Day Ten: Matthew Ten

By | 89 Day Gospel Challenge, Uncategorized | No Comments

THE 89 DAY GOSPEL CHALLENGE

DAY TEN MATTHEW TEN

          Chapter ten is both exciting and somber.  It is exciting because we see Jesus commissioning the twelve to go throughout the cities of Israel and preach the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  It is somber because Jesus also reveals in this chapter that His followers will suffer persecution for their faith.  Even though the message of the gospel is “good news” that brings salvation, some will not receive the message.  In fact, many will resent the message and the Savior who came to seek and save the lost.

History affirms the truth of Jesus’ prediction of suffering.  The first Jewish believers suffered for their faith at the hands of their own countrymen (Acts 8).  The books of James and I Peter were written to Christ’s followers who were suffering oppression due to their testimony for Jesus.  The Roman Empire was notorious in its hatred for Christianity and many suffered cruel deaths in the Coliseum as entertainment for the mob.  Every page of history is stained with the blood of martyrs.  Although American Christians experience very little resistance, relatively speaking, there are places in the world where believers experience persecution even to the point of losing their lives for the cause of Christ.

There are some that see the prediction of persecution as eschatological, referring to the tribulation and the end times.  But the message is just as relevant for today.

1. The Twelve Apostles (v.1-4)

This is the first time that the twelve disciples are called apostles and are listed.  There are also lists of the apostles in Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:13-16 and Acts 1:13.  In each gospel list Peter is always first and Judas is always last.  In the list in the book of Acts, Peter is first again but the twelfth position is left vacant.  The vacancy was filled by the other eleven in the choosing of Mattias (Acts 1:26).  Some, however, believe that Paul filled the spot as he refers to himself “as one born out of due time (I Corinthians 15:8).  It should be noted that a biblical apostle had to be witness of the resurrection of Jesus.  Paul fit that requirement when the risen, ascended Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus in Acts 9.

2.  The Commissioning of the Twelve (v. 5-15)

In Matthew 28:18 Jesus declared himself to have all-power.  Those who witnessed His miracles could have little doubt of the truth of that statement, even further confirmed by His resurrection.  But here, as He prepares to send the twelve to the cities of Israel, He delegates some of that power to them.  “You will heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out demons (v. 8).  Their message was to prepare for the kingdom.  It would not be a physical kingdom, at least not at that time.  It was an eternal, spiritual kingdom they were invited to join.  They had received it freely and they were to present it to others as well.

But at this time their mission was limited to only the lost sheep of Israel.  They were specifically prohibited from taking the message to Samaria or to the Gentiles.  Paul explained that the gospel was first presented to the Jew and then later the Greeks (Gentiles) in Romans 1:16.

Later the gospel was opened to Samaria (which shared ethnicity with the Jews) in Acts 8 and the to the Gentiles (the whole world) in Acts 10.  Recall, however, that Jesus did minister to those of Samaria (John 4) and Gentiles (the Centurion and his servant in Matthew 8:5-13).

This was to be a faith journey.  He told them not to take money or even a change of clothing but to dwell in worthy homes (those who received the message).   He also had a message for those who rejected the mission of the twelve.  In the day of judgment, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for those who refused to hear what the disciples had to say.  Personally, I think that will be true for the United States because we have had greater access to the Word of God that any other nation on earth.

3. Get ready for the Persecution (v. 16-26)

“Behold I send you out as sheep among wolves.”  The sheep have no natural defense from the predator wolf.  Therefore, the believer must be wise as a serpent but harmless as a dove.  Jesus never raised His hand against a tormenter.  Even when they came to arrest Him, He rebuked Peter in his effort to defend Him.  It is not by our power or might that we find our strength.  It is through God’s Spirit that lives in us.  He tells the disciples, “It will be the Spirit that defends you.  When they arrest you do not worry about what to say.  The Spirit will give you the right words at that very moment.”  We need to learn that when we come to the end of our strength, it is the Spirit that make us strong.  Believers need to practice dependence on the Holy Spirit and allow God’s grace to be our sufficiency (II Corinthians 12:7-10).

“You will be hated for my name’s sake.”  But the disciple is not above his master.  They called Jesus a devil.  How much more will they call the children of His household?

4. Fear God and not man (v. 27-31)

If you follow the progression of thought here, Jesus warns of the coming persecution.  But He tells them (and us) don’t fear man.  He can only kill your body.  Rather fear the One who can both kill your body and destroy your soul in hell.  Too often we fear the temporary at the expense of the eternal.  Who knows what the future may hold for us.  Whatever it may be, trust God and His grace will be sufficient.  God attends the funerals of sparrows.  Don’t you know that you are much more precious to Him than sparrows.

5. Stand up for Jesus (v. 32,33)

The old hymn says, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus ye soldiers of the cross…”  That is exactly what Jesus is telling us to do here.  Consider the gravity of the charge Jesus gives us.  If we deny Him before men, He will deny us before the Father in heaven.  If we confess Him before men, we will confess (own) us before our Father in heaven.  So, stand up for Jesus every day!  Share what you know about Him with others who need the message whether they know it know it or not.

6. Sometimes a relationship with Jesus will cause division in other relationships (v. 39-39)

I remember a conversation I had several years ago with the sister of a new convert to Christianity.  “You have stolen my sister,” she said.  “Since she has been a Christian, her life has been different.  She does not do the things she used to do or go the places she used to go.  It seems to me that Jesus is more important to her than her own family.”

Sometimes in order to serve Jesus, other relationships must be left behind.  This may seem harsh and hard, but it is true.  Family and friends can take the journey with you.  But you cannot always continue to travel the same path they travel.  It all depends on how serious you are about being His disciple.

6. Cups of Cold Water (40-42)

God is watching and Jesus knows all that is going on.  Sometimes we may feel like God is distant and that He does not care what’s happening in our lives.  Nothing is further from the truth.  He takes note of our pain.  He sees every tear we shed and one day He will wipe every tear from our eyes and heal every pain in our hearts.  Whatever we do, however insignificant it may seem to us, is seen by our Father I heaven.  Even a cup of cool water given for the glory of the kingdom will receive a reward.  Heaven awaits the faithful with a promise of the words, “Well done!”

I Corinthians 2:9 – “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Day Nine: Matthew Nine

By | 89 Day Gospel Challenge, Uncategorized | No Comments

THE 89 DAY GOSPEL CHALLENGE
DAY NINE MATTHEW NINE

         Chapter nine finds Jesus very busy. Capernaum was the center of Jesus activities in Galilee and the town where he lived. Jesus taught in the local synagogue. It was also the hometown of the apostles Peter, James, Andrew and John, and the tax collector Matthew.

The miracle of the healing of the demon possessed men in Matthew 8:28-33 was said by Matthew to take place in the country of the Gergesenes. Luke says it took place “in the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee” (Luke 8:26). Mark locates the miracle on “the other side of the sea, in the country of the Gadarenes” (Mark 5:1). While critics make much to do of the difference, the areas are basically the same place. The town of Gadera was located on the southeast side of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Gennesaret).

So Jesus left the area of the Gergesenes and had crossed the Sea of Galilee to return to His hometown of Capernaum, located on the northwest shore of the lake.

Here’s a thought. Those who try to discredit Scripture deal in minutia. Even where I live we can be identified by many different names. We are North Jersey, Morris County, Rockaway Township, and even the New York City metropolitan area. Remember that we have four biographies of Jesus written from four different perspectives. They all four agree perfectly on the essentials of the life and identity of Jesus.

 

  1. Jesus heals a Paralytic (v. 1-8)

This account is also found in Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26. Matthew is actually a shortened version of the story. In both Mark and Luke we find the event took place inside a house where many had come to Jesus hoping to hear Him and see His miracles. The house was so crowded that the men carrying their paralyzed friend could not get into the house or near Jesus. They took their friend to the roof and tore away shingles making a hole big enough to lower the man down on his bed into the presence of the Lord. Matthew says that when Jesus saw the faith of the men carrying their friend, and their determination to get him to Jesus, that Jesus said, “Son, be of good cheer. Your sins are forgiven.”

