PRINCIPLES OF CHANGE: OBEYING THE LORD PART 2

SIMON THE ZEALOT

Many sermons have been preached on faith and the power of the spoken Word based on this familiar story of the Roman centurion. But instead of talking to you about the Roman centurion, I’d like to talk to you about someone who isn’t even mentioned in this story. I’d like to talk to you about one of our Lord’s disciples named Simon Zelotes, Luke 6:13-15.

Like the rest of the men who Jesus called to be His apostles, Simon had been following Jesus for a few months. There was something about Jesus that intrigued him and drew him to Jesus.

Now it just so happened that Simon was present on the mount that day when Jesus chose who would be His apostles. To what must surely have been his surprise, Simon found himself called, chosen, and numbered among the twelve men who were privileged to be Jesus’ apostles.

Now Simon was a Zealot, hence, Luke’s designation of him as Simon Zelotes. After the death of Herod the  Great,  his  son  Archelaus  was  given  rule  over Judea, Samaria, and Idumea. In 6 A.D., the Romans removed him from power and installed Roman Procurators or Governors to rule over these three Palestinian provinces. Pilate, who killed Jesus, was one of these Governors.

Now Herod the Great and his sons who succeeded him were not very good rulers. In fact, they were wicked, greedy, murderous, and irreligious. But they were Jewish. And as long as the Jews were ruled by Jews, the people, for the most part, were content to live peaceably under their Jewish rulers.

But when the Emperor started sending Roman Governors to rule over the Jews, that’s when troubles really started to flare up. The Jews didn’t want to ruled by heathens who didn’t understand or respect their religious convictions.

Anyways, when the first Roman Governor was installed, a Jew by the name of Judas, the son of Ezekias, led an armed revolt and resistance against Roman rule. Thus was born what later came to be known as the Zealots.

Now the Zealots were basically a liberation movement. The Romans considered them terrorists. But in the eyes of their Jewish countrymen, the Zealots were freedom fighters. They were not a Jewish army. That is, they were not organized, trained, armed, funded, sanctioned, or supported by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. They were not the nation’s army. They were not paid to defend the Jewish nation. The Zealots were strictly an independent, underground movement who fought for an independent Jewish homeland and Jewish state.

The Zealots believed that the use of force and all other means used to kill, harass, and drive the Romans out of Palestine were justified. The end justified the means. The pursuit of liberty justified rebellion against Roman rule. It was good and right, it was their moral duty, to kill the Roman infidels. They resorted to banditry, assassination of Government officials, and murder of Roman officers and soldiers. They refused to pay their taxes. They really gave the Romans a hard time.

The Great Jewish Revolt that began in 66 A.D. and culminated in the Roman siege and destruction of Jerusalem and  the  Temple  in  70 A.D.  was  instigated  by  the Zealots. In a very real sense, then, the Zealots were responsible for the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple, and the death of over one million Jews who were trapped in the city  when the Roman General Titus laid siege to the city and subsequently destroyed it.

Anyways, back to Simon. Up until the time he first met Jesus and started following Him around, Simon was a Zealot. His heart was filled with hatred and malice towards the Romans. He was a trained killer. But now he’s a chosen apostle of the Lord. He’s sat at Jesus’ feet on the mount and listened to the Master teach about a radically different way of treating his enemies. Instead of hating and killing the Romans, he is now supposed to love them. When the Romans mistreat him he’s not supposed to fight back or kill. Instead, he’s supposed to be nice and kind to them and do good things for them.

Simon hears the Word. And not very long after he hears the Word, Jesus gives him an opportunity to practice the Word. Jesus leaves the mount and heads back to Capernaum where, lo and behold, we find a Roman centurion beseeching Jesus for His help. At the sight and sound of the centurion, Simon’s blood begins to boil.  His first reaction is to strike the centurion with his dagger and kill him. At the very least, he would argue vehemently with Jesus and try to stop Him from helping this enemy and oppressor of the Jews.

But Simon is strangely, unnaturally silent and still. He doesn’t interfere with Jesus’ intention to help the Roman. He leaves his dagger in its sheathe. He doesn’t do what a Zealot was accustomed to doing so naturally and spontaneously.

Simon, you see, is undergoing a change. He’s heard the Word. And, contrary to his feelings and murderous impulses towards this Roman, he’s dying out and letting the Word change him from being a Zealot to being a Christian. The Word is ridding him of his hatred and it’s changing him to be a peaceable lover of the very people he never imagined he could ever love. Wow! Isn’t that wonderful? O what the Word can do for us if we let it!

THE IMPORTANCE OF HEARING THE WORD

When God wants to change something about us He speaks a Word to us. He addresses that area of our life that He wants changed. Like Simon, He preaches us our sermon on the mount. That’s why it’s important for us to pray and read our Bible—so that God can speak to us and tell us what He wants us to do.

