Using Our God-given Abilities for the Best Results

BLOG’S SCRIPTURE STUDY

Here in Matthew 25,  Jesus and His disciples are just about to enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  A similar account is also recorded in the Gospel According To Luke (Luke 19:11-27).  Both are referred to as the PARABLE OF THE TALENTS.  And by the way, the talents referred to are not the same as the TV show, America’s Got Talent, or from whatever the country you are reading this from.  TALENTS in the parable are monetary units.  Not really a coin but an ingot, weighing roughly 60-70 pounds and valued in that day $30,000.  Seventy-pounds of gold today in the millions.

Bear in mind that Jesus is using a parable to make a point.

What is a PARABLE?

A dictionary definition:  “a placing beside”.  It signifies “a placing of one thing beside another” with a view to a comparison (some consider that the thought of comparison is not necessarily contained in the word).  It is generally used of a somewhat lengthy utterance or narrative drawn from nature or human circumstances, the object of which is to set forth a spiritual lesson…” [See Credits]

Just to make another point: Exodus 38:24

[24] All the gold that was used for the work in all the building and furnishing of the sanctuary, the gold from the offering, was 29 talents and 730 shekels, by the shekels of the sanctuary.  [AMP]

You can do the math, and it boggles my mind!

And to make a quick side note: Revelations 16:21

[21] And great (excessively oppressive) hailstones, as heavy as a talent [between fifty and sixty pounds], of immense size, fell from the sky on the people…”  [AMP]

I think I’ve got a better understanding now–a mental picture–of what a TALENT is.

THE THREE SERVANTS

We have three servants listed in Jesus’ parable, each with different abilities or aptitude.  The master prepared to go on a journey, but first, he gave each of the servants a powerful gift, which in fact provided them with unbelievable opportunities to gain in wealth but also to do good among others.  After all, this wasn’t just about an opportunity for them.

In verse 15, we read that gifts were given to their ability.  The first was given five talents or 375 pounds of gold.  The second received two talents or 150 pounds of gold and the third received one talent or 75 pounds of gold.

We all have received blessings from time to time over the years in one form or another.  What we’ve done with those blessings is in need of reflection because of what Jesus is trying to get through to us.

The first servant went out and traded up his five talents and now has ten talents.  The second servant also doubled his talents to four.  The third servant did nothing with his single talent, he buried it to keep it safe.

It’s time for an accounting.

I believe this is such an important point and perhaps the most meaningful in the parable.  In verse 15 we read the master “gave” each servant according to his ability.

Now in verse 18, there’s a reference to “his master’s money.”  In the first part, there is no instruction or guidelines to reflect anything beyond a GIFT.  The why is the master asking for an accounting?

We may be given unrestricted use of God’s gifts, but we do have a responsibility to use them for HIS glory.

To squander them on frivolity, indecency, illegality is something that we’ll have to answer when our Master, The Lord Jesus Christ is going to return.  When He does, he will have us account for how we used or misused our blessings/gifts.

“But I only have one talent”

If you were setting the story up for dramatic irony, the guy with one talent should have been the good guy.  He would have been faithful with his one little talent and put it to work.  But Jesus didn’t go for dramatic irony, he went for what I think is pretty typical.

The guy who didn’t have as much as the other guys, he looked around and said, “I’m going to hold on to what little I’ve got.”

The guys with the five talents and the two talents do what they’re supposed to,  They get to work and invest their money, both getting a return.  And in both cases, they get the same reward.

You see, the Master didn’t care about the extent of the results, just that there were results.  As the results reveal, in both cases the reward is exactly the same:

They can live secure with the knowledge of two things:

  1. Before they had touched a dime, their Master knew they were worthy of His trust.
  2. And, once they were through, their Master was happy that they had been faithful with what had been given to them.

The LAST GUY, the guy with one talent, however, refused to believe that he was capable of doing anything for his Master.  

And his reaction isn’t shocking.

When he doesn’t think he’s worthy, he doesn’t think anyone around him is either.  He missed out on the fact that his Master thought him worthy to have a talent at all!  Frankly, he resented his Master.  Why me?  Why do I have this thing for him when he didn’t give me the resources to do anything?  Never mind that even at one talent, he still has a year’s wages in the bag to play with.  His attitude was that these gifts were burdens and tasks rather than resources and opportunities to revel with joy.

