Thursday, 21 December 2017
The greatness of Jesus as the light is continued here. "There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world did not know him. He came to his own, and those who were his own did not recieve him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
John the Baptist was the forerunner to the Messiah. He was intended to open the door, announce the coming of the True Light who was to come. We must always remember to take a backseat to Jesus. We are not called to save anyone, to do any of the things that only Jesus can do. John did great things in preaching, in teaching, in modeling holiness. Yet, he took a backseat to Jesus. Why? We can only lead people to the light, but we are not the light. Jesus is the light.
We are reminded of the great tragedy of Jesus' advent. He came to his own people and they did not receive him. He came to the Jews, the people who were looking for the Messiah and they did not accept him. He came to the physical and natural children of Abraham and they did not listen or want anything to do with him. The same is still true today. Jesus has come, bled, and died. He has rose again back to the Father's side. He is promised to return, to rapture his church. Then there will be a time of intense tribulation and hardship in the world before He comes in glory and honor to judge the world. It is sad to say, but true, people do not consider their eternity and the brevity of life. They do not want to see the light from the darkness.
This is where we as God's people must be light-bearers. We must be John the Baptists in pointing people to the light. We must not take credit or glory for ourselves, but push and lead and love and teach others how to find the light of Jesus Christ. The light has come and He is still able to be found. And in these verses 12 and 13 the gospel of salvation is clear. Jesus takes those who receive him, who believe him by faith and makes them children of God. It is based on the name of Jesus. It is based on the person of Jesus. It is based on righteousness of Jesus. It is based on the salvation provided by Jesus. What do we know about being born again? We are not born of blood, naturally and physically. We are not born the will of the flesh, which is our unrighteousness. We are not born of the will of man, which is the self-effort to be good. No we are born again by God and to be children of God. Therefore we are the light bearers of His truth, His grace, His mercy, and His love. Let us make sure that we are bearing the torch well of the Light of the World in a world of darkness of evil and sin. Go and light your world with the Light of Jesus Christ!
Tuesday, 19 December 2017
As the countdown to Christmas day is now to six days, (so my youngest reminds me), I turned my attention over to the nativity story. I found myself drawn not to Matthew or Luke, but to John's opening chapter. Here is the foundation for who Jesus really is. As we follow up from yesterday's look in Jesus' question to the Pharisees about whose son He is, let us remind our minds and hearts of the deity of Jesus Christ.
The famous and familiar and yet deep passage goes like this, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He wwas in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darknes, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
The advent of Jesus Christ meant that this description of Jesus came into physical form in a manger in a little town called Bethlehem. We see here the divinity of Jesus. He was not born and became a king. In fact He is the only baby ever born who was already King. He is God. He is the Living Word, the visible Word, the God-Man. He existed in the beginning as deity. He existed in the beginning with God, the Father. He was a part of the beginning, in creation with God as well. Jesus was around before time was around. He is God. He was there in the creation of the world, in the bringing forth of everything we know to be our world, our earth, our solar system, and the galaxies. Jesus was a part of bringing creation into being.
That leads to two powerful designations about Jesus to remember today. He is life and He is light. For if He brought life into being in creation, that means animals, plants, and man, as well as the source of life sustained in sun, rain, water, and food, then it is quite right to connect that in Him is life. He is life. There is no life without Christ. Folks this is not just a spiritual reminder. Jesus in John 14:6 declares, "I am the way, the truth, and the LIFE." There is no eternal life without Jesus. But there is no natural life, physical living, without Jesus either. Our lives today are a result of Jesus' creative and sovereign hand in bringing forth life. He raised Lazarus back to life. He, through the faith and prayer of Peter, raised Dorcas back to life. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. It is vital that we remember, we are given life by God, by Jesus, but the moment we take breath in this world we start to die. Therefore, Jesus provides the way to be victorious over this as well with eternal life, resurrected life, new life in Him alone.
