Sunday, November 28, 2010

Whom Do You Love? - Mark 12:28-34

Whom Do You Love? - Mark 12:28-34
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 28, 2010

This past Thanksgiving I heard people exclaim that they loved pie, sweet potatoes, dressing, turkey, and just about any other food that was placed in front of them. We use the word love for defining a lot of things in our lives. Sadly, the word love is often used in the wrong way concerning relationships in our lives. Perhaps no better definition for our day concerning love is better expressed than in the song Barney the Dinosaur sings: “I love you, you love me; we’re a happy family! With a great big hug, and a kiss from me to you; won’t you say you love me too?” Love has been reduced to an emotion we feel, rather than an expression.

Here in Mark’s gospel we find Jesus answering his questioners concerning what the greatest commandment of God is. Contrary to what some may think, the love of God is conveyed throughout the commands of God. Jesus remarked to his disciples, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) and here he defines exactly what that means. When we look at Jesus’ answer it helps us to focus not simply on what loves is, but on whom we are to love. In fact, Jesus’ makes each of us answer the ultimate question, “Whom do you love?” Let’s find out how we can honestly answer…

READ: Mark 12:28-34

The time of confrontation by questioners was over with this last incident. Jesus meets someone who stands back and listens while he goes toe-to-toe with everyone who is willing to challenge him both intellectually and spiritually. Jesus amazingly meets all comers with wonderful answers. He is amused and steps forward to ask his one question. It is a question that plagued those who sought to know God through strict adherence to his law. He was not concerned about whom he loved, he had…

I. A question concerning the commandments! (V. 28)

1. Righteousness comes by faith! Evidently, one of the teachers of the law had heard and seen what was going on between Jesus and the Sadducee. He “came and heard them debating.” He was more than likely a Pharisee, and it is not evident that he had any hidden agenda or motive. We see that he was impressed by Jesus’ answers. Traditionally the scribes spoke of 613 individual commandments of the Mosaic Law — 365 negative ones and 248 positive ones. While they believed all were binding, they assumed a distinction between weightier and lighter statutes and often attempted to sum up the whole Law in one single unifying command. It was kind of a “holy grail” for them. Interestingly this man asks Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Literally, he is asking Jesus, “What kind of commandment is the first among all the commandments?” He wanted to know which commandment was primary and therefore the most important to follow. If Jesus could answer this question, then he and his teaching could be respected. However, he was asking a question that concentrated on the wrong thing. This man was thinking about what he had to do to be made righteous, rather than whom he should follow. Too many do that when it comes to their faith. Paul would state that, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference…” Why? Because Paul knew that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22--24) Following the commands of God will never bring one closer to God relationally. It isn’t a question of knowing the foremost command of God, it is found in following His one and only son! It is a question concerning the commandments that is answered by faith!

EXAMPLE: Legalists love to follow the letter of the law as they see it. Sadly, following the law becomes more important for them than knowing the personal God who gave them the law in the first place. They can point to their adherence of worshipping on a particular day, eating only certain foods, and keeping themselves pure from the sinful world but they are devoid of true faith. Faith comes from trust and not adherence. Trust comes from love. Recently at my grandson’s play day, a little girl had gone swimming with her mother beforehand. I heard them talking about it. The girl was only about three or four. Her mother said, “And you trusted mommy didn’t you when we were learning to float, didn’t you?” “Yes, momma, that’s because you love me and I love you!” She had faith and trust in her mother because she knew he mother loved her. Legalism fails where love succeeds. If you are like this teacher of the law looking for one thing that you can do that will save you, you will not find it. He had a question concerning the commandments, do you?

