Worship

God’s Not Like “Whatever, Dude,” About The Way He’s Approached in Worship

Social media is a strange universe to live in. There’s a lot of stupidity, but there’s also a lot that can be learned from various trending issues.

Such was the case recently when Christian social media was up in arms (and rightly so) about Cory Asbury’s worship song Reckless Love, and whether or not churches should use it in their worship services. Discussion centered around the use of the word “reckless” to describe God’s love for us and whether or not that was a semantically and theologically appropriate adjective. “Relentless” was suggested as an alternative lyric. “Reckless” was defended as an appropriate lyric. And then Cory Asbury’s explanation of the song came to light and did further injury to his doctrinal cause.

It was all a very interesting and helpful discussion, but, to some degree, it was a rearranging of deck chairs on the Titanic.

‘Cause we’ve hit the ice berg, folks. And the ship is taking on water.

Focusing on the word “reckless” missed the point – at least the big picture point. You see, Reckless Love was produced by Bethel Music. And Cory Asbury is a “worship leader, songwriter and pastor” with the Bethel Music Collective. Prior to joining Bethel, he spent eight years as a worship leader with the International House of Prayer (IHOP).

Why is this important? Because Bethel “Church” in Redding, California, and IHOP are, functionally, ground zero for the New Apostolic Reformation heresy. Heresy. Not, “They just have a more expressive, contemporary style of worship,”. Not, “It’s a secondary theological issue we can agree to disagree on.” Heresy. Denial of the deity of Christ. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Demonstrably false prophecy that the head of IHOP, Mike Bickle, has publicly rejoiced in (He estimates that 80% of IHOP’s “prophecies” are false.) And that’s just the tip of our metaphorical ice berg when it comes to the NAR.

IHOP and Bethel are, by biblical definition, not Christian organizations and certainly not Christian churches. They are pagan centers of idol worship just as much as the Old Testament temples of Baal were. The only difference is that, instead of being creative and coming up with their own name for their god, they’ve stolen the name Jesus and blasphemously baptized their idol with that moniker.

The point in this whole debate is not the word “reckless”. The point is that Christian churches should not have anything whatsoever to do with idol worshiping pagans as they approach God in worship. Yet Sunday after Sunday churches use Bethel music, Jesus Culture music, Hillsong music, and the like, in their worship of God.

And it’s not just that churches are using music from the temples of Baal in their worship services. We have women who usurp the teaching and leadership roles in the church that God has reserved for men – many even going so far as to preach to men and/or hold the position of “pastor”. We have men setting themselves up as pastors who do not meet the Bible’s qualifications. We have churches that let anyone – Believer or not – participate in the Lord’s Supper. We have pastors who welcome false teachers and their materials into their churches with open arms and castigate anyone who dares point out the false doctrine being taught. We have preachers who have forsaken God’s mandate to preach the Word and use the sermon time to talk about themselves, deliver self-help tips, or perform a stand up comedy routine.

And everybody seems to think God’s up there in Heaven going, “Cool! Whatever y’all want to do in the name of worship is just fine and dandy with Me. You do you.”

Well, He’s not.

God demands – and has every right to do so – that He be approached properly. In reverence. In awe. In holy fear. With clean hands and a pure heart.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
Psalm 24:3-6

Let’s take a stroll through Scripture and be taught by those who learned that lesson the hard way…

Cain

Most of the time, when we read the story of Cain and Abel, we focus on the fact that Cain killed his righteous brother. But we tend to gloss over the event that precipitated the murder. Cain and Abel both brought offerings to the Lord. God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s.

Scripture doesn’t tell us why God found Cain’s offering unacceptable. The Levitical laws delineating offerings and sacrifices hadn’t yet been given, and even if they had, grain offerings and other offerings of vegetation were perfectly appropriate if offered at the right time and for the right reason. Was it because Cain had a wrong attitude or motive when he gave his offering? Or maybe because he offered God leftover produce instead of his firstfruits? We don’t know. What we do know is that God had a standard of how He was to be worshiped, Cain violated it, and God expressed His displeasure.

