#77 – What the Gospels Teach – The Disciples Sent – Matthew 10:1-8

Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. "And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. (Matthew 10:1-8 NASB)

Jesus gathers the twelve, gives them authority, and sends them.  First realize that they are not sent to perform miracles because of some level of piety or faith that they have acquired.  They are given authority by Christ, because Christ chose to give them (the twelve) authority.  This may seem trivial, but it’s not.  This text must never be used to promote healings, recitations of the dead, and casting out of demons, on the basis of faith and righteousness.  It was not by the working of the twelve that any of these things happened, it was merely by the authority Christ gave. Again these things only happen by the authority given by God, and in the case of this passage it was unique to twelve individuals (who might I add did not yet realize that Christ was even the Son of God.)  The other thing interesting about this passage is that Christ did not send the Disciples to the gentiles.  Now if this is the normal Christian life, raising the dead, casting out demons, healing every kind of sickness, then is the normal Christian life also only to go the lost sheep of Israel?  Of course not!  The point is that this sending is unique... it is not the Christian standard.

This is a short post, but it is important when you read a text like this to take it at face value.  First, this was authority given by Christ to twelve men, and not universally to all the disciples who followed Him around.  Second it was authority given by Christ not on the basis of merit, prayer life, piety, faith, or anything else other than the will of Christ.  Finally this mission was only to the lost sheep of Israel.

There is a lot more to say in the upcoming posts, but I did not want to bite off more than 8 verses for 1 post.


#76 – What the Gospels Teach – The Compassion of Christ – Matthew 9:35-38

Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He *said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. "Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." (Matthew 9:35-38 NASB)

This is an important text to consider and a simple reading of it may reveal some areas of failure in American Christianity, especially within the Church growth movement, and prosperity movement.  Jesus is traveling as an itinerate preacher from synagogue to synagogue preaching the gospel of the kingdom (repentance and faith).  Moreover He is healing sickness and disease.  I have labored much over this on this blog, but it is critical to see the balance of Christ’s ministry, teaching and preaching the Gospel and service to the sick and in need.  It is always both and.  If you neglect proclaiming the gospel you are a humanist service org, and if you neglect service you are a resounding gong.  We read that Jesus sees the people and has compassion on them... what people?  The distressed and dispirited... In response to what He sees He tells the disciples that the harvest is plentiful and to seek God to send out workers.  Who is the harvest?  The distressed and the dispirited.

The reason I say this text has serious implications to American Christendom and particularly the Church Growth movement is that in most Growth focused ministries it is not the distressed and dispirited that are harvested.  People take surveys, find the growing areas, look at financial statistics, and so on, then they plant a church where it is most likely to grow.  Look!  The Church is not about growing, it is about harvesting.  Jesus did not say look there is fertile soil, go plant... He says there is a harvest go pluck.  Again, in our strategizing we look for people who will be able to financially support growth, once that is shored up we will go to the distressed and dispirited, and we end up harvesting the wrong crop into our barn.

Does God desire that those who are affluent be redeemed?  Well He certainly does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, but if He desires the affluent, spirited, and non-distressed to be redeemed, He will redeem them thru the witness of the Church going to the distressed!  Our job is to seek conformity to Christ in all things, and that includes serving and seeking those whom He commanded us to serve and seek.  I could ramble on forever on this.  For instance, we go all seeker sensitive, should we be the seekers of the lost.  We know from scripture that no one seeks God, but instead that God seeks them, and He sends us into the harvest for that.

I have to end here due to time.


#75 – What the Gospels Teach – The Accusation Against Christ – Matthew 9:32-34

As they were going out, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Him. After the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel." But the Pharisees were saying, "He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons." (Matthew 9:32-34 NASB)

This passage gives us a little bit of insight into how Jesus was received, and we would do well to understand this little bit.  First, when the crowds saw what He did they were amazed, seeing that one who was possessed was exorcised and could speak again.  The initial reaction of the people was positive to Christ’s ministry.  At the same time the Pharisees injected doubt into their minds, saying that it is by the ruler of the demons that Jesus cast out demons.  Notice that the Pharisees cannot deny what Christ has done, but they can deny how and why He has done it.  Ultimately the Pharisees stance on Christ will gain more adherents than the truth about Christ will gain, and He will be nailed to a cross in light of that.  There is a lot to be considered here.

First, we need to have a biblical understanding of persecution.  Christ clearly was being persecuted by the Pharisees for the entirety of His ministry on earth, but notice how the persecution came.  Jesus was not persecuted overtly for righteousness sake, instead the Pharisees conjured up doubt in the minds of the people around Him.  It was not at all that they were opposed to the works of Christ, they were opposed to the person of Christ, and more than that the Father who gave Him the authority to perform those works.  If we are to be persecuted we will not be persecuted as ‘Christians’, or ‘for our good deeds’.  We will not be persecuted on the basis of truth, but on the basis of lies.  Jesus did not cast out demons by the ruler of demons, but that was accusation.  Unfortunately Christians have a very false sense in these days of what persecution is really going to be like.  We have a thin skinned view that somehow taking ‘In God We Trust’ off money, or removing the pledge of allegiance from the schools somehow amounts to persecution.  We are too busy fighting the wrong battles.

Real persecution when it comes will come more in the form of lies.  Maybe we will be accused of being pedophiles, or murders, or homophobes or whatever.  When you see people talking about how Christians are out shooting up abortion clinics, even though the death of Dr. Tiller was the first clinic shooting in nearly 10 years, that is a form of the persecution that is to come.  When everything said by the secular and unbelieving religious community about genuine Christians becomes lies then we know real persecution has arrived.  We need to shed this romantic view of persecution that we have, because it is not the biblical view.  When we are persecuted it will not be some glorious suffering in the eyes of the world, or even our brethren, no it will be embarrassing lies, half-truths, and misconceptions that are spread about us.

Jesus was not criticized for what He did, instead He was lied about.  We ought to expect the same.


#74 – What the Gospels Teach – Jesus not Stopping - Matthew 9:27-31

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus *said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They *said to Him, "Yes, Lord." Then He touched their eyes, saying, "It shall be done to you according to your faith." And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them: "See that no one knows about this!" But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout all that land. (Matthew 9:27-31 NASB)

This text brings forth a couple interesting points.  First, notice that the blind men were following Jesus, and followed Him all the way to a house.  The chronology of this, can be missed if we read it too quickly.  We have this assumption that Jesus sees these two blind men has mercy on them and heals them, but the passage says something altogether different than that.  Two blind men were following Jesus and crying out “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”  We have no indication of how long they followed, or how far this house was away, but we do see that at the house they caught up to Him, and then He healed them.  It is important to notice the unique nature of all of these healings.  In one case we have a woman touching the garment of Christ, another where a man calls Christ to His home to raise His daughter, some healing of the unclean, and other miracles performed for Roman leaders, the healings are all very unique.  In the case of this healing the blind men had to pursue Jesus crying out, and eventually had to catch up to Him.  This is not the typical image we get of Jesus, normally we think of Him stopping to serve all and not walking on to His next stop while people in need are crying out.  You cannot call this healing the ‘normal’ method, but at the same time you cannot call it abnormal either.  The point is that there is no standard protocol for healing.  God is not going to be manipulated or convinced to heal based on your 12 steps, or your specific program.  Healing is unique and not bound to a system.