Those who follow the letter of the law, often fail to see the love involved in the law. They desire that God love them, but they are unwilling to allow God’s love flow into the lives of others. God did not give his people the law so they would become mind-numbed robots marching in lockstep to the beat of an incessant almighty drummer. In fact, we discover that…

II. The answer is to love God completely and others wholeheartedly! (Vv. 29-31)

1. We love because he first loved us! Jesus goes beyond the question to the heart of the issue. He answers his questioner by telling him, “The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Jesus begins with the Shema, which was recited twice daily by devout Jews during their prayer times. Most Hebrews stopped there in their recitation, but Jesus adds the following admonition from Deuteronomy to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) By doing so, Jesus is saying that the One God desires that his followers love him with all that they are. It is a total trust that results in a life given completely over to the Lord. It is a matter of believing what you say. Words are just words until you put faith behind them. Saying there is only “one God” is great, however if you truly believe that, then you will “love God” with all that you are! All your actions and attitudes are to display that love of God; therefore, the second part of Jesus’ answer teaches his listener exactly what this means. Jesus goes on to apply the Shema by saying the “second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” These are the “first” and primary commands of God. They are personal, comprehensive, and wholehearted. In fact, “There is no commandment greater than these.” A person cannot say they “love God” without displaying that love every day of their lives to those around them! The Hebrews had a hard time with this concept. They hated the Samaritans; they hated the Romans; why they even hated one another if you were not part of their select group! Sadly, the same can be said far too often of believers. We are quick to say we love God, but hold grudges, remember slights, will not forgive, and demand that everyone else understand and love us! John would remind us that, “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:19-21) the answer is to love God completely and others wholeheartedly!

EXAMPLE: One thing I have learned in ministry is that you cannot control what other people do no matter how much you want to do so. Folks have to be willing to do the right thing because they want to and not because you have manipulated them. I used to hate it when my mother used guilt to get me to do things. I was wonderfully surprised to learn that God does not work that way. He desires that his people follow him out of love and devotion. If you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, you will willingly do whatever he asks you to do because you love him. Your service is not dependent upon how you or others feel; it is squarely established in his love for you and your love for God. This motivates the believer to love others no matter what. Again, as John writes, “We love because he first loved us.” The answer is to love God completely and others wholeheartedly!

The questioner never thought he would be the one confounded by his own question! Yet this is exactly what Jesus does to this teacher of the law. The world today needs to hear Jesus’ answer from Christians! Perhaps in understanding how Jesus answers this individual we need to ask ourselves…

III. How would I answer the question? (Vv. 32-34)

1. Pride does indeed come before the fall! Oh how close can someone be to the truth and yet deny it for themselves! A pastor told me “it can be just a prideful pout away!” Here, we find this to be the case with this teacher of the law. He willingly tells Jesus, “Well said, teacher!” and acknowledges that Jesus is “right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.” But he continues his response by editing the Scripture. He goes on to admit, “To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” He uses the term “understanding” and omits the usage of “God” and inserts the generic term “him” in his reply (v. 33). Understanding for this man was found in his intellect. He thought that if he just studied about God and his law, acknowledged God with his mind, followed his commands intently, and felt sympathy for his fellow neighbors it was enough. He was so close and yet so far away. Why would I say that? Didn’t Jesus realize that he had “answered wisely”? Yes, and there is the key. He answered wisely, but not in faith. Jesus tells him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But he was not quite there yet. Pride was in his way. This man was open to hear the law of God and he was willing to be taught the nuances of following the law of God, but he would not commit himself to faith in Jesus! He would not take that final step. As Maxwell Smart from the old TV show “Get Smart” would say, “He missed by that much!” Paul wrote his friend Timothy to tell him that there would be prideful people who are “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7) As the Proverbist would state, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) Far too many have entered eternity separated from God because of their pride. How will you answer the question?

EXAMPLE: Have you ever heard of the man who prided himself on being an expert archer? He never missed! The secret to his success was that after he shot his arrow at the side of his barn, he painted a bull’s-eye around the arrow. We can do that with our lives as well. Joe Stowell writes, “It’s easy to live our lives doing what we want and thinking that our ways and instincts are right on target when in reality our ‘bull’s-eye’ shots at life are not on target at all.” Pride has caused more people to slam the gates of hell behind themselves than anything else. As long as I live I will never forget how after witnessing to a young man, he related, “I know what I need to do, I understand what you are telling me, but I just do not want to change my life.” I would love to tell you that he later gave his life to Christ, but as far as I know, he has not done so. A good man who is not a godly man because he never trusted Jesus, God’s one and only Son. Far too many have entered eternity separated from God because of their pride. How will you answer the question?

