Missing the Plan Because of Unbelief

Steve Viars March 1, 2008 Matthew 26:3-5

- Last Sunday I mentioned that I had had the privilege of speaking at a conference in Portland, Oregon the previous Friday and Saturday on February 22-23rd...

- what I didn’t mention was that I almost missed the conference because I forgot that was the week I was supposed to go...

- as you recall, we had just finished the Biblical Counseling Training Conference here and I thought I had one free weekend before going to Portland...So I had it in my mind that I was supposed to fly out on February 29th...

- now I should make it clear that my professional assistant Heather Smith had clearly written February 22nd on my calendar...and my dear wife Kris had written the correct date on our calendar at home...

- what I’ve learned about calendars is---they’re not nearly as helpful if you don’t look at them from time to time...

- so after our Biblical Counseling Training Conference here, I was going through that next week as if happy days were here again...in my mind I had a free week – [a “bye week” we call that in my line of work]...

- the only thing that saved me was an e-mail that I almost didn’t read...

- it was from Randy Patten, who is the Executive Director of NANC, the organization that often schedules these On the Road training conferences...

- the e-mail was to our entire NANC board, and he was talking about his upcoming schedule...and he casually mentioned that he was going to speaking with me and another Pastor from West Virginia in Portland on Friday, February 22nd...

- and I’m thinking...that Randy is really confused...he doesn’t even know when his own conference is...he needs to work on his organizational skills...

- in fact, I was so sure I was right that I didn’t even check my calendar right away...

- then later that day, I thought about it and decided to check...and guess what...Randy was right, and I was wrong...

- and I came within a casually skimmed e-mail from completely missing the plan...

- and having all these people from the northwest come to the conference on the assumption that the speakers could actually read a calendar...

- and as I was driving to the airport I was thinking...Steve, what excuse could you have possibly come up with if Randy called you that Friday afternoon from Portland asking you where you were and you had just not even tried to get on the plane?...

- and I really couldn’t think of a good answer...

- it would have been so embarrassing to miss the plan...

- now let me ask you this?...do you think God has a plan?...

- and when I say that, I’m not talking about what theologians would refer to as His decree...as what will come to pass...you can’t know that in advance...

- I’m speaking about the plan He has laid out for you in His Word...His desired will...the path He wants you to take...

- do you believe God has one of those for you?Jeremiah 29:11 - ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

- Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

- so would you agree this morning that God has a plan for you?...individually – a path that He wants you to follow?...I hope you would say “yes”...

- now, let me ask you this – how bad would it be if you missed it? [if you missed God’s plan?]

- what would you feel like when you finally came to your senses and realized that had occurred?

- what excuse would you use?...

- please tell me that, of all of the bad things you could imagine occurring in your life....missing God’s plan would rank very high on that list...

- now, would you also agree with this...there are clear examples of Scripture where this has occurred [where men and women have missed God’s plan...]

-  and is it also true that God sometimes gives us enough detail not only to see that the plan was missed, but the reasons the plan was missed?...

- and if we pay careful attention to stories like that in God’s Word...it could certainly help us on our quest of Seeking God’s Plan...

- that’s our church’s theme this year, especially because we have the privilege and responsibility of developing our next 5 year strategic ministry plan together...

- but we’re also applying that theme to many other areas of life...

- now, for the next 4 weeks, we’d like to focus on “When the Plan is Missed”...

- we have 4 weeks between now and Easter Sunday...and this year we’re going to especially study of the chronological details surrounding the last days of Christ...thinking about what led some persons to actually miss God’s plan...and as we walk through these stories together...the goal is for each of us to say...I don’t want to make that same mistake today...

- With that in mind, please open your Bible to Matthew 26 – [page 23 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...]

- I understand that a number of people who will be with us this year have just come to Christ in the last 12 months...

- or in other cases, you’ve just really started getting serious about studying God’s Word...

- so for many, this will be your first Easter season in church...

- part of my prayer for these next 4 weeks is that you will grow significantly in your love for Christ...

- His death, burial, and resurrection are the core elements of our faith...

- if you have trusted Him as Savior and Lord, what we celebrate at Easter is the bedrock of your hope...

- but these truths should especially motivate us to love Him...

- contrary to what many people apparently think...Christianity is not simply a bunch of rules or regulations, it is not a religious system---it is a personal relationship with a Living Savior who went to the cross for us...and who conquered death because He truly was the Son of God...

- and now He stands ready to forgive any person who will come to Him in repentance and faith...

- and to build a relationship with you that is vibrant and real...

- and then to change you into a person who is more pleasing to God...and to use you in the accomplishment of His purposes here on earth...

- that’s what we’re talking about when we say that God has a plan for you...

- it includes your redemption, and your change, and your productivity...

- and the point of these next four weeks is...Let’s be sure we don’t miss God’s plan...

- this morning we’re going to study some of the religious leaders, and think about When God’s Plan is Missed Because of Unbelief.