This prompted the scribes (experts in Moses’ law) to say within themselves, “This man blasphemes!” Be careful what you think around Jesus. He is God and He is all knowing and He knew what they were thinking. They were thinking that only God can forgive sin and they were correct. Where they erred was they did not recognize that being in the presence of Jesus meant they were in the presence of God.

Jesus asked them, “Is it easier to say your sins are forgiven or to say, take up your bed and walk?” And before they could answer Jesus told the paralyzed man to take up his bed and go home. Can you imagine the conversation his four friends shared with him as they walked home together?

Verse 8 says that the multitude that observed the miracle marveled and glorified God. The NIV says they were in awe. They knew they had witnessed a miracle and they knew the power was from God.

 

  1. Matthew, the Tax Collector Called to Follow Jesus (v. 9-13)

Matthew is giving personal testimony about his call by Jesus to be a disciple. It was a controversial choice as viewed by the religious community. Matthew was a tax collector, a publican. While no one likes a tax collector, Matthew’s position was even more repulsive to his countrymen. The publicans had aligned themselves with the Romans to collect the Empire’s taxes. It was well known that these men were encouraged to increase the taxes and take their own cut. They were profiting at the expense of their own people.

Matthew followed immediately. Then he hosted a dinner and invited many other tax collectors and sinners to dine with Jesus and His disciples. Perhaps this was Matthew’s way of saying good-bye to his previous profession and introducing his colleagues to the Lord. When the Pharisees saw that Jesus was dining with Matthew and his friends, they went to Jesus other disciples and questioned why their teacher gathered tax collectors and sinners about Him. Notice they did not question Jesus. Critics are never honest and up front. But Jesus heard them and said, “The healthy do not need a physician.” A physician goes to sick people because that is their mission. Jesus goes to sinners because that is why he came. The apostle Paul said, ”Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” and Paul added that he was the worst of sinners (ITimothy1:15).

 

  1. Jesus is questioned about fasting (v. 14,15)

Jesus already instructed citizens of His kingdom on how to fast in His sermon on the mount (Matthew 6:16-18). We also know that Jesus himself practiced fasting at the beginning of His public ministry (Matthew 4:2). But it would appear that the disciples of Jesus were not involved in fasting.

Jesus says, why should they fast because they have me with them. But one day He (the bridegroom) will be gone and then his disciples will fast. What was happening here was more than just a question of fasting.

It was John’s disciples who asked the question. They said, “We do it and the Pharisees do it, so why don’t your disciples do it.’ Perhaps the disciples of John were prone to follow the example of the Pharisees who did their fasting publicly and “before men” to appear to be religious. Recall that Jesus said, “Do this privately before your Father in heaven and your Father in heaven, Who sees you in private will one day reward you openly for your faithfulness. How did John’s disciples know that Jesus disciples were not fasting? They would not have done it openly to be seen of men.

Jesus gives two analogies, one of a new piece of cloth to patch an old garment and the other, the putting of new wine into old wineskins. Neither works. Jesus was doing things differently from the old ways. Just like today, Christians, stuck in the traditions that are just traditions and not biblical say, “We’ve never done it like this before!” But then, Jesus makes all things new!

 

  1. The dead raised and the sick healed (18-26)

What an amazing paragraph we have here. I hope we do not lose the wonderment of Scripture and of knowing Jesus as Savior. A ruler comes to him concerning his daughter who had just died, interrupts Jesus conversation with John’s disciples. Mark and Luke give us a little more insight in that his name is Jairus and he was a ruler in the synagogue, most likely a priest and a member of the Sanhedrin, Israel’s ruling council.

We can imagine that Jairus was devastated by the death of his child and was desperate for Jesus to intercede. He knelt before Jesus and said, “Lord, if you can touch her I know she will live.” Jesus gets up and follows the man and Jesus’ disciples also follow. But on their journey through the streets of the city, Jesus passes a woman who had a blood disease and had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. We can imagine her frail body, ravaged by the malady. She had tried everything; doctors as well as charlatans who promised healing but could not deliver on their promises. She had heard of Jesus and the miracles He did and she thought, “If I can just touch his garment, I can be healed.” Boldly she steps through the moving throng and she finds her goal and touches Jesus. Other accounts say that Jesus felt virtue flowing out of Him and asked, “Who touched me”? Jesus knew but this was an opportunity for the woman to give testimony to what she knew had just happened to her.” She knew she was healed from the moment of the touch.

We can imagine that Jairus, anxious to get Jesus to his daughter was not happy with the interruption, but now the party continued the trek to his home. When Jesus arrived, the funeral traditions had already started. Jewish funeral tradition of the day required even a poor family to hire two flute players and one wailing woman at the death of a family member.   It was loud and mournful and the crowd was wailing. Jesus announced, “The girl is not dead but only sleeping.” They ridiculed Him but the father had the crown put outside. Jesus then took the girl by the hand and she arose and walked with Him. Jesus is God and holds the power of life and death. The paragraph ends with, “And the report went out into all the land.” PTL!

 

  1. Various healings (v. 27-34)

This paragraph records the healing of two blind men and a mute man who was possessed by demons.” The narrative speaks for itself and I make only two comments here. Those who witnessed the miracles marveled and said, “We have never seen anything like this in Israel before.” But then, they had never experienced God walking among them before (John 1:14).

But not everyone was impressed. The Pharisees, desperate to discredit Jesus say, “He casts our demons by the power of demons.” Really? Sometimes organized religion is the greatest enemy of the kingdom of God.

 

  1. Jesus heart revealed (v. 35-38)

Isaiah said, “He will be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Matthew gives a synopsis of His continuing ministry. Everywhere He went, in the cities and villages and synagogues, He healed every disease among the people and preached the gospel of the kingdom. But as He saw the multitudes that flocked to Him, He saw them for what they were. They were weary and scattered like sheep having no shepherd. They moved aimlessly and in some situations, without hope. But as He viewed the people, each one needing what He came to give, forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation, He turned to His disciples and lamented, “The harvest is truly plentiful but the laborers are few. Pray that the Lord of the Harvest will send out laborers to work in His harvest.”

Nothing has changed. The Harvest is plentiful. Multitudes needing the message of the Gospel and an opportunity to receive the gift of salvation are perishing. But there are few interested in taking the gospel to them. Pray the Lord of Harvest touches hearts and provides laborers before the harvest perishes. Will you be a laborer?

 

I hope you have a blessed Tuesday! God bless you all!

 

Pastor

Day Eight: Matthew Eight

By | 89 Day Gospel Challenge, Uncategorized | No Comments

THE 89 DAY GOSPEL CHALLENGE

DAY EIGHT MATTHEW EIGHT

          Verse one says, “When He had come down from the mountain” suggesting that what follows happened immediately, at least the encounter with the leper.  Other events in the chapter were probably later and there is an unspecified gap in time.  It is good to keep in mind that there were more than 1500 days in Jesus public ministry after His baptism.  All four gospels together only contain 33 of those days.  John tells us, “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31,32)

1. Jesus heals a leper (v. 1-4)

          I am always amazed and moved at this encounter with the leper.  Leprosy was the most dreaded disease of Jesus’ day.  There was no cure for it.  It was considered highly contagious so those who suffered with this malady were forced to leave their families and live on the edge of society.  They were not permitted to wash their face or comb their hair.  If they met others on the road they had to cry out, “I’m unclean” and pass to the other side.  No one was permitted to touch them, not family or friend or acquaintance because to touch a leper rendered one also unclean.  It was permitted to stone any leper who came into normal society.  Even more, there was a stigma associated with the sickness because it was considered punishment from God due to some heinous sin.  That was the life of a leper.