Aaron and Israel

It’s shortly after the Exodus. The Israelites have seen God perform ten – count them – ten plagues on Pharaoh for his idolatry and failure to bow the knee to God’s command to let Israel go. They saw God destroy the entire Egyptian army in the Red Sea. And now, their fearless leader, Moses, has trekked up Mount Sinai and is late getting back. The people are worried and restless.

Does Aaron lead them to pray? Trust God? Be patient? Nope. He fashions an idol for them – a golden calf. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he wasn’t even creative enough to come up with his own name for this idol. He stole God’s character and work and blasphemously baptized the idol with that moniker. He led the people to worship the false god as though it were the true God. (Does that ring any bells?)

“These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings.

Surely God gave them a pass, right? I mean, Moses broke the tablets of the Ten Commandments when he came down from the mountain before they even had a chance to read the first and second Commandments that prohibited what they were doing.

Uh uh. God told Moses to get out of the way so He could fire bomb Israel off the face of the Earth and start over with him. It was only after Moses pleaded with God to stay His hand that God relented and allowed for the lesser punishment of having the Levites kill 3,000 of them with the sword and sent a plague on the rest of them.

Doesn’t exactly sound like an “anything goes in worship” kind of God, does He?

Nadab and Abihu

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

Are you seeing a pattern here? God is so not OK with people approaching Him irreverently, via idol worship, or in any other way He deems inappropriate that He’s willing to kill them.

Saul

God sends Saul and his army on a mission to defeat the Amalekites. His instructions are simple: completely destroy everything. “Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

But Saul’s a smart guy, see? He knows better. He goes in and destroys all the worthless stuff, but saves the good stuff for himself. It’ll be OK with God, he reasons, because he’s going to take some of the really nice sheep and make a big, showy sacrifice. Like a rich man pitching pennies to an urchin shoeshine boy.

And when Samuel confronts Saul about his rebellion, “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?”, Saul has the temerity to say, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord.” Because he was going to perform an act of worship. And the fact that he was doing it his way instead of God’s way didn’t matter. In Saul’s mind, it was the outward act that counted and God should have accepted it.

God didn’t see it that way:

And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has also rejected you from being king.”

God is not pleased with worship offered by hands dirtied with sin and rebellion. Saul paid the price: his throne and God’s favor.

Uzziah

Uzziah started off well as king of Judah. He listened to the counsel of Zechariah, obeyed God, and prospered. But after a while, prosperity can make you proud, and that’s just what happened to Uzziah.

He became so proud, in fact, that he took it upon himself to enter the sanctuary of the temple and offer incense to God on the altar. That was a position of leadership restricted to the priests. Uzziah had never been installed as a priest because he wasn’t biblically qualified to hold the office of priest, much like many who take on the role of pastor today.

Bravely, Azariah and eighty of his fellow priests stood up to the presumptuous king – at the risk of their lives, but in defense of proper worship as commanded in God’s Word – rebuked Uzziah, and kicked him out of the temple. “You have done wrong,” they said, “and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God.”

Well! Uzziah was hot with anger. How dare these mere priests stop him – the king whom God had blessed and prospered – from worshiping God any way he wanted to!

Guess who God sided with? The priests who were upholding His Word and His standard of worship. God struck Uzziah with leprosy for the remainder of his life, which exiled him from the palace and a royal burial, and effectively ended his reign.

The Pharisees

Hypocrites! Blind guides! Fools! Blind men! Greedy! Self-indulgent! Whitewashed tombs! Lawless! Serpents! Brood of vipers! Murderers!

How would you like to be dressed down like that by Jesus? You’re teaching the Scriptures. You’re tithing to the nth degree. You’re traveling over land and sea to proselytize. You’re behaving with outward righteousness. You’re memorializing the prophets. As far as you can tell, you’re doing pretty well with this holiness thing.

And here comes the Messiah – the One you’re (supposedly) doing all of this for – and He shames you. Publicly. He exposes your blackness of heart to the commoners you want looking up to you. All because God’s way is for you to worship Him in spirit and in truth, but you insist on doing it your way- for all your deeds to be seen by others, and because you love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.

You’re approaching God in arrogance and selfishness, and He will have none of it. You won’t die to self, so He – if only temporarily – kills your pride.