- read Matthew 26:3-5, 57-68

- this morning we’d like to break this material down in this fashion:

I. The Background of Jesus’ Trials

II. The Character of Jesus’ Trials

III. The Lessons of Jesus’ Trials

I. The Background of Jesus Trials – A Commitment to Truth.

- I realize for some, the names we just read may not be familiar and we’ll try to clarify that in a moment...but right now please think about this from the overall perspective of how God wanted His people historically to be different in the way the criminal justice system was to be exercised...

A. God’s people were to be known for being exceptionally just.

Deuteronomy 16:18-20 - You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

- when you compare the Mosaic law to what existed at the time in other pagan cultures, there really is no question that what was advocated in God’s Word was far superior...

- there was to be a concern for the truth in any kind of trial or civil dispute...

- and there was special emphasis on protecting those who were poor or weak...who could be overrun by someone rich enough to bribe the court, or pervert the judicial system...

- they were to be a light to the nations in part by their commitment to righteous judgment...

- many modern legal systems have standards established by Mosaic law...

- “do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth...so help you God?”

­ To understand what is happening in our text, it is important to know that...

B. Between the Old Testament and New Testament, the “Great Sanhedrin” was established as the highest court in Israel.

- it would be like our Supreme Court...

- it was patterned after the council of elders that Moses convened in Numbers 11:16:

- Numbers 11:16 - The Lord therefore said to Moses, “Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you.

- By the time of Christ, they also had a high priest who oversaw the group and was a voting member so that in case of a tie, he would cast the deciding vote...

- in His book The Murder of Jesus, John MacArthur (pp. 103-104) explains some of the characteristics that were supposed to be true of this body...

1. Still governed by the rules of evidence and impartiality established under Moses.

2. Two credible witnesses were required to establish guilt.

3. The accused were entitled to a public trial.

4. Those placed on trial were entitled to a defense, including the ability to call witnesses and present evidence.

5. False witnesses were to be severely punished.

Deuteronomy 19:16-19 - “If a malicious witness rises up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing, then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days. “The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.

6. (From rabbinical tradition) A full day of fasting was to be observed by the council between passing of the death penalty and the execution of a criminal.

- this was not only to prevent hasty decisions, but to prevent capital trials during feast days...

7. The charges had to be brought from an outside party.

- if a member of the council brought the charges, the entire council was disqualified from trying the case

8. The court could not be convened at night.

- so in other words...

C. The court was to be governed by rules of evidence and principles of impartiality.

- the point is, one of the ways you can evaluate a culture’s character and values is to watch they way they conduct civil and criminal justice...

- and God wanted His people to be different than the other nations by their steadfast commitment to the truth...

- of course if you have studied this aspect of the life of our Lord...you know that practically every one of these principles was violated by the so-called religious leaders...

- that’s because by the time of Christ, the Sanhedrin had become a thoroughly corrupt body...MacArthur summarized it like this:

“By Jesus’ time, the Sanhedrin had become a corrupt and politically motivated body.  Appointment to the council could be bought with political favors and sometimes even with money.  Favoritism and partisanship were therefore rife, and political expediency often determined who rose to power or fell from it within the Sanhedrin.” (The Murder of Jesus, p. 103).

- so that’s the background to this trial...God’s plan was that His people would be committed to truth...especially when a matter of civil or criminal justice was at stake...

- but what was...

II. The Character of Jesus’ Trials – The Suppression of Truth

- The emphasis of the verses we just read make it clear...

A. They had already made up their minds before even considering the facts...

- now, before we say...shame, shame, shame...let’s just admit that we sometimes do that as well...

- is it OK for me to speak for us on that point?...and the reason I raise that right now is because that is one of the surest ways to miss God’s plan...

- because frankly, much of His plan is not the way we would have designed life...

- that is true in myriads of ways...

- that is why the writer of Proverbs says...Proverbs 14:12 - There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

- if you’ve already made up your mind about something, and then you try to cram the facts into your predetermined grid...you’ve made a mockery out of the process...

- that is why Jesus said at the beginning of the Sermon of the Mount...

- Matthew 5:3 - Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

- there has to be at least an openness to receive truth that might be different than what you had already decided...

- that’s why we read in...Isaiah 55:8-9 - “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.

- now you may have noticed that we’re using the word trials (plural)...

- there were actually a series of trials of Christ...we won’t be able to get into all the details today...

- but the gospel of John explains that they began by taking Christ to a man named Annas [you can read about that in John 18]...

- Annas had served as high priest 20 years before, and 5 of his sons had succeeded him...the high priest now was his son-in-law whose name was Caiaphas...

- that’s who we read about in Matthew 26...

- Matthew 26:3-4 - Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him.

-not, let’s fulfill our biblical responsibility by hosting a proper trial...

- not, let’s glorify our God by seeking to carefully discerning His plan...no, they plotted together to kill him...and these weren’t a bunch of backstreet thugs---these were supposedly the religious leaders...

