Suffering…Who for the Joy!

Suffering Joy

Sunday 03/29/20

Series: Do we Really Believe?

Message – Suffering…Who for the Joy!

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Suffering & Glory

This week we are continuing in our series on “Do we REALLY believe?

We have been learning for some time about how our actions prove our belief. James challenges those who think one can enter into a relationship with God of knowing and believing without a fundamental and ONGOING life change by saying, “someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works.  (20) Foolish man! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless?” ~ James 2:18&20

So we have been focusing on the kind of faith that yields fruit…that leads to actions…and this week is no different.

Last week we began talking about the suffering that leads to Glory. That the Glory Paul was talking about is a life and character change – it is Christ in You! The suffering was putting off the sins if the flesh and we will address that a little further today as well. We also talked about how WHAT we know and how we hear it – largely determines if and how we walk out what we learn…what we SAY we believe.

So this morning we are going to begin talking about our example JESUS. He believed the Gospel…the good news of salvation and he lived the reality of it with conviction. He said of His Own obedience that, The One who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, because I always do what pleases Him.~ John 8:29  

Now, of course every knowledge of Jesus is GOOD and at various times we need to be more familiar with one aspect of His person as opposed to another.

To know Him as Creator for example, is an altogether different way of knowing and relating to Him than it is to know Him as Savior.

That is ONE of the many reasons we have the four Gospels.

  • Matthew portrays Jesus as the Messiah King. The Lion of the tribe of Judah.
  • Mark portrays Jesus as the suffering servant.
  • Luke portrays Jesus as the God-man and as such the great physician.
  • John portrays Him as an eagle – high, Majestic & Deity. He speaks of Him as God!

All of these are accurate depictions of Jesus of course…and all are revealing of His true nature. All are necessary in order to begin to capture this man Who was God and this second person of the Godhead Who became man.

Each serves a purpose as a revelation to us in our walk and maturing into His image and likeness.

A quote from a pastor and theologian Bill Lane, “We should engage with scripture on the level of INFORMED imagination.” Meaning we should live the scripture through in our hearts with ALL the faculties of our hearts – Intellect, Drive and Emotion – exploring God in all His various facets and wonders – and that from every available angle!

So today as we again approach the topic of suffering and glory there is one portrayal of Christ which is MOST helpful for us and that is Christ Jesus as a human being. Jesus the human – with all the limitations and frailties to which that condition made Him subject. 

We need to be re-introduced to Jesus… in His humanity.

Our Key passage is found in Hebrews 12.

Hebrews 12:1-4,  “(1) Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us,  (2) keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. (3) For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart.  (4) In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

Again Michael Card comes to our assistance with words, which in their eloquent simplicity, help us capture a notion…a glimpse of His humanity.

The Song is called The Nazarene and it is on an album entitled “The Life”, which is a re-distributing of a Trilogy of albums debuting the life and ministry of Jesus. It is excellent and a link to the song will be provided on the website.

The lyrics to this song I find helpful…

The Nazarene came down to live the life of every man

And He felt the fascination of the stars

And as He wandered through this weary world

He wondered and He wept

For there were so few who’d listen to His call

He came, He saw, He surrendered all

So that we might be born again

And the fact of His humanity was there for all to see

For He was unlike any other man and yet so much like me

The Nazarene could hunger

And the Nazarene could cry

And He could laugh

With all the fullness of His heart

And those who hardly knew Him

And those who knew Him well

Could feel the contradiction from the start

So we are now going to turn our eyes towards our example to see and consider how Jesus suffered…and He did this in MANY ways but none are as clear as:

  • In the garden 
  • And on the cross

Jesus knew the Father and He saw something in the Father = worth dying for – worth suffering for!

—————-

Now…

What is suffering again? It is denying our fleshly natures – meaning the nature that was born out in the garden out of self interest, self-protection and lies. It is the nature that influences our hearts towards control, towards grasping, towards being wholly self-seeking individuals. In short, it makes us completely different than God.

