the Holy Spirit.
      • The relationship is of an adviser to a friend.
      • Spiritual direction is concerned with the whole person and the interrelationship of all of life
      • Spiritual direction takes up the concrete daily experiences of our lives and gives them sacramental significance.
      • The ordinary kinds of caring and sharing that belong to the Christian community are the starting point for spiritual direction. Out of them will flow “kingdom authority” through mutual subordination and servanthood
      • Like Paul who thought of Timothy as his “beloved child,”they must be prepared to take on certain parental responsibilities. Theirs must be a tough love that refuses to give approval to every whim. They should also know enough of the human psyche that they will not reinforce unconscious and infantile needs for authoritarianism.
      • If we have the humility to believe that we can learn form our brothers and sisters and the understanding that some have gone further into the divine Center than others, then we can see the necessity of spiritual direction.
        • Virgil Vogt
          • If you cannot listen to your brother, you cannot listen to the Holy Spirit
      • It is helpful to realize that there are many forms of spiritual direction.
        • Preaching is a form of spiritual directions as is the ministry of many small groups
        • John Wesley established the “class meetings” and “bands” as forms of spiritual direction
        • The Bible itself functions as spiritual direction, for as we read it prayerful we are being formed more and more into the image of Christ.
  • The Limits of Corporate Guidance
    • Dangers exist in corporate guidance as well as individual guidance. Perhaps the most menacing danger is manipulations and control by leaders
      • It becomes a kind of quasi-magic formula though which leaders can impose their will upon individuals, an authorized system through which all different opinions can be brought into line.
      • It is not the way of Jesus to crush the weakest person or to snuff out the smallest hope. Tenderness toward each individual situation must inform all our deliberations.
    • There is also danger in the opposite directions
      • It is possible for a hard-hearted and stiff-necked people to hinder Spirit-inspired leaders
      • Leaders need the freedom to lead. If God has called them to lead, they should not have to bring every detail of life to the community.
      • God appoints authoritative leadership in the Church so that his work may be done upon the earth.
    • Another danger is that corporate guidance will become divorced from biblical norms
      • The one Spirit will never lead in opposition to the written Word that he inspired
      • There must always be the outward authority of Scripture as well as the inward authority of the Holy Spirit
      • Scripture itself is a form of corporate guidance. It is a way God speaks through the experience of the people of God. It is one aspect of “the communion of saints”
    • Corporate guidance is limited by our finitude
      • Despite our best efforts, our own prejudices and fears keep us from a Spirit-led unity
      • Paul and Barnabas, for example, could not agree on whether to take John Mark with them on their second missionary journey
      • Acts 15:39
        • 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed off to Cyprus.
      • We should not be surprised if we have the same experience in our ministry efforts
        • We should be kind to one another when this happens
  • Dallas Willard
    • The aim of God in history is the creations of an all-inclusive community of loving persons, with Himself included in that community as its prime sustainer and most glorious inhabitant
    • Such a community lives under the most immediate and total rulership of the Holy Spirit. They are a people blinded to all other loyalties by the splendor of God, a compassionate community embodying the law of love as seen in Jesus Christ.
    • They are tenderly aggressive, meekly powerful, suffering, and overcoming. Such a community, cast in a rare ad apostolic mold, constitutes  a new gathering of the people of God. May almighty God continue to gather such people in our day

Worship (Spiritual Disciplines Study)

