Sunday, March 2, 2008

Lessons from the Garden

We are in the last days. I know you have heard that before, but never has the world been in such a state that it is today. I hear the politicians talking about change. Well, I think that there is going to be a big change but not the kind that they think. Jesus is coming back to get His church very soon. We need to be ready when He comes. There are some lessons that I want us to see this morning that will help us do that.
Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.
Matthew 26:36-46
Lessons from Jesus.

1. We need to get alone with God.

Up to this point in the gospels Christ had been surrounded by hundreds of people. So many different characters, so much activity, so many healings, so many miracles... tax collectors, publicans, prostitutes, divorcees, soldiers, priests, Pharisees, fisherman. The gospels paint a picture of a Jesus who interacts, cares and loves the world, yet spending time on his own.

Here in this story, we begin to see the characters surrounding Jesus melt away into the background. In verse 36 the disciples are told to stand aside. Three are left: Peter, James and John. Then he shares with them these astonishing words "My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death." Even then he leaves a distance between them. Asking them to "stay and keep watch with me." And then he prays alone. This is the first picture I want us to hold on to: the Christ who goes on alone.

We see in the later verses how even the disciples fall asleep. The hour is late – this follows the Last Supper, and the disciples are tired, and here in the depths of the night Jesus is alone – pouring out his heart to the Father. Why is he alone – in virtually all his other ministry he has invited his disciples alongside to get involved to share the work. Yet here he is alone. Why is this so important?

Only he can take up the Cross and die for the world, only the Son of God can be hung on the cross for the sins of the world. No other can walk this path, no other can go this way. Only him. Some have said that Christ was in sorrow because he would die. Yet how foolish. There were many times he had been in danger for his life, and yet showed no fear; surrounded by Pharisees who wanted to stone him and yet we read of no frightened man.

Isn’t it remarkable that people can ask the question "Where is God?" Here in Gethsemane we have a Christ who stood alone for us that He might be with us always.

The reason Jesus was alone was that He could talk to His Father! Even though He was alone He was in communication with His Father. The lesson for us here is that we need times of solitude with our Father. There are times when God wants us to share our burdens with Him and there are times when He wants to share His love, compassion and wisdom about our lives with us.

Jimmy Stewart shared the story about the filming of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life.
"It’s hard to explain. I, for one, had things happen to me during the filming that never happened in any other picture I’ve made. In one scene, for example, George Bailey is faced with unjust criminal charges and, not knowing where to turn, ends up in a little roadside restaurant. He is unaware that most of the people in town are arduously praying for him. In this scene, at the lowest point in George Bailey’s life, Frank Capra was shooting a long shot of me slumped in despair. In agony I raise my eyes and, following the script, plead, ‘God . . . God . . . dear Father in heaven, I’m not a praying man, but if you’re up there and you can hear me, show me the way. I’m at the end of my rope, Show me the way, God. . . .’ As I said those words, I felt the loneliness, the hopelessness of people who had nowhere to turn, and my eyes filled with tears. I broke down sobbing. This was not planned at all, but the power of that prayer, the realization that our Father in heaven is there to help the hopeless, had reduced me to tears." (Guideposts, December 2005)

Life is like a merry-go-round, and the older we get the faster it goes and sometimes we need to say, "Stop this thing and let me off!"

Find time to get alone with God!

2. The prayer of Christ: "Thy will be done."

Look at the two prayers in between verse 39 and verse 42. By looking at the contrast between these two prayers, you can see how Christ moves from "if it is possible" to the realization "if it is not possible."

This phrase, "Your will be done," should sound familiar as it comes straight from Matthew 5 where Jesus taught the disciples how to pray. So here we have Christ living out the Lord’s Prayer as he faces death.

How different than our prayers. "Lord, Thy will be done," can become "Lord, I don’t want to do this and here are 10 good reasons..."

Here at the very heart of Easter – at the place where the battle was fought – will the Son submit to the will of the Father – we see in this prayer, "Thy will be done."

