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Crossing The Line

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His wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed? [1] Job 9:4

18  When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. 4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” 5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 “I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” 9 This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”a 10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” [2]

Did you ever cross a line with a person and immediately realize that you had made a mistake?  You should have backed off just a bit earlier.  You said one phrase too many.  You persisted in asking just beyond the point of tolerance where persistence is no longer a virtue?

I found this list of things that you’d like to say at work but probably shouldn’t.

·         I don't know what your problem is, but I'll bet it's hard to pronounce.

·         I'll try being nicer if you'll try being smarter.

·         I like you.  You remind me of when I was young and stupid.

·         And your crybaby whiny-butt opinion would be...?

·         If I throw a stick, will you leave?

·         I'm trying to imagine you with a personality.

·         How do I set a laser printer to stun?

Everyone has their tolerance levels.  Even the most patient people can be pushed too far.

1.      Even God can be pushed beyond his willingness to tolerate and there are consequences from that – sometimes these consequences are obvious and other times perhaps not quite so obvious.

As I read, I tell myself that God is more patient than any human being that I know.  Even though he is the archetype of all Christian virtue, Jesus has those brief moments when we would see the more “human” side of the “god-man”.

He threw tables over in the temple, in a righteous rage, if you will, at the money changers who took advantage of those who came to the temple to offer sacrifice to God.  Honest people, many who had traveled far at great effort and expense, simply to try to obey what they understood of God’s will for them.  It struck something deep within the heart of Christ, the very heart of God and he unleashed himself at the abusers.  They knew that he was not pleased.

He verbally castigated, the Pharisees in their self-righteous skull-duggery and they hated him for they knew that they could not hide, could not pretend in front of him. Their faithless facade could not stand his scrutiny.  You can fool all of the people some of the time and you can fool some of the people all the time but you cannot fool a God who sees the heart of a man before he sees the color of his skin or the size of his bank account or the record of his achievements.

And then, dear Peter, the big (most of the time) blustery fisherman.  When others vacillated, perhaps confused, perhaps unwilling to vocalize what they suspected, Peter made his confession.

“You are the Christ,a the Son of the living God.”[3]

It was quite a statement.  To be willing to say that this man was the fulfillment of centuries of prophecy, - the endorsement of a fisherman.  No scripturally knowledgeable people were willing to say the same thing.  But what would the endorsement of an uneducated fisherman mean.

“. . . on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hadesc will not overcome it.d” [4]

To Jesus this confession was the bedrock of the church.  The church is still built upon this confession.  Jesus Christ was the son of the Living God.  No less.  God clothed in flesh.  You can be a cult and believe something else.  You can be a social club and believe something else.  There are churches and quasi-religious organizations in our society that have abandoned this confession.  While they may be well intentioned and socially involved and concerned, they are no more than this.  They may assist in day to day living but they cannot be relied upon to guide a soul safely from this life to eternity.

And even Peter crossed that line with Jesus.  As commendable as his confession was, his concern for Christ was caustic and received a crushing response.

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” [5]

Now Christ was no schoolyard bully, knocking people down for no apparent reason but as we read this morning, it was evident that those who came to the garden to arrest Christ, had crossed some line.  You don’t poke a lion and hope to live and for a moment as the Lion of Judah was approached, he roared and they fell back powerless, overcome and they knew it.

4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” 5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 

I wonder if we cross lines with God today?  Your life can be a source of great joy for God or you can live in conflict with Him.  Are there times when figuratively speaking our wills are in conflict with His and we find ourselves knocked back to the ground?

We believe that He is a God of love and He is, but in His love does he deal with us in sharper ways at times in order to get our attention or to bring us to a place of surrender?  Does the discipline mean that we are not loved or does it indicate that he loves us too much to let us go on our own without consequence?