Corporate Disciplines

Worship

  • God is actively seeking worshippers.
    • John 4:23
      • 23 But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship him.
    • It is God who seeks, draws, persuades. Worship is the human response to the divine initiative.
    • In Genesis God walked in the garden, seeking out Adam and Eve. In the crucifixion Jesus drew men and women to himself. 
    • Scripture is replete with examples of God’s efforts to initiate, restore, and maintain fellowship with his children. God is like the father of the prodigal who upon seeing his son a long way off, rushed to welcome him home.
    • Singing, praying, praising all may lead to worship, but worship is more than any of them. Our spirit must be ignited by the divine fire.
    • Nowhere does the NT prescribe a particular form for worship. In fact, what we find is a freedom that is incredible for people with such deep roots in the synagogue liturgical system. They had the reality. When Spirit touches spirit the issue of forms is wholly secondary.
    • We are free in Christ to use whatever forms will enhance our worship, and if any form hinders us from experiencing the living Christ—too bad for that form.
  • The Object of Our Worship
    • Matthew 4:10
      • 10 Then Jesus told him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”
    • God made clear his hatred for all idolatries by placing an incisive command at the start of the 10 Commandments
      • Exodus 20:3
        • 3 Do not have other gods besides me.
    • Nor does idolatry consist only in bowing before visible objects of adoration.
    • A.W. Tozer
      • The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.
    • We desperately need to see who God is: to read about his self-disclosure to his ancient people Israel, to meditate on hi attributes, to gaze upon the revelation of his nature in Jesus Christ.
    • To see who the Lord is brings us to confession.
      • Isaiah 6:5
        • 5 Then I said: Woe is me for I am ruined because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Armies.
      • The pervasive sinfulness of human beings becomes evident when contrasted with the radiant holiness of God. Our fickleness becomes apparent once we see God’s faithfulness. To understand his grace is to understand our guilt
    • We praise God for who he is, and thank him for what he has done.
  • The Priority of Worship
    • If the Lord is to be Lord, worship must have priority in our lives
      • Mark 12:30
        • 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
    • Our lives are to be punctuated with praise, thanksgiving, and adoration. 
    • One grave temptation we all face is to run around answering calls to service without ministering to the Lord himself 
    • It is as if God is saying, “I want the hears of my people back!” And if we long to go where God is going and do what God is doing, we will move into deeper, more authentic worship.
  • Preparation for Worship
    • The early Church gathered with anticipation, knowing that Christ was present among them and would teach them and touch them with his living power. 
    • How do we cultivate this holy expectancy?
      • While living out the demands of our day we are filled with inward worship and adoration. We work and play and eat and sleep, yet we are listening, ever listening, to our Teacher
      • Brother Lawrence 
        • I cannot imagine how religious persons can live satisfied without the practice of the Presence of God.
      • When more than one or tow come into public worship with a holy expectancy, it can change the atmosphere of a room. 
      • Another vital feature of the early Christian community was their sense of being “gathered” together in worship. First, they were gathered in the sense that they actually met as a group, and second, as they met, they were gathered into a unity of spirit that transcended their individualism.
    • In contrast to the religions of the East, the Christian faith has strongly emphasized corporate worship. Even under highly dangerous circumstances the early community was urged not to forsake the assembling of themselves together.
      • Martin Luther
        • At home, in my own house, there is no warmth or vigor in me, but in the church when the multitude is gathered together, a fire is kindled in my heart and it breaks its way through