The Corinthian Church

You’ve probably never seen a Lord’s Supper as messed up as the way the Corinthian church was doing it. Some people were going without while others were getting drunk. The “important” people got to go first while the poor and lower class went to the back of the line. People were using the Lord’s Table as an opportunity for selfishness rather than putting self aside and focusing on the fact that the purpose of this meal was to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

That wasn’t acceptable to God. He didn’t want the church observing the Lord’s Supper just any old way. It was dishonoring to Christ and shameful to His church.

So God declared that “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord…For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”

 

“But all of that was back in Bible times!” you might protest. “God isn’t killing anybody these days for worshiping Him improperly. In fact, some of the worst violators of God’s Word are rich ‘Christian’ celebrities!”

That’s right, they are. Exactly like God said they would be: “teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” And woe betide them when they stand before Christ in judgment. Because judgment is coming for them:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Matthew 7:21-23

God is high and He is holy, and so are His standards for those who approach Him. He expects His people to obey His Word about how He is to be worshiped.

“I, the Lord, do not change,” God says in the Old Testament. The New Testament tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” God hasn’t mellowed out or calmed down or gotten more tolerant. The God who poured out His wrath on those who blasphemed Him with unbiblical worship in the Old Testament is the same God we worship this side of the cross. Nothing escapes His notice. He doesn’t let sin slide. Whether in this life, or the next, or both, there will be a reckoning for unbiblical worship.

When it comes to worship, God is not a “whatever” kind of God.

Mark Bible Study

Mark: Lesson 17

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

Mark 12:1-27

And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country.When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this Scripture:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
11 this was the Lord’s doing,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

12 And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.

13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.

18 And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22 And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23 In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”

24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1. Briefly review lesson 16 (link above) to refresh your memory on the timing of chapter 12. What two significant events took place in Mark 11? So Jesus’ teachings in chapter 12 took place after what and before what?

2. Review Mark 4:10-12 or lesson 6 (link above). Why did Jesus often teach in parables? How does Mark 12:12 fit with Mark 4:10-12? Why do you think most of Jesus’ parables were agricultural in theme?

3. Examine verses 1-12. Who is the “them” in verse 1 (hint: look back at the end of chapter 11)? In this parable, who is represented by…? (hint: think like the people Jesus is talking to – think Old Testament history)

The vineyard planter/owner (1)

The tenants (1)

The series of servants sent to collect fruit (2,4,5)

The vineyard owner’s rejected son (6)/the rejected stone (10)

What message is Jesus trying to get across to the Jewish leaders (and others who might be listening) with this parable? Compare verses 6-8 with verse 12. Would this have conveyed to the Jewish leaders that Jesus knew what they were plotting?

4. Read Psalm 118:19-27 (from which Jesus quotes {22-23} in verses 10-11) as though you’re one of the Jewish leaders Jesus is telling this parable to, who has just witnessed His triumphal entry (Mark 11/lesson 16). What does Jesus’ careful selection of these verses from a messianic psalm tell you about whom He is claiming to be? Why would the Jewish leaders have “feared the people” (12) and so refrained from arresting Jesus at that time?

5. Who is the “they” in verse 13? Why did “they” want to “trap [Jesus] in His talk” (12)? In order to grasp the import of verses 13-17, it’s necessary to understand who the Herodians were. How does the joining together of Pharisees and Herodians demonstrate the expression, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”? Why would this particular question about taxes (14) have served to put Jesus at odds with one group or the other? Is it possible they were trying to put Jesus in the same catch 22 they had been in in Mark 11:29-33? What was hypocritical (15) about all the things they said in verse 14? Did they genuinely mean any of these things? Why did they “marvel” at Jesus’ answer? (17)

6. Who were the Sadducees? (18) Why would the Sadducees ask Jesus a question about something they didn’t even believe in? (18,23) When Jesus says people will become “like” angels in heaven (25), does He mean that believers literally become angels when they die? What is Jesus trying to teach the Sadducees about the resurrection in verses 26-27? What does it mean that God is not “God of the dead but of the living”?