          We can imagine that this leper had heard Jesus’ sermon, hidden in some dark corner.  The words of Jesus brought him hope.  Perhaps especially when he heard Jesus say, “Judge not that you be not judged.”  Maybe he even felt the compassion in the voice of the Savior and it emboldened him to try to make contact.  When the leper revealed himself, it is possible that others about were repulsed and may have even picked up rocks to throw at him.  The leper knew he was risking everything but his desperation drew him forward.  In his mind he may have thought, “If this man loves His enemies, maybe he can love me.” 

          So, he made his move.  “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Mark’s gospel account of the story adds this, “And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.” (Mark 1:41).  It was the compassion of the Lord that moved Him to respond by reaching and touching the diseased man, perhaps the first touch the man had felt in years, and immediately, he was clean.

          I love this story and it teaches me to reach out to Jesus when I am hurting or sick or scared.  He will always respond with compassion and love.  I love the gospel song of the seventies that said, “Reach out to Jesus, He’s reaching out to you.”

2. Jesus heals a centurion’s servant (v. 5-13)

          Jesus had gotten the attention of the Gentile population of the region as well.  Even a Roman centurion, a man of rank who had 100 soldiers had been listening.  He had heard of the miracles that Jesus was doing.  Perhaps he had even witnessed one.  Even if the fame of Jesus had come to the centurion by word of mouth, the centurion moved in faith, believing the testimony he had heard.

          He came to Jesus and asked Him to heal a beloved servant who was suffering terribly.  Jesus immediately said, “I will come and heal him.”  But the centurion, in an amazing display of humility and faith said, “I am not worthy for you to come into my house.  But if you just speak a word, my servant will be healed.”

          Imagine, a Roman appealing to a Jew for a kindness.  It was more than a kindness, he was asking for a miracle, believing that Jesus could and would do it.  Jesus declared, “I have never seen such faith, not even in Israel.”  And then Jesus prophesied that one-day men of the East and men of the West would come and sit down with Abraham.”  This looked forward to the day when the Gospel and salvation would be open to all nations, both Gentile and Jew.  There was also a warning that “the sons of the kingdom” would not have salvation just because of their Jewish lineage.  No one gets a pass on their sin.  There is only one way to be saved.  It is by confession of sin and trusting Jesus as personal Savior.

          Jesus tells the centurion, “Go your way, your servant is healed.”  Matthew records, “And his servant was healed that same hour.”  You can always trust Jesus to keep His word.

3. Peter’s Mother-in-Law healed (v. 14,15)

          This is mentioned almost like a postscript.  I suppose this means Peter was a married man although it never mentions his wife.  It would be sad to have a mother-in-law and no wife (just kidding).  The real point is Jesus never met a disease He could not heal nor a man or woman that He did not love.

4. The Healing Ministry Continues (v. 16,17)

          We do not know how many were freed of demon possession or how many were healed of disease but it seems this was a regular part of Jesus’ day.  I am impressed that Matthew said that He cast out spirits by a word and brought healing the same way.  Matthew, who we know is fond of pointing out fulfilled scripture of the Old Testament, sees this as a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:4.

5. The Cost of Discipleship (v. 18-22)

          To become a Christian will cost us nothing.  By faith, we accept what Jesus has done for us and receive salvation.  But to become a disciple it will cost us everything.  Multitudes are following Him and I am certain there were many reasons.  On the day after the feeding of the 5000, the multitude sought Him out again.  Jesus said, “You do not seek me because of the miracle but because you ate of the bread and fish and were filled.”  Some followed Him hoping to get another meal.  In the early days of mission work in China there were “rice Christians,” those who went from church to church hoping to get food.  But Jesus warns that if you are following Him for personal profit, you will only be disappointed.  “Foxes have holes and birds have their nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head.”  The Christian “payday” is not in this life but in eternity.  It is the inheritance reserved for us in heaven (I Peter 1:3-5).

          We may think Jesus’ words here are harsh when one comes to Him and says, “I will follow you but first I have to bury my dad.”  There is no suggestion that the man’s father was sick.  He may have been deferring service to Jesus for years.  Jesus knew His heart as He knows our heart as well.  Recall that when Jesus called Peter and Andrew to follow Him, they immediately left their nets and never looked back.  When He calls, we should answer…immediately.

6. Jesus controls the Elements (v. 23-27)

          I love this story.  After an active day of ministry (healing, casting out demons, and teaching), Jesus, with his disciples, entered into a boat to cross to the other side of the lake.  Jesus, fatigued from the activity of the day, lays down in the hull of the ship and goes to sleep.  We see an example of His humanity here.  As Jesus sleeps, a terrible tempest arises on the lake.  Remember that at least four of the disciples were experienced fishermen and knew these waters well.  The storm was so intense they went to Jesus and told him they were about to perish.  Mark’s account gives further detail of the fear that gripped them as they awakened Jesus with the plea, “Do you not care that we are perishing.” (Mark 4:41) Imagine the irony!  Jesus not caring?  Isn’t that why He left heaven knowing His journey would end with a cross?  He turns to them and says, “Why are you fearful?  Don’t you have faith?”

          Jesus arose and looked into the face of the storm with a divine command, “Peace, be still.”  He who made the world also controls the very elements. The wind ceased and the waves became calm.  In awe, they turn to one another and ask in amazement, “What manner of man is this that even the wind and waves obey him.”  Here’s the lesson for us.  When Jesus is in your boat, the storms may still come.  But if Jesus is in your boat, the boat is not going to sink!

7. Demon-Possessed Men Healed (28-34)

          As I look at the overall picture here I see Jesus is entirely in control.  These men were tormented by being possessed with multitudes of demons.  Mark and Luke’s account of the incident mention only man.  This is not a contradiction.  Matthew gave more details.  Perhaps only one of the men spoke with Jesus.  But don’t be fooled by critics who look for something to undermine your faith.

          It should be noted that the men did not actually speak to Jesus, but the demons, who possessed them, spoke.  The demons cringed in fear saying, “Have you come to torment us before the time?”  What time are they speaking of?  The time of Judgment when Jesus will cast the devil into hell with all the demons who follow him (Revelation 20:10).  They know their time is limited.  The demons knew they were facing a power greater than they possessed and a greater power than their master, the devil.  So, they asked permission, knowing they would be cast out of their hosts, to enter into a herd of swine.

          Jesus gave permission and, once they entered the swine, the herd ran down a steep bank and perished in the sea.  The residents of the area did not understand what had happened and they ask Jesus to leave their region.  People always fear what they do not understand.  Just a few observations from the narrative:

1) The demons could only torment the men.  They could not kill them as they did the hogs.  Satan, and his imps do not have the power of death.  Only God can give life and take it away.

2) The Devil and his demons have no authority over believers.  He may harass but he cannot control Christians.  “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

3) The Devil cannot possess a believer because the Holy Spirit lives in the believer and He will not cohabitate with a demon. “…greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (I John 4:4)

 

Have a great Monday!  I love you all!

Pastor

Day Seven: Matthew Seven

By | 89 Day Gospel Challenge, Uncategorized | No Comments

THE 89 DAY GOSPEL CHALLENGE

DAY SEVEN MATTHEW SEVEN

          As we begin chapter seven we should remember that the Sermon on the Mount is a manual for what is expected of us as citizens in the Kingdom of heaven.  Chapter five laid the foundation teaching us the attitude of a kingdom citizen and the influence a true believer will have on society.  We are salt and light.  We give light by doing good works that bring glory to our Father in heaven.  We are to practice not just the letter of the law but its intent as well.  We will not only treat our brothers and sister with love and respect but we will also love our enemies.

