Monthly Archives: February 2015
Many of the most popular sayings of Jesus seem to come out of Matthew 22, but I am going to focus obviously on only
one in the time that we have together today.
Mat 22:36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
Mat 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Mat 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
I am personally very interested recently in worldview studies, and it is vitally important for Christians. I think that verse 37 really sums up what a truly Christian worldview ought to be.
Loving God with all your heart makes me think about passion. We surrender our feelings to what God really wants. We can give our heart to a variety of things, but it needs to go to God, and if He calls us to do something, we need to follow.
Loving God with our soul strikes me as a little bit different than the heart. When I think about my soul, I think more about my eternal destiny and my deepest desires. The heart is more of the temporary passion whereas I feel like the soul is the things of eternal significance. Clearly, it is important to surrender those to God.
Finally, we need to love God with our minds. We need to use our minds in such a way that we bring glory to God. We need to use our minds in such a way that we are learning more about God and developing our relationship more closely with Him. The only way that we know things is by using our minds, and you develop a relationship with someone by learning more about him or her. I think the same applies to God in a way.
With these three things in line, we are going to have a Christian worldview. With God as the centerpiece of our short-term feelings, deepest desires and intellectual pursuits, our view of the world is going to be a lot different. We want to take a coherent and consistent perspective, and Christianity can do that.
Matthew 21 begins with Palm Sunday, and Jesus is then preaching in the Temple. The Pharisees had a question about His authority to do everything that He did, and Jesus responded with a question.
Mat 21:24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.
Mat 21:25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?
Mat 21:26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.
This stood out to me because I think it reflects modern society very well. The baptism of John was clearly a forerunner of the baptism in the Spirit that Jesus was going to bring. That was truly what they should have been talking about and the theological implications of each answer.
However, rather than address the topic, the Pharisees were only concerned with how they would look. Rather than pursue truth for the sake of truth itself, they were concerned with image. I feel like that is where we find ourselves today.
Christians and non-Christians can be guilty of this. We live in a universe that can be known. We can learn things about the world around us, and if we actually are trying to find out what is true about this world, we need to be concerned about that pursuit. We don’t want to get wrapped up in what our friends are going to say. Rather than try to find out what is the true nature of reality, we bow to peer pressure.
If something is really true, then we should affirm that it is true. We should build a worldview that can coherently explain the truth that is revealed in the world. As Christians, we do follow Jesus Christ who claimed to be the Truth, so this does not need to be a frightening activity for us. The pursuit of Truth is going to point towards God in the long run.
Yesterday, we talked about how there is no way to achieve salvation outside of the power of Jesus Christ, and today in Matthew 20, we receive an illustration that tells us a little bit more about this process of getting into heaven.
As a quick summary, Jesus tells a parable of a group of men who were hired by a landowner to work the fields. They agreed to a contract, and these men put in a full day of work. The landowner also hired more people for the same wages later in the day. The original workers were upset because they felt it was unfair that they all received the same wages for differing amounts of work.
Mat 20:13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
Mat 20:14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
Mat 20:15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
Mat 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
The wages are representative of entrance into heaven. However, people have done different amounts of work to get there. Nevertheless, they all agreed with the landowner on the price. We have taken God at His word. God said that we can be saved through faith, so we have agreed on the wage.
I think about this one, and the comparison that comes to mind is the work of Billy Graham as compared to the work of someone who converts to Christianity on his or her deathbed. Clearly, the amount of impact they can have on earth for the cause of Christ would be different. Billy Graham had his entire life to work at his phenomenal ministry, and this hypothetical convert had maybe a few hours. However, they are both going to receive the gift of everlasting life with God. It is the same penny if you will.
Receiving that payment relies on making the agreement with God and making that commitment, but when the wages are paid, they are going to be the same. They will be praising God eternally right beside each other.
Matthew 19 seems to present a tall order for all of us who one day hope to live forever with God in heaven.