And so, he misses out!

The point is pretty simple, I think.  Don’t focus on what you don’t have.  That’s not important in the grand scheme of things.  Focus instead on what you do have!

We’ve been given a golden opportunity.

Jesus will someday return and will want to know what you’ve done with the opportunities.  God the Father has sacrificed His Son so that you and I might be forgiven of our sins and have eternal life as servants of His Kingdom.  So the question becomes, how are you investing what God has entrusted to you?

SALVATION

Have you shared the Gospel of Christ with anyone?

Have you invested by faith in the things of God?

Have you been a good steward and found ways to increase that which you’ve been entrusted with?

Has your faith grown, or have you put it in a hole in the backyard and covered it up?

Jesus will reward you for increasing that which He has entrusted you with and not the material things alone but more importantly spiritual things.

Our God has put into each one of us the GIFT OF SALVATION so there might be something more to take out.  Salvation by its very nature produces a return in you and those around you that’s measurable and that’s rightfully God’s to claim since He put in the seed money which was His Son our Savior Jesus Christ.

By the shedding of His blood, Jesus will rightfully lay claim the Heaven and Earth’s throne as a payment for all the sin of humankind.

By His victory over death Jesus’ resurrection has won for us eternal life and He will be proclaimed the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

Revelation 12:10 (NKJV)

As Christians, let us make the most of this precious opportunity that has been given to us.

Our Jesus is returning and with Him, he will reward you for your faithfulness and stewardship.

Bring to Jesus an increase of your faith and devotions along with a good increase in godly character.  Let’s make our King’s treasury rich by risking to invest the great salvation into the lives around us.

I have inserted a video as a conclusion to this study.  I hope you’ll view it as a reminder:  We all come in different shapes.  God made us that way for the best results.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words – “PARABLE”, pg. 457, by W.E. Vine, Merrill Unger, William White Jr.

Photo/Images:  Google Image search.

Video:  YouTube – The Parable of the Talent

Bible Translations:  Amplified (AMP); New International Version (NIV); New King James Version (NKJV)

 

 

 

Imitators or Impostors?

1 Thessalonians 1:6-10  (NIV):

[6] You became IMITATORS of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.  [7] And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.  [8] The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia–your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it,  [9] for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,  [10] and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

charlescalebcolton203963

 

MAKING AN IMPRESSION:

Sometimes I hear a new song, read a book, or see something that so grabs my attention, I can’t help myself.  As soon as I have the opportunity, I want to tell someone I meet or share my experience on Social Media, “I gotta tell you about this book I’m reading…” or whatever it is.

That’s when it is CLEAR…it really made an impression.

And what happened when Paul and his fellow evangelists came to Thessalonica made that kind of IMPRESSION?  Not only impressing the local church people, but also on people all over the place.

Conversation was “buzzing” all around Greece and neighboring countries.  Nobody had to ask,  “Have you heard about those strange Jews going around talking about someone called JESUS?” because everybody who had heard about them, were telling someone else without being asked.

That’s the meaning of what Paul says in VERSE 8:  “The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia–your faith in God has become known everywhere.”

And what people were talking about wasn’t just the new church down at “The Corner of Heartbreak Ridge and New Hope Road” ([i]Footnote). but the way it had come into being.

People were talking about the amazing and instantaneous effect the Gospel had effecting their lives.

At the heart of it all…

At the heart of it all was the call to WORSHIP…of the One True God rather than the surrounding idols.

It would be like asking the people of today, to give up using their cars, computers, tv’s and cell phones.

The gods of Greek and Roman paganism were everywhere.

For example, if you or your son or daughter were getting married this Summer, a serious and expensive worship of a deity would be expected of you.

At every turn in the road the gods were there; unpredictable, possibly mean and dangerous, and sometimes at war among themselves…there was really no way in appeasing them, making sure you had them on your side.

Paul, Silas, and Timothy…

Right smack dad into this wacky world came three unknown Jews: Paul, Silas and Timothy, telling these pagans there was only One True God and this God had a Son, and that Son had been raised from the dead!!! Nobody had ever said anything like that before!!!

