A Woman, a Dragon, and a Deliverer

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. (Revelation 12:1–6 ESV)

Satan’s War on God

Hatred and murder of Jesus

Let’s think about the extraordinary events of Jesus’ life. Matthew tells us about some wise men from the East who show up, perhaps a year or two after Jesus’ birth. First they go to Jerusalem. Why? Where else would the king of the Jews be born? The whole city is shocked at their appearance and what they say, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2) We have come to worship him. King Herod was a maniacal and pathological king. He decides to use the wise men to find this potential threat to his throne. He tells them to find the child and then he himself would come to “worship” him.

The wise men go to Bethlehem (you likely know this story), they find Jesus, they worship him, they lavish him with expensive gifts. But God tells them in a dream not to go back to Herod. God also tells Joseph to leave quickly for Egypt. They do. Herod discovers the wise men had not returned to him. He orders every child two years and under in the whole region to be killed. Who was really behind that?

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Stretching and Sharing in Gospel Joy

Three Reasons for Christian Cultural Flexibility in Making Disciples

To win more 

“I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22 ESV)

“Save some.” Paul realized that in spite of our best efforts many will not believe and will reject Jesus. But humanly speaking, by stretching ourselves and flexing into the life and culture of anyone, God can and will use it to save some.

What price can we put on the eternal soul of any person? I’ve mentioned before a man I knew who was complaining about all the trouble in the world and my response to him was, “It’s almost as if the world needs a Savior.” That man died recently, and it rattled me. If we could just glimpse eternity, we would realize that the things we care so much about don’t matter and the things we often overlook matter more than anything else. This calls us to go to them with language and love that speaks to their hearts rather than them accommodating us. 

Why the Gospel Fuels Generosity

I want to let the Apostle Paul, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, summon all of us to the generous life as the godliest and most meaningful life we can experience.

“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.” (2 Corinthians 8:1–7 ESV)

The Example of Financially Poor Christians’ Generosity (2 Corinthians 8:1-8)

The context here is a region-wide offering the Apostle Paul is collecting for the needs of the church in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is where the church began on the day of Pentecost. Jerusalem was the hub of early apostolic activity. By 50 AD, the Jerusalem church was impoverished due to a 10-year famine. The years of persecution of the church didn’t help either.

Paul is ministering in the Gentile communities across Asia Minor and he told them of the difficulties of the Jerusalem Christians. Paul was passionate about this collection for a couple reasons. One was Christian compassion. Out of compassion for the poor and the suffering, Christians give to meet those needs. But the larger issue was a gospel and ethnic one. Jews and Gentiles were historic enemies. One of the hurdles of the early church was to see that there was not just a Jewish church or a Gentile church, but that there was one church. Paul writes to the Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

The Jewish church birthed the Gentile church. What better way to show the unity of the church then for Gentile Christians to cross historic bigotry lines and to personally sacrifice to meet the needs of the Jewish believers? Few things say I love you better than cold, hard cash.

Steward Everything!

Our parable today is situated between two beloved and famous moments. The first is the story of Zacchaeus in Jericho. The wee little man who climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus. I have told that story many times at bedtime. Maybe kids can relate to being wee little people. His eventual repentance from a life of greed and materialism elicits from Jesus, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10 ESV)

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, which provides the other side of this parable, the triumphal entry into the city of David. Between Zacchaeus and Palm Sunday is the Parable of the Minas.

“As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.” (Luke 19:11)

This is insightful and important to understanding the purpose of the parable. Notice the repetition of the word because. Luke helps explain the parable by telling why Jesus told it in the first place. He was near to the capital city Jerusalem. There was a growing excitement that Jesus may reveal his true identity. They supposed that the kingdom of God would appear immediately.

Why is that a problem? What do people do when they think the world is about to end? People get crazy about these things, but what they don’t do is get busy. They go to a mountaintop and wait. The temptation is to do nothing. Jesus tells this parable to correct our understanding of the future and what we are to do as we wait for his return.

Sola Church

The Church is the Pillar (Proclaimer) of Truth

“If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15)

Foundations hold things fast; pillars hold things high. Pillars put things on display. Think Athens or Rome and those ruins still have pillars and columns standing upright. They are still doing their job centuries later.

The church is called to display the gospel by proclaiming the gospel. This is our outreach. This is our evangelism. This is our lives lived as salt and light. This is God’s love through us to others.

Christ Alone

Jesus fulfills the Old Testament priesthood by representing us to God in his death as our representative and his ongoing ministry of intercession for us. “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews7:25 ESV)

Who is “them”? Those who come to God by faith. There’s the gospel. There’s personal trust in Jesus. What does Jesus do as our priest? Intercession.

Intercession = the priestly work of Christ in which he represents us and our needs to the Father and prays for the application of covenantal promises and blessings to us which the sacrifice of his own life made possible.

How qualified is he to intercede to the Father on our behalf?

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15–16)

So we have this amazing combination in Christ of perfect identification and perfect representation. He perfectly identifies with our weaknesses because he has a human nature that experienced weakness. No matter what you are going through today, Christ can identify with it. He has been there, felt that. He perfectly identifies with us. He’s one of us. At the same time, he perfectly represents us as priest to the Father and prays that the Father would fulfill his promises to us, in our trials and in our pains. In our sorrows and in our joys. He takes our feeble prayers and cries and appeals to the Father according to the Father’s will for us.

Sola: Grace

What Does Sola Grace Mean?

We are saved entirely by God

“And are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23–24 ESV)

Justification by faith is the hallmark of the Reformation. Notice here we are justified by his grace. What is the difference? Faith is the means by which God declares us righteous. It also is a gift. “Justified by grace” means that God declares us righteous without anything in us contributing or inclining him to do so. God is the giver and we are the receivers.