    • When we are truly gathered into worship, things occur that could never occur alone. There is the psychology of the group to be sure, and yet is it so much more; it is divine interpenetration. There is what the biblical writers called koinonia, deep inward fellowship in the power of the Spirit.
  • The Leader of Worship
    • Jesus Christ
    • George Fox
      • Meet together in the Name of Jesus…he is your Prophet, your Shepherd, your Bishop, your Priest, in the midst of you, to open you, and to sanctify you, and to feed you with Life, and to quicken you with Life.
    • Some are called to lead
      • This is the reason for the leadership gifts of the Spirit in Ephesians 4.
      • Worship leaders who are called out by God must not be shy about their leadership. People need to be led into worship: from the Other Court to the Inner Court and finally into the Holy of Holies. God anoints leaders to bring people through this progression into worship
  • Avenues into worship
    • Communing with God daily (in all aspects of your life)
    • Like a child taking first steps we are learning through success and failure, confident that we have a present Teacher who, through the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. In this way we come to understand what Paul means when he instructs us to…
      • Romans 8:4
        • 4 in order that the law’s requirement would be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
    • Praise is another avenue into worship
      • The Psalms are the literature of worship and their most prominent feature is praise
    • Scripture urges us to…
      • Hebrews 13:15
        • 15 Therefore, through him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.
      • Peter and John left the Sanhedrin with bleeding backs and praising lips. Paul and Silas filled the Philippian jail  with their songs of praise. In each case they were offering the sacrifice of praise.
    • Singing is meant to move us into praise
      • It provides a medium for the expression of emotion. Through music we express our joy, out thanksgiving.
    • It is clear that God calls for wholehearted worship. And it is as reasonable to expect wholehearted worship to be physical as to expect it to be cerebral
      • Of course people have different temperaments, but that must never keep us from worshipping with our whole being.
      • Having said this, I must add that the physical response to worship is never to be manipulated in any way.
  • Steps into worship
    • Worship is something we do. Studying the theology of worship and debating the forms of worship are all good, but by themselves they are inadequate. We learn to worship by worshipping.
    • Learn to practice the presence of God daily
      • “Pray without ceasing” I Thessalonians 5:17
    • Have many different experiences of worship
    • Find ways to really prepare for the gathered experience of worship.
    • Have a willingness to be gathered in the power of the Lord.
      • As an individual I must learn to let go of my agenda, of my concern, of my being blessed, of my hearing the word of God.
      • Become of one mind, of one accord.
    • Cultivate holy dependency
      • You are utterly and completely dependent upon God for anything significant to happen.
    • Absorb distractions with gratitude
    • Learn to offer a sacrifice of worship
      • Show up and worship, even when you don’t feel like it.
      • One log by itself cannot burn for very long, but when many logs are put together, even if they are poor logs, they can make quite a fire.
  • The Fruits of Worship
    • Just as worship begins in holy expectancy, it ends in holy obedience. If worship does not propel us into greater obedience, it has not been worship
    • To worship is to change
    • Willard Sperry
      • Worship is a deliberate and disciplined adventure in reality.
    • It is not for the timid or comfortable. It involves an opening of ourselves to the adventurous life of the Spirit. It makes all the religious paraphernalia of temples and priests and rites and ceremonies irrelevant.
    • Colossians 3:16
      • 16 Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