And the people in Thessalonica, knowing right from the start, the huge risk they would be taking in the community–turned away from their idols to this Living God, and in doing this…discovered both suffering and great JOY at the same moment!!!

That’s what CONVERSION is all about–

The word “TURNED” in verse 9 of the text, is as close as Paul gets to the technical term of conversion or being SAVED:

“They tell how you turned to God…”

It’s what happens when someone stops going in one direction, turns around and begins going in the opposite direction.

Has this happened to you?

“Changing Beer Into Furniture”

In preparation for studying and meditating on the verses presented in this blog-post, I ran across a story told of a group of old friends hanging out and having conversation.  One of the men had recently become a Christian:

His old buddies were giving him a bit of a hard time about his conversion experience.

“You don’t really believe all those miracle stories in the Bible, do you?”

In response, his friend replied,

“I don’t know about the miracle stories in the Bible, but I do know about the miracle story in my own life.  Since giving my life over to the Lord, Jesus has changed beer into furniture!”  ([ii] See Footnote)

It’s a sight to see when someone gives their life to Christ!  I did so on August 15th, 1972–my spiritual birthday!!!

Transformation–

As we become more involved in a community of faith,

Volunteering our time,

Learning the JOY of GIVING to God,

Becoming friends–like a family with our brothers and sisters in the FAITH.

[In growing up, I had a brother who was seven years younger than I.  But when I became a BELIEVER, my family grew.  Now I have FAITH SISTERS in the Lord–and my wife, is also my sister in Christ!]

Christian Living in Thessalonica…

Christians had been true BELIEVERS for a very short time; we don’t know exactly how long, but it can’t have been more than a year.

They were very ordinary people doing something extraordinary in response to an unexpected MESSAGE and people from hundreds of miles around were talking about it.

The only explanation…the Living God at work through the MESSAGE of Jesus Christ!

“IMITATORS”/IMPERSONATORS – Verse 6 a.

“And you [set yourselves to] become imitators of us and [through us] of the Lord Himself”  (Amplified Bible).

Even in the face of “severe suffering”, the Thessalonian believers of the day, talked about…

—  GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN OF SOCIETY!!!

—  COURAGE!

—  COMMITMENT

—  ABOUT A MIGHTY GOD!

It wasn’t about them.  It was about HIM!!!

Even in the midst of their suffering and persecution, they were filled with JOY and the POWER of the Holy Spirit.

And so, other people became curious and wanted to know what they had discovered:  “What have they got that I don’t have?”  I wonder myself, if my neighbors are asking the same question about my life:  “Who is he, really?”

Or, is the only thing they notice–my car parked along side of the house on Sunday mornings with the engine at idle–waiting for my wife to get out of the house– then rushing off to Sunday morning services and back home by noon.

“Are the Thompson Family IMPOSTERS or what?”

The people  of First Church of Thessalonica had become Imitators…

 The church as a whole, through their IMITATION OF CHRIST, others began to imitate them…Macedonia and Achaia:

“Your FAITH has become known everywhere” Paul exclaims.

And when something is GOOD…something is REAL, and the word gets around to those who need to hear the Word.

When Christians begin to “LIVE OUT” with…

DEEP CONVICTION,

THE CALLING OF CHRIST JESUS,

THE LIFE OF JESUS,

THE WAY OF LOVE, and

GENEROSITY THROUGH CHRIST, and

the POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT…

…people can’t help notice that THE REAL THING HAS ARRIVED!

Living in a CULTURE engulfed in idols.

We may not call them idols, or call them gods, nor pray to them, but our ACTIONS speak volumes.

When we concentrate our efforts on building a better church buildings for ourselves rather than spending time, talent, money on going out to those who don’t know Christ…we’re WORSHIPPING IDOLS.

But when we give sacrificially so others can eat…

…when we knock on doors and offer a free cup of water or whatever…

…when we become peacemakers and reconcilers…

…when we make an effort in random acts of kindness…

…when we become lovers and not judgers…

–when we seek to heal, help and restore…

…when we offer Christ in these ways…

WE ARE TRULY WORSHIPPING THE ONE TRUE AND LIVING GOD.

And that’s exciting!!!  It’s exciting not only for us, but for those who hear about us.

