Oct 11, 2020
If we are honest, the negative effects of our changing culture are always at the forefront of our minds. I want to focus for a minute on the positives.
- Coming to church is more authentic.
- It is neither wise nor safe to come to church but for the rest, coming to church is for the relief of fellowship.
- Relationships centered on common life are both precious and essential.
- Mutual encouragement is necessary.
- Attendance not based on programmatic excellence but friendship, gathering to worship, and Bible intake.
This current environment has caused me to ask:
- “What will we look like in the next year?”
- “What will life as a pastor be in the next five years?”
- “Will preaching be the same?”
- “Will our freedoms be the same?”
“What will church growth look like?”
- “Is that even a realistic goal?”
A mission statement that has stuck with me since training for ministry in college comes to mind.
“You take care of the depth of the ministry, God will take care of the breadth of the ministry.”
I espoused this approach to my professor in front of around 30 or more youth majors and was roundly rebuked!
- The reigning philosophy was to contextualize the culture to draw in as many as possible.
- This was sacrosanct.
- “Use the culture to reach the culture.”
- When I spoke of depth, my professor’s face turned three shades of purple and he proceeded to lecture me in class about my antagonistic patterns in class.
- He had validated this siting my youth pastor whom (had made a huge mark on me) he knew and had personally trained years before.
- As I literally felt my body recede into my desk, a sheepish voice from the back of the class spoke up saying, “I agree with Jeff.”
- This was not and still is not a popular ministry approach!
- As the heat of our divided society turns up, contextual pragmatics fade to the background.
- The dividing line between being truth-seekers and compromise is apparent.
- The question is whether or not the church will grow or shrink?
- If you take care of the depth and leave the breadth to God, then I assume “grow” not “shrink.”
Matthew's account speaks to Jesus’ widespread “fame…throughout all Syria” (v. 24).
“Fame” [akoa] is “a spreading report that can be heard” – word based on the faculty of hearing (reverberating acoustics).
All “Syria” meaning your whole Bible map.
- Matthew uses “Syria” to speak of the northern Roman province encompassing Jerusalem all the way up beyond Galilee to Damascus.
- Hundreds of miles spread between Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Damascus, and stretching east to Decapolis (cf. v. 25).
“How did Jesus’ fame spread?”
Prop: Jesus’ fame spread through a triple function ministry
Jesus’ ministry was a “moving around” kind.
- I like Warren Wiersbe’s answer to why Jesus first chose fishermen as his disciples.
- They are busy!
- This was not “sit-around” work.
As a rule, busy people get more done.
- Jesus was busy.
He was moving around from place to place, “throughout all Galilee” (v. 23).
- As I said before, Jesus’ influence spread far beyond where he ministered but this does not mean Jesus was stationary.
- Galilee stretched out between a 70x40 miles area.
- 100 years later historians documented 204 cities and villages with populations ranging up to 15,000 people each.
- For Jesus to cover this kind of territory on a lesser scale meant traveling two villages a day for three months straight.
- The physical drain as an itinerant preacher, synagogue teacher, and healer is incomprehensible.
- Jesus was on the move, bringing the Kingdom.
- Jesus was not a reclusive rabbi or hermit.
- His geographical zone meant he was not exclusive reaching Jews only [Gentiles].
Jesus’ first ministry of “teaching” is not of little significance (v. 23).
- Jesus went to “synagogues” which were spread out as a Jewish witness everywhere surrounding Jerusalem.
- The Temple was different from the synagogue.
- Only one Temple in Jerusalem.
- Only place sacrifices offered.
Where ever there was a small colony of Jews there was a synagogue.
- Synagogues were the most important institution of life for the Jew.
- Synagogues were primarily for preaching and teaching.
- Teaching centers, modern universities.
- Developed during the Babylonian exile, expanding during the intertestamental period.
- Many Jews living thousands of miles away from Jerusalem could never visit the Temple (the shrine of Jerusalem) centered their religious and social life around the synagogue.
- A place of worship, study, community, and legal activity.
- They were either on the highest point of the city – on the hilltop with a spire or by the river.
- Prominently placed.
- The primary religious functions were Prayer, Readings, the Address, and Discussion.
You can see why the early New Testament church associated their gathering as if in a “synagogue” (cf. James 2:2 “For if a man…comes into your assembly [synagogue]”).
- Sections from the Torah would be read and expounded by visiting Rabbis.
- This in the tradition of Ezra after the return from Babylon (cf. Neh. 8:1-8) and later Jesus (cf. Luke 4:16-21).