The second point is Jesus’ stern warning. “See that no one knows about this!”  Why was Jesus stern?  Was He avoiding these people for a reason, and then giving in and healing them, but not without issuing a stern warning?  Why would He give a command He knew they wouldn’t keep?  Was it sin when they went and spread the news?  The sternness of Jesus’ warning should at least give us a clue that He meant business, this was not a trite, “let this be our little secret” type thing, but instead it was a forceful command.  This healing is enigmatic to me, the only compassion Jesus’ offers is the healing itself, but the time leading up to the healing He is walking away from them, and the time after the healing He is issuing a stern warning.  There is no forgiveness of sin mentioned, no looking upon them with compassion, it was more of a cold healing.  Did these men ‘use’ Jesus?  Did Jesus know that these men were yet unregenerate and did not want them proclaiming Christ so as to cause His name to be blasphemed?  Obviously these are questions I have no answers to, but I do think this healing deserves more than a cursory look, as its uniqueness is important to the Gospel narrative.

On a side note, I have been posting much less lately and I really miss it.  Writing has kinda fallen out of my routine as I have begun pursuing Greek.  At the same time Greek has fallen out temporarily too, and I have been wasting time laying in bed until 7 or later.  Lack of discipline leads to all sorts of malady and lack of joy so I resolve by the grace of God to shed this temporary apathy.  Not promising more posts, but hopefully that will be a result of this resolve.


#73 – What the Gospel Teaches - A healing within a healing – Matthew 9:18-26

While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, "My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live." And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, "If I only touch his garment, I will be made well." Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." And instantly the woman was made well. And when Jesus came to the ruler's house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, "Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went through all that district. (Matthew 9:18-26 ESV)

There are so many facets to this narrative it is hard to handle in one post.  At the same time the resurrection of the dead girl cannot be separated from the healing of the woman who touched His garment considering the touching of the garment is a narrative within the narrative.  Let’s take the two miracles together; the resurrection miracle was precipitated by a ruler addressing Christ face to face.  The curing of the hemorrhage was precipitate by a woman secretly touching the garment of Christ.  The resurrection miracle was a miracle requested on behalf of a daughter, the hemorrhage miracle was requested by the one being healed.  These two miracles are very different in many ways, and yet they exist right here within each other, and in the divine plan of God we presume it is this way for a reason.

People’s propensity towards Pharisaic thinking was known by God.  God is immutable, and yet humanity at large, as well as on a personal level are constantly in a state of flux.  Our tendency is to swing from complete and utter immorality as an unbeliever into a gracious appreciation for Christ as a new believer, and then often we swing past gracious appreciation in order to create rules and regulations to impose upon people beyond what the bible imposes.  What does this have to do with this text?  Everything!  Had Christ performed these miracles in separate contexts one could be led to believe that it is either the faith of someone else that must heal you, or that it is the faith of yourself that brings you healing.  Had Christ performed these miracles in separate contexts someone could assert that Christ has a preference towards rulers and people who can stand face to face with Him, or on the flip side that He only regards the poor who are afraid to be seen by Him.  Throughout the scriptures we find instances like these where the Lord is working in two or more very different ways simultaneously with two different types of people.  Certainly I do not want to get all post-modern here and say there are not absolutes regarding how God acts, God forbid that I would give that idea.  However, texts like this remind us that it is He who defines those absolutes in His word, not us.  Many in the emergent movement would (though not vocally) have preferred that Christ would not have responded to the ruler’s faith but only responded to woman, this could justify their ‘social justice is everything’ mentality.  On the flip side many fundamentalists struggle with the idea of this woman being made whole coming in through the back door and then facing Jesus.  (See Luke 8:44-48 for a more in depth narrative.)  The beauty of this passage is that the one healing is encapsulated in the other making them forever inseparable even though they are very much different from each other.

Of course there are many other important truths that can be gleaned from this passage.  For instance, Christ is about bigger things than healing a hemorrhage that could obviously be lived with right?  I mean it is more important to raise the dead?  No, not at all, Jesus stops for the ‘lesser’ healing.  Personal application here is pretty obvious, just because God is about dealing with bigger things in this world than your life, does not mean He is not about dealing with your life.  Or what about the laughter of the people in the midst of the death of this girl, and their utter brazenness and lack of compassion, and yet the desperation that led the ruler to believe on Christ for the miracle.  Of course what about how foolish they must have felt when she walked in on her own funeral... alive.  There is a lot of good stuff here, but I will stop right here and move on to the next passage in the next post.

It has been difficult posting lately.  I hope to ramp it back up a bit, as I have found that writing through this gospel has been a great help to me, cannot promise to be daily though.


#72- What the Gospels Teach – New Cloth and Wine – Matthew 9:14-17

Then the disciples of John *came to Him, asking, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" And Jesus said to them, "The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. "But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. "Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved." (Matthew 9:14-17 NASB)

Ok, I want to tread very carefully on this passage.  Please note at the very outset that I have a lot of trouble understanding this text.  While one could argue that this entire Gospel of Matthew Series is a matter of my personal opinion (I would not agree that it is) I will confess that in this post I am stretching to make a connection and this is more of an opinion than a proclamation of an absolute.

It would be inappropriate to take this passage in two sections as it is clear from the context that the parable concerning the unshrunk cloth and the new wineskins are meant as explanations as to why the disciples do not fast.  The text is inseparable, and to preach the parable of the wineskins and the cloth outside of the context of fasting would be dishonest.  Now in the text we find that the Pharisees fast and the disciples of John fast but the Disciples of Christ do not fast at all.  We also see with clarity that after Christ (the bridegroom) is taken away from them they will indeed fast.  Of course mourning and fasting cannot occur in the presence of the bridegroom while they are yet together because it is to be a time of joy and not of mourning.  Now Jesus gives this parable in order to explain what the results of His disciples fasting would be if indeed they fasted before His death, resurrection, and ascension.