7. What might a first century Gentile Christian, or you as a Gentile Christian today, have learned from all of this conflict with the various sects of Jewish leadership?

8. Some people falsely teach that we should never question, challenge, or rebuke pastors and other church leaders, no matter what. How does Jesus, in the first half of chapter 12, demonstrate the importance of rebuking and correcting leaders who act sinfully or teach unbiblical doctrine? Compare how Jesus responded to false teachers and their false doctrine to the way some Christians today say we should respond to false teachers and their false doctrine.

9. Jesus used three different methods of teaching correct doctrine to three different groups of people in today’s passage, but His message of biblical truth and sound doctrine was consistent. Which method did He use to teach the chief priests, scribes and elders in verses 1-12? The Pharisees and Herodians in verses 13-17? The Sadducees in verses 18-27? How does this demonstrate that, in teaching the Bible, it’s helpful to “know your audience” and use wisdom in how you convey the message so that they might best understand it?


Homework

Jesus had no problem teaching sound doctrine and correcting false doctrine, but He used wisdom in the way He went about it with different people. For example, He flat out told the Sadducees twice, “you’re wrong,” (24,27) and “you don’t understand God or Scripture” (24). With the chief priests, scribes, and elders, He told a parable (1-12), and they got the message. Do you teach a Sunday School/Bible Study class, or do you have a friend who believes false doctrine and needs correction? Sit down this week and think about the best method you could use to get the biblical message across to this class or person, considering who they are, their background, personalities, etc.


Suggested Memory Verse

And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. Mark 12:33

Mark Bible Study

Mark: Lesson 5

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4

Mark 3:

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.

13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him.14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter,29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1. In verses 1-6, we see again one of the major themes of Mark: Jesus’ lordship over the Sabbath. Take a moment to review question 6 from Lesson 4 (link above). What are the similarities and differences between Mark 2:23-28 and Mark 3:1-6? Look at these two passages in a physical Bible. What do you notice about their placement, or sequence, in the manuscript, despite the fact that some time elapsed between the two incidents? Why might Mark have organized his manuscript this way?

2. Why was guarding against profaning the Sabbath such a major issue for the Pharisees? (1-6) What might they have worried God would do if Jesus influenced Israel to (in the Pharisees’ eyes) break the Sabbath? What did Jesus mean by his question in verse 4? Why didn’t the Pharisees answer Jesus? (4-6) Sometimes we think of anger as being sinful. Here, we see Jesus get angry. Why was His anger not sinful? (5)

3. What was Jesus doing (8) that drew such large crowds to Him? (10, 20-21) Compare the crowds, and their reason for flocking to Jesus in verses 7-12, 20-21, with this passage. What was the reason Peter and Jesus’ true followers stuck with Him? Do you see any similarities between the crowds that came to Jesus in droves for miracles, yet turned away from His teaching, and the crowds that fill miracle-promising “churches” today, even though those “churches” do not preach the truth of the gospel? What does Jesus want us to come to Him for?

4. How did Jesus’ ability to heal, his lordship over the Sabbath, His ability to cast out demons, and His definitive teaching on forgiveness (28-29) demonstrate that Jesus was God and that His authority over the physical and spiritual realms was equal to God’s? How would the authority over demons that Jesus gave the disciples for this mission (15) have authenticated the message they were preaching? (14) Was the disciple’s primary objective to preach the gospel or cast out demons? (14)

5. You may wish to examine verses 22-30 alongside these parallel passages in Matthew and Luke for better understanding. What is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (also called the unpardonable sin)? What were the scribes accusing Jesus of? (22) In your own words, explain Jesus’ reasoning to them. (23-27) Why did Jesus say the scribes making these accusations would never be forgiven? (30)

6. Why might Mary and Jesus’ siblings have been looking for Him? (20-21, 31-32) Was Jesus dishonoring his mother or rejecting his siblings in favor of others? (33-35) What point was Jesus trying to make? Compare verses 31-35 with these passages. What do we learn from these Scriptures about the importance of our spiritual family? Think about religions that unbiblically venerate Mary and ascribe supernatural attributes to her. Would this passage seem to support those beliefs?