Mat 19:21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
Mat 19:22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Mat 19:23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 19:24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Mat 19:25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
Mat 19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
I know that I certainly have possessions. I have not gone and sold everything I own. Does that mean that I don’t have a chance of making it into heaven?
I don’t think so. I was reading the following verses, and I think that they help us put this into perspective. This man had previously asked Jesus what he could do to have eternal life in verse 16. He then appealed to the fact that he had kept all the commandments. He was looking for salvation based on his works, and Jesus recognized that, just like all people, this man’s heart was not perfect.
As a result, in the context of works-based salvation, Jesus was explaining that it was impossible for this rich man to make it to heaven on his own. I think that the passage could also be said about poor people, but maybe the particular sin would be different.
The disciples were confused because they wondered then who would be able to make it into heaven. That is why verse 26 is so important. It is impossible for people to make it to heaven on their own, but with God, salvation is available for all to make that decision. Verse 26 seems to be taken out of context quite a bit, but it seems to me that it is a direct reference to salvation by our own works being impossible, but through God, salvation is possible.
There is a part of Matthew 18 that makes many people cringe. Jesus was definitely okay with making people feel uncomfortable, but this one still makes people uncomfortable today.
Mat 18:7 Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
Mat 18:8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.
Mat 18:9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
It seems that Jesus is commanding His followers to mutilate themselves. After all, I think that we all have sinned. It seems to me that we all have looked at something, touched something or went somewhere that probably was not the best decision. Why do we still have our eyes, hands or feet? Are we simply ignoring the command of Jesus because we don’t want to go through with it?
I don’t think so. It is important to look at the context. You will note that is that it is better to enter life without an extremity than it is to sin because of that. For example, in verse nine, it is hypothetically presented that this person’s eye is all that is causing him or her to sin. Therefore, if that was the only problem, even though it might seem really bad to have a temporary disability here on earth, it is much better to have that and not fall into the isolated sin in this example.
Jesus was making a comparison here that seems to indicate how bad it will be for those who are separated from God eternally. If the only thing that was causing you to sin was your feet, it would be better not to have them here on earth and not be condemned. This is obviously simplified for the sake of the illustration, but Jesus is not prescribing that everyone needed to demolish their bodies.
Sin is something that ought to be avoided if one wants to avoid condemnation. Unfortunately, everyone has sinned. I think that should be rather obvious. We all stand condemned before God. How amazing is it then that Jesus Christ died to be our Savior? We can live forever with Him and have our sins washed away.
Matthew 17 begins with the story of the Transfiguration. Jesus took Peter, James and John up to the mountain where they witnessed some pretty frightening things.
Mat 17:5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
Mat 17:6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.
Mat 17:7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.
This particular passage stood out to me because the disciples were on the mountain with Jesus. They knew that they were in the middle of a supernatural experience, and it does not seem that they were afraid when they just saw Moses and Elijah. They were trembling with fear when they heard the voice of God.
That seems to be significant. It was simply overwhelming. It wasn’t as if God was even saying anything threatening. He was simply telling them that Jesus was His Son and that they should listen to Him. Sure, it was a command, but it was not the type of thing that you’d expect to be terrifying.
It must have been in the delivery then, and it makes me think about how great God must be. If people are trembling at a simple statement of fact from the mouth of God, how awesome must He be? How great and mighty must our God be? How much power is in all of God if that much power is simply in His voice?
I don’t know about all of you, but it is easy for me at least to put God in a box. I like to feel like I have a handle on God. I like to be able to comprehend all that God is, and I know I can’t. I know that my finite mind is simply not capable of encompassing the infinite. Reading this passage about this vast amount of power that is in simply one sentence from the mouth of God really is making me think about perspective.
Matthew 16 brings us to the commissioning of Peter as the first real caretaker of the church that is going to be developing upon Jesus Christ, the chief cornerstone.
Mat 16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
Mat 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Mat 16:19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
I have heard it preached multiple times that in verse 18 it is important to point out that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. Gates do not attack however. Gates are defensive fortifications built around cities.