Conclusion:
In knowing the answer to “Whom do you love?” isn’t about following the commandments of God, it is found in loving God completely and others wholeheartedly. Now, let me ask you, “How will you answer the question?”
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A New Relationship - Mark 12:18-27

A New Relationship - Mark 12:18-27
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 21, 2010 AM

A few years ago I was in a grocery store when a young mother with her little preschooler came walking down the aisle. The little girl kept asking for different things and the mother would patiently respond, “No, you cannot have that, stop asking.” When the little girl had evidently had enough of the answer she did not like, she lay down in the middle of the aisle and begin to throw one spectacular fit. The mother did not flinch; she just kept shopping, and related to her daughter, “When you are done, I will be in the next aisle over.” She then calmly put the item she had been looking at in her cart and walked around the corner.

When some folks do not get the answer they want, they can act just like a little immature preschooler. Evidently the religious ruling class did not get the answer they wanted out of Jesus, so they send in another group to try and entrap him with a bizarre question concerning wives, widows, and the resurrection. What these ignoramuses failed to understand is that Jesus was teaching about a whole new relationship, a new relationship that would change everything forever. Let’s find out what happens…

READ: Mark 12:18-27

When we place our faith in Christ, we enter into a whole new relationship with God. But some continually want to dispute this fact. Why is it that some folks love arguing simply for the sake of arguing? Then there are those who love to twist tails by setting up a straw man argument. The Straw Man argument is committed when a person simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. The Sadducees do this by…

I. Using a hypothetically impossible situation!

1. The resurrection makes our new relationship with God possible! The Sadducees, unlike the Pharisees, did not believe in resurrection. It was something not taught in the Law of Moses and the Sadducees only viewed the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, as authoritative. Sadducees saw the here and now as being where a righteous person is blessed or cursed. There was no afterlife. They also understood that their rivals the Pharisees agreed with many of Jesus’ teachings, including the resurrection, the kingdom of God, angels, and eternal life, so they were trying to show that the doctrine of resurrection was incompatible with the law by suggesting an off the wall situation. “‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?’” (Mark 12:19-23) WOW! Sounds like one of those new reality TV shows! The law did address the care of a widow by a man’s brother, but it is highly unlikely that anything even remotely approaching the circumstances they describe would ever occur. Jesus is in Jerusalem again and the pressure is on to find something they can entrap him. Were they truly concerned about the resurrection? Let’s review what Jesus taught. Jesus had told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” And then he asks her, “Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) This is what drove the Sadducees crazy toward Jesus and his teaching. Luke related in his answer to this question the Sadducees put to Jesus, that he responded by telling them that “those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead… they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection.” (Luke 20:35-36) The Sadducees had used a hypothetically impossible situation. Jesus knew however that the resurrection makes our new relationship with God possible.

EXAMPLE: If I asked the question, “Where’s Waldo?” you might recall those popular children’s picture books from the 1980s. That little guy in the red-and-white-striped shirt and hat loved to hide in the pages amid a busy blur of images that made it nearly impossible to find him. Why do some folks treat God like “Where’s Waldo?”? Here’s what I mean: Some think that God camouflages himself and we have to “discover” where he is hiding. Or that God gives us crossword clues and we have to figure out his secret code in order to discover what he desires. Some ask silly enigmatic questions concerning faith. One such question I have been asked was, “If God revealed himself to you as a Smurf, would you still worship him?” The answer is that he already has revealed himself to us, and not as a Smurf. The Sadducees deliberately asked a hypothetically impossible question in order to justify themselves before their fellow Jews. Jesus was unfazed. He knew that the resurrection makes our new relationship with God possible.

