By Verse : Mark 1:4-13; Eph. 3:6 Topic :

January 7, 2018

Mark 1:4-13; Eph. 3:6

We are now in the first week of the new year and those who have made their resolutions might already have broken a few of them. As I was thinking about the new year, this is the time you see all kinds of ads to take off some of that weight that some have put on during the holiday season. From Thanksgiving through New Years there are so much food we often consume with special programs, special meals, gifts that are given, cookie walks, Santa breakfasts, and that does not include all the baking and eating one does for your families. No wonder these programs hit the ground running right after the New Year because it’s time to get the body back in shape, as they show people who have lost lots of weight telling you, you can do it too. Then they show you pictures of the before and the after. Who wouldn’t be tempted to try it?
Now there is nothing wrong with any of that, right. It’s good to get the body in shape. Fitness places are filled with people at this time of year. I heard someone say that many people start the year going to a fitness place 2-3 times a week, but by March they slack off, and besides that, they then just go occasionally. And I bet many buy those new machines that you can use at home too, figuring you’d use it more than going to the fitness center. They begin going gangbusters in their workouts, but it seems that something gets in the way and the machine might be put on Ebay up for sale. I’m sure it is the same way with those who begin to diet. They begin all excited, but as time goes on, not all who begin complete that which they began.
Coming to the office the other day thinking about today’s message, a song came on about living our lives with all it’s difficulties, and the things we often face in life. One line in the song, where the title for today’s message is from, talked about the “chain breaker.” Thinking of that, and thinking of the new year, thinking of those ads about diets and exercise I thought many folks think about their physical bodies and try to get themselves in shape for the spring, for the summer in order to look good in bathing suits or whenever they shed winter clothing. That’s not all bad. We are always told to take care of our bodies for healthy reasons. Then I thought about our spiritual life as well. What do we do to change that? How do we exercise our spiritual lives? What chains bind us from accomplishing that which God calls us to do?
This morning’s message comes from the baptism of Jesus found in Mark’s gospel. It’s a familiar story found in three of the four gospels. Mark begins his gospel with these words: “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Then he tells the story of Jesus’ cousin John, who came out of the wilderness to “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”
Following that we find John preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Mark records how the whole Judean countryside comes out to him, confessing their sins and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. His message was, “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Following those words Mark tells of Jesus’ baptism, very brief, yet important writing, “As Jesus was coming out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.” And right after that it is recorded, “At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.”
You know the next thing that happened according to all the gospel writers? Jesus began his ministry to the world.
What does this have to do with being a chain breaker? Isn’t that what God sent his Son to do? He came to break the chains that bind our lives. You know those things, like anxiety, grief, illness, doubts, fears, anger, sin and I could go on and on. They are there at the door to our hearts. Every once in a while, they pop up in our lives and we have to learn how to deal with them. Not always easy. The tempter is smart. After all, look at how he got Eve and Adam to take a bite of the forbidden fruit which opened the doors to sin in the world.
This simple story of Jesus’ birth, his death, his resurrection was to break the chains that bind the whole world of sins. We might say he did it in the desert when faced with the challenges of Satan. It is Matthew and Luke who tell us more of that encounter. Though Mark says Satan was there tempting Jesus, Matthew and Luke bring us to Jesus’ most vulnerable moments, when after fasting for 40 days he is famished beyond belief. Matthew says the tempter came to him with this statement. “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
You ever been hungry? I mean REALLY hungry? Sometimes on the news you see how some who are hungry go looking for food that others have tossed out. The story of the fellow in one of Jesus’ parable sat at the gate of a rich man just looking for some scraps of food to eat… just a few crumbs, if you will. But he was ignored. Jesus, as we see, comes right back at the tempter. There is no question that Jesus is God’s son, not in Jesus’ mind, nor in the mind of the tempter or he wouldn’t be trying to destroy him. With that in mind, sure those stones looked somewhat like a loaf of bread, and yes, Jesus could pray and seek God’s help, calling on angels to deliver him bread to eat and water to drink, but that was not what this was about. This was the testing and preparing of Jesus for what he came to this earth to do….to break the chains that the tempter already had on the people in this world. Jesus, in a weakened state from fasting for 40 days, used Scripture to weaken the tempter’s hold on him when he answered that test by saying, “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone. But on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Can we say that to break the chains that bind us we too, can use God’s words? We find many words in Scripture that help us deal with things happening in our lives. There are those stories as well from the beginning of the Bible to the very end that are there to help us gain strength in our faith, and courage to walk the journey with our God. Jump into the Psalms and you find lots of great uplifting verses that can guide you. You’re dealing with stuff in your life and want to get help, check out the writings of Paul, who spent time in prison, was beaten to almost death, and see how he coped with life. You will be amazed, and you will find some answers on how to deal with things.