Why is suffering necessary? Well, quite simply it is because you cannot have both. As Jesus put it – and we read it last week – you will live for your lower nature and die as a result or you will take up your cross and die to your lower nature and as a result – live.

Die or Live? We in here, have all come to understand these words in the light of Jesus’ thinking. Life or living was and IS to know God in the now. That is to know Him relationally which is to know Him by experience. So then death is to be separated from God, to be cut off in your every moment from experiencing Him in any way…to be cut off from God.

How can two walk together? This is a thought we’ve become re-acquainted with of late and it is lifted from Amos 3:3 it is quite possibly the only thing you know in the book of Amos – and though used this way it is out of context – it still elucidates a very real truth. A truth which offers tremendous clarity for us. 

We can only walk with God to the degree that we agree with Him.

Now THAT word agree is a bit tricky, but has some deep truths in it. It is a relational term which means to summon, to engage, to agree, to assemble. 

So within the context of the LIFE which suffering brings, the word “agree” would mean to be summoned by God, to engage with Him which eventually leads to your agreeing with Him in submission and surrender.

This is something Jesus did and at times it was, even for Him, a very real form of suffering…as we will see.

This agreement though, has a cost that is even greater than the denying of our fleshly desires. 

It includes the reality of a resurrection! 

Now that may not sound like much of a “cost” or a “price to pay” but it is! 

Your resurrected self is NOT at all like your old self…in other words you have to lose yourself!…and it is perhaps in this way that the allegory of marriage to Christ best fits. I cannot tell you how many times over the years I’ve had a young bride come to me in tears and frustration because she truly loved her husband but she was growing to resent their relationship and his influence over her because she felt as if she were losing her own identity. I’ve heard the phrase, “I’m not even sure I remember who I used to be before I married him…I feel as if I am losing myself in him” We do ourselves a HUGE injustice by not recognizing the INTENTIONS of God in the things and systems He has created and that is especially true in regard to the genders and marriage. 

We are married to Christ and as we continue in that relationship of knowing and trusting we find ourselves losing touch with our former selves. We are finding a new identity IN HIM. He is our Lord and we are His helpers or helpmates. A bride takes on the last name of her husband even as we take on His name. All of this is teaching us something. When we come to Christ IF we truly love Him and respond to His pursuit of us, we will find ourselves suffering the loss of our old natures and taking on a new way of thinking and being! THAT is both suffering and glory – all wrapped up in a living allegory!

Just a few paragraphs back in Paul’s letter to the Romans (and it is not far from where we left off last week) in chapter 6:3-14, he said,

“(3) Or has it escaped your attention that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  (4) Well, then, we by our baptism were buried with Him in death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from among the dead by the Father’s glorious power, we also should live an entirely new life.  (5) For since we have become one with Him by sharing in His death, we shall also be one with Him by sharing in His resurrection. (6) This we know–that our old self was nailed to the cross with Him, in order that our sinful nature might be deprived of its power, so that we should no longer be the slaves of sin;  (7) for he who has paid the penalty of death stands absolved from his sin. (8) But, seeing that we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him; (9) because we know that Christ, having come back to life, is no longer liable to die. (10) Death has no longer any power over Him. For by the death which He died He became, once for all, dead in relation to sin; but by the life which He now lives He is alive in relation to God.  (11) In the same way you also must regard yourselves as dead in relation to sin, but as alive in relation to God, because you are in Christ Jesus. (12) Let not Sin therefore reign as king in your mortal bodies, causing you to be in subjection to their cravings; (13) and no longer lend your faculties as unrighteous weapons for Sin to use. On the contrary surrender your very selves to God as living men who have risen from the dead, and surrender your several faculties to God, to be used as weapons to maintain the right.”

Now two things….

  1. If the penalty for a crime is death and the judicial system carries out the verdict then after the penalty has been paid, the one guilty is now absolved of the crime. He need not pay anything more…indeed he CANNOT.
  2. That being true, the death must be real and NOT simply propositional.