He is also the light. This life of Jesus, the Son of God, shines brightly that only source of good and right in all the world. Jesus said himself, "I am the light of the world." In Revelation we are told that there will be only one source of light, The glory of the Son of God shall be the light for all of heaven. The sun comes up and brings light into the world from the darkness of the night. The sun warms the earth, provides rays that aid the growth of plants and trees. Jesus shines brighter than all. He is the light into the darkness. I am mindful of His birth. For there are two places in the story where this light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it. The shepherds were approached by the angelic host, a bright light in the night and told about Messiah's birth. They left the fields and followed the instructions of the angels, possibly a star (the passage in Luke does not say they followed a star), and came to find the glorified child lying in a manger. The light of the angels announced the birth of the Savior. Then we have the Magi who came from the East. They did follow a star that shined brighter, that led them to Jerusalem. When asked of King Herod, they were sent to Bethlehem to see if the prophecy of Micah had been true. They went and found the child, not in a manger, but a small toddler. Nevertheless, the shepherds, the Magi both recognized the importance of the light Jesus Christ. But Herod, the rest of Jerusalem, did not comprehend the light that had come.
Jesus is always shining. Jesus never flickers, fades, or fails to light. He is glorious and majestic and victorious. Then how come more people don't see Him and know Him as Savior? They are in the darkness and do not comprehend it. The sinfulness of our hearts and blindness of our minds keeps us from seeing the Word made flesh among us. He is the light that must be seen by all people for them to have life after this world. It is then God's people, those who know Jesus as the Light to let Him shine through us in good deeds for others and gospel conversations that they may be made aware of the need for the light. The light can then convict them. The light can also save them. Let us shine the light of Christ this Christmas season into the darkness of selfishness, materialism, hypocrisy, secularism that we find in our world.
Monday, 18 December 2017
The skeptics abound in this world about who Jesus is. Ask the Muslim and he is another prophet. Ask the Buddhist and he is a great moral teacher. Ask the secularist and he is just another person in history. But the most important question that every person in all the world, throughout all of history has to answer is, "who is Christ?" This answer and understanding determines one's eternity resting place.
Jesus asks the Pharisees a question to really send them over the edge. They keep trying to trick and trap Jesus and end up like the fool. Now Jesus turns the tables and asks them, "What do you think about the Christ, whose son is he?" They answer correctly as it is written and understood from their prophetic literature, "The Son of David." The Messiah was prophesied to be the Son of David, from the line of David. But the problem is, this is all they understood. They were looking for another Davidic king, one who will fight for Israel and keep peace for Israel's interest. Jesus quotes Psalm 110:1 to prove His divinity, His true Sonship is above David, above Moses, above Solomon, above Abraham. He is the Son of God. Jesus acknowledges the Spirit's role in writing the Scriptures, the writings of David. He then posits the hook line and sinker, "If David then calls Him 'Lord', how is He his son?"
If David refers to his Lord then how can the Messiah be his son? Jesus is the Son of David by lineage. He is the fulfilment of the covenant promise made to David before his death that his throne would endure forever. But Jesus is the Son of God. He is the Son of God and therefore the Savior of the World. As He told Peter in chapter 16, He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior who alone can save. Jesus is not just another man. He is the Son of God. He is the Redeemer. He is the Lamb that was slain. He is the glorified Christ who is resurrected and now sits at the right hand of the Father. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Who is Christ to you? How do you see him? How do you know him? Do you know Him as Savior and Lord? Do you know Him as Son of God and Son of Man? Have you placed your trust and faith in Him to forgive your sins and promise you eternal life?
It is the most important question for every human being to answer. Who is Christ?
One final word today, when Jesus asked his last rhetorical question, the Pharisees could not answer and no one dared to ask him another question. He silenced his critics in public. When Jesus is known and trusted as Son of God and the Son of David, there is no further debate about it. You know He is Lord. You know He is King. You know He is Savior. No further questioning is needed. This is why the answer to that question is so important. To answer in belief is to erase the doubts and unknowns and replace them with assurance and fact by faith.
Thursday, 14 December 2017
It is so true that you can be so religious that you miss Jesus altogether. There are a lot of "religious" people in this world. There are many who can handle deep theological questions. There are many who claim to be good and religious in various church and charity activities. There are many who minds are full but their hearts are cold.
This is the condition of the expert in the law that came to Jesus on behalf of the Pharisees to trap Jesus. He was a lawyer, an expert in Jewish law, a religious law fanatic. He knew the law backwards and forwards and knew even better how to apply it and use it and interpret it for his own purposes. Oh may we be in fear for using the law of God as a tool to gain personal advantage. Oh may it not be said of us that we will distort, twist, compromise the holiness and justice of the law against our own convictions in order to punish others.