- They had four elders to lead discussions and reconciled legal matters in conjunction with Roman rule.
- If you were put out of a synagogue this was life-altering and made for a deep offense.
None of this means that these centers were righteous.
- The Sanhedrin and Pilate exerted rule over Christ’s crucifixion according to this polity.
- Like secular universities or liberal churches, they were places for thinkers but misguided.
They needed correction from Christ!
- Clear teaching offered redirection and redemption.
- At this stage, the door and pulpit of these synagogues were open to Jesus and he took advantage!
The time is now to offer clear teaching in a confused society that needs answers. If you are paying attention to Hollywood, movie themes are all trying to answer why things happen the way they do. Are there outside forces beyond our comprehension influencing our life and circumstances. Christians are not unclear on the answers to all of these questions.
Jesus was also, “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom” (v. 23).
- Jesus’ preaching ministry, different from dialogue this is proclamation [knpusswv] “preaching” (v. 23).
- A definitive message of warning and hope.
- Warning and truth going hand in hand!
- Jesus’ presence is the message – a message of accountability that the choice to choose for his Kingdom is now. The King is here.
“What did Jesus preach?”
- The Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7?
- Kingdom living taught by the King.
- The “gospel” is the good news, which warns of the consequences of sin and offers a life eternal promised to those who give their lives to the King.
ESV Romans 14:17 aFor the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but bof righteousness and cpeace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Rom 14:17 ESV)
- Jesus being present meant his Kingdom had come.
- People enter this Kingdom by faith.
- And the Kingdom will come when Jesus comes again to establish His rule on earth for 1,000 years.
I will leave this point to our study in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matt. 5-7).
- Suffice it to say, Jesus was going “throughout all Galilee” in this expansive ministry, on the move, wasting no time, with at least four of his twelve Apostles, occupying his time with teaching and preaching.
- He had recruited fishermen and now moves to religious centers in Galilee.
- This is where thinkers were.
- Those thinking about the Old Testament.
- Jesus builds on what people already knew and was “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom.”
- Before miracles, Jesus taught. Nevertheless, Jesus brought miracles.
I want to open up with a few important matters regarding Jesus’ ministry of healing as there has been a lot of confusion in the church abroad because of false teachers pretending to heal in Jesus’ name.
First, in Scripture, when Jesus heals it is never partial, always comprehensive, and instantaneous.
- Jesus healed “…every disease and every affliction” (v. 23).
- Jesus was definitely busy healing in a demonstrative way proving that heaven at this moment had truly come to down to earth.
- Jesus’ divinity and identity as the Messiah is fully vindicated.
- God is here. God is “among the people” (v. 23).
Jesus is also compassionate!
- Jesus was healing everyone who came to him.
At the same time, recognize Jesus’ healing ministry was episodic.
- It was the same with the Apostles.
- Miracles in the Old Testament were designed as interventions.
- Invasions into time and space.
- Supernatural interrupting the natural.
- It is important to note that Jesus is not healing everyone on earth while on earth.
- Everyone being healed is not the point of miraculous healing.
- These kinds of demonstrations will occur again just prior to the millennial Kingdom but for now, healing is not at the forefront.
This trifecta of ministry should influence the way we operate as a church. We teach, we preach, and we heal.
- We heal hearts and restore lives with Gospel mercy.
The result of this trifecta was Jesus’ “…fame spread throughout all Syria” (v. 24).
“Is it wrong to seek “fame” even for Jesus’ fame?”
- “Did Jesus want fame?”
- It is of course always righteous for Christ Jesus to be glorified or center-of-attention, however, it is important to know Jesus did not ever seek glory in a selfish way.
- For quick clarity, just replace the word “fame” with “influence.”
- Remember: “Take care of the depth of our ministry and let God take care of the breadth!”
There was no doubt, no question regarding Jesus’ unique and divine power. None!
- He was not like “faith healers” who half-heal or only heal the front row!
- There is no mention here of what Jesus’ healing ministry looked like.
- Why I shy away from movies that display what people think this looked like. Healing is not social justice but a demonstration of God’s power.
- His healing was emblematic of future healing we anticipate when we go to heaven. When our bodies are fully restored at the resurrection.
Still, how do we reconcile that Jesus (at the right hand of the Father) 2,000 years later is the “same?”
ESV Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is athe same yesterday and today and forever.
- We are to go to him as the crowds did, but with our greatest needs!
- He heals every spiritual disease we have!
- This takes faith.