The only way for us to do that is to die WITH Christ. He is the ONE WHO dies for all! 

Now – back to our natural analogy – say the crime we were guilty of was of being a murderer. If we have been absolved from being a murderer, if we want that verdict to stick then we can no longer live as a murderer.

So while the debt of death was paid once for all – the state of being dead to that old person remains a real and solid fact. It must remain a reality!

To illustrate this – It “could” be likened to the witness protection program. You are given an new identity and so long as the one who is your enemy lives, you can no longer live and you once did. You are effectively a new person – with a new identity and new life. If you want to continue to live – you will divorce yourself entirely from who you once were without looking back and fully embrace your new identity. 

How many people realize that doing that will require a different kind of death which is no less painful?

THAT is both what suffering IS and WHY it must be done!

Now let’s go back to Romans 8

Last week I skipped the meat of the sandwich if you will in these verses. We skipped from verses 13-17 to 26-30. Now we are going to cover the meat in that sandwich.

Turn with me to Romans 8:16-25,

“(16) The Spirit Himself bears witness, along with our own spirits, to the fact that we are children of God;  (17) and if children, then heirs too–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ; if indeed we are sharers in Christ’s sufferings, in order that we may also be sharers in His glory.  (18) Why, what we now suffer I count as nothing in comparison with the glory which is soon to be manifested in us. (19) For all creation, gazing eagerly as if with outstretched neck, is waiting and longing to see the manifestation of the sons of God.  (20) For the Creation fell into subjection to failure and unreality (not of its own choice, but by the will of Him who so subjected it). (21) Yet there was always the hope that at last the Creation itself would also be set free from the thraldom of decay so as to enjoy the liberty that will attend the glory of the children of God.  (22) For we know that the whole of Creation is groaning together in the pains of childbirth until this hour. (23) And more than that, we ourselves, though we possess the Spirit as a foretaste and pledge of the glorious future, yet we ourselves inwardly sigh, as we wait and long for open recognition as sons through the deliverance of our bodies.  (24) It is *in hope* that we have been saved. But an object of hope is such no longer when it is present to view; for when a man has a thing before his eyes, how can he be said to hope for it? (25) But if we hope for something which we do not see, then we eagerly and patiently wait for it.”

Now that is all ONE thought, but perhaps the most important part for us this morning in our study is at the beginning, where Paul said (and now I read from the Wuest) Romans 8:18 “for I have come to a reasoned conclusion that the sufferings of the present season are of no weight in comparison to the glory which is about to be revealed upon us.”

Now we know the glory which is going to be seen IN us is none other than the glory of Christ… having been fully perfected IN us! Which is why this passage uses the word “sons” of God meaning Huios of God – mature sons who share in the likeness and character of their Father!

The difficulty is that we do not know what the Father looks like. 

We are being encouraged to strive for an ends that we do not understand, do not comprehend and cannot even imagine. 

God Himself said this when in 1 Cor. 2 He says through Paul that “Eye has NOT seen, nor ear heard nor has entered into the heart of man ALL that God has made and keeps ready for those that love Him”

Also in Ephesians 3:14-21, “(14) For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,  (15) from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, (16) that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,  (17) that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— (19)  to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (20) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,  (21) to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

So we are being asked to take it on faith that our sufferings are NOT in vain, but that the glory revealed IN us is in fact so far beyond anything we could ever imagine that it makes any suffering we go through seem like mere child’s play in comparison. 

Paul says it doesn’t even warrant a side-by-side comparison for in fact there can BE no real comparison.

And that is where the need to see and contemplate Jesus in His humanity comes into view.

As a means of encouraging us to let go of any last vestiges of our old lives – shaking off, as it were, every weight and laying aside every sin… we are encouraged to consider Jesus!

What is it though that the writer wants us to consider? Jesus in His humanity.

Hebrews 12:2-4,  

“(2) keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.  (3) For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. (4) In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

So we have to ask ourselves…what did Jesus see? Sure it was the Joy that was SET before Him…but what was it?