Homework

Think about your church family. Is there a brother or sister, or maybe even a spiritual “mother” or “father,” who has helped you in your walk with the Lord, encouraged you, been there for you, maybe even led you to Christ? Take a moment this week to touch base with that person and express your love and appreciation.


Suggested Memory Verse

For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mark 3:35

Mark Bible Study

Mark: Lesson 4

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3

Mark 2

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them.14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

23 One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”\


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1. As we study through Mark, keep in mind that the various stories of what Jesus said and did show us who He is. Recalling that Mark’s audience was primarily Gentile, why would it have been important for him to define who Jesus was?

2. Examine verses 1-12. What is Jesus doing as this story opens? (2) Why did the paralytic’s friends bring him to Jesus- to hear Him preach (2), to be healed, or to have his sins forgiven (5)? What two things did Jesus do for the paralytic, and which one came first? (5, 11-12) What did the paralytic’s friends see as his greatest need? What did Jesus see as his greatest need? What do you think Jesus would say about modern day “faith healers” who focus strictly on the “miracle” of healing and never preach the gospel?

3. Read verses 13-17. What is Jesus doing as this story opens? (13) What was Levi’s (Matthew’s) profession? (14) Why would the guests at Levi’s house have been “tax collectors and sinners” (15-16) rather than scribes and Pharisees or tradesmen and farmers? How might Peter, Andrew, James, and John have initially reacted to Jesus calling a tax collector to be a fellow disciple?

This passage is often cited as evidence of “Jesus hanging out with sinners” by Christians seeking to justify hanging out with people they ought not hang out with, going places they ought not go, and doing things they ought not do. Would Jesus, the sinless Son of God, use this passage that way? What was Jesus’ goal in “hanging out with sinners”? (17)

4. How do the story of the paralytic (5,10) and the story of the calling of Levi (14,17) point to the central mission of Jesus’ earthly ministry?

5. Was the fasting that the Pharisees and John’s disciples were participating in and questioning Jesus about (18) Pharisaical ritual fasting, or the type of New Testament fasting that centered around Christ? Why would Jesus not have wanted His disciples to participate in works-based, ritual, old covenant-style, old garment/wineskin (21,22) fasting when He was there to proclaim the new patch/wineskin (21,22) of the new covenant- the gospel?

6. In 23-28, how did Jesus’ use of David’s actions as a parallel to His own actions…

a) provide an example of Israel’s revered king whom the Pharisees would not have wanted to argue against?

b) allude to the fact that He was the Son of David, the Messiah?

As we saw in chapter 1, and throughout the gospels, Jesus’ lordship over the Sabbath is a major theme and a major sticking point for the scribes and Pharisees. Why? Who established the Sabbath and had the right to rule over it? So, when Jesus says in verse 28 that He is lord of the Sabbath, what would that have meant to the Pharisees? In verse 24, the Pharisees accuse Jesus of breaking the law. Since we know Jesus was sinless, was He actually breaking God’s law here? Then whose “law” was He breaking? Why was it wrong for the Pharisees to accuse Jesus of breaking God’s law when He wasn’t?

7. What do each of these stories tell us (and Mark’s Gentile audience) about who Jesus is- His deity, miraculous power, lordship, authority, etc.?


Homework

Do you ever have an opportunity to “hang out with sinners” like Jesus did? Most of us do, whether it’s co-workers, family members, the ladies at the salon, fellow soccer moms, or the next door neighbor. Take a moment to pray for the lost people you’ll hang out with this week, and ask God to help you follow in Jesus’ footsteps and share the gospel with them.


Suggested Memory Verse

And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mark 2:17

Law- Old Testament, New Testament, Sunday School

Woe is We ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 11-9-14

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These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 45 ~ Nov. 2-8
Luke 18:15-21:38, Mark 11-13, John 12, Matthew 22-25
Woe Is We

Matthew 23

Background:
The Pharisees* were the movers and shakers in Jewish religious life. They held positions of authority in the Sanhedrin (Jewish governing council) and temple, and generally concerned themselves with keeping and enforcing what they perceived to be proper law and order within Judaism.