          Chapter six described the conduct that Jesus prescribed for citizens of His kingdom.  We are to do our religious works, not to be seen of men to receive their praise, but in secret to please our God.  And our God Who sees in secret will one day reward us openly.

          Chapter seven is even more practical and encourages us to have a right relationship with both men and God.  Don’t judge.  Be constant in prayer.  Follow the narrow way.  Don’t be taken in by false prophets.  Be sure of your salvation.  Build on the right foundation.  Now we move forward to the conclusion of the Sermon.

1. Don’t be a critic (v. 1-5)

          Jesus knew plenty about critics.  Everywhere He went, no matter what He did, the critics were always with Him.  They criticized Him for healing a man on the Sabbath day.  They criticized Him for receiving sinners and fellowshipping with them.  They criticized Him because His disciples did not fast like John’s disciples. 

          The critic has the easiest job of all.  He does not build anything.  His mission in life is to tear apart what others build.  He worries not about impacting the lives of people for their good.  He operates with a double standard, one for himself and another for those he tears down.  More often than not, his venomous words for others are a cover for his own flaws.  His acerbic attacks reveal a heart filled with anger and bitterness.  Jesus warns that such attitudes are not welcome in His kingdom.

          Some take this to an extreme position and suggest that there is no standard of human judgment.  That is not true.  This passage is not forbidding systems of human government and judicial laws to punish evil doers.  Later in the chapter, in discussing false prophets, Jesus says, “You will know them by their fruits.”

          Don’t judge (condemn) others.  When you judge others with a critical heart, you set the standard by which you will be judged.  Have you ever become angry when someone cuts you off in traffic?  Then a few miles down the road you cut someone else off in traffic?  Before you judge someone else because they have a speck in their eye you should remove the plank that is in your eye.  Once you remove the plank from your eye (practice self-evaluation), you will be better prepared to help your brother with the speck in his eye.  

          This critical, judgmental attitude is the same attitude as when we get angry with a brother without cause and call him worthless.   In doing this we commit “heart murder” (Matt. 5:21-23).  In contrast, Jesus said men will identify us as His disciples if we have love for each other (John 13:35).

2. Persevere in Prayer (v. 7-12)

          How often do people say, “I don’t pray.  I tried it once and it didn’t work out for me.”  Where would we be if we took that attitude with other matters.  “I tried to walk once but I fell and decided to give up on it.”  “I tried to read a book once but just gave up because it took time and effort.”  Get the idea?

          There are three verbs in verse 7: ask, seek and find.  They are present tense verbs in both the Greek and English.  A Greek present tense verb means the action is present but should also continue to be done.  Literally the verse says, “Ask, and keep on asking.   Seek, and keep on seeking.  Knock, and keep on knocking.”  In verse 8 we are told if we ask, and keep asking, we will receive!  If we seek, and keep seeking, we shall find.  If we knock, and keep knocking, the door will be open to us.

          Jesus uses the illustration of earthly fathers and their desire to bless their children to declare that your heavenly Father is wanting to bless you and answer your prayers.  The Father does not always answer our prayers the way we want Him to, but He is always listens and He always answers to give us His best blessings.  Sometimes when He says “No” it is because our Father really knows best.

3. Follow the Narrow Way (v. 13,14)

          I have heard this used in an evangelistic sense.  I have probably used it in an evangelistic way in the past.  There are many roads but only one leads to heaven.  While this may be a practical application, it is not the interpretation.  Remember Jesus is talking to kingdom citizens and declaring the conduct expected of us by our Lord.  This is talking about the way we live for Christ.  Every act we do and every action we take we need to ask ourselves, “Will this make me more like Jesus?”  We need to consider, “If I do this, will I enhance the testimony of His kingdom?”  We do not have the right, as kingdom citizens, to live anyway we want.  I Corinthians 6:19,20 says, “The Holy Spirit lives in us.  We are not our own but we have been bought with a price.  Therefore, we are to bring glory to God in our body (what we do) and in our spirit (how we think and behave) because we are His.” (Paraphrase) We should choose to live “the narrow way.”

4. Don’t be deceived by False Prophets (v. 15-20)

          Why is it that some believer’s loose all their common sense with their conversion?  Just because they wear a suit and have a winning smile and occasionally quote the Bible or say something religious does not mean they represent God and His kingdom.  We are to be discerning and wise.  What kind of “fruit” comes from a man or a woman’s ministry.  This is not the attitude of verse 1.  This is discernment.  If someone claiming to represent God is using unbiblical methods and teaching unbiblical doctrine we need to beware.  I John 4:1 says we should “try the spirits whether they be of God” for there are many false prophets in the world.  By their fruits you will know if they are genuine or a deceiver.  The ultimate test must be the Word of God.

5. Be sure you are truly a citizen in His kingdom (v. 21-23)

          There is a danger of becoming religious without being truly born again.  Nicodemus was a good, moral, religious man.  But Jesus told him, “Your religion and your goodness is not enough to get you into the Kingdom of God.  You must be born again.”

          There are two things that stand out in this brief paragraph:

1) Those who Jesus spoke of based their relationship with God on the good and religious things they did.  “We prophesied.  We cast out demons.  We did wonders in our name.”  Salvation is not the result of what we do.  It is the result of our faith placed in the sacrifice of Jesus.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8,9)

2) Jesus tells them He never knew them.  He does not say, “I used to know you but something you did caused me to forget who you are.”  They had not been saved and then lost their salvation.  They had never been truly redeemed.  From the hymn, “Rock of Ages” are the lines, “Nothing in my hand I bring; only to thy cross I cling.”

6. Build on the right foundation (v. 24-27)

          Many of you may have sang the song, “The Wise Man and the Foolish Man” in Sunday School when you were young.  This paragraph is the inspiration for the song.  Many people build their lives on faulty foundations (the sand).  It may be money, or pleasure, or fame.  Nothing in this world will last.  It can offer nothing that will lead to eternal life or heaven.  In the end, there will be devastation and loss.

          God and His Word offers a foundation that will serve you in this life and in the next as well.  Jesus has paid the price for your salvation and it is available to anyone and everyone who will, by faith, ask Him to save them (Romans 10:9-13) Build your life on the Rock.  That Rock is Jesus!

7. The Conclusion (v. 28,29)

          The reaction of the crowd says it all.  The people were astonished at His teaching.  He taught them as one who had authority and not as the scribes (the professors of Moses Law).

          Actually, He is the authority.  When they heard His words, they literally heard The Living Word of God (John 1:1-18)

 

God bless you all! 

Have a blessed Sunday

Pastor

Day Six: Matthew Six

By | 89 Day Gospel Challenge, Uncategorized | No Comments

THE 89 DAY GOSPEL CHALLENGE

DAY SIX MATTHEW SIX

 

In chapter five, Jesus described the standard of righteousness that God expects from citizens of His kingdom.  The beatitudes explained the righteous attitude of believers.  The righteous attitude then would result in the righteous influence.  Christians are to be salt and light to the world.  Jesus further exposed the shallowness of the religion of the Pharisee.  Although they outwardly complied to the law, their hearts were unconverted and unchanged.  Jesus said that they cleaned up the outside of the cup while the inside was still dirty and corrupt.

True righteousness comes from a change of heart that is the result of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.  We become new creations with new attitudes and new aspirations.

In chapter six, Jesus turns to a simple explanation of the conduct of the righteous to an exhortation concerning the practical application of righteousness.  If the believer is righteous, then the behavior of the believer should be righteous as well.  It goes beyond religion and playing church.  It is Christ living His life in us.  Is the Holy Spirit leading us to be conformed to the image of Jesus?  As a popular cliché asks, “What would Jesus Do?”  As ambassadors for God’s kingdom on earth, Christians are to live, love, and labor like Jesus.