This is the motive for this lawyer in his question. He asks Jesus, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" This question was meant to trap Jesus in putting certain commands over others. This lawyer knew them all. He knew the new ones and the old ones. He was probably ready for a comeback that proved he finally stumped this ragtag preacher from Galilee. He was looking for a debate.
Jesus answer is the last time Pharisees or Sadduccees would ask Him another question like this. Jesus ends the confrontation, ends the attempt at debate and trap with, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."
He didn't rattle off one from the Decalogue. Instead, he mentions the Great Shema. Every Jew knew the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Jesus gives them an extra one from Leviticus 19:18 about treating other people. This is genius. For any study of the Ten great commandments that were given to God's people at Sinai can see the break down as simply these two commands. The opening 4 commands deal with one's relationship to God. It is to be of one mind, heart, and soul that only worships and obeys God alone. The other 6 relate to our dealings with each other on earth. It is our community rules, our ways to love our neighbor as ourself, by not taking his wife, not lying, not stealing his things, not coveting his property, and not killing him.
The point here is that this lawyer knew all the truth in his head but he missed The Truth standing right in front of him. For if he truly loved God with all his heart, soul, and mind then he would not be trying to trap the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior Jesus standing right there. Instead he would be worshipping, following, and obeying Him. When we get so caught up in knowledge, in law keeping, that we miss what the relationship is all about we miss Jesus. Even as believers we can still miss him. He's there, but you aren't. He's there, but you are not trying to get to know Him or let Him talk. Instead, we often build up our goodness and flaunt our law-keeping. Just cultivate a love for God above all else. See God for who he is. See yourself for who you are, a sinner who falls short of his requirements consistently. Love God in your mind. Love God in your heart. Love God in your soul, with all your personhood. This will then bleed over into loving other people. Everyone is our neighbor. Let us commit and let our hearts, our minds, our souls love God. He has done so much. He has been so good. Let's love him as we should!
Tuesday, 12 December 2017
It is often helpful to know why someone opposes you. Opposition is not disagreement. Opposition is the outright purpose to do harm or one up another. It is not just the other team, for in friendly and high stakes sporting events, you try and beat your opposition. In life, opposition, enemies, are those who want to do you harm, who the very sight or thought of each others generates this bitter anger inside of you to outshine, outlast, outdo another. People who differ in opinion are not enemies. It is only when those opinions draw lines in other areas of life that you see the battle raging.
Jesus continues to face opposition. Yet the motives of his opposition is different. The Pharisees and scribes were about power and pride. The Herodians were about being worldy and wannabes. Today in this next section, we are told of the Sadduccees trap for Jesus. The Sadduccees were the ruling political class. They were religious in influence but political in practice. They did not believe in angels, and most notably in the resurrection. They didn't believe then in an afterlife either. Their mode of thinking and living was to have "their best life now" and live it up. "Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die." They had money, which made them materialistic. They had power which made them secularists.
Their question to trap Jesus was about marriage. Oddly they were asking to which husband would a woman be wife to in the resurrection. This is from a group that didn't believe in the resurrection! So why does it matter to them? It was not about eternity. It was not about theogolical. It was about putting down Jesus. But Jesus is not fooled nor trapped. Jesus answers in truth exposing their two false beliefs. First, he deals with the marriage in heaven idea. In heaven, there is no marriage. Marriage is until death do us part on this side of heaven. That is not to say we won't know our spouse in glory, but we are to be like angels, not flying around trying to get our wings, but unmarried. For in heaven, our marriage will be to Christ for all of eternity. All relationships will be perfect. Things will always be better. Jesus then reveals that the resurrection is true and these sad people, for they did not believe in afterlife nor resurrection, so they were "Sad-u-cee."
Quoting from Exodus 3:6, Jesus proves God is the God of the living not the dead. This is powerful because the Sadducees only believed in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. So when Moses wrote those words, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been deen for centuries. But God was still their God. He is the God of the living, not the dead. One day they would experience the resurrection because God is the God of the living.