No wonder the apostle Paul was delighted to write a letter to them,

“We continually remember before our God and Father

your work produced by faith, your labor

prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope”

“Imitators” are Contagious!!!

Bill Hybels says, “God wants us to become contagious [believers]…who will first catch His love and then urgently and infectiously offer it to all who are willing to consider it…”  [See Footnotes – iii]

Are you living your life in such a way as to cause people to want what you have in Jesus?

Paul concludes the opening paragraph in his letter:

“And [how you] look forward to and await the coming of His Son from heaven.  Whom He raised from the dead–Jesus, Who personally rescues and delivers us out of and from the wrath  [bringing punishment] which is coming [upon the impenitent] and draws us to Himself [investing us with all the privileges and rewards of the new life in Christ, the Messiah]”  (verse 10 – Amplified Bible).

Jesus is coming again!

There is no “if’s” in Paul’s wording here.  And being “left behind” as an RELIGIOUS IMPOSTER when He does return… is not a good thing.

“Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”  Charles H. Spurgeon.

JESUS' Social Media Post

AN “IMPOSTOR’S” IDENTITY:

IMPOSTERS have religious activity that is not connected to a living relationship with Jesus Christ.  They love to look religious–in a “form of godliness.”

“FORM” refers to an outward shape or appearance, putting style over substance.  Read what JESUS SAYS about some impostors of His day:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence”   (Matthew 23:25).

The Separating of Christ’s IMITATORS and the IMPOSTERS:

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.  Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry…feed you…or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

And the IMPOSTERS…the “goats” on the left response?

“Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”  (V. 44)

“He will reply,  ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did NOT DO for one of the least of these, you DID NOT DO FOR ME”  (V. 45).

The “impostor’s” destiny…

“…they will go away to eternal punishment”

The “imitators” outcome…

“but the righteous to eternal life”  (V. 46).

So where do you belong in your community?

A Imitator…or an Impostor?

Footnotes:

[i]  Gaither Vocal Band Lyrics @ http://elyrics.net > Gaither Vocal Band Lyrics to Heartbreak Ridge and New Hope Road.

[ii] Story from Kenneth Sauer.

[iii]  Bill Hybels, Contagious Christian, pg. 23

 

Our Responsibilities as God’s “Plenipotentiary”

“Plenipotentiary” Definition:

Noun – a person, invested with the fill power of independent action on behalf of their government.

Adjective – having full power to take independent ACTION as a designated representative.

WHAT ARE THE ROLES OF A DIPLOMAT/AMBASSADOR/”PLENIPOTENTIARY”?

United States Ambassador
United States Ambassador

When United States DIPLOMATS negotiate a treaty, attend a state dinner, or arrange a visa for a traveler to the United States, they all have the same mission–REPRESENT THE INTERESTS and policies of the United States.

An AMBASSADOR is the President’s highest-ranking representative.

His/her qualities should be as follows:

—  A strong leader.

—  A good manager.

—  A resilient negotiator.

—  And, a respected representative of the United States.

Benjamin Franklin speaking to the qualities that should accompany a “plenipotentiary”– diplomat, said it this way:

“[The qualities of a diplomat are] sleepless tact, unmovable calmness,

and patience that no folly, no provocation, 

no blunders make shake.”

 BIBLE VERSE:

2 Corinthians 5:20

 

HOW WE BECOME GOD’S REPRESENTATIVE–CHRIST’S AMBASSADORS TO THE WORLD:

Joel Santos says it this way–If God were like me, he would have used legions of angels, proclaiming, singing, shouting his message nonstop, simultaneously around the world.  But praise God, He is NOT like me! [i footnoted].

In 2 Corinthians 5:11-20, the Apostle Paul, responding to criticisms about his ministry by giving reasons why Christians should be involved in MISSIONS.

GOD gave us ALL… the ministry of reconciliation…

This GOD-GIVEN COMMISSION is plain and clear–God’s mission of reconciling the world unto Him will be brought to completion through us, the redeemed!

Preparation For Being AMBASSADORS:

Before taking this honor as Plenipotentiaries, we need to make an honest attempt of knowing our responsibilities.  Consider the Christian as an AMBASSADOR who has a special motive of serving–the love of Jesus.