The first eighteen verses of the chapter are both instruction in preforming basic spiritual disciplines and a rebuke of the sham the Pharisees had made of them.  Jesus warned of the leaven of the Pharisees which was hypocrisy.  In Matthew 23:3 Jesus said, “Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.”  It may surprise some but Jesus was very close to the Pharisees in doctrine.  But their practice was filled with inconsistencies and self-righteousness.  They made a show of their religion and sought to draw attention to themselves.  With that in mind let us walk through chapter six together.

  1. Benevolent giving, praying and fasting (v. 1-4; 5-8;16-18)

God loves a cheerful giver.  Giving to others in their need should be natural for the believer who has received so much from the hand of the Lord.  We should give as we have been given.  We are to be generous in helping others.  Verse one tells us not to do our charitable deeds before men.  The Pharisees were notorious at drawing attention to themselves whenever they gave in order to receive the praise of other men.  Jesus said, they have already received their praise and suggests that God is not pleased with their behavior.  Instead we are to do our charitable giving in secret with the promise that the Father who sees in secret will reward us openly.  The reward may not come until eternity, but our Father will not forget what is given from our heart.

The next topic is prayer.  Particularly in verses 5-8.  The hypocrites referred to are the Pharisees who would stand in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen of men.  Again, Jesus says we are to enter into our closets (KJV) and shut the door and pray to our Father in secret.  Then again, our Father who sees in secret will reward us openly.  He already knows what we need even before we ask.  But He invites us into a relationship of prayer with Him.  When we go to Him, we do not go to Him as strangers but as His children.  James says “the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16) The New Living Translation renders the verse, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”  Prayer in important!  It changes things!  It changes us!

The third topic is fasting.  Apparently when the Pharisees would fast they would twist their faces and hold their bellies so as to be seen by others.  They wished to appear to be devout and to impress other people. But God is not impressed.  They may fool men by their fake piety but it means nothing the Heavenly Father.  Fasting should be a natural outgrowth of fervent prayer to the point the believer neglects personal needs to intensify his efforts in prayer.  We fast unto the Lord and not unto men.  And the Father who sees in secret will reward us openly.

  1. The Model Prayer (v. 9-15)

In the midst of His instruction Jesus teaches about prayer.  The section is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer but should be seen as a model prayer.  Some mindless recite the prayer thinking there is power in rote repetition.  But Jesus is teaching us how to pray.  He begins by saying, “When you pray” and not “if you pray.”  Jesus teaches us what elements should be included in our prayer devotions.

1) Relationship – “Our Father in heaven…” (we are His children)

2) Worship – “Holy is your name…”

3) Expectation – “Your kingdom come…”

4) Submission – “Thy will be done…”

5) Petition and trust – “Give us this day our daily…”

6) Repentance – “Forgive us our debts…”

7) Forgiveness – “As we forgive our debtors…”

8) Direction – “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil…”

9) Praise – “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory…”

Many believers do not pray because they do not know how to pray.  Jesus was a man of prayer and if Jesus saw the need to pray and to teach us how to pray, then we should give great attention to our communication with the Father.  This prayer is repeated in Luke 11 in response to the disciples coming to Jesus with the request, “Lord, teach us how to pray.”

Note: The rest of the chapter concerns proper priorities and follows a progression of thought.

  1. Treasures (v. 19-21)

We are often distracted by material things.  We spend too much time concentrating on things that are temporary while we neglect the eternal.  Jesus warns not to lay up treasures that a moth can eat, a thief can steal or rust can corrupt.  He warns us that what we treasure will hold our heart.  We are not to love temporary things.  We are to love God and we are to love people.

  1. The light of the body (v. 22,23)

This is a warning to not be double minded and not to lose focus on spiritual things.  We are to treasure the right things and not be drawn away to worldly, temporal treasures.  Don’t let the world hold your heart.  The bad will always corrupt the good and not the other way around.  Stay focused on the light and what is right.

  1. Serve only one Master (v. 24)

God is not interested in our left-over worship.  Money in and of itself is not evil.  It is not wrong to possess money or things.  It is wrong if money and things possess us.  You cannot worship both God and money (mammon).

  1. Do not worry (v. 25-34)

Don’t worry about things like your life or what you eat or drink or wear.  Your God will take care of you.  He feeds the birds and dresses the lilies.  You are more important than birds and flowers.  Have the faith to trust Him.  He is your Father and He will provide for you.  Lost people who have no heavenly Father to care for them and they worry about such things (v. 32) But our Father is a good and loving Father.  He knows what we need even before we ask.  So, seek first the Kingdom of God (a  relationship with God) and He will provide the things you need (v. 33)

God bless you all!  Hope you are planning on being in Church tomorrow.

Have a great Saturday!

Love you all!

Pastor

 

 

Day Five: Matthew Five

By | 89 Day Gospel Challenge, Uncategorized | No Comments

THE 89 DAY GOSPEL CHALLENGE

DAY FIVE MATTHEW FIVE

          Today we begin a three chapter look at the Sermon on the Mount.  It is Jesus’ longest recorded sermon in Scripture.  It begins with Matthew 5:3 and ends in Matthew 7:29. It was delivered in the second year of Jesus’ public ministry known as the year of popularity.  His reputation had grown throughout the region and multitudes flocked to hear Him preach and witness the miracles He did.

          Since the Father spoke from heaven and declared Jesus to be His only begotten Son, unique from all others, everything Jesus did verified and affirmed His true identity.  His enemies said that no one ever spoke like He spoke.  No one ever did the things that He did.  He turned water into wine.  He calmed the storm and demonstrated His authority over the very elements.  He made the blind to see and the lame to walk.  Many suspected Who He was.  In Matthew 16, Peter declared confidently, “You are the Christ!  The Son of the living God.”  And so He was and so He is.

          In the sermon Jesus takes occasion to teach his followers the pattern for kingdom living.  It is not an evangelistic sermon although it has been applied to evangelism.  But by its interpretation it is a sermon of discipleship.  What does it mean to be a citizen in the Kingdom of heaven?  Perhaps we will do an extra post to explain the difference between the Kingdom of heaven and the Kingdom of God but that must come later and as an extra lesson.  There is just too much in all three chapters to go into great detail. In 2016 I preached a series on the Sermon on the Mount.  There were 18 sermons on chapter 5 alone.  But perhaps what we see here will perk someone’s interest in additional study.  How marvelous is the Word of God!  The more I learn the more I understand how much more I have to learn.  So now on to the text!

1. The Kingdom Attitude (v. 3-12)

          Zig Zigler said, “It is your attitude and not your aptitude that determines your altitude.”  Attitude is everything!  It is often the difference between success and failure.  So it is not surprising that the first topic in Jesus’ sermon is attitude.

          Each verse begins with the word “Blessed.”  The NLT says, “God blesses those…” with each attitude.  Literally it means, “Oh how happy” are those that practice these attitudes.  The first four attitudes are inward and reveal the heart of the kingdom citizen.  The last four turn outward in the way we deal with others.

1) Those who are poor in spirit (are truly humble) realize their need for Him.  Such is the true citizen of His kingdom (v. 3).

2) Those who have a sorrow (who mourn) over sin both personal and general, will find their comfort in their relationship with God (v. 4).

3) Blessed are the meek not the weak, but those who understand their need for God and that their strength is in the Lord and not their own power will truly inherit the earth (v. 5)

4) When we hunger for the Lord and His righteousness, we will find that hunger satisfied by the intimacy we have with our God (v. 6).  James says, “When we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us.”

5) Those who practice mercy will receive the same from the Father.  But mercy is more than forgiveness (v. 7).  It is compassion and concern for others.