- Ironically, Faith Healers require no real faith. They want your money!
- Jesus is the Great Physician who heals perfectly and eternally every time he heals.
- [Question] “Does he heal with miracles today?”
- He can yet we seek first the Kingdom of God.
Jesus’ “fame spread throughout all Syria” (v. 24).
- While Jesus stayed in Galilee, his reputation drew people from hundreds and hundreds of miles away.
- This vast influence on Jews and Gentiles.
These are three categories of severe pain. Diseased - Demonized – Delirious
a. Diseases were varied and described as torturous.
- People in ICU.
- “Multi-colored” diseases.
We have a recent taste of the fear people succumb to when there is a disease without a cure.
- Society at this stage had no medical remedy.
- No anti-viral or antibiotics. Unlike modern medicine, everything was certain death.
b. Demons are included in this list and this is curious.
- Some believe demons are the cause of disease or seizures that are mentioned as the end of this list.
- Understanding how demons fit into a list related to physical problems comes down to first understanding “the gospel of the kingdom” (v. 23).
- What does the gospel deal with? Our sin!
- The effects of the fall.
- What does sin bring?
- Sickness, disease, pain, death, and demons!
“What is the solution for demons?” Faith.
ESV 1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for ahe who is in you is greater than bhe who is in the world.
- I do not believe a Christian can be demon-possessed.
ESV 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 aDo not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For bwhat partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or cwhat fellowship has light with darkness? 15 aWhat accord has Christ with Belial?1 Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?
Jesus bringing the kingdom includes helping “those oppressed by demons.”
- Jesus’ compassion was real for each one.
- Whether casting 7 demons out of Mary Magdalene or out of a child demon-influenced to throw himself into fire or water.
- Or, to crazed demoniacs by the Sea of Gennesarat, supercharged terrorists possessed by Legion!
Having compassion for someone demonized takes faith.
Not too long ago I noticed a young woman beating her fists on our piano on the stage. The room was dark while GCS was just opening for the morning. She walked up to me and I knew something was wrong and that we might attack.
Thankfully Sandy Johnson and others walked up. She was spouting a false Gospel while we gave her the right one. She was there but not. And was we intervened she responded with sensuality.
We tried to escort her out the door and she turned and stared me down. Ultimately, a police officer had to come and escort her away in restraints. Later, an officer from our church showed a video of her attacking him while in uniform and he had to take her down.
c. Deliriousness is the third category mentioned.
- This includes physical seizures or epilepsy and paralysis, both of which have been associated with demon influence.
- The English word for epileptics is lunacy, which tends more toward mental health.
- Some label this as “moonstruck.”
- The Gospel brings clarity to the mind even when the body fails.
- We should not underestimate the power of the Gospel that can redirect thinking toward hope even when the body fails.
- Jesus instantaneously and comprehensively healed all these who were brought to him.
Heaven promises to heal all three severe pain categories!
- Instantaneously and comprehensively.
- In heaven, there will be no more tears and no more death and no more demons.
- Suffering is over forever.
- This is what Jesus allowed people to taste.
- Healing for them was temporal.
- Though healed at that moment, they would still suffer the effects of the fall until heaven.
I want to just touch on verse 25.
It says, “…great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan” (v. 25).
This verse completes our answers to the two questions I have posed.
First, on approaching church in light of our freedoms being threatened by fear.
- We “teach, preach, and heal” – what church is all about.
- We all “teach” Christ all the time.
- We “preach” the Word without compromise.
- We “heal” hearts with compassion for all who come.
We take care of the depth and let God take care of the breath!
Second, what about the issue of “Fame?”
- We know Jesus was not prideful with a large following and neither should we be!
- Understand, “…great crowds follow[ing] him” does not equate to faith.
- Jesus’ influence reached way North to Damascus (200 miles beyond Galilee), way South to Judea (miles below Jerusalem), way the West beyond trans-Jordan, and way East to the ten Greek/Romanized cities East of the Jordan.
- They followed Jesus’ influence but were they truly following Jesus as disciples.
This is always the question.
Do you truly know Jesus or have you settled with knowing about Jesus?
Do you truly love Jesus or do you love the idea of Jesus?
Have you truly received the benefits of Jesus or have you merely been exposed to the power of them from arm’s length?
When you believe the Gospel of the Kingdom, you know heaven on earth.
Still, ensconced inside our temporal bodies, but free from sin’s bondage, from demonic control, and from sin’s ultimate curse.
If not believe this Gospel both taught and preached. The Gospel that will heal your heart.