Jesus knows full well that in the fulfillment of the Law, with the kingdom of God at hand, the ritual of fasting takes on an entirely different meaning.  The disciples will fast because of the absence of the bridegroom, they will fast as a sign of their longing for the presence of Christ.  They will fast as ones seek Christ, not out of religious obligation or to display righteousness, but out of honest longing for the Lord and His presence and out of honest gratitude for what He has done.  Now, in light of that, it would make no sense that they would fast while in His presence if the reason for their fasting was to be His absence and gratitude for what He had done.  If the ‘new’ reason for fasting is a longing for the Lord we cannot fast with the ‘new’ reason by performing the old ritual.  In other words, the legalistic once or twice a week fast of the Pharisees did not reflect  honest gratitude for what Christ has done, and pain of missing Christ.  So you have the rough unshrunk and scratchy cloth of missing Christ along with the wine of gratitude for what He has done... you cannot sew the loss of Christ to the fabric of a ritual, or fill a wineskin of obligation with the wine of Gratitude.  If you try, you will lose the wine of gratitude when the ritualistic skin cannot contain it and you will be left with nothing.  And when you sew that rough new cloth of longing for Christ to the old smooth cloth of ritual the longing for Christ will be destroyed and you will be left with damaged ritual.  The new fast has a new reason, and the old ritual cannot be made one with the new fast.

Again please understand that I took some liberty with this text, and I hope that I did not go too far in making it say something that it does not really say.  I am open to your thoughts on the passage if you have any.  Please correct me if necessary.


The Semantics of the Tulip

I have debated whether or not to write on this topic, or whether or not it was appropriate for this blog, especially as this blog has migrated more towards begin a reflection of my reading through Matthew.  Nonetheless as trivial as this deviation from Matthew may seem to some, it does seem rather important to me.  So being as this is my little public venue I suppose there is no better place to put this then here.

In recent months I have found myself aligning more and more with a Reformed understanding of the Christian faith, and have come to believe that for the most part the ‘Reformed’ position seems to be the biblical position.  I know this is a bit of an over simplification as there are many breeds of ‘reformed’ Christians, and that to simply say ‘Reformed theology is biblical’ is really not saying anything at all unless you define that theology.  Now please understand I write this in humility knowing that I am no scholar.  I will address the 5 points of Calvinism known by the acronym tulip.  Personally I do not know the entire history of these points, except that they were a rebuttal to the theology of Amininus.  Specifically the five points of contention that the Arminians had with Calvin which they presented at the Remonstrance of 1610.  Again, I am open to correction on any of this.  So in preparing this post I looked into the Canon’s of Dort and realized that there is no express ‘tulip’ anywhere in it... TULIP seems to be the summary of what the Synod of Dort came up with in rebuttal to the Remonstrance of 1610.  ANYWAY... most of us who have never done the major research on this simply know Calvinism as the acronym of TULIP and we accept it or reject it based on an oversimplified summary of the Cannons of Dort.  (Again if I am saying anything wrong, please, please, please... correct me, I really do not feel like looking like an imbecile on the web.)

So, in light of the fact that the majority of Christians (Calvinist or non-Calvinist) understanding of Calvinism is reduced to the simplified TULIP acronym I plan to share how I initially accepted Calvinism, then rejected it altogether, and have returned to accept it.  Moreover I propose to explain why semantics of the TULIP drove myself and others away.  Also, I do not propose to change these points, and fully recognize that many scholars have labored over these points many years even lifetimes and I am not a man who has earned any standing by which to say this system is all wrong.

Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Attonement
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints
Beginning with TOTAL DEPRAVITY, I would say this is the one point of the five that I personally have never taken issue with.  Even in the Articles of Faith of the Methodist Church penned by Wesley (an inconsistent Arminian) asserts the total depravity of man in a way that even the most reformed of theologians would gladly accept.  While I have never looked at the Remonstrance of 1610, I am curious as to how they differed on this.  It is however popular today for people to ‘try to find the good in others’ and if indeed the person is unregenerate that good will never be found, and if they are regenerate the only good that will be found is the Christ Himself who dwells within them.  I like the term Entirely Fallen even though I think total depravity is an adequate expression of the same thing.  Entirely Fallen makes the logical connection to the fall and how it has completely effected us in our entirety.

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION.  This is the second place where I began to struggle against Calvinism.  In the scriptures we find conditions upon salvation... mainly repentance and faith without which no one will be saved.  The word unconditional taken at face value seems unbiblical and provides the non-Calvinist, or even the weak Calvinist a reason to reject this point.  It would be better if ‘unconditional’ were left off of this point, or replaced with the word Sovereign.  Sovereign Election communicates the simple fact that it is entirely the working and will of God which elects a soul, but does not raise the question about conditions.  Again, there are conditions to election, conditions which the Sovereign God has determined to fulfill in us and through us, entirely of His working an power.  I know this sounds nitpicky or whatever, but when I hear unconditional my gut response is that ‘unconditional election’ negates any requirement for repentance and faith which indeed would go against scripture.  (Just a reminder that this is me explaining the difficulties I have had with Calvinism because of semantics, not because of the actual doctrines meanings.)

LIMITED ATTONEMENT.  This is the doctrine that most non-Calvinists and some 4-point Calvinists take the most exception to.  I also for a long time rejected this doctrine based on the words ‘Limited Atonement’ however today the my understanding of limited atonement brings me tremendous comfort and peace with God.  The difficulty for me was with the term ‘limited’.  How can anything having to do with Christ the infinite God be limited?  Even the atonement itself has resulted in benefit to all people regardless of whether their sins have been atoned for or not.  It is because of the atonement that the benevolence of Christians has benefitted and salted the entire earth.  In that sense there is no limits to Christ’s atonement.  I prefer the term Specific Atonement to that of limited atonement.  When I realize that God with all of time laid out before Him, and all the actions and sin that man would ever commit before His face knowing full well who His children were... that He would then look at all the sins of His children (elect) and pour His wrath out specifically for those sins on His Son... well I find great comfort knowing that my sins have specifically been atoned for... every single one.  Specific atonement in my limited opinion is a far better way of communication what the 3rd point of Calvinism is attempting to communicate.  There is a lot peace and gratitude for Christ that comes when you consider a Specific atonement... however when you consider ‘limited’ atonement it seems that you consider a ‘limited’ Christ.  Again, it is semantics, but semantics do matter as they have caused my doctrines to move all over the place over the last 8 years.

IRRESISTIBLE GRACE.  If there were any point that has made me question Calvinism it would be the point of irresistible grace.  The simple praxis of life and the evidence of every believer and non-believer alike seems to scream of resistance against grace.  The term irresistible grace seems to be a contradiction to total depravity.  Again, when you reduce the five points down to a simple acronym this type of confusion is bound to arise.  Grace is resistible in the sense that fallen man, and even the redeemed man have a propensity towards resisting grace.  The point is not that one cannot resist grace, the point is that resistance is futile.  Again, this is semantics, but I cannot be the only person who has struggled much with these things because of semantics.  In the Specific Atonement Christ indeed died for the sins of the ‘Elect’ all of the sins, so for a man who has been ‘Elect’ to die unregenerate is indeed an impossibility.  The conditions of salvation will be met by all who are elect and specifically atoned for... the conditions of faith and repentance.  Resistance of Grace must be futile, and the power of Grace must be supreme because it is only by that Grace that the specifically atoned for are saved.  I guess my proposed rewording would be Omnipotent Grace.  Again, the reason being that grace can be resisted, but grace cannot be overpowered, resistance to grace though possible and even probable is still none the less futile.