JESUS expressed LOVE in many ways, and as His AMBASSADORS, we need to take note:

He loved the lost – (Mark 10:21).

He wept over the lost – (Matthew 23:37).

He loved the outcasts of society – (Illus.: Luke 19:1-10).

The lack of love angered Him – (Mark 3:5).

He proved His love on Calvary…He died for us, so we live for Him.

A Christian Ambassador Responsibilities and Duties in the World– [ii]

1.  BE READY –

To be alert for chances to represent Christ while not backing away from a challenge or an opportunity.

2.  BE PATIENT –

Not quarrelling with others, but will listen in order to understand, then with gentleness, seek to respectfully engage those who disagree.

3.  BE REASONABLE –

Have informed convictions based on God’s Word/Scripture (not just feelings), give reasons, ask questions, aggressively seek answers, and will not be stumped by the same challenge twice.

4.  BE TACTICAL –

Adapt to each unique person and situation, maneuvering with wisdom while challenging bad thinking… presenting the TRUTH in an understanding and compelling way.

A Personal Experience of Being “Tactical”:

I have been blessed to be a part of 4 Billy Graham Crusades over the years.

As a counselor, when the Crusade Choir starts singing “Just as I am, without one plea”, was my cue to start my journey towards the center field of the football stadium.  To be qualified as “counselor”, we had to go through a week of training before Crusade began.

Mr Graham was positioned on a platform and after his message, those in attendance, started flowing down the long series of steps to the field. As counselors, we were to be sensitive to people’s needs, look forward to God-given opportunities, then to listen and share God’s Word with those who accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour.

After meeting and talking to several people one night, and as the crowds gathered on the stadium floor began to disperse,  I also turned to leave.  When out of the corner of my eye, I noticed 3 men heading towards me at a rapid pace.  Two of the men, who were giants among men, were carrying a much smaller man by his armpits, his feet not touching the ground.  As they approach, I didn’t know whether to stay frozen in place, or turn my back and quickly remove myself from their sight.  I decided to stand my ground with trepidation.

One of the men spoke up and declared, “We our Marines, stationed at Camp Pendleton.  We were here last night and got saved.”

Releasing the smaller man so that his feet could touch the ground, he continued saying, “This is a fellow-Marine.  We brought him here tonight so he too can be saved!”

 I thought to myself,  “Mel, this is a unique situation with unique men.  Lord, I need to quickly adapt to and apply Your wisdom…NOW!” 

Immediately, I proceeded to explain that their “fellow-Marine” needed to make his own choices in accepting JESUS;  their forceful and insistent encouragement might do more harm than good.  Scaring someone to Christ might sound “convicting”, but no, God’s Word doesn’t tell us to do so as His Ambassadors.

I then began sharing the Gospel Message with the help of a B.G.C. (Billy Graham Crusade) tract, and the young Marine accepted Jesus as his personal Saviour.

5.  BE CLEAR – 

Being careful with our language and not relying on Christian “lingo”.  [Ex.: manifestations, glorified, the rapture, justification, reconciliation, etc.].  Keep it simple.

6.  BE FAIR –

Be sympathetic and understanding towards others, acknowledging the merits of contrary views.

7.  BE HONEST –

Being careful with the facts that will not misrepresent another’s view, overstate his own case, or underestimate the demands of the Gospel.

8.  BE HUMBLE –

Do not press a point beyond what the persons evidence allows.  Know that their understanding of the TRUTH is fallible.

9.  BE ATTRACTIVE –

Act with grace, kindness, good manners (“fruits of the Spirit”)–do nothing that will dishonor the One who has sent you on the mission.

10. BE DEPENDENT –

Know that your effectiveness requires joining your best efforts with God’s POWER.

AMBASSADORS ON A DIPLOMATIC MISSION:

christian-embassy-un-logo-210x210

As Christian Ambassadors, “Plenipotentiaries”, we are to shine forth God’s Light–proclaim the message of SALVATION whenever and wherever we may be.  Sadly, Christians have lost the sense of our godly appointment in this world.  We’ve got our “ticket to heaven” punched, and we are home free!

May it never be, that as Christ’s Ambassadors, we are ordinary citizens in the world.  For if we feel that way, we will never fulfill the mission:

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion,  Your God reigns!”  (Isaiah 52:7 AMP).

