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Deeper Wider: The Main Thing

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Gateway Community Church has, since October, been reading the New Testament together.  This morning Pastor Ed Allen again brought a message from this week's reading, specifically Matthew 15:1-20

First we talked about traditions.  Much of what we believe and how we worship is based on our traditions.  This isn't a bad thing unless it's a bad thing.

Jesus encourages us to let our relationship with God provide the framework instead of our traditions.

1.  Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing.

The Pharisees made a big deal out of something that's not a big deal -- and that's a big deal.

They'd assess their behavior and the behavior of others on the basis of their traditions and evaluate their relationship with God.

This was a big deal to the Pharisees.

Jesus said, "Leave them alone!"  Dismiss it!  Don't have anything to do with it!

They took a small thing -- how people washed their hands -- and made it a big thing.

For them, the collected teachings of the rabbis formed the framework for how someone's connection to God was evaluated.

Sometimes their traditions got in the way of following God.  "They worship me in vain."

2.  Keep Your Spirituality Right Side Out.

According to Jesus, a real relationship with God is always inside out.

Jesus does not give a list of regulations.

We might think we're past this, but think about the unwritten rules for being a good parent in suburban America.  It's based on Performance and Success.

Our words and actions come out of our heart -- our true inner selves.

True spirituality emanates from a good and true heart.

Where does a good and true heart come from?

John 3 -- God needs to completely re-orient the inside of your life, like being completely born again.

It's not about more effort, but more surrender.

We need to be made new inside.

As Christians, don't let the world around us drive us to the exterior of our lives.

Don't evaluate others based on exteriors, either.

 

Deeper Wider: What's Missing?

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This morning, Pastor Ed Allen preached from a passage we'd covered this week in our Deeper Wider devotional series, Matthew 12:22-32.  Our whole church is invited to read through the New Testament together this year, and this passage was in this week's readings.

This may seem like "Crazytown" to some -- it's the story of where Jesus healed a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and when the demon was driven out, he could talk and see.  The Pharisees accused him of driving out demons by the power of Satan.

There had been lots of speculation about Jesus by this time, and he rarely responded.  But this time he did respond and pointed out that Satan would not drive out his own minions.  His explanation of what happened is that he had tied up the strong man -- he neutralized Satan to release this needy man from Satan's control.

And if he did it by the power of God's Spirit -- that was a sign that the kingdom of God had come.

Two questions arise for us:

Is this for real?

Some comments on that:

1)  There's no reason, based on the text itself, not to believe this account.

2)  All the parties involved react in a way that we would expect if it really happened.

The disciples responded with awe and wonder, but Jesus' opponents responded by saying he was using Satan's power.  But they acknowledged that it had happened!

3)  The only reason to disbelieve it is based on a prior assumption by the reader.

If you believe supernatural things can't happen, that's your preconceived belief.

4)  If it is true, everything changes!

What is the blasphemy passage about?

Jesus is not less important than the Holy Spirit.

Key:  Recognizing the Pharisees attributed the work of God's Spirit through Jesus to Satan.

They acknowledge the miracle happened, but they ridiculed and scorned it.  Theirs was a studied and willful decision to reject Jesus.

"...if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."

The spiritual realm is another whole dimension.  Jesus broke that dimension, "the kingdom of God," into our world.

We're in a war zone in the spiritual dimension, between the forces of Satan and the forces of God.

Wild stuff happened around Jesus constantly.

If Jesus was right, those who deny it are missing out on an entire world.

Takeaways:

1)  We're in a battle zone.  Hell is always involved (and so is God).

So we need prayer.

2)  Sometimes hell is the primary cause.

Satan's purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy.  Jesus came to bring abundant life.

Even if hell isn't the primary mover in a particular case, let's not move in the direction of hell's purposes.

3)  Jesus is the key!

He unleashes the full power of the Kingdom of God on earth and in our lives.

He must be received and trusted in order to access that power.

Ed concluded the message with a personal story from his second or third year of ministry -- when a woman was actually possessed by demons, and with prayer from a group of people, the demons left.  And, years later -- Ed can testify that this woman's life was completely changed from that moment on.

If this story is true, it changes everything!

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