Do you remember the Lord’s prayer? "Your kingdom come, your will be done..." In a very real way God’s kingdom could not have come unless Jesus was willing to do the will of the Father.

We should not expect God’s kingdom to come, to transform our lives, our neighbors lives, we shouldn’t expect to see healings, and answered prayer unless we are willing to seek the Lord’s will. I fear that far too often we expect God’s kingdom to come and great things to happen to us in our church and our lives without submitting to the will of God. Yet often we run our lives as if God doesn’t exist.

One of the integral steps of preparing for Easter is to pray "Thy will be done." The way of Jesus was the way of obedience to the Father’s will, the way of the cross.

The lesson from the sleepy disciples.

The last picture I want us to consider is that of the sleeping disciples and the words of Christ, "Lead us not into temptation."

Now sleep is a word that is very sweet to my ears – and in some ways I have much sympathy with the disciples – the hour was late, they had shared a meal together so would likely have full stomachs, and Jesus called them to watch and pray. Jesus told his disciples in verse 41, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." In the gospel of Matthew this the last request that Christ made to his disciples before he was taken, and the trial and the journey to the cross commenced.

(I wonder if Jesus put this sleep upon them to teach them that they need help, that they can’t do the job that they have to do without help? Just a thought.)

I believe the last request of Jesus had both a near range and a long range meaning for the disciples. In his moment of need he wanted them to stand with him, to pray with him. But he was to tread a path that only he could tread. By sleeping they revealed their own sinfulness and it stands as a picture of the uniqueness of Christ to stand in our place. It was here in Gethsemane, without the Holy Spirit, when asked to keep watch, that they failed. But I also believe there was a longer term meaning. Jesus knew that they would face beatings, persecution, that their faith would be tested after he had gone (Matthew 24: 9-13).

The one thing that the disciples failed in before the Spirit came, was to do the will of God to stay awake and pray! Without the help of the Holy Spirit who was to come, they failed! The Bible says that they all ran away, and Peter denied Him.

Look what happened after the Holy spirit came upon them!
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Acts 2:42
In Acts 12 Peter was in prison and "the church was earnestly praying to God for him" all night.

Christ knew what was needed. If anyone dare says that Christianity is a man made religion I would challenge them to look at the disciples before and after the resurrection.

Here in Gethsemane – we see a Christ pleading with them to stay with him, to pray with him, that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, and yet they fail him.

We live in an age where these words of Christ are more relevant than ever. Temptation is around every corner. Temptation to be unfaithful to one’s partner, temptation to put one’s job above all else, temptation to strive after the bigger and better, temptation to hide Christ from those who need him. Yet the words of Christ come back to speak to us "Watch and pray."

Every day we should let these words of Christ ring out: watch how you live, watch what you do, watch who you are copying, watch your lives and commit them in prayer to Me. "Watch and pray." Will we listen to these last words of Jesus to us? Yes, the body is weak, but how good it is that the Spirit is stronger. Christ died to rescue us from the penalty and consequence of sin and temptation, and urges us to watch and pray so that we will not fall.

The lesson of things to come.
The hour is at hand. Matthew 26:45

"But all this was done, that the scripture of the prophets might be full filled. Matthew 26:56

The world was about to be changed forever . They were on the brink of a world that would change the hearts of mankind! Jesus was taking the final steps towards full salvation, as the scripture had foretold. The followers of Jesus had been told over and over that Jesus would set up His kingdom but somehow, even though they were His own followers, they had not caught on.
Prophecy was being fulfilled before their very eyes. They were a part of it!

Now we are on the other end of prophecy and we, too, are seeing thinga come to pass that the scripture has told us about and we are not catching on to the fact that Jesus is coming back soon.
We go to church, we pay our tithe, we do good for others and we have a testimony that we are followers of Jesus. But are we ready for the end time? Are we asleep when we should be praying? I really believe that Jesus is about ready to call His children home! That hour is at hand!

Let's look at just a few things that transpired in our scripture lesson and how they can be applied today.

The plot of Satan to destroy the plan of salvation.
"He is at hand." Matthew 26:56
Yes, it was Judas. He was the one who we blame, but who was in Judas? Satan!