The main problem with the Pharisees (as Jesus so often, and rightly, pointed out) was that they had added hundreds of their own laws on top of God’s laws and equated the keeping of their laws with the keeping of God’s laws. We often look back through history and chide them for this (sometimes deservedly, sometimes hypocritically), but let’s keep something in mind: they had seen what disobedience to God’s law had caused. Warfare, siege, starvation, bloodshed, exile. It was horrific. But instead of seeking to love God with all their hearts and obey Him out of that love, they started “double fencing.” If God put up a “no trespassing” fence around, say, working on the Sabbath (doing your regular job/work instead of resting and worshiping), the Pharisees backed up about 100 yards and put up an additional fence to make sure you wouldn’t break that law. You couldn’t walk more than a certain number of steps- that might lead to working. You couldn’t rub grain in your hands to hull it and eat it (Luke 6:1-2)- that was too much like working.

One of the things Jesus was trying to show people, including the Pharisees, was that a right relationship with God was about loving Him, not rule-keeping. This scared the Pharisees. It probably sounded too loosey-goosey. They were afraid that if Israel didn’t maintain strict adherence to the law, anarchy would break out and result in an even harsher judgment from God than they had previously experienced. And since Jesus was spearheading this movement away from the heavy burden of Pharisaical law, the Pharisees wanted to get rid of Him.

As we approach chapter 23, the Pharisees’ approach to getting rid of Jesus had been largely passive aggressive instead of direct. Hoping to show Jesus for the blasphemer they thought He was, they spent most of chapter 22 trying to trick Him into saying something they could nail Him on. Taxes, the resurrection of the dead (that was actually the Sadducees), the greatest Commandment. They couldn’t seem to trip Him up. Jesus, having answered all their thinly veiled questions, turns the tables on the Pharisees, and manfully addresses them, and their sin, directly, pulling no punches.

Intro to Woe (23:1-12)
Jesus prefaces what he is about to say to the scribes and Pharisees by addressing the disciples and the gathered crowd. He wants to make sure the people understand that there is a difference between God’s law, which is good, and the Pharisees’ perversion of God’s law, which is bad. The people were to keep God’s law as it was presented in Scripture (3), not as it had been built upon by the Pharisees. Furthermore, whatever good motive the Pharisees might have started out with in making all these extra laws (i.e. keeping the people from breaking God’s law), their motive had now morphed into attention and honor-seeking (3-7). They were no longer motivated by a genuine concern for God’s people and holiness, but by a desire for accolades and prominence. Jesus wanted the people to be careful not to fall into that trap themselves (8-10), especially the disciples, who would soon be heading up the New Testament church. They were to humble themselves and serve those they shepherded, not become “celebrity pastors.”

Woes 1&2 (13-15, Luke 3:8, Genesis 15:6)
It’s interesting that the Pharisees were so proud of their Abrahamic heritage (“We have Abraham for our father…” Luke 3:8) but they forgot what God declared to be the theme of Abraham’s life- righteousness through faith, not law-keeping:

And he [Abraham]believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6

The Pharisees were believing and teaching a false doctrine of righteousness by works, not faith. They were teaching this both to the Jews under their care (13) and to any Gentiles who might be seeking the one true God (15). False doctrine, even if it sounds good and holy to the ear, even if it seems to be “Bible-ish,” even if it’s being preached by someone in religious authority, sends people to Hell. Jesus says so right here. The only gospel that saves is the one Jesus preached, the one that is true to God’s word.

Woe 3 (16-22, Matthew 5:34, Exodus 20:16, Proverbs 12:22, John 14:6)
These days, nobody seems to give a second thought to saying, “I swear to God,” to make people believe them, even when they’re lying. People place their hands on a Bible in court, swear to tell the truth, and then perjure themselves, fearing only the legal consequences, not the spiritual. The Pharisees were a little more concerned that God might zap them if they used His name to convince someone of their honesty, all the while deceiving him. Their deceitfulness was so pervasive that they had devised a list of things they could swear by that wouldn’t bring down God’s wrath even if they were lying. But they were only deceiving themselves. It didn’t matter what they swore by, because everything belongs to God and is under His control. God’s command is not to lie (Ex.). Period. He says that “lying lips are an abomination” (Pr.) The God who says, “I am THE TRUTH,” (Jn.) wants us to be so in love with truth that truth is all we speak, rather than seeing how many lies we can get away with.

