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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!

Freedom Sunday

Today we had a special guest speaker, Jesse Rudy, from International Justice Mission.  Jesse was a successful lawyer in northern Virginia and attending Gateway when he felt God's call on his life to join International Justice Mission.  He lived in Uganda for several years and then the Philippines.  Now he's back in the DC area still working with IJM.

He talked about God's heart for justice.

And he began with the story of David and Bathsheba.  David was a wildly successful king.  He had everything his heart desired and the explicit favor of the Lord.  And then he took Uriah's wife, and in an effort to cover his sin, murdered Uriah.

The prophet Nathan rebukes David in I Samuel 12, and that rebuke tells us about God's heart.

Justice is not fairness.

Again and again we're shown in the Bible that life is not fair.  Nathan even points out that David had been given gifts beyond what seems "fair."

Justice is not vengeance.

We're told in Scripture, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him." and "Do not repay evil for evil."

Ultimately, justice is about power -- how power is exercised when it's not distributed evenly.

Injustice occurs when someone who has power uses that power to take from the weak.

Notice:  Of all the things God could have rebuked David for -- adultery, murder, etc. -- he rebukes David for the way he used his power.

David used his power to take Uriah's love, dignity, and life.

What God was most angry about was David using his power to take from someone weaker.

God's heart for justice and hatred for injustice is consistent throughout Scripture. 

Matthew 23:3-4 --  What's important is justice, mercy. and faithfulness.

Then we talked about slavery.  There are 40 million slaves on the earth today, which is more than any other time in human history.  This is literally one human owning another.

We talked about a new form of slavery:  Cyber sex trafficking.  This is someone being able to tell the slave what they have to do.  90% of those trafficked are minors.

God, what's the plan?  You say you care!

Exodus 1:11-14 -- "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt."

In Exodus 3:7, God told Moses, "My plan is you!"

Scripture is full of God telling His people that they are the plan to fight injustice.

IJM.org/sendrescue

This video (a true story) was filmed last year.  Now 350 kids have been saved from cyber sex trafficking in the Philippines.

Justice is about power.

We are some of the most powerful people in the world.

Become a Freedom Partner:   www.ijm.org/fp

Injustice is not our weight to carry.

Fighting injustice is God's weight, but our work.

Jesse closed by reading Isaiah 58:6-12.  We should set the oppressed free.

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