This is the problem with materialism and secularism. They blind one to the truth of eternity. Heaven, eternity is not to be an afterthought. If we consider it this way, then we live everyday pushing the concern down the line while the truth of death and eternity creeps quickly upon us. There are major benefits to avoiding materialism. It makes a more grateful and giving person. Materialism feeds our pride and selfishness. An outlook on eternity avoids that mindset. It also gives us something to hold on to. Secularists have nothing. It is a sad state of mind. To think that everything ends in this world is sad. There are highlights to this life and major events, but let's be honest, most of the world is sad. There are violent acts being done. There are natural disasters that continue to come along. The bad times seem to seer our memories more than the good. To not believe in a heaven, an eternal state is the saddest of things. I believe God would have us to hear this at this time of the year, where materialism and even secularism of buy it up, get it all, get, get, get, takes over. God's people should not and must not be materialistic, attached to things of this world to which moth and rust will destroy. We are promised better things, eternal things. Let us instead, focus on the things that have eternal value. We give gifts to others that we might invest and reveal the treasure of how much they are loved and move people to know Jesus, the greatest gift given to mankind, and to know His salvation that promises and guarantees us our eternal state of living. Even in Christmas season, we must continue to keep our eyes on heaven.
Monday, 11 December 2017
"15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. 17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the tax money.”
So they brought Him a denarius.
20 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”
21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”
And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way."
When will people learn that they cannot trap God. Satan has been trying ever since he was kicked out of heaven for his selfish rebellion. Attempt after attempt has been made to trap Jesus in doctrinal, theological, cultural, and social categories by the Pharisees and religious leaders. What is so amazing is how they keep coming at Him, thinking they will have the right trap question, bring witnesses to prove it and still go away furious and exposed. This time, after counseliing together a plot to get Jesus arrested by Roman authorities, they bring along Herodians, members of the military guard, representatives of Herod. These are the same ones who had John the Baptist beheaded, who carried out family business to protect family legacies. These are the Herodians who attempted to keep their political power through religious affiliation in the Jewish culture.
Their question was attempting to get Jesus in trouble with the government. If He claimed to not pay taxes to the Roman government then He could be arrested as one leading a rebellion, an insurrection against Caesar, or even easier tax evasion. On the flip side, if He answers yes, is He not insinuating that government is more important than Jewish temple tax? They thought they had Him. You can almost picture a sly grin on their face as they ask the question. It is the same expression I am sure was on those leaders faces when Jesus is brought the woman caught in adultery. The "I have you now" look was likely upon them.
Yet, Jesus non-chalantly answers knowing their scheme, because well, He is God, plays with their attempt with, "Why do you test me, you hypocrites?" What Jesus does is expose their hypocrisy. On one hand they were asking people to give more and more to the temple taxes, while they themselves were not paying their fair share to the government. The Sadducees and Pharisees had both worked out secret deals through Caiphas, the High Priest, to tie their hands into government affairs and religious prosperity. They wanted Jesus to pay, but they were not paying themselves. Hypocrisy on full display.
Jesus takes the coin, gets their answer as to who is on it, Caesar, and simply answers that to be fair and right. But also to give God what is his. Jesus is not only telling us it is right to submit to requirements as citizens of a nation with taxes, whether fair or not. But more importantly we are to give God first what is due Him. We are to give to God before we give to government. We are to honor God as the king over our heavenly kingdom to which we are citizens of. We are to not choose between the two, but do a both/and.
As the advent season is upon us, we give and buy more in December than we do in any other month of the year. We need to remember to give to God what is rightfully due to Him. We need to honor and pay accordingly our taxes as we should to be good citizens. Most of all, we should honor God and Jesus Christ with complete authority over everything. He owns it all. He has an abundance of resources at his disposal. Let us trust Him and give to Him fairly, abundantly, but also not shy away from being model citizens and doing our part in our nation, however frustrated and unjust it may be. God is in control. Our citizenship is in heaven. He will judge all. We are to shine His light.
Friday, 08 December 2017
Oh the dangers of rejecting the King. Throughout the centuries, human kings demand loyalty and allegiance. They expected obedience and following their orders in all things. Yet, none of these human kings wrath compare to the punishment rejectors will face from King Jesus.
Jesus is continuing to reveal not only the hypocrisy of the scribes and religious authorities, but also showing their rejection of the Messiah and its consequences. The parable here in Matthew 22 is of the marriage feast. A wedding feast is prepared by the king for his son. When the king's servants were rejected by the invited guests, the king sent other servants, and these servants were also rejected, and eventually killed. So the king in his anger destroyed the murderers and burned the city down. Then the king sent out others who gathered both good and evil until the wedding hall was filled. But when the king came in, he looked over the room and notice one man who was not dressed in the wedding garment. This man was then bound and thrown into the outer darkness. Jesus gives a powerful verse in verse 14, "For many are called, but few are chosen."