2.      One area that we try the patience of God is relative to His Lordship.

Men who are possessed by a powerful God can never themselves be impotent. But have we not robbed the Almighty of much of His awful glory, and to that extent are we not ourselves despoiled? We have contemplated the beauties of the rainbow, but we have overlooked the dim severities of the throne. We have toyed with the light, but we have forgotten the lightning. We have rejoiced in the fatherhood of our God, but too frequently the fatherhood we have proclaimed has been throneless and effeminate. We have picked and chosen according to the weakness of our own tastes, and not according to the full-orbed revelation of the truth, and we have selected the picturesque and rejected the appalling.

-- John Henry Jowett in Listening to the Giants. Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 9.

And what was the problem here in John 18?  Why knock the people down who are coming to do what they are intended to do?

“So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. 4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” 

It was no surprise that they came.  Their actions did not catch him unaware.

Do you remember in John 17, the High Priestly Prayer of Christ for the disciples?  Let’s look at it again.

" After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." (John 17:1-5, NIV) [6]

This was the Final Act, the goal being the glorification of Christ.  He was to take center stage and not to be upstaged in any way.  It was a grizzly scene.  Blood – too much blood.

Here is an excerpt from a devotional by John Fischer.  He writes daily devotionals for the 40 Days campaigns.

“There were complaints about the amount of blood in the original film. For that reason I was braced for it when I went to see the movie a year ago. To my surprise, it was the abundance blood that had the greatest impact on me. I watched the Roman soldiers getting splattered with it, and realized it was the blood of their salvation and they didn’t even know it. I watched Mary helplessly trying to wipe it all up, and realized it was the salvation of the whole world and did she know it?

But the big realization was when I connected the blood of Jesus Christ with what was necessary to cover my sin. That’s when there was no longer an issue of too much blood. The new question was: Would there be enough? I suddenly realized I’d been singing R-rated hymns all my life, and I finally understood them.

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins,

And sinners plunge beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains.

That’s a lot of blood. I understand this sentiment. If this blood washes me clean, then I am going to need enough to dive into because I am dirty all over.

The new version was cut to try and lose its R-rated status. In the end, the Motion Picture Association of America refused to rate the recut because there was still too much violence for younger viewers. Fine with me. I always thought the crucifixion of Christ should be R-rated anyway.

What can wash away my sin?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

What can make me whole again?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh precious is the flow

That makes me white as snow.

No other fount I know—

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Too much blood? Never. Just as long as there’s enough for everybody.”

In the Old Testament the glory of God was called the “kabod”.  It was the most important Hebrew word for glory, kabod, means ‘weight’ or ‘importance.’ Thus, to have glory is to be weighty or important to oneself or others. God’s glory is particularly God’s visible manifestation to humans It is sometimes referred to as the “Shekinah” glory.  The pillar of fire by night and the cloud in the daytime.  At the giving of the law at Mount Sinai, God’s glory appears as or in a cloud and as fire.  It is associated with the tabernacle and the Temple.

The New Testament, Greek word, doksa, carries the same idea as kabod. We find this word used in John 1:14, where it says,

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

In Christ we see the glory and authority of God. The glory of God is revealed and manifested in Christ Jesus. In the Old Testament, we saw God revealed in a place. In the New Testament, we see God revealed in a person. God is revealed in Jesus Christ.

Perhaps the line that was crossed by the captors was that they were somehow diminishing this process of the  glorification of Christ by believing that they were actually the ones in control of the situation.

You see, he was not hiding in the Garden.  He went there to meet them.  He was not being captured, he was there to lay down the sacrifice, freely, deliberately at his own initiative.  He was speechless before his captors but never powerless.  The message was clearly, “I am in control here not you, so don’t get it confused.” 

Look at the interchange with Pilate in John 19: 7-12.

"The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”” [7]

3.      So what do we learn from the scripture today?  What can we take from this place that may influence the way that we choose to live our lives?

·         I believe from the scripture that God has called us to live holy lives.  More than anything else, the notion of sanctification has to do with the idea of being touched by God and set aside for the specific purpose of bringing Him glory.