6)   Those who have a pure heart will be blessed because they have a true understanding of Who God is and what He is all about (v. 8)

7) Happy are those who work for peace.  There is a greater peace than the peace between nations.  It is the peace between the believer and His God (v. 9).  It is then the believer realizes the real meaning of being a child of God (John 1:12; I John 3:1,2)

8) Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing right and do not turn bitter or angry but endure that persecution in the grace and love of God.  They are not looking for reward in this life but understand their ultimate inheritance is in heaven (v. 10-12) (Compare with I Peter 2:21-25)

2. The Influence of the Kingdom Citizen (v. 13-16)

          This is a natural progression in the thought of Jesus’ sermon.  If we practice the right attitude we will have the right influence.  Jesus describes that influence in two metaphors.

          You are the salt of the earth (v. 13).  Today many see salt as a bad thing.  But in the day of Jesus salt was a precious commodity.  Often the Roman government would pay their soldiers in salt rations.  Salt had many uses.  It was a preservative.  It was used for cleansing and healing in the dressing of a wound.  But the most obvious characteristic was as a seasoning.  It brought taste to the blandness of food.  We are to bring taste to life.  We are to have an influence to make life better.  Someone asked, “Do you light us a room by entering it or leaving it.”  Too many Christians are guilty of lighting the room by their absence.

          You are the light of the world.  Jesus is the true light but He says to us, you are to light up your world.  We have His light in us.  We are not to hide our light but we are to shine.  We are to do this by doing good works before others and in so doing, bring glorify our Father Who is in heaven.  But you can’t light the world if you have a wrong attitude.

3. Jesus fulfills the Law (v. 17-20)

          The Law does not save us.  Often when we think of the Law we think of the Ten Commandments but in truth, there were 613 commandments in the law when you consider not just the moral law (10 Commandments) but also the civil law and the ritual law.  No one can fulfill the law to perfection.  It is not in our fallen nature to do so.  James 2:10 tells us that if we offend the law in one point we are guilty of all.

          Jesus did not come to destroy the law.  By the law we know our guilt and our need for a Savior.  Jesus came to provide that salvation that the law could never provide.

4. Heart Murder (v. 21-26)

          There is the letter of the law and there is the intent of the law.  The self-righteous could quote the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” and feel good because they had not taken a life physically.  That is the letter of the law.  But Jesus expands the meaning and says, “If you have been angry with your brother without cause and deemed him worthless, you are guilty of murder.”  That is the intent of the law.  How many have we murdered because we have been unloving and unforgiving?  Jesus expects more from citizens of His kingdom.

5.  Heart immorality (v. 27-30)

          The same is true with the seventh commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  Jesus warns that we can commit adultery in our heart by committing it with our mind.  All sin begins in our mind as a concept.  If we let the mind of Christ rule in us, we will keep our thoughts pure and holy.  Our prayer should daily be, “Father, please control my thought life.”

6. The Sanctity of Marriage (v. 31.32)

          We could say much about this paragraph but length and time do not permit.  The Pharisees had made a joke of marriage.  They ask Jesus, “Can a man put away his wife for any cause?”  Read Matthew 19 for Jesus’ answer.  Here He is pointedly declaring the sanctity of marriage.  In His perfect will marriage is meant to be one man and one woman for a lifetime.  But things are not always perfect.  The good news is that there is not perpetual state of sin.  “If we confess our sin He is faithful and just for to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

7. The Forbidding of Oaths (v. 33-37)

          Suffice it to say here that our word should be our bond.  There should be no need to affirm our word by swearing an oath.  Truth and being faithful to truth should be a trait of the kingdom citizen.

8. The Second Mile (v 38-42)

          Rome occupied Israel and in all of their occupied lands a Roman soldier could compel a citizen of an occupied country to serve them at a whim.  You can imagine that this was a source of anger and frustration.  This goes back to the attitude thing.  Jesus says, “If they compel you to go a mile (the minimum) go two miles.  The principle here is don’t look to do the minimum.  Be willing to inconvenience yourself for His kingdom.  What have we done lately for His kingdom that has inconvenienced us.  We should be “second mile” Christians.

9. Love your Enemies (v. 43-48)

          Even lost people love their friends.  There is no effort in loving those who love us.  This is the ultimate mark of kingdom citizenship.  We love our enemies!  That does not mean we love what they do.  But we love them.  Jesus is our example.  We ask “What would Jesus do?”  He would love His enemies.  That is exactly what He did when He died for our sins.  “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)

 

God bless and have a great Friday!

Pastor

 

 

Day Four: Matthew Four

By | 89 Day Gospel Challenge | No Comments

THE 89 DAY GOSPEL CHALLENGE

DAY FOUR MATTHEW FOUR

          Chapter four directly follows the baptism of Jesus.  Two significant events are recorded for us.  The Spirit (the Holy Spirit) descended upon Him like a dove.  This identified Him as Messiah.  Before this event even John, His cousin, did not know His true identity.  Leaving no doubt, God the Father spoke from heaven and declared emphatically, “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” 

          We see the Trinity involved and declared, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  Make no mistake about it, Jesus was and is eternal God come down in the flesh (John 1:14; John 1:18; Philippians 2:6-11; John 10:30; Colossians 2:9,10; I John 5:20; Matthew 28:19 and more).

          The Spirit now leads Him into the wilderness and there He fasted for forty days.  Biblical fasting is not a decision but the result of being consecrated to the Father in the power of the Spirit.  Jesus was so consumed in prayer and doing the Father’s will that He neglected the most basic need, to eat to survive.

 

1. The Temptation of Christ (v.1-11)

          There is so much that could be discussed here but for sake of time and space I will limit my comments to the basics. 

          After forty days of fasting Jesus was hungry.  Here we see a demonstration of His humanity.  He was not a super being.  He took on our weaknesses and could be tempted yet He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).  Jesus was both God and man: The God-man. Still that did not prevent Satan from attacking.  There is something to learn here about “the tempter.”  He will always attack us at our weakest point.  Peter calls him a roaring lion who stalks us waiting for the right time to pounce and devour (I Peter 5:8,9).  He has no ethics nor morals.  As the lion preys on the weak and helpless, Satan attacked Jesus when He was weak in the flesh but still strong in the Spirit.

          As a side note, do not give Satan more power than he has.  He is not omniscient, omnipotent, or omnipresent.  Only God has those attributes.  But he is observant as he stalks us looking for our weaknesses so he can attack.  Remember this, that as a believer, Satan has no claim on you neither does he have power over you.  James 4:7 says “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” 

          The temptations were designed to attack the humanity of Jesus.  It followed the pattern of I John 2:16. “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is not of the Father but of the world.”

1) The first temptation attacked Jesus flesh.  Satan is saying, “If you are the Son of God then do a trick.  Turn the stones to bread.  Appease your flesh.  But Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. In fact, Jesus used Scripture to meet and overcome each of Satan’s attacks.  Psalm 119:11 tells us to “hide God’s Word in our heart so we will not sin against God.”

2) In the second temptation Satan also uses Scripture.  He quotes Psalm 91:11,12.  But he misused the intent of the passage.  Jesus recognizes this as an attempt for Satan to cause Jesus to make a foolish demonstration of His power.  He appealed to pride. It’s like a kid on the playground saying, “I dare you.”  But Jesus answers, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 6:16).

3) In the third temptation Satan offers Jesus the kingdoms of the world and in exchange he requires Jesus to fall down and worship him.  Isn’t it just like Satan to offer something he can’t give.  The world is not his to offer.  He can’t offer happiness.  He can’t offer peace.  He can only offer lies and deception.  Jesus declares, “You shall worship the Lord your God and only Him you shall serve.” (Deuteronomy 6:13).  With this Jesus send Satan away and the devil leaves Him as angels come to minister to Him.  It seems angels are always watching (I Peter 1:12; Luke 15:10).