God also speaks to us through other Christians—especially the Pastor and other ministers. That’s why it’s important for us to hang around Christian friends and attend Church regularly because God speaks to us through other Christians too. Godly, spiritual people are a powerful inspiration for change if we hang out with them and listen to their counsel and advice.

SO IN ORDER FOR US TO CHANGE, STEP ONE, WE’VE GOT TO HEAR WHAT GOD’S SAYING TO US THROUGH HIS SPIRIT, HIS SCRIPTURES, AND HIS SAINTS.

THE IMPORTANCE OF DOING THE WORD

After we hear the Word, God wants us to do, or obey, the Word. That’s why He gave us the sermon or the Scripture verse—so that we can obey it.

Now the thing about God is He gives us all sorts of opportunities to obey Him or put the Word into practice. In Simon’s case, God saw a need for Simon to minister to all people as an apostle of Christ. And in order for Simon to do that he had to get  rid of his hatred and animosity for the Romans. So the first thing Jesus does after He chooses Simon is, He preaches a sermon and teaches Simon about loving his enemies. Then the very next thing He does is He gives Simon a chance to practice the sermon.

Brethren, it works the same way for us today. God sees what’s wrong with us. And He speaks a Word to us so that the Word can change us and change what’s wrong about us. And, like Simon, in order for the Word to change us, we’ve got to hear it, receive it, and then obey it. Beloved, THE WORD CAN’T BENEFIT, HELP, OR CHANGE US IF WE DON’T OBEY IT.

To his credit, Simon made a decision to change. To put the Word into practice. To quit being a Zealot and start being a Christian. We need to make that same decision right now. As long as we postpone our obedience to the Word we will remain unchanged.  Brethren, could it be that the reason why we haven’t changed some areas of our life is because we’ve not obeyed the Word? GOD WON’T CHANGE US IF WE WON’T OBEY HIM OR HIS WORD.

Let me note one last thing about Simon. Simon didn’t have years and years  of  time  to  get his heart right and start being loving towards the Romans. He didn’t have the luxury of listening to years and years of sermons on love and non-resistance before he finally made the change, got rid of his hatred, and became a genuine lover of the Romans.

From all indications in Scripture, Simon heard one sermon. And shortly thereafter, perhaps the very next day, he’s given the opportunity to die out, restrain his emotions, keep his mouth shut, and keep his hands off his dagger. And do you know what? Simon succeeded! He changed! All on the basis of one sermon that he heard just a short time ago! Beloved, it didn’t take Simon years of time before he finally changed. He changed the very first time he heard the message because he chose to die out and obey Jesus’ word.

Friends, it doesn’t have to take us years of time before we finally change what needs to be changed. The sad fact of the matter is, we’ve already had years of time to make the change. It’s time for us to make the change now. God wants change now. We’ve had years and years of sermons. It’s time for us to do what we know God wants us to do.

THE DANGER OF NOT DYING OUT AND OBEYING THE WORD

There’s a real danger in not doing what you know God wants you to do. It’s called kidding, fooling, or deceiving yourself. James 1:22 advises us, But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. If all you do is hear, but not do, you’re deceiving yourself. You console yourself with the notion that your parents, preachers, and friends who disagree with you are all wrong. They just can’t see that you’re right. You get rid of a guilty conscience by convincing yourself you’re alright. There’s nothing wrong with you. You don’t need to make any changes at all.

It’s possible that some of you here today are in this unfortunate situation. YOU WON’T CHANGE AS LONG AS YOU’RE FOOLING YOURSELF. AS LONG AS YOU THINK YOU’RE ALRIGHT JUST THE WAY YOU ARE.

Your disobedience is dangerous because God doesn’t give you the right to call Him Lord if you’re not obeying Him. In Luke 6:46 He asks, Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

Jesus closed the sermon on the mount by telling us that DISOBEDIENCE IS DAMNABLE. He said in Matthew 7:21,  Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Are you willing to miss out on Heaven just because you want to have it your own way and live the way you want to live? NOTHING IS WORTH GOING TO HELL OVER. God’s been loving, forgiving, and longsuffering with you. He loves you and He’s given you lots of chances to get things right. But HE CAN’T TAKE YOU TO HEAVEN IF YOU’RE DISOBEDIENT TO HIM.

A FINAL WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT

Now’s the time to make a change. Start dying out. Quit arguing with Jesus  and  the  Word. Quit giving in to the flesh. Quit  acting like the Zealot that you’ve always been. Obey God. Do what He’s telling you to do. If the Word can change a man so filled with hatred and murder, it can change any one of us! IT WORKED FOR SIMON. AND IT WILL WORK FOR YOU! May God bless the Word to your heart and change you.

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