 

[See previous Blog: July 8th, 2011 – https://theworddetective.wordpress.com/christ-ambassadors;-our-power-to-influence/.] 

Footnotes:  [i] Pastor/minister @Evangelical Christian Church – Network of Churches and Ministries in the Philippines.  [ii] Adapted from Greg Kouki,  “Ambassador’s Creed” and Roger Morris’ Characteristics of a Christian Ambassador.

 

 

“Going Down A Slippery Slope” – Is it a fallacy?

SLIPPERY SLOPE ARGUMENTS:

A “slippery slope” argument goes like this:  “If you take position A, you run the risk of taking position B; position B is wrong, therefore A is also wrong.”

Politics, national organizations, the media all use the technique to often promote FEAR to the listeners, our thinking.  BUT the reason for this POST is…Slippery-Slopenot to debate the idea or to promote FEAR in the readers, but to bring a FOCUS; to CAUTION–maybe even make you feel uncomfortable in what I see as complacency in society and even in the Church today.

THE SLOPE OF DISOBEDIENCE (Matthew 8:28-34)–

Once we take that FIRST STEP towards DISOBEDIENCE, the next step we take becomes much easier.

It was 1956, I was a 14 year old,  a non-rebellious  9th Grader in Junior High School.  Being a REBEL and disappointing my folks was so far away from who I was… the idea of going against the ‘grain of discipline’,  definitely wasn’t who I was–or who I thought I was.

One day, while walking to school as I always did, I knock on a buddy’s door to join me– and to my surprise,  Steve decided he wasn’t going to school that day.  No, he wasn’t sick.  Steve decided, since his parents were at work (no one would know), he was going to “ditch” school.

“Do you want to “ditch” too” Steve asked me.  I thought, how are we going to get away this rebellious act?  I even showed my concern:

“How are we going to keep from being caught? “ I asked.

“Don’t worry, Mel.  I’m good at forging my mom’s signature on an excuse slip.  We can do the same thing for you if you want.”

So the lies began.  Not just once but this went on and off for several months– thrilled because we hadn’t been caught in our lies, our deceit.  We were certainly contented in our disobedience.

And then the day of reckoning came!   We actually got caught by Truant Officers while ditching school…at my house and not Steve’s hideaway.  The math had discovered to many consequences; both 9th graders absent at the same time too many times.

The school contacted our parents at their workplace [my folks waited for me to tell them that night rather than confronting me with the discovery and repercussions].

And then the school pulled us out of first period class the next morning to inform us of  the consequences of our actions.  I remember the VP asking the three of us, what did you do all day?

“We sat at the kitchen table and played poker” we sheepishly answered.

His response at the time seemed quite surprising to the three of us (we had coerced one other student to join in the rebellion), seeing how much trouble we were all in:

“If it had been me ‘ditching’ school, I would have gone fishing, not wasted the whole day hiding in someone’s house”.

That was the “DUH” moment which added stupidity to the embarrassment.

DISOBEDIENCE is always a choice, no matter what age.  And of course, this was no exception.  My parents were of course disappointed and to my pleasant surprise, the only form of punishment needed for me personally was the following statement and it certainly brought home the point:

“You’ve never done anything like this before and I hope you’ve learned a lesson”.

We weren’t TOTALLY off the hook–

One hour of detention in the Vice Principal’s Office, every day for two weeks certainly became a everyday embarrassment when we were excused early from our 1st Period Class to walk down the empty school halls to pay the price of rebellion.

The “slippery slope” began with the idea that just “one time” would be okay–with the addition of our peers cheering silently that we had challenged the system; our own narrow society.  And when discovered, the thrill was over and it all went down hill after that.

THE SLOPE IS STARTED (Verse 28):

“And when He had come to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs; they were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by that road.”

The SLOPE starts at the place where JESUS met these men, in Gadera.  It’s located on the east side of the Jordan River, given to the tribe of Gad (Numbers 32:1-2, 6).

The people of Gad didn’t want to cross the Jordan and were contented to stay right were they were.

Then in reading Numbers 32:13-15, we see the Lord became angry with the people.  There was work to be done, battles to be fought and the promise of the Lord to be fulfilled.  Yet, the people would have been content to stay right where they were.  Well fed, well clothed, one big happy group of people.  There was no need to get involved–they would allow others to fight their battles.