To extend the battle imagery, where are the frontlines of this conflict? It stands out to me that it seems to be the church that is doing the attacking (and I do not mean literally attacking with bombs and planes and such).
I guess we ought to then extend our metaphor here. Those gates are going to be torn down. That implies victory. I think that we often times stay on the defensive as Christians. I am as bad as anybody else on this level. It is easy to look at the way the world is going and assume that it is a losing battle. The world seems to move farther away from God, but the end has been written. It is not as if God is going to lose.
We can’t forget this type of mentality. In these conflicts between good and evil, we know the evil might appear to be strong, but it is only temporary.
Matthew 15 brings us to an interesting statement from Jesus.
Mat 15:10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
Mat 15:11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
For modern Christians, I don’t think many of us would find this controversial. We understand that while our bodies are certainly temples and need to be cared for appropriately, but it is much more important for us to be careful of what we say.
This was apparently difficult for the disciples to understand because we receive an explanation.
Mat 15:16 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
Mat 15:17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
Mat 15:18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
Mat 15:19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
Mat 15:20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
We can talk about the explanation, but what stood out more prominently to me is the fact that it required an explanation to His own disciples. That tells me that this was a temptation for the people in that time as well. It was still not easy for them to understand, and it very well could have been controversial at the time.
Jesus was changing the game, and it would’ve been hard for His culturally Jewish disciples and followers to accept what He was saying. He was arguing that maybe dietary laws were not that important. It doesn’t matter nearly as much as the heart of an individual.
I think that reading about Peter walking on water in Matthew 14 is one of my favorite stories in the Bible.
Mat 14:28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
Mat 14:29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
Mat 14:30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
Mat 14:31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
On one hand, Peter had a tremendous amount of faith in my opinion. He actually was willing to get out of the boat and start walking on the water. On the other hand, he began to become afraid, and Jesus tells them that he actually had little faith at that time.
It stands out to me that Jesus says “thou of little faith” because my immediate reaction is to say, “Peter was willing to do something that nobody else was willing to do. That means he has great faith.”
This divergence then makes me think about what Jesus calls us to. He doesn’t call for us to go half way. He doesn’t call for us to take a few steps and then fall. He calls for us to come all the way to Him walking on the water. That is not only radical, but it is also frightening. What seems like a great faith to me is really was only halfway. It was not sufficient.
I guess that’s a challenge for all of us. The commitment level that we are talking about here is important. Living for Jesus is not a part-time job. It should permeate every area of our life, and that faith should be demonstrated by our actions. Are we living lives that are reliant on the power of God?
Jesus begins Matthew 13 by giving a variety of parables relating to the kingdom of heaven, but these parables were not told in His hometown. At the end of the chapter, he does return home, and He is not received with much belief.
Mat 13:54 And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?
Mat 13:55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?
Mat 13:56 And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?
Mat 13:57 And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.
Mat 13:58 And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
These people felt that they knew who He was. They felt like they understood His upbringing, and it doesn’t seem to me that people necessarily thought He was a bad guy, they just did not think of Him as a great teacher or miracle worker.
Jesus had the opportunity to teach in the synagogue, and while it says that He did not do many miracles, that implies that He might have done some. We don’t necessarily know the content of either of these things, but Jesus was probably saying similar things to what He had said elsewhere.
I point that out because, just like today, there are different responses to Jesus. We all have the same Bible more or less. Almost everybody at least in America is capable of going to the store and picking up a normal English translation to be on the same page as Christians around the world.
Why is it that for those of us who are Christians the response is different than it is for those who are not of the faith?
I actually think this is a rather complex question, but let me suggest something from earlier in the chapter.
Mat 13:15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
Mat 13:16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
It seems to me that there is a combination. On one hand, I do believe that God speaks through the Bible to us, so there is a supernatural element. However, it also seems that these people have shut themselves down on some level. It seems that there is some level of personal responsibility here as well.
I think I am going into much deeper theological water here, but it seems to me that at least the appropriate response is gratefulness to God that we have been given His Word. We ought to be thankful that we have the opportunity to understand.