PERSERVERANCE OF THE SAINTS.  There are definitely some difficult passages that at face value speak against the perseverance of the saints, the classic passages being in Hebrews 6:4-6 and Hebrews 10:26.  At the same time we find other passages that seem to speak to the fact that those given to Christ will never fall away, or will indeed be preserved.  The difference is in practice and reality.  Those who have made a strong profession of faith, who seemed to follow hard after Jesus, but never truly believed will be case hardened against the Gospel after they formally reject the Gospel they merely thought they believed.  Those who have come to true repentance and faith will indeed persevere.  Of the 5 points I think this is the one that I would not think to suggest a different name for.  It seems to communicate it just fine.  However, because I renamed the others I will do so here for the sake of consistency and say the Continuance of Salvation.  This communicates that a believer will not only be preserved but the fruit of salvation will also continue because of their regenerated nature.  It changes from Once Saved Always Saved, to Once Saved Continually Saved.

So Jay’s points of Calvinism (which I think say the same thing as the actual cannons that the TULIP is a simplification of) would be ESSOC, well that isn’t too memorable.
Entirely Fallen
Sovereign Election
Specific Atonement
Omnipotent Grace
Continuance of Salvation

#71 – What the Gospels Teach – Not the Righteous but Sinners – Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector's booth; and He *said to him, "Follow Me!" And he got up and followed Him. Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?" But when Jesus heard this, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. "But go and learn what this means: 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:9-13 NASB)

This is a passage that has been abused so often by the Church as a means to justify licentiousness and folly.  How often do we hear some evangelical say ‘where would Jesus hang out, and with who’ and everyone chimes in ‘He would be in the bars, and with prostitutes, and at the night clubs.’  Of course they will site this passage and others that on the surface seem to support their proposition, and in some sense I agree entirely with what they are saying.  Jesus indeed would have hung out in the night clubs... with harlots and drunks.  Now the next logical step is always to say that we need to be like Christ... to walk as He walked, and to do the things that he has done.  Therefore logically we too must go to the night clubs, visit the drunks and prostitutes and so on.  Again, I would agree with this as well... but it is not the complete story.

What was Christ’s purpose of reclining with ‘sinners’?  To call sinners... to call them to what?  Well what is Christ’s consistent call throughout the Gospel narrative?  Repentance and faith!  Jesus reclines with sinners, not as if He is one of them, He does not lower Himself by any means or become a sinner, but He enters the situation as a physician not as a sick man.  He enters with the intent of healing to call sinners to repentance.  His intent is to call those who are in sin to follow Him.  Now are we to go to these places as Christ has gone?  Of course... but only if we go with the purpose He went with.  Our problem is that we will use this passage and others to justify worldliness as opposed to reading this passage and being empowered as missionaries to these environments.  You see, if you are in this environment participating in sin you miss the point.  Who wants a physician who is always sick?  And if I am always sick do you really want to see my doctor?  Of course not, yet if we drink down sin like water our message of a savior that leads us out of sin becomes invalid.  We are called to be in the world, are not called to be like the world and there is all the difference in the world.

Now one of the other problems with the interpretation of this verse is that whenever a believer is rebuked for participating in ungodliness the will accuse the one rebuking of being like the Pharisees who questioned what Christ was doing.  However, the accusation against the one rebuking is entirely out of bounds unless the Christian is in the environment of sinfulness as an intentional missionary bringing the healing message of the Gospel.

Also, one think you may consider, the Pharisees approached the disciples and asked why Jesus was in eating with the sinners, do you notice that the disciples were not in eating with them?  Did you notice that it was Christ in there calling them out to follow Him, yet the disciples were on the outside being approached by the Pharisees?  Now do not take this too far either.  As believers we are not called to stand on the outside and wait for Christ to go in.  We have been given the Holy Spirit and may indeed be called to go in and proclaim the salvation Christ offers if that is the Spirit’s direction.  At the same time the Spirit never impels us to sin so that grace may abound.

Ok I suppose I have beat that into the ground enough.


Giving vs. Generosity

I came across this article at Dan Dick’s United Methodeviations blog and it got me thinking.  I confess I did not read much of the post, but what I read was eye opening and got me going a little bit, and I would like to comment a bit on it.

So here goes a quick break from the gospel series.  Giving is an action born out of obligation, just like every other act of the law.  The law is only fulfilled when the fulfillment of the law, or righteousness becomes the desire of the person, not the duty of the person.  Of course the only way to shed the duty of the law and have it replaced with a desire for the fulfillment of the law is by regeneration.  Regeneration is the gracious work of Christ that converts our hearts from feeling the obligation to work, to the desire to work out of gratitude for what He has done.  In other words, the righteous actions that were once laborious become our joy, and the sin which we once enjoyed has become a thorn.

What does this have to do with giving?  Most churches spend so much time on convincing unconverted church members to fight against their unregenerate nature in order to fund and continue doing the various ministries of the church.  Campaigns are set up to make people feel good about doing what they really do not want to do, and getting them excited to participate and commit to something they lack desire to participate in.  The problem is not that people are stingy the problem is that they are unconverted.  One of the marks of true belief is a generous spirit that feels a healthy indebtedness to Christ who has given all.  Generosity is the natural outflow of the converted man.  The generous man has no problem giving from his abundance and it takes little convincing to get him to participate in something when he is sure it is the Lord’s will.  However for the unregenerate you must dangle some carrot of ‘what you get in return’ in order to get them to give.  Whether it is a new building, the promise of great new ministries that they could us, a bigger and better staff, or something as simple as being able to run the AC in the summer, and clear the snow of the lot in the winter.  The point is that the unregenerate must know what they are getting in return because they are giving out of obligation, their desire is not to give, but they may indeed give if they realize that their giving ultimately has personal benefit to them.  It is the difference between someone who eats broccoli because they know they should, and someone who eats it because they love it.  The regenerate man gives because it is in his nature, and is his desire to do so, the unregenerate gives because they believe somehow it is good for them.

So how does a church become financially healthy?  Faithful proclamation of the Gospel... period!  Regenerated people will be generous and support the Godly mission and vision of a church.  If the members of your church never step up... maybe it is because they have yet to truly believe unto salvation.  Now a word of caution, if your church is in the middle of all sorts of projects that may not be of the Lord, do not expect the people of the Lord to give generously to that which is not His will.  If God indeed gives a real vision, He will also supply the means for that vision through His people... not by begging campaigning and coercing, but by bold proclamation of the vision and biblical support for the vision.

Ok that is enough of a rant for now.  Back to the gospel series tomorrow.