Jesus was a man and saw with man’s eyes – He too is to receive a man’s reward and draws joy from the same source as we do! 

So again I have to ask myself as I have in one way or another all week…what did He see? 

What was SET before Him? 

Since the passage uses the word “shame” here it hints at it’s biblical opposite and that is glory.

But what Glory was set before Him as His joy?

Well let’s consider the suffering He endured…

In the Garden

– He longed to have the cup pass from Him, and said as much in prayer to God.

Think about those words. 

I know that many people point to various things we know of Christ from the scriptures and say – “See…there is the strongest proof of His humanity”. 

And those examples range from: 

  • being born a baby and all that entails
  • being weak and tired after a day’s journey
  • His need to sleep in a bow of a boat (when God never slumbers nor sleeps)
  • when He wept at the loss of John

…all sorts of examples but for me, nothing speaks Jesus’ humanity more than the fact that He prayed!

Now consider this – Jesus PRAYED.

This is God…making petition of God.

Now prayer itself is a bit of a mystery to me. I was contemplating prayer Friday morning while lying on my bed before getting up. There is MUCH I do not understand about prayer. It makes little sense to my rational mind to have to pray at all…and yet, I know I am wrong for the scriptures not only speak highly of it – it outright requires it in fact. 

Jesus PRAYED. Not only is the fact of His praying astounding to me, it is the way He prayed and the words He used. 

Jesus did not just speak to God – He wrestled with Him. He didn’t just speak – he spoke 3 times and therein lies a lesson!

Jesus NEVER once wore His humanity wrong! Everything He did in the flesh was right and proper for ANY human…right down to the way He ate, slept or PRAYED!

Without rival the best passage concerning Jesus’ duality is found in 

Philippians 2:6-8,

“(6)  Although from the beginning He had the nature of God He did not reckon His equality with God a treasure to be tightly grasped.  (7) Nay, He stripped Himself of His glory, and took on Him the nature of a bondservant by becoming a man like other men.  (8)  And being recognized as truly human, He humbled Himself and even stooped to die; yes, to die on a cross.”

In Jesus’ prayer – He spoke His heart freely to God in telling Him He did not want to drink the cup the Father had prepared for Him – and asked Him if in His infinite wisdom there was any other way to accomplish His purposes  – yet in the same breath He always ended His prayer with “nevertheless – not my will…but Your will!” (THERE is suffering)

Jesus died in that garden! 

It was such an intense wrestling that He experienced what is known in the medical field as Hematidrosis. 

Hematidrosis is a condition in which capillary blood vessels that feed the sweat glands rupture, causing them to exude blood and it only happens  under conditions of extreme physical or emotional stress.

So we might add to what we know of Jesus’ garden prayer that it was passionate. It was filled with an inner wrestling.

I know that it is a popular doctrine around today that God did not turn His back on Jesus on the cross that He did not truly forsake His Only Son. This is usually accompanied by some sappy emotional appeal superimposed upon a mis-applied theological construct lifted out of Psalm 22. Yet, Jesus knew that God had in fact forsaken Him. 

On the cross Jesus did not say “Why does it feel like You are so far away”.

If, as it has been suggested, Jesus stated this out of a physical condition of delusion, then we have no basis for believing His later words of “It is finished”. 

No, Jesus with all of His faculties in order asked His Father and God, “Why have you forsaken me?” 

And yet it was most likely not a question…for another appropriate way to translate those words would be “My God, My God – you have left me” – turning Jesus’ statement into more of a tormented exclamation than a question. He was spilling out an unspeakably crushing cry from the depths of His broken and reeling heart.

THIS is what Jesus experienced Hematidrosis over. 

Countless men and women have faced deaths that were as horrible as the cross including crucifixion itself without such cries of despair and pleading that God would deliver them. Are we to believe that our Savior was somehow less brave and noble in the face of death than they? I think not! No – physical death was NOT what Jesus wanted to be delivered from – but the inevitable consequence of taking on Himself the sins of the whole world – which was separation from God. If OUR death cannot just be propositional – than neither could Jesus’. If He took on our sins then He also took on it’s consequences!

Now I might astound you at this and I hope not – I hope not to crush any thoughts you may have of me – but I always strive to be transparent with you. To not paint myself nicer than I really am. 

As such I will admit that in times when I’ve tried to imagine myself in Christ’s position…I’ve thought 

It was only going to be for a moment – probably not even one hour…that just doesn’t sound that bad to me” – and therein lies the secret of we find suffering so difficult. We value our sin more than our Father. 

We do this because we do NOT accurately measure God’s value. 

Jesus KNEW the Father  – that is what MADE Him the message! Remember – In Him was LIFE (knowing God) and that LIFE WAS the revelation to man!

Jesus was a human Who was FULLY intimate with God. 

He KNEW what it was to KNOW Him. Think of that! 

The thought of loosing that sight – of being cut off from that union for even a moment caused Him such an inward struggle and such deep emotional torment that He sweat BLOOD!

What did our passage in Hebrews say? You have not yet resisted to bloodshed striving against sin!

The obvious connection one would make with that statement would be His death on the cross – but might I suggest to you that the “struggle” He did against sin was NOT on the cross but in the garden! 

He came to the Garden to make a request…He left the garden with settled determination – a resolve to accomplish the will of His God & Father!

And that is the answer to our question – what did He see? What Joy was set before Him? Accomplishing the will of His Father. 

To LOVE Him well!

If we truly had eyes to see His worth – we would say along with Christ from the deepest recesses of our souls “I delight to do Your will oh my God!” 

Ps. 40:6-8,

“(6) You do not delight in sacrifice and offering; You open my ears to listen. You do not ask for a whole burnt offering or a sin offering.  (7) Then I said, “See, I have come; it is written about me in the volume of the scroll. (8) I delight to do Your will, my God; Your instruction resides within me.”

The Glory to be revealed in us is something which will be the instruction of angels. It will be the topic of angelic conversation for millennia!

It is so mentioned in Ephesians 3 as part and parcel with God’s intended purpose!

Ephesians 3:8-21,  “(8) This grace was given to me–the least of all the saints!–to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of the Messiah,  (9) and to shed light for all about the administration of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things. (10) This is so that God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens.  (11) This is according to the purpose of the ages, which He made in the Messiah, Jesus our Lord,  (12)  in whom we have boldness, access, and confidence through faith in Him.  (13) So then I ask you not to be discouraged over my afflictions on your behalf, for they are your glory.  (14) For this reason I bow my knees before the Father (15) from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.  (16) I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,  (17) and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, (18) may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love,  (19) and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (20) Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think–according to the power that works in you– (21) to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

We will end this week with a hint at our future glory from the lips of John…and who better would have a clue…

1 John 3:1-3, “(1) See what marvellous love the Father has bestowed upon us–that we should be called God’s children: and that is what we are. For this reason the world does not recognize us–because it has not known Him.  (2) Dear friends, we are now God’s children, but what we are to be in the future has not yet been fully revealed. We know that if Christ reappears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. (3)  And every man who has this hope fixed on Him, purifies himself so as to be as pure as He is.”

God Bless!

I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.

We at Living Grace Fellowship encourage you to place your trust in Jesus Christ, deliberately choosing Him and bowing the knee to Him as your Master and Lord, so as to come to realize Him as your Savior.

You have a special place in God’s family & kingdom. The fact that you exist… that you are His creation, says you were in His heart, you are His delight!

If you do not know Him, please reach out to us. Give us a call at the number located on every page of this website or use our ‘Contact Us‘ page. We would be deeply honored, if you gave us the privilege of introducing you to the Lord. Neither money nor attendance at our church will EVER be mentioned.

If you HAVE been spiritually fed by this ministry and WANT to give, we truly appreciate that and you may do so here, but please understand that all the outreaches of this ministry are FREE for you and anyone to enjoy at no cost.

Blessings!

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" that did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!