 

2. The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry (v. 12-17)

          John has been arrested and put in prison. He fell into disfavor when he told Herod that it was not lawful for him to have his brother’s wife.  But Herod did nothing at the time for fear of the people who rightly believed that John was a prophet.  Jesus turns northward to Galilee.  He leaves Nazareth and settles in Capernaum by the sea.  Matthew sees this as a fulfillment of Isaiah 9:1,2.  Jesus is the great light who gives light for our darkness. 

          He continues initially to preach the same message of John, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  The kingdom is a reoccurring topic in Matthew.  He, like many, looked for Jesus to restore the greatness of the kingdom experienced under David and Solomon.  Many hoped Messiah would be a political savior who would rid Israel of the Roman occupation.  But Jesus came to establish a greater kingdom. We will speak more of the kingdom later.

3. The First Disciples (v. 18-22)

          The narrative speaks for itself and needs little commentary.  We see two families of Galilean fishermen doing their jobs when Jesus passed by and beckoned them to follow Him.  John tells the story a little differently but not in contraction to what Matthew said.  The stories are not contradictory but complementary.  If you read the narrative in John 1:35-42 you will find that the day after Jesus baptism John the Baptist saw Jesus and declared, “Behold the Lamb of God Who bears away the sin of the world.”  Two of John’s disciple’s, Andrew and another one unnamed, heard John’s words and followed Jesus. They became convinced that Jesus was the Messiah.  Andrew went and told his brother Peter.  The other disciple was probably John who most likely shared what he had learned of Jesus with his brother James. What we see in Matthew was a little later.  Now, Jesus passing by offered a formal invitation to follow.  Both set of brothers immediately left their nets and the rest is biblical history.  Here is a lesson to learn: when Jesus calls, follow immediately.  You don’t want to miss your miracle.

 

 4. Jesus heals a Multitude (v. 23-25)

          Matthew details the great ministry of miracles in Galilee.  He taught in the synagogues and His fame began to spread everywhere.  Multitudes followed Him and other came from all over Judea and beyond Jordan to hear His words and witness His miracles.

          Only 37 specific miracles of Jesus are recorded in the New Testament.  Only 33 of more than 1500 days of His public ministry are recorded.  When you consider this you can see the significance of John’s statement in John 21:25 where he wrote, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.”

God bless you all,

Have a great Thursday!

Day Three Matthew Three

By | 89 Day Gospel Challenge | No Comments

DAY THREE MATTHEW THREE

1. John the Baptist (vs. 1-12)

          In this chapter we are introduced to one of the most intriguing characters in the New Testament.  Before looking at the text it would be good to know some general things about John the Baptizer.

1) His birth was prophesied in the Old Testament (Malachi 3:1; Isaiah 40:3).

2) He is identified as a man sent from God (John 1:6).

3) His birth was supernatural in that his mother Elizabeth was up in years and had previously been unable to have children.  An angel announced his birth to his father Zacharias (Luke 1:13-15).

4) Jesus said among all those born of women John was the greatest (Luke 7:28).

          There are other things we could say but for now this will suffice.  The text tells us much more about this amazing prophet of God.  John was fearless in his faith, bound to declare the coming of God’s kingdom.  He may not have had a popular message but he had a Spirit-driven message: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  He was, in all ways, the forerunner of Christ preparing the way for the ministry of the Messiah.  In verse three John is identified as the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3.

          His behavior and his dress were anything but conventional.  He was dressed in camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist and his diet was locusts and wild honey.  I imagine him as wild eyed and bold in his declaration of God’s message.  Quickly his fame spread and we are told Jerusalem and all Judea went out in the wilderness to hear this Spirit-filled preacher who met sin head on and proclaimed the need for repentance.  It would not be a popular message today but I believe it is the message we need today.  Remember that we are told that John was filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb of his mother so it was the message God wanted His messenger to deliver.

          Apparently, John’s ministry caught the attention of the organized religion of Israel and the Pharisees and the Sadducees came to see what was happening.  Imagine their chagrin when John declared them to be a “brood of vipers.”  I don’t think they were accustomed to be called a bunch of snakes.  I don’t imagine it settled with them.  But it did not deter him one bit.

          He warned them that judgment was coming and he charged them to repent and bear “fruit” worthy of repentance (v. 8).  The New Living Translation renders the verse, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.”  In II Corinthians 5:17 we are told if anyone is in Christ they are new creations.  The old life is past and a new life begins in Him.  Too often so-called conversions do not result in changed lives.

          Then John turns to declaring the coming of the Christ.  “The One who comes after me is mightier than I and I am not worthy to carry his sandals.”  John knew his place and he served with a humble heart.  Sometimes believers get too impressed with their own abilities and achievements.  Remember James told us to “humble ourselves before God that He may exalt us in His time” (James 4:10).  Then in verse 11 John says, “I baptize you with water unto repentance.  But He (the Messiah) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  Many believe this is in reference to the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came in power and cloven tongues of fire appeared above the heads of the believers (Acts 2:1-3).  The significance of Pentecost was the empowering of the church and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to all believers (Romans 8:9).

          Verse 12 declares the coming judgment when God will separate true believers from those who are just religious but not truly converted.  Jesus said many will say to Him in the day of judgment, “Lord, Lord, have we not done religious works?”  But religious works and personal morality never result in salvation.  Jesus will say to those who profess Christ but don’t possess salvation, “Depart from me! I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:21-23).  (Consider the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13:24-30).

 

2. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan by John (vs. 13-17)

          This is an incredible scene.  Jesus comes to the Jordan to be baptized by John.  Recall that Jesus and John were cousins after the flesh.  It is likely that they played together as boys.  They were only months apart in age.  There was probably family affection between them.  Two young men in their prime.  One the Son of God and the other the forerunner who was to prepare the way for the coming of the Christ.  In John 1:29-34, John testifies that he did not know that Jesus was Messiah before that day.  And as John sees him coming and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove he declares, “You come to me to be baptized but I need you to baptize me.”  But Jesus answers, “In order to fulfill all righteousness, for now, permit this to be.”  Perhaps this was in the process of Jesus humbling himself as described in Philippian 2:6-8 as a preamble to God exalting Him to when every knee would bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord Philippian 2:9-11).

          This was the beginning, the inauguration of His public ministry.  It was a milepost on the way to the cross.  But as not to leave any doubt of what was happening the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove and the Father claimed Jesus and declared from heaven, “This is my Son!  I am so pleased with Him!  This was not the last time the Father would speak from heaven declaring the sonship of Jesus.  But this declared at the very beginning of Jesus public ministry that He was more than a good teacher or a good moral example.  He was, and is, the Son of God who came to be the Savior of the world.

 

God bless you all and have a wonderful Wednesday!

Pastor

 

DAY 2: MATTHEW 2

By | 89 Day Gospel Challenge | No Comments

DAY TWO MATTHEW TWO

1. Wise Men from the East (v.1-12)
There are many who associate the story of the visit of the wise men with the birth narrative. Often we see nativities with the shepherds and wise men at the manger on the night that Jesus was born. And we sing a carol that declares the journey of three kings making their trek by night following “yonder star.” Well, there was a star and there was a westward journey to seek the one declared in prophecy to be a king who would rule Israel. But that’s about all that is factual.

Now before I get accused of debunking Christmas traditions let me say that I believe we are bound by Scripture and to go beyond that puts us in a dangerous realm of speculation. So let’s look at the facts.
1) Nowhere are these eastward travelers called kings. They are called wise men in most English translations. The NIV calls them magi. The original Greek in Matthew 2 calls the men who came to visit Jesus magoi. The only other occurrence of the Greek word magos is in Acts 13:6, where it is translated “magician,” meaning one who practices sorcery. (Beliefnet)

From history we find this was probably a priestly caste of stargazers. That would concur with their statement, “We have seen his star in the East.” They practiced a hybrid between astrology and astronomy and were well versed in ancient prophecies. When Herod inquired of the chief priests and scribes they brought him the prophecy found in Micah 5:2 which predicted a ruler being born in Bethlehem who would shepherd God’s people Israel.