#70 – What the Gospels Teach – The Miracle of Faith – Matthew 9:1-7

Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven." And some of the scribes said to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes." And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? "Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, and walk'? "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--then He *said to the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your bed and go home." And he got up and went home. (Matthew 9:1-7 NASB)

In this passage we find three miracles, two which are obvious and one which is implicit.  The first miracle which is implicit is the faith of the paralytic and those who brought him to Christ.  Recall that faith is a miracle and a gift from God.  That miraculous faith, given by the Father, then afforded Christ the opportunity to pronounce the second miracle “your sins are forgiven.”  You must recognize the miraculous nature of the forgiveness of sin.  If the forgiveness of sin seems natural to you, and not a supernatural happening it would do you well to spend much time studying the attributes of God.  Now in some sense we must sympathize with the scribes here, as they have just seen a man pronounce forgiveness over someone, something we too would shudder at.  What they had not realized and come to believe was who that Man was, the Son of God Himself.  The third miracle was an act of compassion for both the paralytic and the scribe, ‘get up and walk’.  It was an act of compassion for the paralytic obviously, but it was for the scribes as well to provide them with the knowledge ‘that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

What is the application?  First, the greatest miracle in this passage is faith of the paralytic and his friends.  Without the initial miraculous faith the second and third miracles do not occur.  At the same time the greatest miracle is also the least visible, and the least sublime.  When reading the passage we certainly get excited concerning the forgiveness of sin, and then when the physical realm is altered and a paralytic walks we become very much enamored with the work of Christ.  However we miss the point, because as believers if indeed we are believers, the greatest miracle of this passage is one that we share with this paralytic and that is the miracle of having a heart set against God being removed and replaced with a heart that desires God, ultimately leading to the forgiveness of sin.  The greatest miracle is the one all believers share and that is the miracle of faith.  Realize that doctors have duplicated that miracle of getting a paralytic to walk, moreover we have even gone so far as forgiving those who have sinned against us, but no one has ever been able to speak the right words do the right things and act the right way to give someone faith.  It is always the result of the miraculous.  So what is the point?  The point is to put it in perspective, too often in charismatic circles there seems to be this need for the paranormal to validate the presence of the Spirit.  Yet, in many non or even anti-charismatic circles faith and forgiveness are relegated to a mere mental ascension or ability to wrap one’s mind around the gospel.  The truth is that faith is supernatural, and the primary miracle of the Christian life, which results in the miracle of the forgiveness of sin.  Realize the ‘sign’ of the healing of the paralytic was not for the believer, or even the paralytic himself, it was for the unbelieving scribe.

Christ made it clear that He had done enough by forgiving the paralytic, but performed the miracle to reveal His own glory.  Oh, we could go on and on here.  Do you realize that the paralytic was the beneficiary of Jesus getting glory for Himself?  Do you realize that the atonement offered at the cross was to glorify the Godhead, and we are beneficiaries of God getting glory for Himself?  Any miracle performed in a manner that is not primarily and obviously to the glory of God is either false, or worse, actually being carried out by the forces of darkness.  I will stop here, I have probably already run further than this text allows.


#69 – What the Gospels Teach – The Preference of People – Matthew 8:28-34

When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. And they cried out, saying, "What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?" Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them. The demons began to entreat Him, saying, "If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine." And He said to them, "Go!" And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters. The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region. (Matthew 8:28-34 NASB)

Obviously there is a lot to cover in this passage and there are countless applications and implications that will not be addressed here, however one observation about this passage is absolutely startling and has received little attention, at least in my experience.  If you read the last sentence in this passage you will find the words “And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.”  This idea that the people came out of the city to convince Christ to leave their region shows that He had done something which they felt threatened by, or uncomfortable with, at the very least what He had done had troubled them deeply. Why?

Jesus shows up and a couple demon possessed guys who were incredibly violent come out of the tombs, the demons fear the Lord, the Lord casts them into a heard of swine (unclean animals) the swine kill themselves.  The demon possessed men are healed, the swine are dead, and the people have had enough and implored Christ to leave.  There is a major contrast here, first why are the people mad?  The herdsman kept a flock of swine, and the swine got killed.  Needless to say this had to have been pretty rough on the herdsman, Christ allowed their heard to be destroyed, which indeed would destroy the livelihood of those herdsmen.  The people of the city received the news about Christ from the herdsman who had already lost their heard and were obviously distraught and disturbed, and most certainly biased against Jesus when they reported to the city.  At the same time they also reported what happened to the demoniacs, the very men who were so possessed that nobody could even pass them without being injured.  In one sense, this event was tragic, as the livelihoods of those herdsmen were destroyed, yet in another sense this was miraculous as these two violent demoniacs were restored.

The reaction of the people shows just how far from righteousness, and how hardened they really were.  First of all, why were the people herding swine in the first place?  Second, why would the people not rejoice at the restoration of fellow man?  The people had become so callous that they preferred the preservation of evil demons, and unclean beasts, over the restoration of fellow man and the end of their violent possession.  The people preferred violence and uncleanness over righteousness and restoration so “the implored Him to leave their region.”  These people had drifted so far from the righteousness of God that they preferred the preservation of evil, and were very much against the casting out of it.  When Christ came and healed these men and put an end to an unclean practice of herding swine the people preferred the demons over the Christ, and people do the very same thing today.

When a person is converted, genuinely, and they begin to reject the practices of the world, the television, the magazines, the novels, the smut, even the gluttony, immodesty, and other vices of the sinful world they are not viewed at all as recipients of a miracle even though that is exactly what they are.  Instead the world, and often the Church alienates and isolates the truly zealous convert who is altogether reformed into something far more pleasant, kind, generous, and caring.  Why?  Well for one thing much of the world makes its living off of vice, and the convert no longer contributes to their occupational well being.  Just like the herdsmen did not profit from the demons being cast out of the violent men.  The second and maybe the primary reason is that the tangible ‘cleanliness’ or righteousness of the believer is evidence that there is an actual attainable superior morality to that of their own.  Of course that superior life is available through Jesus Christ and living into that grace filled life threatens those who are content to live with unrighteousness.  This reminds us of the rest of the city who came out to tell Him to leave, not because He had done anything wrong, but because His righteousness and ability to destroy evil threatened them.

The bottom line is that when Christ acts in righteousness the non elect will implore Him to leave, while the elect will be converted and choose to follow Him.  (I do not mean to open a can of worms about election, free will, etc..., maybe some other time.)


#68 - What the Gospels Teach - A faithless plea - Matthew 8:23-27

When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to  Him and woke Him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing!" He *said to them, "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?" Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, "What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?" (Matthew 8:23-27 NASB)

This passage is difficult for me to comment on, because on the surface it appears to fly right in the face of much of what we have been taught about Christ. Notice the words of the disciples, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!”  What greater affirmation of truth and of faith is there than that?  Is that not the very beginning of faith in Christ?  Is it not the acknowledgement that we alone are insufficient, perishing, lo even condemned that begins the humble and joyful walk with the Lord?  “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” ought to be the unbelievers cry when their eyes have opened to their own moral bankruptcy.  Now I realize the context is that of a storm, but suffer me to go on a minute or two longer.  Notice the response of Jesus, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?”  The response is one of rebuke, or at the very least a stern question.  The disciples went to Christ with knowledge that only He could save, and rightly so, but they are met with a response that was harsh.  Why?  Should they not have been rewarded instead of chastised?