The entire imaginary situation solely exists in the warped minds of those who wanted to entrap Jesus. Again, he isn’t fooled. Jesus knew that the resurrection would come and change everything. In fact, our faith changes our eternal situation! Therefore, Jesus answers truthfully in a manner that supports who he is and his mission. He gives them…

II. An authentic answer!

1. Our new relationship changes everything! Jesus gives several responses that his questioners did not expect. The first answer he gives denies that there is any problem because the believer’s resurrection existence is completely different from their earthly life. Jesus bluntly tells them that they are in “error” and rhetorically accuses them of not knowing “the Scriptures or the power of God!” Things like marriage simply do not exist as we understand them in heaven. In fact relationships will be similar but changed in a whole new wonderful way! Jesus explains that “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” Angels are created beings, but they have no need of marriage because there is no need for their sexual reproduction. They are neither male nor female, they are simply God’s messengers and each has specific duties. Mankind was created by God, but unlike angels, we were given the command to subdue the earth and to be fruitful and multiply. (Genesis 1:28) In the coming kingdom there will be no need to “subdue and multiply.” Jesus’ next answer, while sounding awkward, actually is designed to teach that resurrection does indeed happen. Jesus emphatically responds by saying, “When the dead rise” and “about the dead rising.” It was a fact. The resurrection was going to happen whether the Sadducees believed in it or not! The same is true for our day and age as well! Jesus’ questioners were being hypocritical because they did not actually believe what they were asking! Jesus turns their own argument back on them by asking them, “have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?” Of course they had. They believed in the Patriarchs. However, if God said he was the God of these men found in the Pentateuch, it meant that God was continually their God from the time he spoke to Moses from the burning bush until then! Therefore, God “is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Jesus tells them, “You are badly mistaken!” Not only was their questioning of Jesus concerning the resurrection skewed, but their impossible question was ill founded! The Sadducees used a weak argument that had sounded convincing to them, and Jesus gives them an authentic answer! Our new relationship changes everything!

EXAMPLE: I have discovered that getting to the heart of the question is what truly matters. This is especially true when it concerns answering people’s questions about faith in Christ. I have found that if you simply allow folks to read the Scripture for themselves and ask them what they think it means, it allows them the freedom to express what they are learning about God. I am not telling what them to think nor am I “judging” them. This works in counseling as well. In fact, there have been times when I have shared with very angry folks and after I have allowed them to vent, they eventually tell me the real problem. One person asked me, “Why do you always ask me what I think? Why don’t you tell me what to think?” I smiled and asked, “Why would you say that?” We both ended up laughing over this, but they were able to relate how they felt and found their own answer to their predicament. Jesus does this with the Sadducees. They were not really asking for an answer, but they needed one anyway and Jesus helps them to find it for themselves. They do not like it, but in doing so, Jesus gives them an authentic answer.

Conclusion:

We learned a couple of things this morning concerning our new relationship with Jesus. The Sadducees used a hypothetically impossible situation but Jesus gives them an authentic answer concerning our new relationship.
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Render Rightly - Mark 12:13-17

Render Rightly - Mark 12:13-17
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 14, 2010 AM

When I was younger we used to set small snares that would safely trap small animals like mice, chipmunks, rabbits and squirrels. In fact, my brother Ed and I spent one whole summer trapping chipmunks, letting them go, and trying to tame them. While the taming never worked, they bit and clawed in a terror-stricken frenzy, the trapping went well. There are folks who spend their whole time trying to catch innocent people saying or doing things. They are called the press. Then there are the vultures known as the “Paparazzi.” It is an Italian term used to refer to photojournalists who specialize in candid photography of celebrities, politicians, and other prominent people. Then there are those who try to trap people with the words they use. These are called lawyers.

