sermon: Hebrews: Its Background (Part Two)
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 16-Jun-18; 78 minutes
We are going to begin in Psalm 78.
Psalm 78:1-8 Give ear, O my people, to my law; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments; and may not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not set its heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful to God.
This is part two of my introduction to a series focused on the epistle to the Hebrews. The first part was given back in March before Passover. I do not how know how familiar you are with Psalm 78, but it is a fairly detailed account of Israel's often fractured, and then restored, and then refractured again relationship with God. It recounts over and over again how the Israelites throughout their history repeatedly abandoned the way of God. Then, after the nation groveled in the debris of their nationally destructive rejection of Him, God would mercifully restore true knowledge through another prophet of how to live, and the pattern would again be repeated. This psalm demonstrates to all who read it and pay serious, personal attention to its theme because God's Word is true, and those who fail to learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.
That is what Psalm 78 shows time after time, one generation after another. God rescued Israel from the debris of their shattered lives, because they were not keeping His commandments. The first thing you know, after He rose them up, they would go right back once again to living the way they were before.
The lesson is that unless personal, diligent efforts are made—person by person—to defend and preserve the way so generously given by God, nothing will change the repetition pattern. When that historical fact is drilled into one's mind, then another truth should also come to mind; it is how uniquely blessed the Israelitish people have been, and despite the way things are, they are still blessed by having God overseeing their destiny for the purpose that He is working out.
It is how uniquely blessed the Israelitish people have been, and still are. Unique indicates something rare, one of a kind. Amos reports that God states to the Israelites, that Israel is the only nation on earth that He has revealed himself to. That is unique! The only nation on earth. History reveals how we and our ancestors have lost what we were given freely by God.
Here is a question as we begin this portion of this series: Are we too wasting our unique calling? Let me remind you of the most vital truth regarding our calling, because we may be in the same position, in our personal relationship with God, as a single person. God revealed Himself to as Israel has been as a nation. I believe that you have no doubt; God has a purpose that He is working out.
Here is something that we less often seriously consider. He not only has a purpose, He also has a plan that He is following. Do not ever forget that. Both purpose and plan are being carried out by the same team there in heaven. Do you understand that in regard to the Creator God, things do not happen randomly? Solomon says in one place, that time and chance happen to all, but with God there is no time and chance. It seems pretty likely that because there is no time and chance with Him, that very severely limits time and chance happening to us.
Time and chance are not part of His operations. Think about this: Do you think the fact that Israel is the only nation God has such a close relationship with only happened randomly? Did that just happen by accident or did God planned to work it out that way?
I have concluded: How careless in our judgment can we be when we are daily surrounded by the evidence given by things that God has made to be the venue for the purpose He is working out? By venue I am talking about Planet Earth and its awesome display of God's handiworks freely given to us as blessings to make use of in our lives. Did all of this that you are able to see out there with your own eyes and listen with your ears, just happen randomly?
Or did God plan it to be that way so that the human beings He created would be able to use what He made and have very nice lives as a result of what He so freely gave to us on Planet Earth? Everything that God has made and we are able to see is one of the major reasons why God says in Romans 1:20 that mankind is without excuse regarding the fact of His existence; and that by His sovereignty He supervises what He has made.
Remember, we started out talking about: Are we learning? Are we dropping the ball, as it were, as Israel so frequently did in their relationship with God as a nation? It is possible for us to continue to grow and overcome. It is also possible for us to pay little or no attention to this great gift of our calling that we have already been given. Let me show you something about what God shows regarding who God reveals himself to for additional creation.
Mark 3:13 And He [Jesus] went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted . . .
We might say this might be only a portion, and that this particular portion was handpicked.
Mark 3:13 And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him.
As we have that verse go through our mind, do not ever let it slip from our minds that Jesus is earth’s and our Creator. Paul clearly states in Colossians 1:16 that all things were made by Him and for Him. All things were made by Jesus, and they were made for Him as well. Switch that thought in Mark 3:13 back to Him: Jesus called to Him . . . How big of a group was there? I have no idea. He called to Him those He personally wanted! Are you getting the drift of where I am heading? Jesus is the operator of this purpose that is being worked out, and it is He that is the setting the pattern of how things are done.