First, these disciples have already dropped everything to follow Him, they are (with the exception of Judas) genuine believers in Christ.  They have experienced the perfect love of Christ which casts out all fear.  Now, genuine believers still fear, especially in the middle of a stormy sea, but believers are not perishing.  The disciples made a very wrong statement when they said ‘Lord we are perishing’.  Moreover, they were with the Christ who could not die until His time was accomplished, how could they be in danger if He was in the boat?  There fear in this case was evidence that they had not yet realized who Christ was.  While the multitudes would come to Christ realizing He had authority to heal and cast out demons, His very disciples lacked the faith to believe a storm was not going to kill Him.  Now I hate to speculate, and I do not know if the original Greek communicates this better or not, but when they address Jesus and say ‘we are perishing’ does that ‘we’ include Jesus or not.  Do they have concern for Christ and the future of His mission, or just trying to save their own skin?

Of course we know that Jesus rebukes the winds and the sea showing His authority over all things and amazing the disciples and ultimately granting them more faith.  Moreover the Lord uses these men to turn the world upsidedown, our lack of faith in difficult situations certainly does not negate our ultimate calling, but does expose our weakness in the faith.


#67 – What the Gospels Teach – Jesus never comes next – Matthew 8:21-22

Another of the disciples said to Him, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." But Jesus *said to him, "Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead." (Matthew 8:21-22)

This is one of the more difficult texts in Jesus’ teaching, but it must be considered and taken at face value.  First and foremost realize that the apostle Paul reminds Timothy that if someone does not take care of their family they are worse than an infidel, moreover throughout the Old Testament we see the will of God is clearly that our fathers and mothers must be honored and cared for.  I would even contend that one of the things that angers God tremendously in our day is the disregard for parents.  Our media downplays fathers and mothers, kids are encouraged in school to think outside of the value systems their parents have imparted, and are even taught often that they are growing up in a different world and they are more intelligent and essentially superior to their parents.

What then is this text teaching?  Is Jesus contradicting the perfect Law of God?  Is He speaking differently than His apostle taught Timothy and Us?  Absolutely not!  The term ‘go and bury my father’ does not refer to a dead father, but to a dying father.  The disciple is requesting to be able to go and be with his father until he dies.  This seems to be a reasonable and even Godly request, however Jesus responds by commanding this disciple to follow Him and to “allow the dead to bury their own dead.”  We also see similar commands in the other Gospel accounts as well.  Jesus is teaching that he never comes next.  The disciple was not at all wrong about his desire to bury his father, the disciple’s error was in the words “Permit me first...”  Jesus had to be harsh on this command, though in our eyes it may seem over the top, even a ridiculous demand, we must see it from the other side.

I would contend that “permit me first...” is at the root of every single sin without exception.  Permit me first to serve myself, permit me first to get my house and my car, permit me first to get married, permit me first to watch some TV, permit me first to have my best life now, permit me first to win this argument, permit me first to get myself pleasure, permit me first to... do whatever, and immediately Christ then becomes second at best.  Following Christ entails caring for our dying relatives, it does, but caring for our dying relatives without doing it in service to Christ is mere works and not faithful righteousness.  The late Vance Havner preached a sermon on this text and it really is worth a listen.  It can be downloaded here.

Jesus knew full well that “permit me first” would cause more damage to His disciples than anything else, even violation of the Law.  Christ knew that at the heart of lawbreaking was the ‘permit me first’ attitude, therefore even in the most innocent of situations such as aiding a dying father the notion of ‘permit me first’ being acceptable had to be destroyed.

On a side note:  I hope to be posting more often again, but with summer being over and youth ministry being in full swing I have neglected setting the time aside for this blog.  No promises, but now that everything is up and rollin’ again for the year there should be more frequent postings here.


Message preached 09.06.2009

This is a one post break from the gospel series to share the message I preached on September 9th of this year.  The audio of me preaching this can be found here... http://s3.amazonaws.com/mychurchwebsite/c1420/message-09-09-06.mp3 remember this was preached audibly, there are a lot of typos, and little mistakes in the text below, but the text was a mere guide in the preaching.  (ie one spot should say self-righteous not just righteous, there are a few other spots where words are missing, misspelled, etc...)

By your standard of Measure
Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.  For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.  Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.”  Matthew 7:1-6

Let’s go to the Lord in Prayer:
The most memorized scripture in the bible is typically thought to be John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  What a wonderful blessing that passage is to the believer, however it is doubtful that is the most quoted scripture we hear.  The scripture most quoted by unbelievers to Christians is this “Judge not lest ye be judged.”  Granted very few people realize that they are quoting Matthew 7:1, but they know it is in the bible and they know they can quote it every time they sense that they are being judged.  This is an important text to consider being as the primary beef the world claims to have with the church is that the church is too judgmental.  This morning we are going to dive in to this passage to find out what it really means, and how difficult of a passage it really is.  Moreover we are going to consider whether we must heed to the criticism of the world and consider their rebuke as though it were from God, knowing that God has often used people outside of the faith as an instrument of rebuke for those within the faith, or whether we can dismiss their claims against us knowing that the scriptures also promise we will be accused falsely for His sake.

One of the best places to go to get understanding of this text is the end of time, Judgment Day itself.  Fast forward to Revelation 20:11-12

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. (Revelation 20:11-12 NASB)

John the revelator is receiving the vision of the end of time and he sees the dead lined up before the throne, a huge mass of humanity standing before the King of Kings, and there in that crowd John sees you.  Realize that you are there, you are in the bible, physically pictured in Revelation 20:11-12.  Why are they gathered?  Judgment!  Books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.  You will stand before God, and you will answer according to your deeds.  Realize this is not just some apocalyptic revelation theme throughout the scriptures final judgment is referenced, a good portion of the parable reference judgment, many of the teachings of the apostles reference judgment, and we also find this judgment referenced in the Old Testament as well.  Let’s just nail it down right here, we will stand before God for judgment.  Now in light of that truth let’s read Matthew 7:1-2 -

"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2 NASB)

In light of Revelation 20 think about the words ‘the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.’  Do you see where this is going?  Listen to how practical this teaching becomes if just apply it as it is written.

Let’s start with Politics.
For eight years the President of the United States of America was George W. Bush.  During his time in office and even still today we heard countless people call George W. Bush a moron because of his inability to pronounce words correctly and fashion grammatically accurate sentences before millions of viewers.  In light of this passage the people who made those judgments have agreed to stand before the throne of the Most High God and be judged according to their public speaking ability.  “For in the way you judge, you will be judged.”

Currently many people have a beef with our presiding President.  It is ok to have a beef with Obama, or Bush, but people make claims that President Obama is such and idiot when it comes to Healthcare reform and its economic effects.  In light of Matthew 7:1-2 and Revelation 20 the people who say such things have agreed to stand before the throne of the Most High and be judged based on their own knowledge of healthcare and economics.