The parable pictures the open invitation of God the Father for all to come to the wedding feast. God opens the invitation to all people to enter heaven's salvation. Yet, many are called, and many reject his invitation. Many say they will come and do not show up. Many falsely promise their attendance and do not go. Even worse, there are plenty in this world who attempt to keep others from going as well and to this God is not pleased, for He will destroy cities, nations, and lives in judgment for this.
What is evident is that heaven's feast is for all, both good and evil. It is for all classes of people, for all the outcasts, for all the pushed away, for every poor and wretched sinner is invited. But notice the parable indicates that there is a right garment you must wear. It is vital to remember that none of us have this garment in our spiritual closets. This is the righteous garment that we wear when we know and trust and believe in the work of Jesus for our sin and salvation. We are given a new garment to replace our filthy rags so that we may enter and enjoy the wedding feast of the Father. There is danger for the nominal Christian who professes Christ but does not show evidence in their lives. These are them who are ungrateful to God and their stubborness when confronted reveals a deep-seated rebellion against God's authority. There is no joy, no real desire for God or His word. They pursue empty pursuits of the world and end up miserable falsely assuming they will find eternity soon. God is gracious to invite us all. But God is also fair to judge and condemn those who reject his invitation.
This parable speaks clearly to the grace of God and the danger of rejecting Jesus. Even in this Christmas season let us not fall prey to the materialism and commercialism that we reject Jesus. He is God's grace to us, who invites all to come and be a part of the eternal heavenly party. Will you reject Him? Will you RSVP to the invitation and ask Jesus into your life and get the Spirit to guarantee your presence at the party? Let us tell one and all this Christmas of God's gracious invitation. Let us also warn them of the danger of rejecting or trying to "sneak" in unnoticed. Tell the world that Jesus saves!
Wednesday, 06 December 2017
It is amazing how greedy and selfish we are as human beings. You know, the more we are honest with ourselves and then listen to what comes out of our mouths, we really are selfish people. We talk about people and put them down. We claim to be so good and loving and caring and then turn our backs on someone and throw them out so to speak. We think we are so great and wonderful to certain people but are really awful and terrible to others. Sometimes we need a reality check. Today this it. Be careful that you don't reject God Himself. Be careful that you don't reject God's prophets, teachers, preachers who come to bring the Spirit's truth to you.
The second parable Jesus teaches here is the one of the landowner. He has a vineyard and hired servants to keep it. When he sent to gather the fruit from the servants they killed the master's servant who had come. He sent more servants or slaves in greater number and they killed them too. Then he sent his son, for surely they would not harm the son, well they did seeing their chance to get his inheritance. Jesus asks the question to the scribes there and teachers, "Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?"
Answering rightly, they said, "He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons." Then Jesus drops the bomb on them to call them out. God is that father who sent prophet after prophet, even John the Baptist, to warn them of the coming Messiah and judgment for their hypocrisy and the salvation in Jesus. Yet, they rejected and would not listen to none of them as they continued in their disobedience while clinging to a salvation through the law. Now, the Son had come and they would kill him in exactly three days from this event. Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22-23 and the rejection of the stone that would be the cornerstone. Jesus is the cornerstone, the foundation to a new nation, a new temple not built by hands but by the blood of Jesus in which spiritual nation of fruit of both Jew and Gentile would be included.
They recognized then that this was about them and tried to seize him and arrest him but the crowd reaction was too great of a risk. Even in that response they were acting just like the killing servants of the parable. They wanted control, selfish greed, and bucked all resistance and differing opinion. I am afraid that there are too many of us, whether we realize it or not, who refuse to listen to advice from others. God could be using another's opinion to help you, to give you biblical and right thought, but because of your stubbornness and selfishness, you reject it.
Let us be mindful today to not be so quick to reject God's possible "prophets." Most of all, do not become so selfish and individually driven to do it my way or my terms and on my time that you are rejecting the Cornerstone Jesus Christ. Remember, these parables not only expose hypocrisy, but also emphasize Jesus as the sole authority. If He is your Lord and Master, then you will not reject His guidance, leading, rebuking, condemning, and consolation.