Jesus called to Him those men He personally wanted. That is what the scripture says. What was He doing here? He was choosing the twelve apostles. This was not a random selection for these men to become, we will call them, officers within the purpose that is being worked out. Jesus very carefully planned that out of this group He would choose these twelve. That is the way God operates; it is not randomly happening with Him in charge. This was no random act. Jesus did this thoughtfully.
Let us add to this a little bit more. We are going to turn to John the sixth chapter. Remember, we started this by asking if it was just a random occurrence that God made this close knit relationship with Israel only? No, it was not. It was planned.
John 6:64 “But there are some of you who do not believe [Jesus is speaking.].” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.
You think that Jesus was not observing those who are following Him around and listening to what He said? Maybe they continued on with Him for a good while. Who knows?
John 6:64-65 For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”
You are beginning to see what we are drifting toward here. It is not just the apostles that Jesus chose, because those are the ones He wanted. It is entirely possible, brethren, that every single one of us has been personally chosen! It is planned thoughtfully. Are we going to waste this as Israel has done?
John 6:65-70 “I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you [He reinforces what was in Mark chapter 3 by directly saying:], the twelve, and one of you is a devil?”
Actually the word devil would be better translated there as slanderer. Guess who the slanderer was? It was Judas. A slanderer is a deceptive person. Judas spent the whole time fellowshipping with the twelve and with Jesus. But all the while, he was putting up a front, a hypocrite, a slanderer throwing wrong signals all over the place.
John 6:71 He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.
Let us go to John 15:16-19; red letters here.
John 15:16-19 “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another. If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
That is another peg showing the planning that is being carried out by the Father and the Son. Let us go to Acts the ninth chapter. The subject here is the apostle Paul. Jesus is speaking to Ananias:
Acts 9:15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.”
Let us add yet another aspect to this: Do not men follow a plan when they are building something? We will use a house as an example. The plan might be called a blueprint or a design. Do you think that God is simply doing things in a helter-skelter, hit or miss way?
God does not do things that way, brethren. He makes plans, and they are arranged in fine infinite detail. For example, every nation is exactly where He wants it; once it is to be located. He even tells us, in His Word, that He has even arranged them according to the number of the children of Israel which He also planned for.
Is God doing things in infinite detail? Do you really consider, brethren, that you are called? That the Father and the Son passed on calling you because they choose those they want? That does not mean others are not free to join in with the group and listen to the sermons and so forth. I am talking about a specific group of people that God chose and sanctified to be a part of what He is doing.
What is God building? Is it not a family that has characteristics like His? Is it not also a government that He will place, and it will do as He does, because they bear the characteristics that were created within them by the Father and the Son? Do you know what governments do? What are they formed to do? Governments manage; they guide, direct, and protect what they are responsible for.
We are going to turn to a verse that we are very familiar with back in the book of Revelation. God is describing this group of one hundred and forty-four thousand.
Revelation 14:3 They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand . . .
How about that? God blinds some, we might say, as we heard in the sermonette last week ["Who Is the 'God of This World'? (Part One)"], from getting, grabbing, understanding certain things.
Revelation 14:3-4 No one could learn that song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones [notice this] who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being first fruits to God and to the Lamb.
We are going to go back into the New Testament once again. This time we are going to go to Matthew 4. This particular verse really struck me as being interesting:
Matthew 4:18-20 And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
We are going to look at that verse nineteen again:
Matthew 4:19 “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Do you see what that is saying? He was going to create them so that they would end up as fishers of men? Do you get that? Do you get the force of that? What was Jesus doing, most specifically with the twelve but actually in reality He is doing it with everybody who is a part of those that He and the Father call. They continue to do what they always do. They create. There will be no self-saved, self-made men in the Family of God. The Creator is going to make us into what He wants us to be with us being the willing participant, allowing Him to make us into what He wants. Brethren, that is awesome!
“I will make you fishers of men.” We do not create ourselves within the Family of God. That is how personal the attention is that is being given to you and me and everybody else who is a part of that which God is putting together. The Creator is still creating; I should say: the Creators are still creating! Are we allowing God permission to do it? Because it requires us cooperating with Them in the program that They are working out. We may not feel somebody's hands going over us, forming and shaping us the way we would like to be, but that is just it, He wants to make us into what fits into His plan. When we become part of the one hundred and forty-four thousand in Revelation 14, we will be going into a job that we were personally made to fulfill.
