Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Answering Challenges Like Jesus

Jesus’ Life
Mark 2:23-28
The Pharisees were saying to Him, "See here, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" 
And He said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he was in need and became hungry, he and his companions... 
The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath."

The Pharisees challenged Jesus about the disciples breaking of the Sabbath.  Now, the disciples were not actually breaking the Sabbath, but the traditions that the Pharisees had in place concerning the Sabbath. But Jesus did not apologize for their practice, or tell the disciples that they should just stop it until the Pharisees were gone.  Instead, he confronted the Pharisees and their wrong attitude about God’s righteousness.  He said that the Sabbath was made for mankind and so that man should determine the application of it—for what was best for people.  And hunger is never best.

Mark 7:1-8

The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?  And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. 'But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.' 
Again, the Pharisees challenged Jesus because the disciples didn’t wash their hands.  Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to do it.  Instead, he confronted the Pharisees with their concern about tradition rather than God’s command.

Mark 10:2-9

Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."
The teachers of Jesus’ day had an argument about divorce in God’s law.  Both acknowledged that divorce was acceptable, because of God’s command about it.  But some found it acceptable in just about any situation possible, while others said it was only acceptable in some circumstances.  The Pharisees wanted to make Jesus’ enemies by putting him in one camp or the other. When challenged in this, Jesus’ focus was on the righteousness of God and the need to not hurt another.  He made himself enemies in both sides by saying that divorce was unacceptable in any circumstance and it was a capitulation by Moses, acknowledging the rebellion of the Israelites. 

Mark 12:18-27

 Jesus said to them, "Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures, or the power of God?"
The Sadduccees were a group of Israelites that didn’t believe that people would be raised from the dead in a new body.  They gave Jesus their argument, which was complicated, but made sense in the law of Moses.  Jesus cut across the entire argument by speaking to the unspoken assumptions they had behind the argument and destroying them.  Again, Jesus made himself enemies here, but spoke the truth of God.

Mark 14:55-64

The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, "Do You make no answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?" But He kept silent, and made no answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" And Jesus said, "I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."
This time, the challenge before Jesus was a matter of life and death.  These people could kill Jesus if he spoke the wrong word.  First they claimed that he wanted to destroy the temple, and Jesus said nothing, neither confirming nor denying it.  When they asked him if he was the Messiah, the king, however, Jesus spoke the Father’s promise to him—that Jesus would sit at the right hand of the Father and that all these judging him would soon be judged by him.  This was unacceptable to them and declared that he must be killed.

Our Lives

Matthew 10:24-28

Do not fear them, for there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops.
Jesus said that we are to listen to him in order to understand what he is saying.  And then we are to clearly communicate it to others.   This means that we will have opposition and hatred coming against us—because many are opposed to the truth of Jesus and the ethics he taught.  In spite of that, we are to be bold and openly declare his teaching.  Even if they kill us, Jesus says, we are to fear God more than them because if we deny God’s truth then he can send us to hell, while people can only kill our bodies.

I Peter 3:14-16

But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.

Peter overcame his earlier difficulties (see the following story) to be a staunch defender of Jesus in the face of opposition.  In light of his experience, he is saying that we need to defend Jesus in the face of opposition, no matter what the cost.  Most people won’t kill us or cause us pain, but they might reject us or think badly of us.  No matter what, we are to defend Jesus and declare God’s righteousness.  If we are hated, rejected or hurt then we are to just accept that as part of the cost of being a Christian.

When Jesus called Peter, he was a lot of talk, but little action.  He claimed that he would suffer for Jesus, even die for him.  But when directly challenged, he would instantly turn to a lie.  When asked about whether Jesus paid a certain tax, he said that Jesus did, even though he didn’t know.  When he was afraid he would be arrested, he denied he knew Jesus three times.  With every challenge, he was so afraid of people that he would let them determine what he would say.  After Jesus rose from the dead and Peter received the Holy Spirit, then Peter had the boldness he needed to stand up for Jesus, even in the face of opposition.  He spoke about Jesus openly and when the ruling council of the Jews told him to stop, he openly refused.  Because of this, he was arrested and eventually crucified, but he feared suffering at the hands of men no more, knowing that it was better to be honored by God.  Matthew 17:24-27; Mark 14:66-72; Acts 3-5

Living It Out

Be aware of the difference between disagreement and challenge

In all these circumstances, Jesus was being told that he was in the wrong and that he should change.  In defending himself, he was firm and wise.  However, we must not act in such a way when someone is simply asking a question or simply wanting us to clarify.  In those cases, Jesus spoke in compassion and gentleness.

Don't be ashamed of God's truth

Be committed to speak God’s truth in Jesus whenever you have the opportunity.  If someone speaks against what Jesus said before you, take the opportunity to speak the truth in Jesus.  In may not be comfortable to do so, it may not feel right, but Jesus wants you to speak out for his sake.  If you do not speak, then the person may think that you are in agreement with them—it is better to speak than to let them live believing a lie that will send them to hell.

Don't fear opposition
Many people won’t like what we say if we stand for Jesus one hundred percent of the time.  Some people will yell at us or blame us for what other Christians have done. But that is no reason for not speaking the truth.  No matter what, we need to stand for Jesus, even as he stood for us, no matter what the cost.

Be prepared for opposition

If we speak the truth of Jesus, people will hate us and try to harm us.  They will speak against us and challenge us.  This is the promise of the New Testament.  Since this is the case, we need to be ready for these attacks.  We can have arguments ready, but more importantly is to be emotionally ready for rejection and verbal attack.  We need to “steel ourselves up” for opposition and be ready not to back down, but to speak what the Holy Spirit leads us to.

Defend the glory and righteousness of God

We are to seek God’s glory and to defend his reputation.  We are to seek God glorified through his people’s lives and speech.  We need to keep Jesus’ name cleared of false teaching and evil deeds.  In this way, we are to honor God with our speech by defending him before others when they speak something against him or his ways.

You don’t have to go out of your way to seek opposition, unless God calls you to

This doesn’t mean that if a group that teaches falsehood is in your area, that you need to confront them.  Jesus did not confront groups unless they confronted him.  There was a group in Jesus’ day called the Essenes that taught something wrong about God’s word, but we have no word that Jesus’ confronted them.  In fact, he seems to have ignored them completely.  Even as he ignored the Sadduccees until he was in Jerusalem.  That is because they never confronted him.  Unless God calls you to confront a certain group or person, our focus is to defend God with those who challenge us.  We don’t have to go out of our way to challenge others.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please no spam, ads or inappropriate language.