Tuesday, 05 December 2017
If you consider all of the scripture, all of God's commands, all of God's intention behind the law, and then the words of Jesus as well, you come to a very clear indictment against hypocrisy. Let's be honest and say: God hates hypocrisy. Why? For one, hypocrisy goes against everything God is. He is not fake, false, underhanded, deceptive, and dishonest. Hypocrisy is nothing more than lying. It is lying to yourself, lying to others, and lying to God.
Why are we so afraid to be real and honest? Why do we feel the need to cover up, to mask over, to not give the full honesty of our hearts and lives? The answer to this is not we are afraid of God, for most of us know that He sees all and knows all already, so there is no point in hiding it. The reason we mask and lie and cover up is to affect the reaction and response of others. We all want to be known as good people. We all want to be seen as wholesome. But when the truth really comes out, we are quirky, ornery, stubborn, mean, rude, cruel, hateful, and not pleasant at all sometimes.
Avoiding hypocrisy first begins with exposing it. Jesus follows up the question of His authority with three parables meant to penetrate the religious leaders right in the heart. The first here in these verses is about two sons. the first son is told to go work in the vineyard. He said, "I will not." Yet, after thinking about it, knowing what was the right thing to do, he went and worked anyway. The second is told to go work in the vineyard, to which he says, "I go, sir." But he did not go and work. Jesus then asks, "Which of the two did the will of his father?" The correct answer is the first. Even though he rejected and refused verbally, he did by action what he was told to do and obeyed.
Jesus then lays the hammer down, "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it you did not afterward relent and believe him."
The second son from the parable is these religious hypocrites. They preach and speak greatly about the law, about obedience, but rejected the preaching of John the Baptist who came to prepare the way for the Messiah. So because they rejected John, they have since rejected Jesus. They are exposed as ultimate hypocrites who say and confess one thing but do another. The first son from the parable is the harlots and tax collectors. Let us remember that even the writer of this gospel, Matthew, was a former tax collector, not liked nor welcomed by his peers, but was willing to admit his faults and failures and follow Jesus. Many prostitutes, Mary Magdalene is one, converted from their life of immorality to Jesus and followed thereafter. It goes back to Jesus' declaration about the camel fitting through the eye of a needle before the rich enter the kingdom of heaven. Just as the rich cannot let go of their money, so the "religious" cannot let go of their appearance.
But this is the main point. Everyone must submit to the authority of Jesus. Everyone must see the same picture, regardless if you grew up in church or not, the Bible makes no distinction: we are all equal sinners. We all fall short of God's perfection. A faith that is mere confession with no real action is no saving faith at all. A faith that is based on church attendance, church activity, and overall good performance is not salvation that Jesus came to bring. Saving faith is for sinners who know they are wretched and awful, who do not consider or compare themselves to others to justify their condition. Instead, all sinners can find a savior. All sinners through a Savior can find sainthood. But it is not on outward confession, but on inward obedience that leads to outward works. It is grace. It is the work of grace. It is the Holy Spirit. Don't chase religion acceptance at church or among family. You will find hypocrisy. Instead, receive grace that exposes your condition and provides the antedote. Through this we obey and do the will of the Father, not for approval but for gratefulness.
Monday, 04 December 2017
It is always amazing how Jesus controlled every situation. He was in complete cool, calm, and collected mode. Whenever He was questioned by scribes, He never got flustered or seemed unnerved. He never lost his composure. He never said more than he should have. Sadly, the same cannot be said about us. I know personally I cannot claim the same always calm, never too much, never too little, best comeback answers, best answers to trap question. Well, I am not Jesus.
Jesus goes back into the temple after he curses the fig tree and is approached and confronted by the chief priests and elders of the temple. These are the more influential ones. This isn't just newly appointed priests that were sent out into the countryside to talk to Jesus. These are those who hold high esteem and place in the temple. Now that Jesus is on their turf, they come right at him. They question Jesus, "By what authority are You doing these things and who gave You this authority?" Obviously they didn't give him permission to overturn tables, upset the marketplace, heal the blind at the temple and such.
It is worth thinking about today. Under whose authority to you do what you do? We all are under another's authority. Everyone in the world is under another's authority. Some are under government immediate authority. Some are under parental authority. Some are under teacher authority. Some are under spousal authority. Yet, everyone is under at all time one of two sources of authority: either Jesus or Satan. There are only two main options. It's God or the Devil. If you claim you are under no one's authority but your own, then you are under Satan's for you are a slave to your flesh and self. Who do you answer to? Who do you take orders from? Who do you submit to and follow?