In our lives we learn to render our words correctly from the time we are little and into adulthood. Like little politicians, children learn very quickly how to turn a phrase to confuse their questioner or benefit themselves. When believers do this with their lives in Christ, it is truly pathetic. Christians can be guilty of obfuscating, when they deliberately make their answers confusing or difficult concerning their walk with the Lord. Far too many Christians enjoy dancing around the gospel truth rather than living it. This is ungodly. In today’s passage we find Jesus being confronted by those religious leaders who loved arguing about spiritual truth. All they desired was to entrap Jesus with his own words. He tells them to begin to render rightly. Let’s find out how…

READ: Mark 12:13-17

Debating is a skillful art if done correctly. Do not think that by simply having an “I gotcha” moment declares the winner. This is simply not true. Often it is though logical progression, factual accuracy and a degree of emotional appeal to the audience that are important. In debating, one side often prevails over the other side by presenting a far more subtle yet clear argument. Children learn these tactics right before Christmas, especially, if they want a Red Rider BB Gun! However, a good debate always begins with a question or an argument. Here, in Mark’s gospel we discover…

I. The argument! (Vv. 13-15a)

1. It is better to be thought a fool, then to open your mouth and remove all doubt! Luke tells us what actually motivated this incident: “Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor.” (Luke 20:20) When these men come to Jesus with their question, they think they can fool him. They begin by buttering Jesus up with flattery. “Teacher,” they purr, “we know you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.” They did not care! The truth was standing before them and they refused to recognize Jesus for who he was – the Messiah! These slimy chariot chasing lawyers are trying to ensnare Jesus. If Jesus saw himself as a rabbi, prophet, or the Messiah he could not publicly state he supported paying taxes to Rome! So they ask, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn't we?” It is an “I gotcha” moment for the Pharisees and Herodians. The Pharisees prided themselves in knowing all the nuances of the law. They sought a religious answer. The Herodians supported the Herods. They sought a political answer. There is good evidence that they were possibly linked with the Essenes. These folks lived communal lives dedicated to asceticism, voluntary poverty, daily baptisms, and abstinence from worldly pleasures, including marriage. Herod was fascinated by them and protected them, even though they claimed a Messianic king would come to overthrow the corrupt Herodian government, the chief priests, and the Romans. It was the issue of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. Some believe this is why Herod was curious concerning John the Baptist. Their argument sought to put Jesus on the spot but displayed their foolishness instead. We discover that it is often better to be thought foolish, than to open our mouths and remove all doubt! What is your argument with Jesus?

EXAMPLE: Here’s what I mean: Believers can begin to have arguments or rather discussions with Jesus. Arguments they already know the answer to, but they persist anyway. When the Pharisees and Herodians came to ask Jesus a question, they already knew the answer they wanted. They sought to corner Jesus and thereby entrap him by his answer. Christians do the very same thing when they come to Jesus with an argument they already know the answer to. Arguments concerning sin they want Jesus to excuse. Some Christians have swallowed their own convoluted reasoning and actually think that a good God would not hold them accountable for their continued sin. Jesus told his disciples, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12:36) I learned a long time ago that in a debate never start arguments you already know the answer to, especially if the person you are arguing with knows it as well. Perhaps we would do well to honestly ask ourselves, “What is my argument with Jesus?”

Arguing for arguments sake is not true debating, it is simply irritating, and can result in swift punishment. My father often tried to tell my brother the fact concerning this, but he was a tough nut to crack. Ed had to learn through physical trial and error. Like Jacob in the Old Testament, I learned to take a negative response and turn it into a positive outcome. A good debater knows how to find his opponent’s weakness in their argument and turn it to their own favor. We discover that Jesus does this as we look at…