I know that I have worked on enough construction jobs, worked with enough blueprints, and so forth, to know that engineers went through that and drew it with the help of a draftsman. They had a supervisor over them who checked everything out. What they put on the blueprint was the way the building, or whatever it was, was made to be built in this particular order and using these particular parts that were provided to be installed within that building exactly where it says in the plan.
Is there any possibility that we are discounting God's handiwork on us personally? I hope not. There are going to be no self-saved, self-made men in God's Family. They are going to be creations of God that we have participated in assisting Him, if I can put it that way, simply by yielding to the design that He has for you and for me.
Brethren, do They think big? We are little tiny parts of one hundred and forty-four thousand. We feel pretty important to ourselves as we live out each day, but important to us is not the same as being important to God; because He loves us so much. He died for us. So, never forget this.
Matthew 4:19 “I will make you fishers of men.”
Why no self-saved men? Because self-made men would be totally inadequate to the purpose the Builder desires. What if they are thinking in two different directions? Who is going to overrule whom? When we go on doing our own things, that is us overruling the Builder, the Designer, and the Creator. It behooves us to yield to Them as we are able to, and as we come to understand. Are you beginning to get the drift of why Jesus states in John 15, “Without Me, you can do nothing?” He literally meant it word for word, because we would not fit into the plan that He and the Father are working out.
God is the Creator and it is God's purpose that we have been chosen to participate in, for the purpose that He has called us, so that we fit where He desires to place us, as He has already planned. This is really wonderful to me; it is mind-boggling that He accomplishes this, even though allowing us a great deal of liberty making choices regarding life. A lot of those choices are not very good! Somehow, He manages to straighten it out like the Potter: A little dab here and a little dab there gets us back on track again. Sometimes those little dabs hurt, but nonetheless that is what He does. He creates.
We have to ask ourselves this question. Are we so careless as to drop the ball by making light of our calling as Israel has? Let us make sure you are not failed to give God due respect by fearing Him to the level that places Him over and above all else for who He is, for what He is, and for the honorable mercy, intelligence, and wisdom with which He does all things.
What really triggered this sermon, to this point anyway is, our calling, combined with the gifts that God gives, is our treasure. I gave a sermonette on the holy day about our treasure. Our calling, combined with the gifts that He gives, is our treasure; it is a value beyond estimation and yet He even stoops to care for us. Let us not misuse our treasure, as Israel has demonstrated it is done.
You are probably wondering how I am ever going to get from this to the epistle of Hebrews. Well a few words here and there will get us going in the right direction. Actually, the book of Hebrews fits in to what I am talking about here because the church went through one of its most critical periods of time after Jesus was resurrected. He had control of things, but the preaching of Jesus, the preaching of the twelve apostles, and the invitation of Gentiles into the church created havoc in Jerusalem and other portions of the Mideast. (I probably will not get the most of that until the next sermon.)
The epistle of the Hebrews is of particularly great importance to the church of God, primarily because it establishes two major elements vital to the church's continuance and stability. The church was really in turmoil during this period of time that I mentioned. First it clearly establishes Jesus Christ as fully qualified for His office as High Priest to the church. He is clearly established as the undisputed spiritual leader. He is the One we must all look to for salvation for without Him, we can do nothing.
The second thing is that it gave vital spiritual instruction to help the church membership through the cultural tumult caused by the church's introduction into Jewish life, Gentile life, and living by faith within the New Covenant. These were all fairly new things.
It is a truth that we often fail to grasp the impact of the preaching of the gospel by Jesus and the church, and the effect that it had on those times. My first sermon, which was given just before Passover, focused on a few general things that I want us to remember regarding all covenants with God but most importantly the absolute fact that the New Covenant does not in any way whatever, eliminate our responsibility to keep God's commandments. I primarily focused on the Ten Commandments, but not on them exclusively. As His children we are subject to any of God's commands, regardless of where they are found in the Book. The entire Bible has to be used to evaluate all of these things and that is part of what we are going to see as we go through this sermon.
The Christianity of these days does not believe nor practice that the whole book of the Bible is needed. Mankind is not free to pick and choose doctrinally. The New Covenant does not give that permission whatsoever. We must always remember that it is God's purposes that will stand: it is His purpose and it is His plan and the Son agrees with Him perfectly. That is what is going to be worked out.