Odds are that some of us are already writing these two examples off... but I challenge you to apply the passage to the situation without righteously asserting your views.

Let’s move on, I mean we have already mentioned politics, let’s go into another taboo subject... this may be the last time I get to preach, but let’s speak a moment about human sexuality.

We hear countless derogatory blasts against homosexuals, especially from within the professing Christian community.  Let me ask this:  Judgment made against the individual homosexual is based on what?  Sexual sin.  (Now I am not going to open this can of worms too far, the bible speaks clearly on this issue and I will leave it at that.)  However be very careful before you judge someone based on sexual impurity.  Are you willing to stand before the Most High, in light of Matthew 7:1-2 and be judged on your own sexual purity?  Really?  After all your second glances at girls on the street, all the filth on your Desparate Housewives, Grays Anatomy, CSI, and every other show, after all the smut novels, profession football cheerleaders, internet pornography, second glances at billboards with sexual content, fantasies that only you know about... and you are going to make a judgment based on someone else’s sexual purity?  Or what about all the relationships you had before Be careful.  That standard you have set... you will be held to.

How about at Church?  We have all been part of conversations where we stand in judgment of our church leaders, and how we feel things should be done and how they are failing, and how they need to get a life and see things the way we do.  In light of standing Judgment before the Most High according to your own standard how does that play out?  You are a leader in your home, are you leading perfectly?  You have tremendous resources, are you using them how God wants?  As Christians we are all ministers, how is your ministry going?  The very standards you have set for others... they will be raised against you.

Listen, I have a tendency towards being judgmental, and I know it.  This is something I must constantly seek guidance on, and constantly seek repentance from, and to be honest this text is a touch frightening to me.  I also know that there are many others, if not everyone in this place, that if they are honest with themselves they will find this text to be difficult as well.

So where do we go from here?  Are we to just sit back and have nothing to say about anything?  Of course not, but Jesus gives us pretty clear direction. 

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.  – (Matthew 7:3-5)

We are to not judge, however we are to discern.  The scriptures speak often about discerning good and evil, and we are not to lay back with an anything goes attitude, but discernment and judgment are two entirely different things.  To judge is to usurp the authority of God who alone is judge.  When you make character judgments against people you have assumed a position that only God is allowed to occupy.  To discern is altogether different than to judge.  Discernment is born out of humility, and the first step to biblical discernment is to acknowledge your own sin.  You see that speck in your brother’s eye?  What about the log in your own?  This is an exaggerated contrast, the difference between a speck and an entire log is nearly infinite, and you are called to first pull out that log before dealing with the speck.  What does this mean?... It means that the depth of sin within you is far greater than anything you have ever seen in someone else.  It really is.  The sooner you come to grips with your sinfulness the sooner you will have the ability to not judge.  To begin to remove the log of iniquity from your own eye get alone with God and ask Him to reveal your sinfulness to you.  Seriously, seek Him to show you what your ways are really like... trust me, if you honestly do that, He will show you sides of your own self that you never knew existed, and you will realize the foolishness of judging another.  You will also be humbled, and know that the proverbs say “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

You see, once you are humbled by your own shortcomings, you will see that speck in your brother’s eye, you will not see it with a critical spirit, but you will see it as it is, a speck.  Now specks are not trivial, if you have ever had a speck of something in your eye you know that it causes pain and annoyance.  If you humble yourself before the Lord you will see your brother’s speck and realize that whether they know it or not, it is causing them blurry vision and annoyance, and out of love and a desire for their well being you will gently remove that speck from their eye.  You will give a gentle rebuke, or teaching, or exhortation.  Discernment, and biblical rebuke and correction are born out of humility and love.

With all that has been said so far, be very careful.  We are not to judge people, we are to hate sin, sin in our own lives, sin in the world, sin everywhere.  We are not to stand in support of sin, to justify sin, to promote sin, or to embrace sin.  We ought to hate our own sin, knowing that the sin of ourselves and of this world has cause our savior to die, and that God is holy and has a fierce indignation against sin.  We are to be open to people, and never stand in judgment of others... but be careful to accept every activity and be so open minded that your brains fall out.

This is the exact reason Jesus gives us this next verse.  “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.”  (Matthew 7:6)  It is as though Jesus has said to us... Listen up!  You cannot judge others, you are in no place to judge others, you are a log eyed people and are in no way capable or worthy of casting judgment on anyone... at the same time be careful, do not just go throwing what is holy to dogs, and giving pearls to swine... you must have humble discernment or else you are just going to let anything go, and your lack of discernment will allow the world to tear you to shreds.

We must be so careful.  One of the reasons we Christians seem so judgmental to everyone else is not because we have taken such a hard line on sin, in fact the opposite is true.  We have chosen to allow various sin and we sweep it under the rug and say it isn’t so bad, yet at the same time we choose other sin to be greater and we draw a line.  As though we were Catholic and believed some sin to be mortal, some to be menial.  Listen, the wages of all sin is death.  We are to hate all sin, and should hate to see sin promoted... and be especially repentant when we ourselves are promoting sin.  The mark of true belief is a love for Christ that plays itself out in tangible ways, one of which is repentance from sin and not the promotion or acceptance of it in our lives.  By grace, if you have true belief, your mind has been regenerated with a desire to turn from sin and pursue righteousness.

Judge not... please... in light of the fact that you too will be judged on that day... judge not.  Discern, with humility, honest humility not some mock contrition, discern right from wrong and in light of your own shortcomings come to the aid of your brother in removing that annoying speck from his eye.  Come to me in humility and help me get the specks out of my eyes, as I too will do the same for you.  Let us not stand in judgment over each other any longer, but let us rebuke, exhort, encourage, teach, and help each other with an honest and enduring love.



#66 – What the Gospels Teach – Nowhere to lay His head – Matthew 8:18-20

Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea. Then a scribe came and said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go." Jesus *said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."  (Matthew 8:18-20 NASB)

Jesus saw the crowd and gave orders to go to the other side of the sea.  This is not a case of Jesus neglecting the crowd, this is important to see.  Certainly He already knows what He is going to encounter on the other side, but He is also using this moment to make a clear point about the cost of discipleship.  We will see this in this posting as well as the next.  Jesus sees this crowd and announces that He will be heading across the sea (large lake)... and a Scribe quickly chimes in with, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”  Jesus does not rebuke this man, but instead responds by telling the scribe that He is homeless, and will continue to be homeless.  In other words Jesus tells the scribe that there is nowhere to follow Him to, there is no earthly destination to Christ’s journey, no earthly home in which He plans on settling.