This was the beginning of the end!

The plan of Salvation is being undermined today by Satan.

Someone sent me this article about the New Age movement. Now, the New Age movement has been around a long time but it seems to be getting greater attention today than ever before.

Jesus Christ being reinvented, redefined, and blasphemed and, this false New-Age Christ teaching is about to make huge inroads into the world, with the help of the queen of television talk shows, Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah Winfrey, beginning January 1, 2008, on her daily radio program will offer a year-long course on the New Age Christ, in a lesson a day and will completely cover the 365 lessons from the Course in Miracles “Workbook.”

Listeners will be encouraged to buy A Course in Miracles for the year-long course, and an audio version, recited by Richard (John Boy Walton) Thomas will be available on compact disc.

Those who finish the Course will have a wholly redefined spiritual mindset — a New Age worldview that include the beliefs that there is no sin, no evil, no devil. A Course in Miracles teaches its students to rethink everything they believe about God and life, and, bluntly states: “This is a course in mind training” and is dedicated to “thought reversal.”

The Course in Miracles — in reality — is the truth of the Bible turned upside down.

Oprah told her television audience that Williamson’s book, A Course in Miracles, was one of her favorite books, and that she had already bought a thousand copies and would be handing them out to everyone in her studio audience. Oprah’s endorsement skyrocketed Williamson’s book to the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

A Course in Miracles is allegedly a “new revelation” from “Jesus” to help humanity work through these troubled times. This “Jesus” — who bears no doctrinal resemblance to the Bible’s Jesus Christ — began delivering channeled teachings in 1965 to a Columbia University Professor of Medical Psychology, Helen Schucman.

One day Schucman heard an “inner voice” stating, “This is a course in miracles. Please take notes.” For seven years she diligently took spiritual dictation from this voice that described himself as “Jesus.”

Here are some quotes from the “Jesus” voice of A Course in Miracles:

“There is no sin . . . “

A “slain Christ has no meaning.”

“The journey to the cross should be the last ‘useless journey’..”

“Do not make the pathetic error of ‘clinging to the old rugged cross.’”

“The Name of Jesus Christ as such is but a symbol… It is a symbol that is safely used as a replacement for the many names of all the gods to which you pray..”

“The recognition of God is the recognition of yourself.”

“The Atonement is the final lesson he [man] need learn, for it teaches him that, never having sinned, he has no need of salvation.”

Popular author Wayne Dyer told his PBS television audience that the “brilliant writing” of A Course in Miracles would produce more peace in the world.

There is a movement on to destroy God's plan for our salvation. But I have good news! They will not be able to!

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."
2 Timothy 3 :1-5
And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh... Luke 21:28
Fear came upon the disciples (the church).
Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled. Matthew 26:56

But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest's palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end. Matthew 26:58

And they asked him, saying, "Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?" And he said," Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, 'I am Christ; and the time draweth near:' go ye not therefore after them. But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by." Then said he unto them, "Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls. And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." Luke 21:7-28

The Power of Christ.

After suffering and dying, Christ came forth from the tomb and He lives! Because of these facts of His power, we can have eternal life with Him. He has the power of eternal life!
"Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also." John 14:19

It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: II Timothy 2:11
I serve a risen Saviour;
He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living,
whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy,
I hear His voice of cheer;
And just the time I need Him
He’s always near.

He lives, He lives,
Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me
along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives,
salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives
He lives within my heart.
--A.H. Ackley

Well, this is like reading a book, but I want you to know that I have read the book and I know how it will all end for the children of God.

And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. Revelation 22:12-14

May the Lord add His blessing to this message.

Amen and Amen!


Dori said...

Thanks for putting your messages here. I miss your preaching and love reading them when I need a lift. I love you!

A Romantic Porch said...

This is really good. Love,Rachel

Jen said...

In your message, I have found words from God for myself and words to encourage a discouraged friend. Continue to post. God's word needs to be found in every place until His Son returns. God Bless, Jenny (Daughter of SecondTimeAroundHope)