- Matthew 26:59 - Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death.

- that’s what we mean by suppressing the truth...they hated Christ so much that they had no interest in being swayed by facts...even to the point of trying to obtain false testimony...

B. This characteristic, regrettably, is one of the key characteristics of those in the process of rejecting God.

Romans 1:18-21 - For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

- now, I hope every one of us would hear those words and say --- I don’t want to be anything like that...I don’t want to be anywhere near that trail...

- one of the surest ways to miss the plan of God is to be in the habit of suppressing His truth...

- now, a great question to ask at this point would be...what was going on in the hearts of these religious leaders that would lead them to do this?...there are at least three answers...

C. They made up their minds about the supernatural.

- it is important to add here that the high priest and the ruling priests were all Sadducees...

- I realize that you might say – so what?...that is a very big so what?...because the Sadducees denied the supernatural elements of the OT...

- so when Jesus came and said that He was the Son of God, born of a virgin...they could not accept that...because it did not fit in with what they had already decided...

- when Jesus performed miracles, they would not believe...they said he was a trickster, or did such things in the power of satan...

- when Jesus said that He would die for their sins and then three days later rise from the dead...they literally said He was crazy...

- and obviously many people do that today...

- they want to take the position that Jesus was a fine man, He was a moral teacher, a good example...but not the sinless Son of God who takes away the sins of the world...

- that is not a logical position to hold...either Jesus is who He claimed to be, including the supernatural aspect of His story and message, or He was a terrible deceiver---there isn’t any middle ground on that one...

- and one of the quickest ways to miss God’s plan is to do what these men did...suppress the truth because it doesn’t fit your grid...

D. They made up their minds about the importance of their position.

- earlier in Christ’s ministry...

- John 11:47-48 - Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. “If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

- see, not “what’s true?”...but how is this going to impact my position?....

- I don’t want to give up the gravy train...

- this too is a sure way to miss God’s plan...

- because when you come to Christ...you don’t come with your own righteousness...

- it’s not like you have this bag of evidence that proves why you deserve heaven...

- you come with humility, and brokenness...and repentance...

- your hands are empty...and you are asking to be forgiven...

- you also have that flimsy crown you’ve been wearing...about as authentic as the one they hand out at Burger King when you buy a double whopper with cheese...

- you take that thing off too...and you say to Christ --- I want you to be my Lord...

- its no longer about my position...it’s about your glory...

- and Christ Himself paved the way for that approach...

- Philippians 2:5-7 - Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

E. They also made up their mind about what would really make them happy.

- Annas and those He controlled had an incredible monopoly going on...

- when Jewish men and women went to Jerusalem for a feast, it was almost like going to Disneyland in this sense...once you get there, they’ve got you...that’s why you pay 6 dollars for a hamburger because you have no other choice [I thought I’d use a pre-spring break illustration]...

- the religious leaders had this going on in several ways...

1. The exchange rate on money...

- you could not use typical Roman currency for offerings or payments in the temple because the coins contained an image of Caesar...

- so you had to have it exchanged for temple money...and since they controlled the system, the exchange rate was exorbitant...

2. Then there was the issue of offerings...

- many worshippers did not want to bring animals from their homes because they didn’t want to deal with that on a long trip...but there was also the issue of the animal having to pass an inspection by the temple leaders...who wanted to run the risk of bringing an animal across the country and then having the temple leaders declaring the animal fit because of some blemish?...so it was much easier to buy one there...and of course we all know---there’s price to be paid for convenience---just buy a dog and a soda at the next basketball game...

- the point is – these guys were raking in the cash...which is why Jesus came on the scene and on several occasions...cleansed the temple...

- Mark 11:15-17 - Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbers’ den.”

- and one of the fastest ways to upset a person who really isn’t interested in the truth is threaten his money or some material possession...the reason that’s so powerful is because that’s the true identity of his god...

- and many people have to choose between seeking God’s plan or following after money...and money wins an incredible number of times...

- now, what are...

III. The Lessons of Jesus’ Trials – Celebrate Truth.

A. The truth of the efficacy of prayer.

- the Sadducees mocked anything supernatural – followers of Christ depend on it...

- Psalm 61:1-2 - Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

- cf. praying for David Worrell and John McNeal --- because we believe there is power in praying to God...

- 1 Peter 5:7 - casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

B. The truth of adopting a biblical view of self.

- Romans 12:3 - For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

- see, when you walk out the door every morning, how are you choosing to view yourself?...

C. The truth of organizing your life around people instead of material things.

- [cf. the religious leaders let their love of money take them off course --- develop the church family night tonight – an opportunity to love others, build friendships]...

- Luke 12:15 - Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”

D. The importance of valuing truth highly.

Proverbs 23:23 - Buy truth, and do not sell it, Get wisdom and instruction and understanding.

- conclude with the beauty/power of finding [not missing] God’s plan...story of our basketball team from Sam Hornbrook’s perspective...

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video