Confession (Spiritual Discipline Study)

Corporate Disciplines

Confession

  • Corporate Disciplines
    • Simply put, these are disciplines that we practice in community with other Christ followers. Unlike inward disciplines that we practice alone, and outward disciplines that can be more public, but are still individual, these are public and communal disciplines
  • Confession
    • “The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works” Augustine of Hippo
    • Confession starts with the Cross
    • Love, not anger brought Jesus to the cross. Golgotha came as a result of God’s great desire to forgive, not his reluctance.
      • Mark 15:34
        • 34 And at three Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lemá sabachtháni?” which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
      • Was not a moment of weakness. This was a moment of greatest triumph. 
      • II Corinthians 5:21
        • 21 He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
      • Jesus succeeded in taking into himself all the dark powers of this present evil age and defeated every one of them by the light of His presence. He accomplished such a total identification with the sin of the race that he experienced the abandonment of God. Only in that way could he redeem sin. It was indeed his moment of greatest triumph.
      • Without the cross the discipline of confession would be only psychologically therapeutic. But it is so much more. It involves an objective change in our relationship with God and a subjective change in us. It is a means of healing and transforming the inner spirit.
      • Philippians 2:12
        • 12 Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
      • The discipline of confession helps the believer to grow into “maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness” (Eph. 4:13
      • Confessions is  a consciously chosen course of action that brings us under the shadow of the Almighty.
  • How is it that confession is listed under the corporate disciplines?
    • I Timothy 2:5
      • 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,
      • We confess directly to God through Christ
    • James 5:16
      • 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.
      • But we also are called to confess to one another
    • Confession is a difficult discipline for us because we all too often view the believing community as a fellowship of saints before we see it as a fellowship of sinners. We feel that everyone else has advanced so far into holiness that we are isolated and alone in our sins. Therefore, we hide ourselves from one another and live in veiled lies and hypocrisy
    • But if we know that the people of God are first a fellowship of sinners, we are freed to hear the unconditional call of God’s love and to confess our needs openly before our brothers and sisters. We are sinners together. In acts of mutual confession we release the power that heals. Our humanity is no longer denied, but transformed.
  • Authority to Forgive
    • John 20:23
      • 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
    • God has given us our brothers and sisters to stand in Christ’s stead and make God’s presence and forgiveness real to us.
      • I Peter 2:9
        • 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
      • The universal priesthood of all believers
        • We are all called to be on mission of telling others about Jesus, and we are called to living in community with one another. This includes confessing to one another and helping each other through the consequences of our sin
    • Dietrich Bonhoeffer
      • A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light.
    • I John 1:9
      •  9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
  • Making a confession
    • St. Alphonsus Liguori
      • For a good confession three tings are necessary: and examination of conscience, poor, and a determination to avoid sin.
    • An examination of conscience
      • A generalized confession may save us from humiliation and same, but it will not ignite inner healing. The people who came to Jesus came with obvious, specific sins, and they were forgiven for one.
    • Sorrow
      • It is necessary to a good confession
      • Sorrow is a way of taking the confession seriously
    • A determination to avoid sin
      • John Wesley
        • Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God…such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth.
      • We must desire to be conquered and ruled by God, or if we do not desire it, to desire to desire it. Such a desire is a gracious gift from God. The seeking of this gift is one of the preliminaries for confessing to a brother or sister.
      • It is God who is working to make us willing to seek His forgiveness
    • One further note on the preparation for confession; there must be a definite termination point in the self-examination process. Otherwise, we can easily fall into a permanent habit of self-condemnation. Confession begins in sorrow, but it ends in joy. There is celebration in the forgiveness of sins because it results in a genuinely changed life.
  • Who to confess to
    • The key qualifications are spiritual maturity, wisdom, compassion, good common sense, the ability to keep a confidence, and a wholesome sense of humor.
    • Many ministers—though by no means all—can serve in this way
    • Often ordinary folk who hold no office or title whatever are among the best at receiving a confession.
  • Being someone people can confess to
    • Dietrich Bonhoeffer
      • Anybody who lives beneath the Cross and who has discerned in the Cross of Jesus the utter wickedness of all men and of his own heart will find there is no sin that can ever be alien to him. Anybody who has once been horrified by the dreadfulness of his own sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross will no longer be horrified by even the rankest sins of a brother.
    • Once we see the awfulness of sin we know that, regardless of what others have done, we ourselves are the chief of sinners.
    • Therefore, there is nothing that anyone can say that will disturb us. Nothing. By living under the cross we can hear the worst possibly things from the best possible people without so much as batting an eyelash.
    • It is important that wen others are opening their griefs to us we discipline ourselves to be quiet. We will be tempted Beverly to relieve the tension of the situation by some offhanded comment. This is very distracting and even destructive to the sacredness of the moment. Neither should we try to pry out more details than are necessary. If we feel that out of embarrassment or fear they are holding something back, the best method is to wait silently and prayerfully.
    • It is extremely important that you pray for the person and not just counsel with them. Before or during the prayer we should announce to them that the forgiveness that is in Jesus Christ is now real and effective for them. We can say this in words and tones of genuine authority for we have all of heaven behind the absolution. (John 20:22, 23)
  • Honesty leads to confession, and confession leads to change. May God give grace  to the Church once again to recover the discipline of confession.