Jesus was not to be tricked or trapped and poses a question in return, "I will ask you one thing too, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John was from what sources, from heaven or from men?" The tables had been turned. They wrestled with the answer trying to guess the answer of Jesus' rebuke to their answer. Finally, they said the age old answer, "We don't know." Does Jesus give them the right answer? Does Jesus tell them where His authority comes from? Nope. Since they didn't answer, neither did he.
We see that again Jesus is emphasizing a personal individual choice. Later Jesus would tell Pilate when questioned about His kingdom and His rule and His authority. But here the chief priests and scribes had a choice to make. Will they believe the Messiah? Will they see the scriptures fulfilled right before their very eyes? Will they submit to the authority of God who sent the Messiah, His Son in the flesh?
Every person born into this world must wrestle with the same choice. Who will be your authority? Jesus knew that He didn't need man's approval, certainly not the chief priests and scribes, to do God's work. He didn't need to ask their permission to come to the temple and perform miracles and cleanse unrighteousness, for Jesus was the authority over the temple. He had direct authority from God the father. Our choice today is very simple. By ourselves, in our own strength and life, we can do nothing. If we choose to submit to our flesh, to our personal desires and wants, we will falter and be left empty and miserable. But if we submit to Christ's authority in our lives, give control to the Holy Spirit in our minds and hearts, then we shall find answers, guidance, and discernment for the day. Most of all, we find the real purpose for our existence, to bring glory to God, to Christ, through our light that shines brightly out of our lives.
Friday, 01 December 2017
Just the other night, I was contemplating cutting down a set of bushes at my house. Since we have lived there, they just haven't seemed to get full and grow. They have dried and fragile twigs and branches all the time. On top of that, they block the view to the front porch. The decision was made, by my wife :), to cut them out. I cut them out because they were dead. No leaves, no fruit, no growth.
To this Jesus walks back into Jerusalem and is hungry. Another reminder of Jesus' humanity that He got hungry like you and me, that He desired to eat food, like you and me. So he saw a fig tree by the side of the road. As he drew closer, the fig tree had nothing but leaves. No figs. No fruit. So Jesus cursed it and said it would not bear fruit again, to which the tree withered up and died.
Now this is not Jesus' rebuke from an empty stomach. This was not his punishment over the frustration that he was hungry and wanted food to which the fig tree became the object of his wrath for not providing for the Son of God. Jesus could have called Manna from heaven if he wanted to. There is a teaching point that Jesus is making. The disciples ask "How come it died so soon?" Jesus said, "Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, 'be removed and be cast into the sea,' it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."
So we must apply today the truth: Faith in the authority of Jesus Christ will produce fruitfulness for His glory. Jesus was combining the fig tree curse with the temple cleansing to reveal the spiritual condition of Israel. The leadership of the people had leaves on the outside but no real fruit on the inside. There was a lot of man-centered religious activity completely devoid of God-centered spiritual productivity. They claimed to worship God but rejected the Messiah Jesus Christ who was God in the flesh. It was hollow and hypocritical worship. My dear friends, we can fool a lot of people with the "leaves" on the outside of our lives. We can look great and wonderful, and good hearted and caring but we all know when there is true transparency and honesty to what we do. We know on the inside if we are faking it, fooling it, and putting on the mask. Jesus sees the deeper issues. He is not looking for leaves. He is looking for fruit. He is not looking for proper outer deeds and moral justification. He is looking for heartfelt worship and adoration.
This is the power of faith. Faith does not convince me to do more outer works, but instead charges me to trust by faith in the grace of Jesus, the authority of His Name, and the work of the Spirit in my life. He then changes us, as we trust Him, as we submit to His authority in our lives, as we allow Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God, the Redeemer, the Healer, the King of Kings to us, we are guaranteed to be fruitful. In fact, this kind of relationship with Jesus is what He says in John 15. "I am the vine, you are the branches, if a man remains in me, he will bear much fruit." Faith is this miracle trust, that employs the authority of the Name above all Names, Jesus Christ, in doing the will of God as we produce spiritual fruit for the kingdom. What is that fruit? Galatians 5:22, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" Exercise faith in Jesus, not yourself, to accomplish what God wants to produce out of your life today! Let us seek to pray, "Jesus I want to be a fruit bearer, not a leaf follower."