Unfortunately, very many people calling themselves Christian do not truly fear God. The effect of that on their reality is that they ignore God’s almighty sovereignty over His creation, thus treating Him as a relatively unimportant afterthought one need not be concerned about in regard to His law.
Most people seem to carry forms of a perverted and twisted concept that Jesus kept the laws of God for us, and therefore our responsibility to keep them is virtually eliminated: That concept is so perverted! A Christian, a real Christian, knows immediately that those people have little or no idea what God is literally doing. Jesus did keep God’s law perfectly because it was His character to do so. This was His desire that He would purposefully end His life sinlessly. Do you understand? It was His character to always obey.
In addition to that He wanted to end His life sinless to give Him added emphasis, if I could put it that way. In so doing He thus qualified to be the payment for the forgiveness of our transgressions, and thus He indeed did keep them for our benefit, because we do not have sufficient righteousness to even pay for our own sins unless we die.
His sinless righteousness does not remove our responsibility regarding keeping God's laws following being forgiven. Without Christ’s righteousness imputed to us there is no continuing creation of character in God's image in us. That was Christ’s major objective, and it absolutely requires our voluntary cooperation within God's continuing purpose, and that cooperation consists of keeping, obeying, and submitting to God's laws during the course of our daily life.
If we do not do that, we cannot expect to be in God's Kingdom. Brethren, the truth is that blunt. The so-called free salvation under Christ’s blood, and within the New Covenant, is not without cost to those who seek the same objective as God.
By the end of that first message, we reached the point during which I was showing you that at the beginning of His ministry during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was clearly elevating, not lowering, the acceptable standards of obedience that is the requirements considered by the Father and Son as keeping those commandments.
It is important to establish something. The Sermon on the Mount was the platform as Christ began His ministry. In John 14:15, at the end of His ministry, Jesus clearly states: “If you love Me, keep My commandments:” The same theme from the beginning of His ministry to the end of His ministry. Those who follow Him are required, if we love Him, to keep His commandments. He was absolutely not doing away with them: the commandments are His and the Father’s.
The Sermon on the Mount is the foundational platform for how one is to live life within the New Covenant. The Sermon on the Mount contains much teaching that defines elements of love by means of conduct. The Bible clearly defines love as the greatest of all characteristics; thus, living up to the requirements of the New Covenant is not as easy as falling off a log in a rushing stream. In fact, it is so difficult, the apostle Paul teaches, that in order to stay in a right, tight relationship with the Father and Son, we must become living sacrifices; and sacrificing is painful—often very painful. The Sermon on the Mount, in combination with the rest of the New Testament, shows that the standards for glorifying God are quite high.
I mention this because this cost may require the sacrifice of any function of one's body, mind, and spirit to the way of God, and it can be very costly to be a living sacrifice. It may cost one his employment because of Sabbath work requirements. It may cost one his family attachments because the family may not accept one's fellowship with this unusual group. It may cost one his general acceptance within a community for the same basic reason.
Considering the costs that are involved for a person to commit his life as a disciple of Jesus Christ, why then does one commit to Christ? We know, right from the get-go, that what we are letting ourselves in for could be a lot of painful work. How many people have died following Jesus Christ because they believe the teaching of Jesus Christ?
The first reason is personal, and it is somewhat self-centered; but on the other hand, God freely offers this. It is because we want out from under the burden of the death penalty (the death penalty caused by our sins), combined with the awesome gifts that God promises, which include eternal life and sharing life's work with our Creator and Savior.
The second reason is because we are growing in love for God and the completion of His purpose in us. By the time we get to that place, we sincerely desire to please Him. It is through baptism that we show our commitment to follow through. Through baptism we dedicate ourselves to the means of expressing that love for Him and fellowman. It is through obedience that we provide evidence that our determination is genuine as God continues forward with His creative purposes, preparing us for active participation in His Family.
That commitment establishes and sets our dedication to God's purposes of creating His love for us in us. That is the ultimate objective—that we love as He loves. That is not easily created; it is not formed by just walking around the block. It takes from the time that God calls us into His Family and Him working with us until sometimes, as Richard [Ritenbaugh] was showing, maybe fifty years of conversion before we reach the place where God finally says: “I want you in My Kingdom.”