Service (Spiritual Discipline Study)

Outward Disciplines

Service

  • As the cross is the sign of submission, so the towel is the sign of service
  • Service banishes us to the mundane, the ordinary, the trivial
  • The point is not that we are to do away with all sense of leadership or authority. Any sociologist would quickly demonstrate the impossibility of such a task. Even among Jesus and the disciples, leadership and authority are seen easily. The point is that Jesus completely redefined leadership and rearranged the lines of authority.
  • Jesus never taught that everyone had equal authority. In fact, he had a great deal to say about genuine spiritual authority and taught that many did not possess it. But the authority of which Jesus spoke is not the authority fo the pecking order.
  • We must clearly understand the radical nature of Jesus’ teaching on this matter. He was not just reversion the “pecking order” as many suppose. He was abolishing it. The authority of which he spoke was not an authority to manipulate and control. It was an authority of function, not of status
    • Matthew 20:20-28
      • 20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons approached him with her sons. She knelt down to ask him for something. 21 “What do you want?” he asked her “Promise,” she said to him, “that these two sons of mine may sit, one on your right and the other on your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you’re asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” “We are able,” they said to him. 23 He told them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right and left is not mine to give; instead, it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 When the ten disciples heard this, they became indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them. 26 It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
    • The spiritual authority of Jesus is an authority not found in a position or a title, but in a towel.
  • Self-righteous verses true service
    • Self-righteous service come through human effort
    • Self-righteous service is impressed with the “big deal”
    • Self-righteous service requires external rewards
    • Self-righteous service is highly concerned about results
    • Self-righteous service picks and chooses whom to serve
    • Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims
    • Self-righteous service is insensitive. I insists on meeting the need even when to do so would be destructive
    • Self-righteous service fractures community
    • True service comes from a relationship with the divine Other deep inside
    • True service finds it almost impossible to distinguish the small from the large service
    • True service resets contented in hiddenness. It does not fear the lights and blare of attention, but it does not seek them either
    • True service is free of the need to calculate results
    • True service is indiscriminate in its ministry.
    • True service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need
    • True service can withhold the service as freely as perform it
    • True service builds community
  • Service and Humility go hand in hand
    • Submission, as we stated last week, requires humbleness. 
    • Service builds humility.
    • Nothing disciplines the inordinate desires of the flesh like service, and nothing transforms the desires of the flesh like serving in hiddenness. The flesh whines against service but screams against hidden service. It strains and pulls for honor and recognition.
      • I John 2:15-17
        • 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions—is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.
    • The “lust of the flesh” refers to the failure to discipline the natural human passions. 
    • C.H. Dodd says that the “lust of the eyes” refers to “the tendency to be captivated by outward show.” He defines the “pride of life” as “pretentious egotism.”
    • In each case the same thins is seen: infatuation with natural human powers and abilities without any dependence upon God. That is the fleshing operation, and the flesh is the deadly enemy of humility.
    • The result of this daily discipline of the flesh will be the rise of the grace of humility. It will slip in upon us unawares
  • A natural and understandable hesitancy accompanies any serious discussion of service, because we fear that “If I do that, people will take advantage of me; they will walk all over me.”
    • But when we choose to be a servant, we give up the right to be in charge. There is great freedom in this. If we voluntarily choose to be taken advantage of, then we cannot be manipulated. When we choose to be a servant, we surrender the right to decide who and when we will serve. We become available and vulnerable.
  • Service in todays world
    • There is service in the small things
      • Acts 9:39
        • 39 Peter got up and went with them. When he arrived, they led him to the room upstairs. And all the widows approached him, weeping and showing him the robes and clothes that Dorcas had made while she was with them.
      • Dorcas served by making clothes for people
      • Francis de Sales
        • The great virtues and the small fidelities are like sugar and salt. Sugar may have a more exquisite taste, but its use is less frequent. Salt is found everywhere. The great virtues are a rare occurrence; the ministry of small things is a daily service. Large tasks require great sacrifice for a moment; small things require constant sacrifice.
      • There is the service of guarding the reputation of others.
        • Titus 3:1-3
          • Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people. 3 For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.
      • There is the service of being served.
        • Peter refused to be served by Jesus washing his feet.
        • In reality it was an act of veiled pride. If Peter had been the master, he would not have washed feet
        • It is an act of submission and service to allow others to serve us.
      • There is the service of common courtesy
        • Missionaries understand the value of courtesy. They would not dare to blunder into some village demanding to be heard without first going through the appropriate rituals of introduction and acquaintanceship. Yet we feel we can violate these rituals in our own culture and still be received and heard. And we wonder why no one will listen.
        • Once we get over our egocentric arrogance about the fact that people don’t really want to know how we are when they say, “How are you?” We can see that it is just an American way of acknowledging our presence.
      • There is the service of hospitality.
        • I Peter 4:9
          •  Be hospitable to one another without complaining.
      • There is the service of listening
      • There is the service of bearing the burden of each other
        • Galatians 6:2
          • 2 Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
        • Love is most perfectly fulfilled when we bear the hurts and sufferings of each other, week pin with those who weep.
      • There is the service of sharing the word of Life with one another
  • John 13:3-17
    • Read off Screen

Submission (Spiritual Disciplines Studay)