II. The answer! (Vv. 15b-17)

1. If you ask the question, you may get an answer you did not want! Jesus isn’t fooled and immediately suspects and exposes their hypocrisy. He openly confronts their attempt to ensnare him by bluntly asking, “Why are you trying to trap me?” then he does something they never expected, he demands they bring him a denarius to look at! Jesus boldly confronts the issue. The common Roman denarius was a small silver coin. It was the only coin acceptable for imperial tax payments. Everyone carried them, but interestingly Jesus does not. I believe it is because it is consistent with who Jesus was and why he came. Jesus did not come to overthrow the established government, nor did he come to tear down the ruling class, instead he came to “seek and save the lost.” What follows is an in-your-face answer to the deceptive argument of the Pharisees and Herodians. They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. With Jesus’ simple question, he has already disarmed their argument. He deliberately confronts them with actual problem! The coin was probably one of Tiberius’. He was the Roman emperor during Jesus’ time. On one side of the coin the inscription read in Latin: “Tiberius Caesar Augustus, Son of the Divine Augustus” and on the reverse side: “Chief Priest.” This inscription originated in the imperial cult of emperor worship and was a claim to divinity, which was particularly repulsive to the Jews. Jesus therefore answers in a magnificent way by stating, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God’s.” Both groups were amazed at Jesus’ answer. Actually, they were literally beside themselves. With one quick response Jesus disarms their argument. Jesus actually gives them a twofold answer. He was not only tacitly telling them to pay Rome’s false god his earthly due, but to also honor the real God with all they had. What is your answer when you are confronted by those in the world? What is your answer when you are confronted by Jesus concerning sin? Do not be surprised when after asking the question, you get an answer you did not want!

EXAMPLE: I had a professor that related that little quip I just mentioned: “If you ask a question, you may get an answer you did not want!” He was speaking to an entire class of frightened seminary students. He was known for his ability to slice and dice an unsuspecting student who did not think before asking their question. My father had a different kind of attitude and he often related, “There are no stupid questions. If you want to know something, ask!” I believe God has the same kind of attitude towards those who are sincerely seeking answers. After all, he told Jeremiah, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) God always desires to give us the answer we seek concerning him; we need only to seek him with our whole heart, unlike the Herodians and Pharisees of Jesus’ day.

Conclusion:
We learned about the argument and the answer! Perhaps we would do well to honestly ask ourselves, “What is my argument with Jesus?” God always desires to give us the answer we seek concerning him; we need only to seek him with our whole heart, unlike the Herodians and Pharisees of Jesus’ day. We need to stop debating and seek Jesus!
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Are You Just A “Tenant”? - Mark 12:1-12

Are You Just A “Tenant”? - Mark 12:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 07, 2010 AM

We like being in control. However, the Psalmist tells us to “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalms 2:12) Many have deliberately forgotten this Scriptural truth because the convoluted reasoning goes: “If I can ignore God in my life, then I can do whatever I want whenever I want, even if it concerns ungodliness.” This was true for Israel. Yet time after time God had tried to bring them back to himself. Rather than being the people of God they should have been, they became mere tenants, renters of God’s truth, despising God and desperately trying to control their lives without acknowledging Him.

Harvest time, before the advent of modern computerized corporate farms, was a time of great community celebration. A good harvest could mean survival through the winter and being able to plant new crops in the spring. A bumper crop could mean extra seed, perhaps a profit, and being able to expand your farm. Jesus however uses the example of a harvest, and its owner who comes to collect his crop as a means to teach his listeners that they had blown it. What Jesus shares angers his listeners and it should give Christians today pause in its implications for our time as well. The question we need to ask ourselves is, “Are we just being a tenant in our Christianity?” Let’s find out…

READ: Mark 12:1-12

As we listen to Jesus’ example, we discover…

I. A mere tenant disrespects the rightful owner!

1. “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” (1 Timothy 6:7) Notice Jesus begins to speak to his audience “in parables.” It literally meant, “to cast alongside of,” and so it meant a teaching that is placed within a story that people could relate to from their daily lives. Jesus uses the common tale of a landowner who plants his fields and goes on a trip. He leaves others in charge of his holdings. He does all the hard work, he makes all the investments to improve the land, and he uses his own resources. In Jesus’ day this was a common practice. The owner then rents his land to some farmers to take care of it while he is away. They would get paid for their work, and if they did a good job, they usually would earn a share of the profit from the harvest. But we discover that those left in charge did not honor their contract. Sadly, resentment can build between those who begin to think they deserve what does not belong to them. Here, it was the harvest. Tenants can forget that they are renters and not the owners. Christians can become just like the Jews of Jesus’ day. They had been entrusted with the sacred things of God, but they began to think their personal interpretation was far more important. They actually thought they were the owners! Believers can begin to think that what they feel about their faith or think about Jesus is far more important than what they have been entrusted. Christians can arrogantly begin to think they own the gospel and determine who hears it or not! It is a sign of disrespect. The harvest belongs to God alone. It cannot be prepackaged or commercialized because when it is, it begins to be cheapened and disrespected. Remember, Jesus had just cleansed the temple for a reason. The Jews had begun to disrespect the temple and thereby the message of God. A mere tenant disrespects the rightful owner!

