Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 4. Greater than Giants . Giants in the face of Violence

. Giants in the face of Violence

 

GIANTS IN THE FACE OF VIOLENCE (PART 1)


Matthew 11:11-12 (ESV)  "Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force."

 

Introduction.

It is a privilege to preach some sermons on the life and ministry of John the Baptist. He was without a shadow of doubt the favourite preacher of Jesus as Jesus says of him that there is no greater man ever to be born of women than John the Baptist. Now remember that those who are the least in the Kingdom are greater than he as we have a greater privilege than what he had. Firstly we are greater simply because we have the privilege of being in the Kingdom, but secondly because of our message.  All the prophets before him said the Messiah is coming, John said He is here and with fuller revelation we are privileged to say that He came.

So John was a great man. In a previous sermon we saw that he was a man of heroic firmness. He was not a read swaying in the wind. We saw that he was a man of impeccable integrity and he was a man with a clear calling. Even when he doubted, he did the right thing and went straight to Jesus for the answer.

Now in verse 12 we are going to see that he was a man who had a major impact as he announced the coming Kingdom. Now this should be true of any believer in the Kingdom. As we proclaim the name of our Lord Jesus Christ we are going to have some kind of impact. Either people are going to receive the message or they are going to reject the message, to some we will be the smell of life and to others the smell of death. I often wonder about the irony between John, Jesus, Paul and the rest of the apostles in comparison to the modern day prosperity movement gospels. When those in the days of John, Christ and the apostles preached they wanted to kill them even though there may seem to be interest in the beginning. Today people follow these guys in their millions and give to them millions of Dollars at the same time, which provides for them a life of extreme luxury while the Son of man did not even have a rock for a pillow.

From the outset of John’s ministry there was a remarkable response. People came from all over to be baptized by him. They encountered him in conversation and were astonished at the answers that he gave. Now verse 12 gives us a kind of summary statement regarding the response of people not only to the ministry of John but since the ministry of John which includes the ministry of Christ.

Matthew 11:13 (ESV) 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John,” For many years God spoke through a number of Prophets but before John came onto the scene we see a period of 400 years in which God seems silent.  There is no prophet in their midst. They are under Roman oppression and have this heightened expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Suddenly John the Baptist rises in their midst and he has a powerful message for the Kingdom. So John is the culmination of Old Testament history. He is the last of the Old Testament prophets and mightily used by God and for a period everything revolves around him.  John was clear and engaging in his message, he challenged every aspect of society even all the way up to Herod. He upset the status-quo of Judaism.

John baptized in a context where the people knew all about proselyte baptism, where non-Jews who converted to Judaism were Baptized and accepted into the Jewish Faith. John’s message becomes radical as he baptizes Jews as a sign of them being out of step with their own faith. John was mightily popular as long as he preached, but as soon as he started applying it he caused havoc. When he confronted the Jews things became explosive. He brought everything to a head. Everywhere he moved there was a violent reaction. He was a man of destiny. His influence was at the crisis moment of redemptive history. And everything was happening all around him, just like a hurricane.

John did what a forerunner should do. Firstly he announced Christ when he said in John 1:29 (ESV) “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Secondly he very clearly preached a message of repentance as entrance into the Messiah’s Kingdom. Matthew 3:2 (ESV) 2“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Thirdly he knew that he was only a forerunner and knew that he had to step back for Christ to be in the foreground when he said in John 3:30 (ESV) 30”He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Without going into the entire detail one thing that can be said of John the Baptist is that he was a man of impact.

Now, verse 12 says: 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. " Before we even look at the meaning of verse 12, think of the magnitude of this statement. John has only been around ministering for approximately two and a half years and has been in prison for nearly one year and the violence still goes on according to Christ. So John was in our terms a preacher for only 18 months, preaching in the dessert, living a simple life and all this activity happens around him.

What does the Kingdom of Heaven mean? The Kingdom of heaven refers to God’s rule. So according to Christ, God’s rule is suffering violence since the time of John the Baptist like never before. So God’s will for mankind, God’s message and the purposes of God are all suffering violence since the start of John’s message.

What is Christ speaking about here in verse 12? Now, this verse is not so easy to translate, because it can be understood in two ways. In this verse there is a verb in the Greek called: bia,zw (biazo) which means ‘to force’. Now what makes the meaning of the text difficult is that this word can be written in either the passive or reflexive (middle) voice. What that means simply is this. If you translate it in the passive then it means that someone or something is performing the action against the Kingdom. If you translated it as reflexive or in the middle voice the thought is that it is doing it itself.

Without getting too complicated. It is true that both these views can be substantiated. So let’s look at it from both angles and see what we can learn. This then becomes my two simple points for this sermon over two weeks plus then some implications for us at the end next week.

1. Those who violently resist the Kingdom

So what happens if we take it passively? Look at verse 12, it would read this way: The Kingdom of heaven is suffering violence and violent men are seizing it.” And that's pretty much the way the Authorized or the King James Version translates it.