My own battle with God came over my call to the ministry.  It was a battle between my will and the will of God.  God must be Lord regardless of what the issue is for you today.  You cannot live in fellowship with Him and persist in deliberate disobedience.

I do believe that we can choose to seek the blessing of God or we can pursue our own interests as primary.  In one we will find grace and help, fulfillment and peace.  In the other we will find the opposite.  We may achieve and we may acquire but we are never at rest.  Always restless, looking for something else, something better or greater by which we can define ourselves or satisfy whatever it is that drives us.  I don’t believe that Christians are complacent but I do believe that they are differently motivated.  The measurement is what matters to God not what matters to them.

·         Pride can cause us to cross the line and find ourselves striving against God.

Make sure it is God's trumpet you are blowing--if it is only yours, it won't wake the dead; it will simply disturb the neighbors.

-- Maj. W. Ian Thomas, quoted in Context (Feb. 1991), Christianity Today, Vol. 35, no. 4.

"You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (James 4:4-10, NIV) [8]

I do not believe that God operates to make life easier for a person who takes pride in his own ability or position.  If we choose to rely on our own resourcefulness, I believe that God will allow us to exhaust it and to exhaust ourselves in the process.  Perhaps the calamity of the prideful man does not immediately touch him but it touches others.  Relationships fail around such people because they are self-absorbed.  They squeeze everything that they can squeeze from life and wind up without meaning and facing eternity with no hope or false hope.  Pride causes people to conflict with God.  Like the soldiers in the Garden at some point they are reminded that God is in control.  Perhaps it is failing health, financial disaster, family issues and problems but sooner or later they discover what is most important as they lose it.

Look at a familiar series of verses beginning in Romans 1:18.

" The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." (Romans 1:18-32, IV) [9]

Our consistent straining against God causes God to “give us over” or to leave us alone.  The modern man blames God for his absence.  The truth is that we have what we asked for.  We have told God individually, nationally broadly that we do not need Him and He has simply called us on our message.  He has said in effect – “Try life without me and see how you like it.”

And as long as we do, it gets more bizarre and twisted.  The scriptures say that he gives us over to:

·         The sinful desires of our hearts

·         Shameful lusts

·         A depraved mind

Of all the last is the worst.

Most of us have a tendency to isolate sexual sin as we read these verses.  Sex outside of the lines.  Either infidelity or homosexuality.  They are equally reprehensible according to these portions of scripture.  I do want to say that there is always grace for us – “haleleujah”.  And if you are not in the habit of saying “Amen” please don’t “Amen” when I speak of God’s judgment.  If you can’t “Amen” His grace and His goodness then don’t “Amen” at the thought of God judging others who sin differently than you sin.

Look at the end of the list and remember that sin regardless of it’s nature carries the same penalty.  It is all, in its’ essence, rebellion against God.

The end of the list is the checklist for the common sinner so that you don’t feel superior to those whose sin is less acceptable or more visible.

“They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them”

These are the sins of a ”depraved” mind.  The worst really.  Because we can engage in these and not feel too badly about ourselves.

And if God speaks in conviction to you today about the way that you live remember to repent of the right thing.  They are symptoms of a depraved mind and you won’t fix that by modifying your behavior.  You only fix that by giving yourselves to God wholly and allowing Him to transform the way that you think.

Could you trust Him for that today?  Could you admit that God’s way is the only way, no matter how smart or self-sufficient of superior you consider yourself to be.

You see as much as we look for His blessing, we have to realize that he can resist us in order to redeem us.  Is your life working the way that you’d like to see it work?  It never will until you seek His template.  Until you desire to be whatever He desires fro you to be.

"And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." (Genesis 6:3-8, NKJV) [10]


----

[1]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

a 2 John 6:39

[2]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids

a Or Messiah; also in verse 20

[3]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids

c Or hell

d Or not prove stronger than it

[4]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[5]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[6] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[7] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[8] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[9] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[10] The New King James Version. 1996, c1982. Thomas Nelson: Nashville

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