  1. Quotes about submission
    1. A.“A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.  A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” –Martin Luther
    2. B.“Make me a captive, Lord,
      And then I shall be free;
      Force me to render up my sword,
      And I shall conqueror be.
      I sink in life’s alarms
      When by myself I stand;
      Imprison me within Thine arms,
      And strong shall be my hand.”–George Matheson
    3. C.“To have no opinion of ourselves, and to think always well and highly of others, is great wisdom and perfection.”–Thomas a Kempis
  2. II.Submission: a mostly ignored or abused discipline
    1. A.“Most of us have been exposed to such a mutilated form of biblical submission that either we have embraced the deformity or we have rejected the discipline altogether.  To do the former leads to self-hatred; to do the latter leads to self-glorification.”–Richard Foster
    2. B.With this being an outward discipline, there is a danger in faking it as well
      1. 1.I Peter 2:18; “Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.” Why would Peter need to address slaves and tell them to submit?
      2. 2.Because we can outwardly act in submission but have a spirit of rebellion; and this is not true submission
    3. C.The third option is to find the true meaning of biblical submission and embrace it
      1. 1.Mark 8:34: “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’”  Jesus tells us that to truly become a disciple, we must submit to him and deny himself.
      2. 2.In submission we are at last free to value other people.  Their dreams and plans become important to us.
      3. 3.Self-denial is something we draw back from.  We are more comfortable with self-fulfillment and self-actualization, but “In reality, Jesus’ teaching on self-denial is the only thing that will bring genuine self-fulfillment and self-actualization.”
    4. D.Self-denial does not mean the loss of our identity
      1. 1.Jesus, Paul and Peter did not lose their identity in self-denial; They found their identity in the act of self-denial. (Jesus and the cross, Peter and Jesus’ command to follow me and Paul and his obedience to Jesus’ command “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16)
      2. 2.Self-denial is not the same thing as self-contempt.  Self-contempt claims that we have no worth, and even if we do have worth, we should reject it.  Self-denial declares that we are of infinite worth and shows us how to realize it.
        1. a)Matthew 22:39; “Love your neighbor as yourself”
        2. b)Matthew 10:39; “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
  3. III.Why Submission?
    1. A.Because Jesus commanded it and lived it as an example
      1. 1.Philippians 2:8 “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
      2. 2.But note this; Christ not only died a cross-death, he lived a cross-life
      3. 3.He took women and children seriously in a society that did not
      4. 4.Matthew 23:8-10; “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah.”
      5. 5.Mark 9:35; “…Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
      6. 6.After washing his disciples feet…John 13:15; “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”  The cross-life is the life of voluntary submission.  The cross-life is the life of freely accepted servanthood.
    2. B.It is a concept taught heavily in the New Testament Letters
      1. 1.The book of Philemon
      2. 2.I Peter 2:21-23; “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.  He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”
      3. 3.Ephesians 5:21; “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
      4. 4.It is a posture obligatory upon all Christians:  men as well as women, fathers as well as children, masters as well as slaves.  We are commanded to live a life of submission because Jesus lived a life of submission, not because we are in a particular place or station in life.  Self-denial is a posture fitting for all those who follow the crucified Lord.
  4. IV.What this means for us
    1. A.Colossians 3:18-22; “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.  Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.  Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.  Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.
      1. 1.For a first-century husband, father or master to obey Paul’s injunction would make a dramatic difference in his behavior.  The first-century wife, child or slave would not need to change one whit to follow Paul’s command.  If anything, the sting of the teaching falls upon the dominant partner.
      2. 2.Look at page 119
      3. 3.The Epistles did not consecrate the existing hierarchical social structure.  By making the command to subordination universal they relativized and undercut it.  They called for Christians to live as citizens of a new order, and the most fundamental feature of this new order is universal subordination.
    2. B.Limits of Submission
      1. 1.The limits of submission are at the points at which it becomes destructive…They simply understood that submission reaches the end of its tether when it becomes destructive….120-121
    3. C.The Acts of Submission
      1. 1.God
      2. 2.Scripture
      3. 3.Family
      4. 4.Neighbors
      5. 5.Faith Family
      6. 6.Broken and Despised
      7. 7.World

Solitude (Spiritual Discipline Study)