In other words, here comes the representative of God’s rule namely the forerunner John and the Messiah Himself and God's Kingdom is suffering violence. In simple terms, persecution had broken out against the advance of the Kingdom. It is under attacked, evil forces are against it.

Now was this not true for the time of John the Baptist and Christ? John announces God’s rule to Herod and exposes his deeds and what does Herod do? He takes the chief preacher of the kingdom and throws him into prison.  Persecution had broken out against John the Baptist, he was already in prison.

Look at the ministry of Christ and He is in constant battle against the Pharisees and scribes and even the priests as they vigorously and violently attack the Kingdom. They vigorously reject Jesus Christ. Their desire is to kill Him.

The Kingdom was being violently denied. Its spiritual reality was being rejected. Its earthly reality also was being rejected by the Jews. And soon they would not only kill the preacher but they would kill the King our Messiah. John's message was so decisive that it created a violent reaction. And then it would also, if you look at the last part of the verse mean that violent men are seizing it. This would refer to those who are trying to stop it, the individuals who are trying to do that. And many of them, by the way, were trying to bring in a false kingdom by political means such as the Zealots who were trying to seize the kingdom of God politically and establish it.

So, the kingdom of heaven which is the rule of God and the implementation of His standards was being attacked and they were trying to stop it. Nothing has changed. Even in our day the Kingdom rule of God is denied and violently attacked.

Let me give you three quick categories of violent attacks on or against the Kingdom.

1.1 Our own minds resist the Kingdom.

Firstly it is attacked by our own minds. 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV)  “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

Do we realize when we are not believers our own minds are violently opposed to our salvation and against the Kingdom. There is no desire to press in, on the contrary we fight it, and we resist it. Do you want to know how your mind viewed God before He did a work from above in your life by giving you new birth? Listen what Paul says in Romans 8:7 (ESV)  “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.”

Our nature according to Ephesians 2 is that we were under the power of the prince of the power of the air before God saved us.

1.2 Those on the outside who resist the Kingdom.

There are those who do it with deadly force. Numerous stories can be told of Christians in places like Egypt, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Nigeria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and many other places in the world where the lives of Christians are taken violently. I read a sermon of John Piper a while ago where he makes the statement that more people have died for Christ the last 30 years than in the whole of history put together.

There are those who do it by simply banning Christianity from their midst. There are many Arabian countries where you cannot be a Christian at all and then in some other’s you can be as long as you are an expatriate but you are not allowed to share your faith with nationals.

Then there are those who do it by their outspokenness and verbal abuse. Just recently busses were painted by the initiative of Richard Dawkins, one of the forefront Atheists in the world in the United Kingdom with anti-God messages. All you need to do is read some of the discussions on News24 on Christianity vs. Atheism and you see the verbal abuse that is uttered against Christians and God. I cannot even quote them here, they are so vulgar.

Then there are those who attack the rule of God by promoting doctrines that deny God. Take for example what is happening in our world as far as the teachings of evolutionary theories in our schools are concerned. If we can cancel God as creator then surely we do not have to bow to His rule at all.

Then of course there are those that you rub shoulders with on a daily basis. Some even who claim to know God are so ungodly in their conduct that they are actually violently through their actions denying the kingdom of God. Other do not claim to know God and it is ok for them to state their unbelief, but when you state your belief in God and His rule you are openly persecuted, slandered and even discriminated against.

1.3 Those on the inside who resist the Kingdom.

The biggest attack on the Kingdom is not always from outside. Normally when the attack is from outside it seems to unite us, but when it is from inside it divides us.

Christ warns us against it. Paul warns us against it. Peter warns us against it. James warns us against it and in the Revelation of John we are warned against it. Acts 20:29-30 (ESV) 29 “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

Revelation 2:9-11 (ESV) 9 “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

There are sadly many believers, real believers in our churches today who believe that we must not expose false teachers, who are we in any case to judge their motives? I remember years ago we had a scare at our school in Nelspruit. There were always ice-cream vendors coming to the fence at break time. Some of them however under the disguise of being ice-cream vendors were selling drugs to the children. You know what, all parents stood together and had the vendors removed. Nobody said, well let’s investigate their motives, who are we to judge, is it our duty to expose them? Let’s just leave our children to eat ice-cream from these guys and hopefully they are mature enough to tell the difference between drugs and ice-cream. But yet we will see our children been taught things that kill their souls and we do nothing about it.

And so it is our task to protect the spiritual babes, because since the time of John the Baptist the Kingdom is being violently attacked.

Look at Paul’s view on the issue. 2 Corinthians 11:12-15 (ESV) 12 And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”

And so we see, that accepting the word Biazo as being in the passive sense is true as there are those who are violently opposed to the Kingdom. We ourselves were in our minds enemies of God before God saved us by grace, just as others are now, enemies of God and of the gospel. They are violent against the Kingdom of God, because in their very nature they follow Satan who is the great old arch enemy which is that snake, that dragon, that fallen angel who has been cast out of heaven. May God give us the grace to stand firm under this reality. Put on the whole armour of God, church family, because you are going to need it more and more in the day that we are living in.

Amen!

Logos Community Church:- 09 September 2012