2) How many magi were there? Traditionally we talk of the three wise men but we really don’t know. The word magi is plural so we know there was more than one. We also know there were three gifts and they were costly gifts but there could have been two wise men or many.

3) Did the wise men arrive on the night of Jesus birth? No! When the shepherds saw Jesus he is described as a “babe, lying in a manger.” When the wise men arrive they find Jesus in a house and he is described as a young child. The best estimate is when they arrived Jesus could have been somewhere between six months to two years old. Recall that Herod inquired when the star appeared and when he decided to try to kill Jesus he ordered all male children, two years old and younger to be slaughtered.

4) The wise men were warned by God that Herod meant to do the child harm. I see God’s hand at work throughout the narrative. When the magi left Herod the star reappeared to guide them to their destination. And God spoke to them in a dream to warn them not to return to Herod. God is always on the job. Is it too cheesy to say that wise men still seek Him?

2. The Flight into Egypt (v. 13,14)
Again we see the ever-vigilant God watching over His Son. This time God sends an angel with the message to flee to Egypt because God, who knows the thoughts and intents of our heart, knew when Herod realized the wise me were not coming back he would do whatever he could to remove any threat to his throne.
Matthew you will remember is the most Jewish of the Gospels and he is very fond of pointing out fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. He sees the pilgrimage of Joseph, Mary and Jesus a fulfillment of Hosea 11:1.

3. Massacre of the Innocents (v. 16-18)
This is perhaps one of the saddest and most savage acts we find in the Bible. The wise men had told Herod when the miraculous star had appeared. Herod did the math and decided that all male infants two years and younger living in and around Bethlehem had to be killed. Matthew quotes Jeremiah 31:15 and sees this treacherous act as its fulfillment. “Rachel weeping for her children and could not be comforted because they were no more.”

This was not the first massacre of this kind nor would it be the last. In Exodus 2:15-22 is the story of Pharaoh, fearing the growth in the Jewish population, first told the midwives to kill the male babies. But the midwives feared God. When this failed, Pharaoh ordered that all male Hebrew infants be cast into the river. But mothers, like the mother of Moses, found ways to keep the children alive.

Throughout history we have seen genocide against certain groups. The holocaust in Germany against the Jews murdered over 6 million just because they were Jews. But, in my opinion, the greatest genocide is legalized abortion. What greater genocide is there?

4. The Home in Nazareth (v. 19-22)
Herod (the Great) did not live long after the birth of Jesus. Most historians agree that he died in either 4 B.C. or 3 B.C. and Jesus would have still been an infant. When he died God sent an angel to inform Joseph that they could return to Israel. But the line of succession changed. Instead of Herod Antipas succeeding his father, Herod the Great left the majority of his empire, including Judea, to another son, Archelaus. He was tyrannical and was eventually overthrown by his own people in approximately 6 A.D. It was only then that Joseph returned to Israel and settled in Nazareth where Jesus would live until the beginning of His public ministry at approximately age 30.

DAY 1: MATTHEW 1

By | 89 Day Gospel Challenge | No Comments

DAY ONE MATTHEW ONE

Before getting into the text it is important to understand who Matthew was and his perspective of Christ as he wrote his biography of Jesus. First of all, please do not use Wikipedia as a source for anything biblical. Their articles are, in most part, written by more liberal theologians who have a low view of Scripture and do not see it as the inspired Word of God. For example, one article on Wikipedia suggests that Matthew was written sometime in the second century A.D. which means the author could not have been the disciple we know as Matthew.

Many “religious” books were written during the first three centuries of the church but one of the criteria for a book to be included in the Holy Scripture was it had to date from the first century, the age of the Apostles. All early sources in church history ascribe the authorship of the book to the one who walked with Jesus we know as Matthew.

Conservative church history unanimously declares Matthew as the author and was probably the second biography of Jesus to appear. Most agree that Mark was first gospel written somewhere between 50 and 55 A.D. Matthew followed approximately five years later between 55 and 60 A.D. It is important to understand that these books were written within two decades after the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that they appeared during the time when many eyewitnesses of the life and ministry of Jesus were still alive. Those who criticize Matthew and try to undermine its authority came on the scene centuries later. What is more credible? The testimony of an eyewitness or that of a critic who lived hundreds of years later with an agenda to discredit the supernatural nature of the Bible?

From Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27, we learn that Matthew is also called Levi (probably referencing the tribe of his origin) and was the son of Alphaeus (Luke 5:27). He was a tax collector, a publican, who aligned himself with the Romans to collect their taxes from his own people, the Jews. Matthew, like all tax-collectors, was not a popular fellow. Yet we see that when challenged by Jesus to follow, Matthew immediately left that profession and never looked back.

Matthew is the most Jewish of the four Gospels. A recurring theme in Matthew is the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God. A popular theme among the Jewish community of Jesus’ day was the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel to its former glory. But they soon learned Jesus came to establish a different kind of Kingdom (John 18:36). As we read through Matthew together we will learn the significance of Matthew’s Jewish perspective.

One other thing before we get into the text of Matthew chapter one is the idea of the Synoptic gospels. The word, synoptic, means “together sight” and refers to the first three gospels (Matthew through Luke). This term further refers to the fact that much of the material in these biographies are the same but viewed from a different perspective. The most widely accepted hypothesis is that both Matthew and Luke used Mark (the earliest gospel to appear) as a source for various reasons. Matthew even reproduced about ninety percent of Mark, while Luke reproduced about sixty percent (The Blue Bible). Yet all three saw Jesus was a different viewpoint.

We have already stated that Matthew was the most Jewish gospel and was concerned with the Kingdom. So, Matthew, writing primarily to a Hebrew audience, makes the case for Jesus as the Messiah and King. Mark was concerned more with a Roman audience. As many as one in three people in the Roman Empire were either slaves or indentured servants. Servanthood was highly valued so Mark presents Jesus as the perfect servant. Luke, the only Gentile author of scripture, wrote to a Greek audience which saw “man” as the greatest and most important being in all creation. So, Luke presents Jesus as the perfect Man. These differences will come into greater perspective as we get into our study. John stands alone in presenting much unique material. His presentation of Jesus is that of an awestruck observer and declares that Jesus is God.

I apologize for the wordiness of this first post but I thought some introductory material was necessary for better understanding. Future posts will briefer. Now to the text.

MATTHEW 1:1-25
1. The Genealogy of Jesus Christ (1:1-17)
Some critics of the Bible make much to do about the fact that only two of the Gospels contain a genealogy. But remember that our four authors write the same story from different perspectives. Since Mark writes about Jesus being a wonderful servant, we can understand that a servant does not need a pedigree. But Matthew declares Jesus to be the King. It is both logical and practical that a King must have a genealogy. You would have to know His heritage and right to the royal line. If you are to be king in Israel, you have to be of the line of David (Luke 1:32).

Although the endless list of names and “begetting” may seem boring, there are four things I would point out about this genealogy.
1) We are told this is the genealogy of Jesus Christ. It immediately it connects Jesus to Abraham, the father of the Hebrew nation, and to David, the greatest of all its kings (v. 1).
2) There are five significant women mentioned in this genealogy. Tamar in verse three whose story is told in Genesis 38. Rahab the harlot (v.5) who hid the spies sent in to Canaan to scout out the promised land. Ruth, the grandmother of David whose story is written in the Book of Ruth. Bathsheba, referred to as having been the wife of Uriah, and mother of Solomon (v. 6). And finally, Mary (v. 16).
It is unusual for women to be mentioned in genealogies at all. But the Holy Spirit chose to include them in the bloodline of Christ, each with their own unique story.
3) There are differences in the genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3. These are not errors but they follow two different lines of the family of David. