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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Friday, October 14, 2005

Astonishment and Authority

Verse for the Day: Matthew 7:28-29
And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Daily Scripture Reading: Hebrews 3

The Puritan Catechism
Question #1 - What is the chief end of man?

Devotional Thoughts
At the end of His sermon the crowd on the mountain side that day was literally astonished! That word is translated from a word that means "struck in the mind." They were dumbfounded. They had never heard such teaching in all their lives.

Can you imagine with me for a moment what it would be like to listen to Jesus preach? In person? Explaining the kingdom of God and eternal life, and worship and service to God. Can you imagine the impact of hearing Him teach about the hypocrites and the foolish and the wise men? To know that God Himself was preaching to men that day!

The crowd was amazed. They were beside themselves - the sermon was the talk of the town! He decried the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and exposed the works of the wicked. He set the standard for grace, teaching us that grace holds us to a higher standard than the Law ever could and then empowers us to obey. The Law deals with the outward action and behavior - grace transforms the heart and our motives and attitudes.

But I want to show you the danger in the Sermon on the Mount. There are those today who think that the church should be all about "results." Numbers, baptisms, new members, outreach, programs, driven by purposes, sensitive to seekers, etc. These church growth proponents think that it is up to us to build the church. To do all the work and ask God to bless it. To attract crowds any way possible in hopes that they might hear something they like and stay a while, contribute financially, be comfortable with who they are and who God can be for them, and help increase the numbers. The church is fast becoming a BUSINESS. We have left our first love, the love of our Savior, and have instead embraced the ways of the world to do God's work.

The danger is this - we think that persuasive preaching and miracles and tv outreach, and church bingo grow the church. We try so hard to persuade that we often manipulate. People come to church looking for a future mate, or for a date, or for belonging, or to find the solution to all their problems. We have become so used to hearing sermons about everything but serving God. How to succeed in business. How to be a better husband or wife or parent. Where has all the preaching gone about the kingdom of God and about Christ? We hear so much about sin and politics and societal ills, yet we hear so little about Jesus. If Jesus is preached today He is presented as a cure-all magic elixir insurance policy against hell, disease, poverty, and stress.

Answer this question for me - who could ever preach a sermon better than Jesus? NO ONE! Right?! But then why does the Bible remain silent about the "response" to the best preacher who ever lived? Because the response was amazement, and only amazement. True, some hearers followed Him for the rest of their lives - but most entered the wide gate He had just preached about. They admired a good sermon but their hearts were still full of unbelief. Why? Because they thought it was all up to them as far as religion and pleasing God and atoning for sins.

It is all about Jesus. And true preaching will not garner the spotlight like all the heresy and false doctrine we see presented today as if it were true. It is not up to us to grow His Church! That's right - the church is HIS. We need to take our hands off of it and let Him build it. He will. He promised to build His church.

And the building of the church is NEVER about numbers, financial or otherwise. Forget "member drives" and fund raisers. Let Him direct His church. Simply follow His instruction. And when we work on allowing Him to grow us deeper in the faith, then He will expand the width of His ministry through us! Work on depth, personal and corporate depth of spiritual life and obedience. He will take care of whatever results He desires! We may plant and water, but only God can give the increase. (see 1 Corinthians 3:6-8).

The crowd was astonished but very few lives were changed. Very few were willing to pay the price to follow Him. They all wanted the answers but were not willing to pay the price required to serve God. It will cost your life. That is exactly what Jesus just taught - follow Him and it will cost you everything. Abandon Him and for now it may cost you nothing but eternity is at stake here. Do you want your reward here and now or here and later? I believe we see His reward now but we must also build up treasures in heaven, not on earth!

Leonard Ravenhill preached about Christ as the Man from God who brought division! That's right. Division. He was set apart for a specific, redemptive work. He sets us apart for His service. He brings division. True believers are hated by the false prophets. The Pharisees wanted nothing more than to KILL Jesus! Many today think that the church needs to be all one, unified denomination. Watch out! We cannot claim to pursue unity at the cost of TRUTH! The true church will stand for truth no matter the cost. The false teachers and false believers will settle for any kind of entertainment or sentiment as long as they feel good about their religious experiences!

To quote Ravenhill, he said, "The first thing Jesus did before He could walk or talk was divide men. 'Herod was troubled and all Jerusalem with him.' The last thing He did on the cross was divide men. In His lifetime He divided men. He went into the Synagogue and there was a division because of Him. Wherever Jesus goes there is division."

Let's not be like the crowd that day. They came and heard and then went about their daily lives unchanged. Let us ask God to change us everyday - to make us more like Jesus, no matter the cost! And if it someday costs our lives, then we will know that we lived for Him and died for Him. He is all that matters! Let's be set apart, divided from the world around us in service to our God. Let's be separate from wickedness and evil and stand up as distinct in the world today, as followers of Jesus. Let's live this sermon!!!

The true reason behind the astonishment of the crowd that day as they heard Jesus preach this sermon came from the fact that He taught as one with authority. You see, the scribes and Pharisees would teach and would quote other great religious leaders or rabbis. They thought that in quoting someone they could gain clout or authority and the people would believe what they taught and said.

Jesus, on the other hand, only quoted from God's Word and spoke for HIMSELF! This was unheard of! A man teaching with authority, as if what He said was true and accurate without any quotes to back up what He said? But indeed Jesus taught with authority because He had authority - He was God in Human flesh, dwelling among us. He had all the authority of heaven at His disposal so when He preached He did so with authority.

John MacArthur states that it was "unavoidable that they should be amazed, because His teaching was indeed amazing. But what they needed was not amazement but belief, not astonishment but obedience. Jesus did not tell them all of those things for their amazement, or even simply for their information, but for their salvation. He did not intend merely to show them the narrow gate and the narrow way, but pleaded with them to enter that gate and to follow that way, which He would make accessible by paying the penalty for their sins."

All in all we must understand that this sermon by Jesus shows us Jesus - for without Him this life is impossible - but with God ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. We are to possess Him alone, and praise Him alone, and believe Him alone, and serve him alone - He is our all in all - He is LORD of Lords and King of kings. He is the Messiah - the Savior, our Redeemer and Advocate.

From start to finish this sermon shows us Jesus, how He lived, how He expected us to follow, how He died and how we are to die daily. It showed us His expectations and His ambitions, His desires and His pleasure! The sermon presented us with truth and authority that had never been seen before and was now mostly rejected, the greatest preacher who ever lived did not preach for results! He preached because people had to hear the truth!

Today - you and I will be the response Jesus didn't see that particular day, we will be the ones who live forever changed as a result of His preaching about Kingdom Living. On that Mountain He presented HIMSELF. Take Him as He is on His terms! Now, let's move on, let's grow together in the knowledge of the One who loved us and gave Himself for us, a spotless Lamb, our Lord and Savior. JESUS.

What will motivate you today in ministry? It should be Jesus – service to Him. Presenting the truth with every area of your life so that others can see what you have that they need - a Savior! And as you minister, do so with authority. All authority is His and He gives it to us! There is nothing that can stand in our way today! We are free and able to present the truth to all we meet so why don't we? Don't hide your light under a basket; put it high on a lampstand where everyone in the dark can see it! And as they see Jesus, may they be drawn to Him like a moth to a flame - and may they be forever His!


Bible Reading For Further Study


Recommended Songs for Worship

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