Outward Disciplines

Solitude

  • Solitude, in this sense is not just about getting off by yourself.  It is all about spending time listening for God.  
  • In this way, I feel that it is attached to meditation that we talked about before, although for solitude, it’s not necessary to be meditating on the word of God, which is what meditation is all about.  Solitude is all about quietening out lives and trying to hear God’s voice.  It’s reevaluating where we are at, and where we think we should be going.
  • The problem is, we live in a society that makes it hard to quiet everything down. With technology as abundant as it is, and how tied to it most of us are, solitude becomes difficult.  
  • I’m not suggesting that we live in complete solitude all the time.  We are built to live in community.  I don’t believe the Christian life can truly be lived in complete solitude.  I’m not even suggesting that we participate in solitude on a weekly or monthly basis.  
  • It is something that we should try to practice three or four times a year, to refocus our lives, and listen for God’s instruction.  We do that through meditation, study, and prayer, but this is on another level.  
  • We can cultivate an inner solitude and silence that sets us free from loneliness and fear. Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer
    • “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community…Let him who is not in community beware of being alone…Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.
  • We must seek out the recreating stillness of solitude we want to be with others meaningfully. We must seek the fellowship and accountability of others if we want to be alone safely. We must cultivate both if we are to live in obedience.
  • Jesus and solitude
    • 40 days in the desert before His public ministry started
    • Matthew 14:13 (after the death of John the Baptist)
      • 13 When Jesus heard about it, he withdrew from there by boat to a remote place to be alone. When the crowds heard this, they followed him on foot from the towns.
    • Matthew 14:23 (after feeding the 5,000)
      • 23 After dismissing the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. Well into the night, he was there alone.
    • Mark 6:30-31 (after the disciples returned from doing ministry on their own)
      • 30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while.” For many people were coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.
    • Many other examples throughout the gospels
  • Solitude is connected with Silence (one and the same)
    • The purpose of silence and solitude is to be able to see and hear. Control rather than no noise is the key to silence.
      • James 3:1-12
        • Not many should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we will receive a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is mature, able also to control the whole body. 3 Now if we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we direct their whole bodies. 4 And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how a small fire sets ablaze a large forest. 6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among our members. It stains the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 Every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and fish is tamed and has been tamed by humankind, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness. 10 Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be this way. 11 Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers and sisters, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water.
      • Under the discipline of solitude and silence we learn when to speak and when to refrain from speaking
        • The person who views the Disciplines as laws will always turn silence into an absurdity: “I’ll not speak for the next forty days!”
        • This is always a severe temptation to any true disciple who wants to live under silence and solitude
        • Control is Key!
        • The disciplined person is the person who can do what needs to be done when it needs to be done
        • A person who is under the discipline of silence is a person who can say what needs to be said when it needs to be said
        • If we are silent when we should speak, we are not living in the discipline of silence. If we speak when we should be silent, we again miss the mark.
        • One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him. Silence is intimately related to trust.
        • The tongue is a thermometer; it gives us our spiritual temperature. It is also a thermostat; it regulates our spiritual temperature. Control of the tongue can mean everything. Have we been set free so that we can hold our tongue?
          • Bonhoeffer 
            • “Real silence, real stillness, really holding one’s tongue comes only as the sober consequence of spiritual stillness.”
      • Steps into Solitude
        • What are some steps into solitude? The first thing we can do is to take advantage of the “little solitudes” that fill our day. Consider the solitude of these early morning moments in bed before the family awakens. Think of the solitude of a morning cup of coffee before beginning the work of the day. There can be little moments of rest and refreshment when we turn a corner and see a flower or a tree. Instead of vocal prayer before a meal consider inviting everyone to join into a few moments of gather silence
        • Develop a quiet place designed for silence and solitude.
        • For me, golf sometimes is about fellowship with others, sometimes trying to meet new people in the community, and then there are times where is is my solitude.
        • Riding a motorcycle
        • Fishing
        • Etc.
  • Let me just give you a few paragraphs from Foster on this discipline.  I don’t know how else to explain it.
    • Let’s discipline ourselves so that our words are few and full.  Let’s become known as people who have something to say when we speak.  Let’s maintain plain speech: do what we say we will do. “It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay” (Eccles. 5:5).  
    • When our tongue is under our authority the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer become true of us: “Much that is unnecessary remains unsaid.  But the essential and the helpful thing can be said in a few words.”  
    • Go another step.  Try to live one entire day without words at all.  Do it not as law, but as an experiment.  Note your feelings of helplessness and excessive dependence upon words to communicate.  Try to find new ways to relate to others that are not dependent upon words.  Enjoy, savor the day.  Learn from it.  
    • Four times a year withdraw for three or four hours for the purpose of reorienting your life goals.  This can easily be done in one evening…What do you want to have accomplished one year from now?  Ten years from now?…Don’t you feel a tug, a yearning to sink down into the silence and solitude of God?  Don’t you long for something more?  Doesn’t every breath crave a deeper, fuller exposure to His presence?
  • Solitude is another one of these that we just have to try to practice.  I don’t feel like you can really learn it from a book or a sermon.  You can get the starting point, but really doing it is the only way to truly learn it.  But it is something that is vital at times to help us recalibrate and find that still small voice of God in an overly loud society that wants to keep us busy.

Simplicity (Spiritual Disciplines Study)