He never gives up working to make us in His image. It is through obedience that we provide evidence that our determination to love God and to love the way He does, is genuine as God continues forward with His creative purposes, preparing us for active participation in His family. Do not ever forget Romans 5:1-5. Do not ever let it forget so it slips out of your mind.
That is point number one, because the penalty is paid and we no longer owe God our life because of the death penalty.
Romans 5:1-2 We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom also we have access by faith into this grace . . .
Point number two of the gifts that God gives:
Romans 5:2 We also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Do you realize what that verse is saying, that portion of the verse? What we hope for is to be glorified as God is glorified. He shines like what? As it is told in Revelation the first chapter.
Romans 5:2-3 and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations . . .
Because we now see purpose to our lives in the way that we did not see before.
Romans 5:3-4 . . .knowing that tribulation [the trials, the tests] produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.
All those things come from a relationship with God made by a repenting person. Romans 5:1-5 remains a brief but constant reminder that the making of the New Covenant enables and empowers us in ways no covenant, even with God, ever made before, has. What God is offering us is a magnanimously one-sided offer from Him to those who repent.
We will continue this introduction by asking some questions, or giving some descriptions reviewing what is happening in this nation and in Britain during our lives at this time because those two nations are the sources of most of our news. During our times, several major cultural issues have burst forth on its citizenry at this juncture of our history. I want us to consider their effects. These things that I am going to mention to you, I want you to consider their effects on our lives because somewhat similar events were taking place in Judea, following Christ’s resurrection and the Jews hearing the gospel, and were thus reshaping their daily lives to live within.
Turn with me back to Judges the second chapter. I am just going to read you three examples of how it was when Israel turned away from God from time to time. Remember, they had made the agreement with God
Judges 2:11-14 Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. They forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies.
This will become a little bit clearer when we hear what is happening in this nation now that I want you to be thinking about.
Judges 3:1-4 Now these are the nations which the Lord left, that He might test Israel by them, that is, all who had not known any of the wars in Canaan (this was only so that the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war, at least those who had not formerly known it), namely, five lords of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who dwelt in Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal Hermon to the entrance of Hamath. And they were left, that He might test Israel by them, to know whether they would obey the commandments of the Lord, which He had commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.
I read that portion partly because I want you to see that sometimes God puts us through things to test us, to see how we are going to react. It is His creative works doing what He wants them to produce. Drop down to verse 12—after the testing:
Judges 3:12-14 And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord strengthened Eglon king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the Lord. Then he gathered to himself the people of Ammon and Amalek, went and defeated Israel, and took possession of the City of Palms. So the children of Israel served Eglon king of Moab eighteen years.
All these are simply a few examples of many showing how Israel failed in their responsibilities and thus produced for themselves cultural calamities they had to endure. Here are four questions regarding the times that we live in; you should know the answers to these things because we are hearing about them virtually every day. I believe that in light of this sermon, they require serious thought by us.
Question number one: Is there any cultural conflict in this nation? Because both legal and illegal immigrants in large numbers, with different religions, different languages, and an inbred desire to convert us to their ways while they fervently burn within themselves to dominate us, making no effort to blend with us. Is that not happening? Is it not a test for the United States to see from God's point of view who their God is? This is still tied to that point.
Consider this: Those emigrating here undoubtedly have physical needs and the nations they are emigrating from are torn with dangerous to life turmoil; But at the same time, many of these immigrants are in a conquering, not blending, mindset. The blending of different families of nations is difficult. We very simply have been invaded.
Just remember: God did this; God allowed it to occur. We have been invaded, just like the Moabites and the Ammonites and all as Israel was done in the past, and they were standing at the border, almost asking for them to come in.
Question number two: Are there any cultural conflicts in this nation because of secularists doing their best to convince the nominally religious citizenry that there is no God, that human intellect is sufficient to overcome any cultural differences while they fairly actively persecute those who believe in God in the courts? A big decision was just made this past week regarding the baker who did not want to bake a cake for a homosexual marriage. Incidentally, though the vote was seven to two; the decision covered only one very narrow point. That narrow point was that the Colorado group out there persecuted him. They gave him his desire and released him from paying, going to jail for that particular thing. The door is still open for others who are persecuted in exactly the same way as the baker was, to be persecuted for what they perceive as the same ‘crime.’