Another important aspect of this section is how the scribe addresses Christ.  He says ‘Teacher’, if you recall from previous posts about the centurion and others, Jesus was addressed not as teacher, but as Lord.  There is a great difference here, and it is still the difference between genuine and false professors today.  Jesus indeed was a great teacher, but His teaching was not mere transmission of information, it was authoritative commandment from the Most High God.  Indeed many great historical figures could teach, but they lacked authority.  To view Jesus as ‘teacher’ is to sell Jesus short, He is teacher, but more than that He is Lord.

If your lord commands you to follow him though he has no home, and no earthly destination, you have no choice but to go because the word ‘lord’ implies this man is your master.  If your ‘teacher’ commands you to follow, it is still up to you because the teacher has no authority.  Yes they can teach you all the benefits of following them, and they can transmit all sorts of information, but they are not your lord, and ultimately do not carry the same authority.  Jesus gives this scribe the opportunity to accept the Lordship of Himself, but not without first explaining some of the cost.

Again, realize Jesus gave orders to go to the other side of the sea knowing that some would step forward and profess that they wanted to follow.  Jesus set the stage for teaching about costly discipleship.

#65 – What the Gospels Teach – He Took our Infirmities – Matthew 8:16-17

When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: "HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES." (Matthew 8:16-17 NASB)

Jesus was simply amazing, and while we know this, it would serve us well to dwell on that for a moment.  The first thing we must recall is that Jesus is indeed God the Son, nonetheless He came and dwelt in human flesh, which comes with all the difficulties of humanity.  Jesus indeed was tempted often, and had to deal with the same nature that we also have to deal with.  Consider that... we often will write off our sinfulness to our human nature (which is the legitimate cause) but Christ also had that same nature and yet did not sin, utterly sin free, and yet dwelling in the same sinful flesh which all men must dwell in.  Now with Christ and our common humanity let’s look into this verse. 

“When evening came...”  Evening is when we cease to work, when we want to stop and rest.  We deal with our issues all day, and we look at the evening as time to slow down.  “They brought to Him many...”  Christ was constantly bombarded with people who had needs, and people who knew He was their only hope.  Now knowing that Christ indeed is God, and while in the flesh was God we can see that He would be all compassionate and never tire of doing what is right.  Nonetheless Christ who also was 100% man would have His entire humanity railing against Him and tempting Him to send the people away.  Of course Christ has indeed overcame the flesh and was victorious over it, but if we place ourselves in His sandals at the point of this verse we can see the struggle it must have been to continue to deal with “MANY who were demon-possessed...” and to deal with them into the evening.  You and I have trouble dealing with our own neighbors, parents, children, spouses, and such into the evenings, we tire we get irritable and are constantly tempted to sin and disregard our duties toward them.  Here you have Christ with everyone’s problems, and many people coming to have them dealt with, and He was tempted in all places just as we are, meaning that He had to overcome the same temptations to neglect the duties His flesh would not have wanted to perform.  Can you see how this is amazing?  Christ dealt with the same tiredness, headaches, hunger, and so on.

“He Cast out the spirits with a word, and healed ALL who were ill.”  He did not leave anyone behind... you do not see instances of Jesus not healing, or not serving.  He stayed the course and served in the entire capacity of His human flesh.  The point is this:  His entire life was a sacrifice, every single minute of it... not just the crucifixion... all of it.  He suffered not only on the cross, but His entire life was suffering.  “He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief...” (Isaiah 53).  The last section of Matthew 8:17 says, "HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES." Which is a quote from Isaiah 53.  Typically in our reading of Isaiah 53 we focus on the crucifixion sequence, and consider the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, but we fail to focus on the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ in His life.  We focus on substitutionary death, which we should, but we neglect His substitutionary life.  Paul reminds us that Christ has imputed His righteousness too us... how?  By giving us credit for, not His death, but His life!  Our life was imputed to Him which resulted in the cross... His life was imputed to us which results in life everlasting.

This account of Jesus healing the MANY demon-possessed into the evening is important.  The life Jesus lived was just as critical to your salvation as the death Jesus died.
I hope I have not taken too much liberty with this passage but what is said is important.


#64 – What the Gospel’s Teach – Peter’s Mother in Law is Healed – Matthew 8:14-15

When Jesus came into Peter's home, He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she got up and waited on Him. (Matthew 8:14-15 NASB)

Often times we look at healings in the scriptures and they seem so amazing, because they are, but we miss some of the more simple healings, especially this one.  We cling to stories about lepers, paralytics, the blind, and others... yet when we read of Jesus healing a fever we just gloss over it.  This is tragic on our parts.  The reality is that every one of us will have a fever at some point, even a sever fever that leaves us bed ridden, but very few of us will ever be blind, leprous, or paralyzed.  This is one of the healings in the scriptures that all people could relate to, but because it lacks a high profile disease we gloss over it.

I do not want to get into healings, how they happen, why they happen, what role faith has in them and so on... we will look into that at some point, but not this post.  What should be noticed and dwelled on in this passage is why she was healed, and what her response was.  Jesus came into Peter’s Mother-in-law’s house, when a guest came into the home they would be waited upon and served in some way (this should be the standard practice of any decent person even today... especially in a Christian home).  In the context this passage it was the duty of Peter’s mother-in-law, whether it was Christ or anyone else came in, to wait upon them and serve them.  Peter’s mother-in-law could not serve the Christ because she was bed ridden with a fever, so Christ healed her so that she could.  Do you see what is happening here?  Jesus performs this miracle in order that this woman would be free to serve Him.  In one sense this seems awfully arrogant and even selfish, but when you know who the Christ is and recognize that service to Christ is the privilege above all privileges you will see this healing as a great grace afforded to Peter’s mother-in-law.

What is the application?  The reason for healing of any magnitude is for the glory, honor, and service to Christ.  We are not healed or delivered from various maladies solely, or even primarily for our own benefit, but instead for His benefit and our freedom to serve Him.  To the unbeliever this is absurd, because the unbeliever desires God to be at their disposal to perform their needs.  Unfortunately many within the professing Christian community will present God as though He really is at people’s disposal to meet their needs, and they do this in the name of attracting people.  The unfortunate truth is that these ‘Best life now’ type leaders are not presenting the real Christ, but attempting to create a God who is palatable to the masses.  So why are we healed?  Why are we even saved?  Why are we delivered from various trial and even temptation?  One reason... to serve the Most High God.  Remember God does all things for His glory, which is ultimately to our benefit as well, but the primary reason for God’s action in your life, is that you would honor and glorify Him in this world and in the world to come.

As a final aside on this passage, and don’t get too caught up in this, realize that Peter was married, which obviously is why he had a mother-in-law.  The Roman Catholic Church asserts that Peter was the first of an apostolic succession of Popes.  This should bring into question their requirements of celibacy for Popes, Priests, and such.  If their original Pope was married, what exactly are they doing now?  Do not dwell on this, but realize Peter was not a Pope, the scriptures never allude to any Popish type office in the Church, and it is doubtful that any man who actually believes the Holy Scriptures and honestly loved the Lord with any humility would even dream of assuming the role of a ‘Pope’.