Woe 4 (23-24)
The tithe didn’t really cover these tiny little herbs, but the Pharisees dutifully measured out a tenth of everything to show their righteousness. But they were so focused on the metrics of righteousness that they had lost the heart of righteousness. That’s why we see them, in several instances, not rejoicing that a blind or crippled person had been healed, but chastising Jesus for healing the person on the Sabbath. Notice that Jesus didn’t say they were wrong to tithe, only that they should not have forgotten to love and serve their neighbors while doing so. Their religion had become a rigid skeleton of laws and regulations, do’s and don’t’s. No heart, no flesh.

This is one that so many churches today are guilty of without even realizing it. When we focus on man-made rules and traditions to the extent that we don’t notice the people we’re trampling on in the process, or we cannot help people because we’ve backed ourselves into a corner with our own rules (and please notice, I’m talking about man-made rules here, not strict adherence to sound doctrine, which is required by Scripture), we are doing exactly what Jesus was scolding the Pharisees for.

Woes 5&6 (25-28, 1 Samuel 16:7b)
1 Samuel 16:7b says:

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

And what Jesus saw in the Pharisees’ hearts was people who were dead (27) in their sins (25). They concerned themselves only with appearing righteous to others, not with the actual condition of their hearts. Because they were unsaved, the best the Pharisees could do was to put on a facade of holiness, and they worked hard to maintain that facade. Jesus tried to explain to them that if their hearts were right with God through faith, humility, and repentance, a righteous outward appearance would be a natural overflow of the righteousness inside. Righteousness isn’t about what we do, it’s about who we are in Christ. It isn’t about behaving like a good person, it’s about trusting in the only good Person who ever lived and having His goodness credited to our accounts.

Woe 7 (29-36)
Jesus is already pretty torqued, but you mess with His faithful servants, and He goes ballistic. Remember all the prophets we read about in our study of the Old Testament and the way many of them were treated? Many of them were murdered by God’s people simply for speaking God’s word to them. And here came the Pharisees, patting themselves on the back, decorating tombs, and saying, “Well, of course we would never have done such a thing.” Hogwash. They were already plotting to kill Jesus (in fact, by now, they had already tried stoning Him and throwing Him off a cliff), and they would go on to martyr 11 of the 12 apostles as well as others of Jesus’ followers in the early church era. Anybody who spoke the truth of God rather than what the Pharisees wanted to hear was in just as much danger as an unpopular Old Testament prophet.

Some Christians are very much the same today. They read the gospel accounts of the Pharisees plotting against, and crucifying, Jesus and think to themselves, “I would never do that,” but if a fellow Christian calls them to repent of obvious sin, or shows them that they’re following false doctrine or a false teacher, they immediately attack that person as “judging,” “unloving,” “divisive,” etc.

Whoa (37-39)
Christ’s public teaching ministry was over with this final diatribe. Having completed these seven woes, what is His tone? Is it angry? Condemning? No, it is sorrowful. One of the defining characteristics of Jesus is that, no matter how much we have sinned, He loves us. And, in the same way you can be absolutely furious with your child yet still love him, Jesus loved these Pharisees. It grieved Him that they preferred their sin of a fake relationship with God to a real relationship with God. God is not the cruel taskmaster the Pharisees’ endlessly burdensome law-keeping implied. In Christ, there is freedom from the yoke of the law– the freedom to love God and obey Him from the heart. That’s what Jesus wanted for the Pharisees. He didn’t want to punish them; He wanted to set them free. Free from duty and drudgery. Free from facades and fear. Free to rest in Christ and enjoy their Father rather than slaving away for Him.

And that’s what Jesus wants for us, too. He obeyed the Law perfectly for us so we wouldn’t have to (because we can’t). And when we trust that He did that for us, He gives us the righteousness that He earned with His law-keeping. Jesus sets us free from the need to strive, to try harder, to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. He sets us free to love and enjoy Him.

Whoa.

*Who Were the Sadducees and the Pharisees? by Got Questions?