EXAMPLE: I can remember when my parents rented out our basement they never demanded any kind of deposit. Most owners did no because renters knew that the property was not theirs, and they took care of it. They prided themselves in leaving it in better shape than when they first moved in. Nowadays there are security deposits, with first and last month’s rental fees. There are key deposits, cleaning deposits, and pet fees as well. The reason is because renters disrespect owners and feel they have a right to leave places in poor shape or skip out entirely on paying the rent they owe! The realization that this is true for many Christians is startling. Bonheoffer called it “cheap grace.” Oz Guinness believes Christianity has been “dining with the Devil” by cheapening the message of the cross. Some Churches have become corporations with a message to sell. The gospel has been reduced to a concept for living life rather than a life-changing message! Believers disrespect the message. A mere tenant disrespects the rightful owner!

We also discover that…

II. A mere tenant resents those who are sent by the owner!

1. “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.” (Proverbs 14:10) It is not only the owner who suffers from the convoluted view of a disrespectful tenant, but even those who represent him suffer as well. Jesus related the misguided view of the tenants. He also mentions how they became violent to those the owner sent to represent his interests. One after another, the landlord sends his representatives. They beat one, strike one on the head and treat him shamefully, they continue to beat or kill others he sends! Finally, the owner, who seems to be far more patient than I would have been, decides to send his own son. He incorrectly surmises, “They will respect my son.” True to form, they don’t. Instead, they actually plot among themselves to kill the young man sent to them. And in their convoluted thinking, they take his body and throw it in the owner’s vineyard! Jesus rhetorically asks his listeners, “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” Jesus’ listeners were not dense; they knew he meant that the story was actually about Israel. They had killed the prophets God sent them and now they were going to kill his Son as well! Israel was “the builders” who had “rejected” the “capstone” Jesus! There is within Christianity today those who have rejected the capstone just as the Hebrews had. They reject Jesus through their inaction. They are silent as a world dies in its sin. They refuse to be part of a local church, making weak excuses as to why. They greedily keep God’s tithe to spend on themselves. They disdain their responsibilities; resent his church and its leadership. When asked to serve or give, they leave. I wonder what they will do when the owner of the vineyard suddenly returns and demands payment. A mere tenant resents those who are sent by the owner!

EXAMPLE: A mere tenant resents the owner because deep inside they think they should be in charge or that they are owed because of their perceived sacrifice. What they fail to realize is that they are tenants and not the owner. I can remember working at Continental Can and some of those who worked there would justify their stealing tools from the company as their “right.” These were union workers who had good incomes, great hours, fantastic vacation packages, and they enjoyed the best medical benefits and retirements. Yet, they had become resentful of “the man” and those who actually liked working for the company. They had not invested their money, bought any of the equipment, paid for their training, or invented any of the processes involved. Many drank while on the job, cheated by taking long breaks and lunches, and sought to steal anything they could from the company. Can Christians be guilty of some of the same things? Far too many Christians enjoy the grace of God, salvation through his Son, the prayers and fellowship of his church all the while contributing very little in return. Some even get resentful when they are asked to do so! Christians steal their time, talent, and treasure from the Lord, thinking that he owes them for their unfaithful attitudes. Perhaps it is time that Christians “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.” Remember, that a mere tenant resents those who are sent by the owner!

Conclusion:

A mere tenant disrespects the rightful owner! A mere tenant resents those who are sent by the owner!
Are you just a “tenant”?
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.