Question number three: Are there any cultural clashes in this nation? There are many people who want the government to become fascist or communistic and force the redistribution of wealth on people who create wealth and give their wealth to those who are, for whatever reasons, not working.
They are not employed for a wage and they are essentially living on welfare. Why? The richest nation on the face of the earth, at one time, and we are going down!
Let me tell you something; maybe you did not hear it; but if you did not hear it, then I think you ought to be tuned in on this. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both promised the millennialists, that they would create a Jubilee in which the debts would just be cancelled! The millennialists are one of the large groups within the United States population who are least able to pay their debts. Do you know why? Because almost all of it is college debt and they are not working; they are going to school! How can you do something like that? We are talking about multitudes of billions of dollars: It is gone! Both of these people lost, which is quite interesting.
Question number four: Is there any cultural conflict being created because there are people in government, media, education, and industry who, for whatever their personal agenda is, and that is usually increasing their personal power to control, are doing their best to subvert in order to gain some advantage to advance whatever their cause is at the moment?
We have got four major crises growing at the same time, throwing the whole culture into turmoil, emotional turmoil of some level within virtually every citizen in the United States.
To go back to the reason I gave you these things is because something very similar was occurring in Judea at the same basic time. Only right in the midst of this, Jesus is preaching the gospel, Jesus is crucified, Jesus is resurrected, God gives His Holy Spirit, and so everything is thrown practically into chaos, especially for those people who are converting. That is what most of my next sermon is going to be about.
What I am getting at by giving you these four questions is this: Human nature never changes! First century Judea was in many ways, of which religion is one, not much different culturally than today's America and Britain. Thus, the collective sense of the four questions is this: Will our culture produce similar results for the church in this century as it did for the church in Judea after Christ was resurrected and the Holy Spirit given?
What in the world are those people going to do, who feel that they are Christians out there, when they begin to find out that what they have been taught is not true? They are not even following what should be, in one sense, the easiest of all commandments to prove and that is keeping the Sabbath! That is required of a Christian. Jesus kept the Sabbath and He said follow Me! Are they following Him? Are they following His steps? They sincerely think they are but they have been taught we do not have to worry about keeping the commandments.
This is the way of life by which God creates His character in us by means of His Spirit, keeping His commandments. Human nature never changes. When Christianity began through the ministry of Jesus Christ, Judea’s culture had already been stirring restlessly for several decades.
You know from your own personal studies, that first century Judea was rife with political, religious, and economic strife. The Jews were under the military and political thumb of the all-conquering Romans. That kept the cultural pot constantly simmering with a level of suppressed anger. Authors constantly portray the Romans complaining of Jewish religious activists stirring people emotionally regarding religion. Never forget the Satan aspect. He is an expert at revealing real injustice to people who then cannot hold their tempers in check. These people then agitate others to join with them, to secure some temporary advantage over and above those they believe are oppressing them.
I am going to end on this note. It is kind of a light one. Have you ever seen the movie Time Bandits? It was not in any way a highly rated movie but it did portray one universal human conduct theme very well. The bandits were acted by six very acrobatic dwarves thus visually suggesting throughout the movie what the producers and the director thought of the pettiness of mankind's overall behavior. (Incidentally, and this is kind of an interesting little side note, the major producer of the movie was the guitarist in the Beatles’ organization.)
The movie's major theme was that no matter what time period the band had crashed into, they arrived in a culture that was in some level of uproar combined with evidence suggesting that what actually happened had not been accurately reported in the history books. We were getting fake news even in the Time Bandits movie. The movie even contains a scene of Satan sitting on his throne, actively keeping the cultural pot stirred through his constant personal agitations and at the conclusion of the movie God showed up looking like a normal English businessman and He put everything back in order.
What is very interesting is that Jesus was born in a Judean culture simmering with tension. It was a time, the Bible suggests, when expectations of the arrival of the Messiah were apparently fairly high among the religious. There can be no doubt, from the Bible itself, that God drew attention to Jesus’ birth and moved people to talk about the unusual activity that took place in Bethlehem, and that partly was responsible for Joseph and Mary having to flee to Egypt.