Sin Starts With Contentment–

CONTENTMENT that enough has already been done.  The Lord declared if they wouldn’t be willing and come across the river and fight, they wouldn’t receive their possession in the east.  They would have to come across and fight with the rest of the tribes to receive the land they wanted.

There is no place in the Army of God for contentment.  There isn’t such a thing as “We’ve finally arrived!”  And yet, the forefathers of these two demon possessed men had to be coerced into following the Lord’s commands.

Sin enters the camp a little bit at a time.  Not all at once.  The logic of the Gadites was simple:  we are cattlemen, there is grass and water here.  We need to stay here and get started with our lives.

But the logic fell short of the Lord’s desire for the nation as a whole.  There was a PROMISE LAND, a place of belonging, not only for those who chose to stay but also for all God’s people.  They were in the conquest together, and together they would have to fight.

THE SLOPE GETS STEEPER (verses 29-31):

“[29]  And behold, they shrieked and screamed,  What have You to do with us, Jesus, Son of God?  Have You come to torment us before the appointed time?   [30]  Now at some distance from there a drove of many hogs was grazing.  [31]  And the demons begged Him, If You drive us out, send us into the drove of hogs.” 

NOTICE that the people of Gadera were “pig farmers”.  They abandoned the cattle and sheep business and were now into the pig business.

Pigs were unclean.  Good Jewish families didn’t have pigs.  I believe that the attitudes of the forefathers were still present during the days of Jesus.

SIN crept into the attitudes and began to ‘chip away’ at the morality of the people.  It’s no wonder that there were demon-possessed men living in tombs, chasing away everyone who came near.  The people had allowed sin to become so entrenched in their society that such possession had become possible.

The devil isn’t satisfied with influencing the occasional outburst of sin.  He wants to control the lives of as many people as he can.

These men were the physical embodiment of evil.

They didn’t start out that way.  They didn’t wake up one morning and decided to become possessed.  But it began to take more and more disobedience; more of ignoring of what was around them to get the same thrill they once received.  Soon, they had immersed themselves in Godless behavior and Godless they became.

THE SLOPE SWEPT THEM AWAY (verses 32-34):

” [32]  And He said to them,  Begone!  So they came out and went into the hogs, and behold, the whole drove rushed down the steep bank into the sea and died in the water.   [33]  The herdsmen fled and went into the town and reported everything, including what had happened to the men under the power of demons.  [34]  And behold, the whole town went out to meet Jesus; and as soon as they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their locality”  (AMP Version).

The pigs had more sense than the people of Gadera did.  The hogs had rather die than be possessed and ran down the slope into the sea and drowned.

SIN DESTROYS!

That is always the goal of Satan and his demonic hordes.  The demons thought they would be safe in pigs, but the pigs knew better.

As the pigs were swept away to their destruction, the people swept out of the city and asked JESUS to leave.  There, before their own eyes, a great and powerful miracle by the Son of God had taken place before their eyes, where two men no longer were possessed but were in their right minds.

Did the people of Gadera stop and worship the Lord at His presence?  Did they pause to consider what had just happened in their midst?  No, they were more concerned with their ‘pig ministry’ and that their livelihood was gone as well!

Complacency, Contentment, a Godless Society–

In the verses that follow, we see that JESUS did indeed leave.

JESUS will never go where He isn’t wanted!

He will never stay where He isn’t welcomed!

4723392022_da31abeec0JESUS will never stay where a people are in a “sanctuary of contentment” with their spiritual state.

There are PROMISES to fulfill, not just for some, but for all!  JESUS came to offer eternal life to all who would receive Him.  He came to offer a deeper meaning of our spiritual existence.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Are you CONTENT where you are?  Are you SATISFIED to let someone else take your place, some other church lead in the fight?

Contented and Satisfied
Contented and Satisfied

We have the opportunity to invite JESUS to stay and to see the miracles of changed lives in our churches.  To see Him do “exceedingly more than we have ever thought or imagined.”

“Sin takes us farther than we want to go, keeps us longer than we want to stay, and makes us pay a price we can’t afford to pay.”