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Outward Disciplines

Simplicity

  • What do we mean by outward disciplines?  These are disciplines that are designed to be done in a public way, unlike the inward disciplines we’ve already discussed.  Again, it’s not about doing things in a “look at me and my righteousness” kind of way, but these are done in a public setting for the most part.  Others can see you serve, although there is something to be said about serving in secret where no one knows who has done what has been done.  You spending time is solitude is something that others could pick up on.  It can become evident in your life.  Living a life of simplicity is definitely something that can be seen.  And submitting to others in a biblical way is something that is seen when one knows what to look for.  So let’s jump right in to our study.
  • Simplicity is freedom, duplicity is bondage. Simplicity brings joy and balance. Duplicity brings anxiety and fear.
  • The Christian Discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life-style. Bot the inward and the outward aspects of simplicity are essential. We deceive ourselves if we believe we can possess the inward reality without its having a profound effect on how we live.
  • To attempt to arrange a outward life style of simplicity without the inward reality leads to deadly legalism
  • Experiencing the inward reality liberates us outwardly. Speech becomes truthful and honest. The lust for status and position is gone because we no longer need status and position. We cease from showy extravagance not non the grounds of being unable to afford it, but on the grounds of principle. Our goods become available to others.
  • We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy. We buy things we do not want to impress people we do not like.
    • Atlanta Braves Ring 
  • It is time we awaken to the fact that conformity to a sick society is to be sick.
    • The psychosis permeates eve our mythology. The modern hero is the poor boy who purposefully becomes rich rather than the rich boy who voluntarily becomes poor. (We still find it hard to imagine that a girl could do either!) Covetousness we call ambition. Hoarding we call prudences. Greed we call industry.
    • Courageously, we need to articulate new, more human ways to live. We should take exception to the modern psychosis that defines people by how much they can produce or what they earn. We should experiment with bold new alternatives to the present death-giving system. The Spiritual Discipline of simplicity is not a lost dream, but a recurrent vision throughout history. It can be recaptured today. It must be.
  • Simplicity in the Bible
    • We live in a society today that is anything but simplistic.  After studying this discipline, I want to point out something from the start.  This is such a complex subject in a lot of ways that we could spend multiple weeks on it.  So I’m going to try to hit the highlights of this discipline.  This is not a very popular subject in our culture either.  Another thing I don’t want you to misunderstand here, is that I am not trying to say, in any way, that we all need to get rid of everything we own and live in complete poverty.  That is not what this discipline is all about.  But Jesus does speak about economics more than any other social issue.  So, what are we talking about then?
      • Matthew 6:19-21; 24-34
        • 19 “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…24 “No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. 25 “Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. 30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t he do much more for you—you of little faith? 31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
      • Simplicity is all about seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness first and foremost in our lives.
    • This life is not all about gaining wealth.  It’s about seeking His kingdom.  We don’t actually own anything, everything is already God’s.  He just allows us to use it.  Again, this is not an attempt saying that we need to sale everything and live in poverty.  But we can’t put our hopes in what we have.  Our hope is in Jesus.  When we get that backwards is when we mess up.  Philippians 4:13 speaks to this issue as well.  It’s a familiar verse that is used in a lot of ways to say that we can do all things in Christ.  I believe that that is true, but I fear that we use this verse out of context a lot.  So let’s back up a few verses.
      • Philippians 4:10-13
        • 10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly because once again you renewed your care for me. You were, in fact, concerned about me but lacked the opportunity to show it. 11 I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. 12 I know how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me
    • Simplicity, in a lot of ways, is learning to be content.  It’s about seeking God over everything that gets in our way to God.
    • Simplicity sets us free to receive the provision of God as a gift that is not ours to keep and can be freely shared with others. Once we recognize that the Bible denounces the materialist and the ascetic with equal vigor, we are prepared to turn our attention to the framing of a Christian understanding of simplicity.
  • The central point for the discipline of simplicity is to seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness of His kingdom first and then everything necessary will come in its proper order.
    • Nothing must come before the kingdom of God, including the desire for a simple life-style
    • Focus upon the kingdom produces the inward reality, and without the inward reality we will degenerate into legalistic trivia. Nothing else can be central. The desire to get out of the rat race cannot be central. The redistribution of the world’s wealth cannot be central, the concern for the ecology cannot be central. Seeking first God’s Kingdom and the righteousness, both personal and social, of that kingdom is the only thing that can be central in the spiritual discipline of simplicity.
    • When the kingdom of Gd is genuinely placed first, ecological concerns, the poor, the equitable distribution of wealth, and many other things will be given their proper attention.
  • Freedom from anxiety is characterized by three inner attitudes.
    • If what we have we receive as a gift, and if what we have is to be cared for by God, and if what we have is available to others, then we will possess freedom from anxiety.  This is the inward reality of simplicity
      • When we are tempted to think that what we own is the result of our personal efforts, it take only a little drought or a small accident to show us once again how utterly dependent we are for every thing.
    • To know that it is God’s business, and not ours, to care for what we have is the second inner attitude of simplicity.
      • Yes, we can lock our doors and take precautions
      • There is simply no such thing as “burglar proof” precaution. Obviously, these matters are not restricted to possessions but include such things as our reputation and our employment.  Simplicity means the freedom to trust God for these (and all) things.
    • To have our goods available to others marks the third inner attitude of simplicity.
  • Simplicity is freedom, not slavery.  Refuse to be a slave to anything but God.
    • For the name simplicity, there is a lot that goes into this.  But I hope that gives you a little taste of what we are talking about.  I highly recommend you do some deeper study on this subject, because it is not one that you will hear much about unless you seek it out, even though it is a subject that scripture speaks of often.