For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
Obedience is not an easy idea to surrender to and for many not something we are interested in. Who really wants to obey someone else? Who wants to live by someone else’s standards and/or expectations? I just want to do what I want to do!? It is hard for humanity to understand that obedience is actually the only way to truly find freedom and to live life to its fullest.
Take Paul for example. Paul was a man who started off doing whatever he wanted – which at the time was persecuting the Christians and trying to stop their movement from spreading. But, later, found a much more successful and free life through being obedient to God instead of trying to stop God. Paul left a life of doing whatever he wanted to a life of doing whatever God wanted. Why would he do that? Why surrender to God and do whatever God wants?
Paul saw in God something he never saw in anyone or anything else. He saw an incredible level of faithfulness. Paul had seen leaders come and leaders go. He saw humanity say one thing and do another – broken promises, lies, and manipulation. Through Christ he witnessed God make good on His promises dating way back to the days of Abraham (Paul knew his Old Testament). In Christ he witnessed faithfulness and love despite a total lack of faith and love on our part. All of this brought about faith in Paul’s heart, a faith that led to his obedience.
Paul obeyed God because he had faith in him. For Paul, and hopefully for us, Faith is not just an intellectual assent to a series of propositions but surrender to the One who asks us to trust Him. To surrender, to have faith, is to obey. Paul’s faith told him that God would always do what was best, He would never leave Him alone, He would never forget about him, and He would always love him. Who wouldn’t want to follow, to obey, someone in which you have that much faith and trust.
The question for us today is how is our faith? Is our faith deep enough to lead to our obedience? If we began living in obedient faith right now what would change? If we lived every day like that – where would God take us? I don’t know – but I do know the One leading the way and I know He always has my best interest at heart. Have faith – and obey.
The Beast of Burden
Behold your King is coming to you, Gentle, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.
The Sunday before Easter (today) is often referred to as Palm Sunday. It gets that title because it has traditionally been the day we remember Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem as He begins His journey to the cross. On that day as Jesus entered the city He was greeted with people praising Him and waiving palm branches, hence Palm Sunday. Today, I want to draw your attention away from the branches being waved and focus on the ride Jesus had – the donkey.
Most of today’s Bible translations will interpret the Greek word (hypozygion) as donkey. But, the word literally means a pack animal and is translated in a few translations as “beast of burden.” I find that translation to be incredibly helpful in looking at this day from Jesus’ perspective. From ours we usually describe it as an exciting day and the pictures we usually see that depict this day is one of celebration. Much like we think a parade is like. But, if we pay close attention to all the accounts of this day in The Gospel’s we can see that in the moment, it was a heavy day for Jesus.
Luke describes Jesus as looking out over Jerusalem and crying over it because He knows the destruction that awaits them because of the decisions they had made. John records Jesus as saying, just after the entrance into the city, that His soul was troubled. Then, here in Matthew He is riding a donkey. You know donkey’s do, right? They carry burdens, the stuff people don’t want to carry or can carry. They take the weight off during the journeys of life.
One of the things that strikes me in this is that on this day Jesus needed a beast of burden to help Him in this part of His journey. As Jesus entered the city He had the sin of the world on His shoulders. The human side of Christ had to be exhausted. So, He asked for a beast of burden to help Him carry the load. If Jesus needed help and wasn’t afraid to ask for it, then we shouldn’t shy away from it either. If we are overwhelmed with life and the burdens are becoming too much to carry, be sure to say, I need a beast of burden to help carry this load!
So, who is that beast for us? First and foremost the answer is Jesus. Before heading into Jerusalem He invited everyone who was weary and heavy-laden to come to Him so He could give them rest. He invited them to lay their burdens on Him and He would lighten their load. Unload on Jesus – our beast of burden! Let Him carry those burdens that you are too tired to carry. He wants them.
Palm Sunday is the day we celebrate the arrival of Jesus, our beast of burden, coming to our rescue. The moment Jesus embarks on the last leg of His journey to set us free. He isn’t looking for less of a burden, He is taking on more. He wants to free you from yours. Will you let Him?
Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
Over 2,000 years ago Jesus announced the beginning of His church. Ever wonder what exactly that meant? The word “church” is understood in many different ways today (building, organization, group of Christians) and it also had various definitions during the time of Jesus too (a gathering of people for political reasons, a group of like minded people). It is interesting to note that it didn’t take on a predominantly Christian definition until after Jesus. So, when Jesus said He would build His church, it could have created some questions – what does He mean by that?
Jesus was primarily talking about the inauguration of a new community of people that would be scattered over the face of the earth to continue the movement He started. It is true that Jesus came to die on the cross and rise from the dead to pay the price for our sin and to extend to us the opportunity of forgiveness and salvation. But, that is not all He did. In Luke 4 Jesus declared, publicly, His mission to be “bringing Good News to the poor, proclaiming the release of the captives, healing the blind, freeing the oppressed, and declaring God’s favor had come.” (Luke 4:18-19). This community He was launching with Peter was to continue that movement and change the world.
Soon after the ascension of Jesus in Acts Peter does just that. He stands and proclaims the truth of Jesus to thousands of people and many come to believe in the Good News! The movement was continuing. All the great things Jesus taught and did would continue on through this church which no one could stop. The movement that is still moving and still changing lives today.
When Jesus announced the establishment of His church it wasn’t the beginning of a new organization or a new religion, it was the beginning of a new and better way to live life. As people all over the world have witnessed His mighty work and heard His amazing Truth the movement has continued to grow and reach people in all walks of life and in every situation.
What He started 2,000 years ago is still the best there is today. We have seen countless movements for many different things come and go in our society. Things that are trendy today might not be trendy tomorrow as everything just seems to be changing at an incredible rate. But, the one thing that has stood the test of time and remains just as true today as it was the day it started is the church of Jesus Christ. Being a part of His movement, of His family, is still the best way to live life. Is still the best and only way to experience true freedom, healing, and life transformation. It is a movement not even the powers of hell can stop. The best news of all – everyone is welcome to join the movement – have you? Will you?
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.