The tempter comes right back to Jesus and takes him to the holy city and standing at the highest point of the temple, and says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down for it is written, “He will command the angels concerning you and they will lift you up in their hands.”
This is the same temple where Jesus would come on the last week of his life and turn over the tables of the money changes who were making God’s House a place where thieves seemed to thrive, rather than a house of prayer. This is the same temple where the priests and others will reject him. This is the same temple where he had been circumcised, and where he had come as a child, and many, many Passover days. Looking down from there, Jesus once again turns to what he knows best….the words of his Father…. “It is also written. ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
The links of the chain are getting weaker as Jesus turns to his strength, his foundation, his rock, the words of his Father in heaven. He is fighting fire with fire. In this case he is fighting scripture with scripture. And with each temptation, with each dart that the tempter throws, Jesus deflects them not on his own might, but by the word of God.
The tempter had one more temptation under his belt that he believed could convince Jesus to reject his mission and follow him. The tempter takes Jesus on a trip to a very high mountain and there he was able to show him all the kingdoms of the world and all their splendor tempting him by saying, “All this I give to you, if you will bow down and worship me.”
It must have been a magnificent view. All the mountains, the valleys, the cities, one kingdom after the other. All this could be his if only…. Jesus looks at what is before him knowing this doesn’t belong to the tempter to give, but to his Father in heaven and with one final defense of his solid faith in the mission he came to do, Jesus returns to the power he has always known, the power he has always used, the power that he will use in the ministry to the world for the next three years and beyond, as he turns to look Satan right in the eyes, not with anger, but with eyes that penetrated to the heartless tempter who had fallen from the grace of God through his own ways of wanting to be god, and wanted to be worshipped, instead of submitting himself to the God who allowed him to be. Jesus says to him. “Away from me, Satan! For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’
And the chains that bound the world becomes weaker still until the day that Jesus died on the cross and the chains were broken for good. On that last temptation the tempter, knowing he had been beaten on this day, knowing he wasn’t going to get anywhere at this time, Luke records, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” And you all know when he tried to slip into Jesus’ mission again.
And Jesus? With the ministry of the Holy Spirit, with the guidance of his Father, with the strength he had from winning this battle, and with the courage, and filled with the Spirit of his Father in heaven, he was prepared and ready to begin his mission to break the chains that bound the people on this earth that keep us bound, even the chains of death. He began that ministry and with each step of his journey the people he called, the people he preached to, the people he touched for healing found that the chains that bound them were broken by his power and their faith.
And so it is today. We too, have that power. It’s called prayer. It’s called faith. It’s called believing. We have God’s Word that leads us, strengthens us. We have those wonderful stories that take us from the depths of despair into the presence of God. They stir our souls and we know that same God is our God today. And we can believe that God is with us in all things.
Paul told the Ephesian church, “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and shares in the promises in Christ Jesus.”
When thinking of those chains that bind us I’m reminded of one verse from a hymn that the first time I sang it, I understood more fully what had happened in my own life. It was the theme song for my college class at Asbury and I soon learned it is the theme song for Asbury Seminary. The hymn is “And Can It Be.” The verse is the 3rd one: “Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and natures night; thine eyes diffused a quickening ray; I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; MY CHAINS FELL OFF, MY HEART WAS FREE, I ROSE WENT FORTH, AND FOLLOWED THEE. Amazing love how can it be, that thou my God should die for me.”
I don’t know what chains the tempter might have upon you, but I know who the chain breaker is. It is Jesus Christ, who this morning we come to receive through celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
As we continue our journey into the new year let us come to this table of grace to receive that power, that faith that will help us face the tempter when he comes knocking on our doors. For Christ has already broken the chains that have bound the world by the tempter. So now may we walk into our future in the power and grace of our Lord and Savior. Amen!

Happy Birthday Barb Tucker

Happy Birthday Barb Tucker

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Happy Birthday Judy Krell


Happy birthday Dorothy Lugibill!

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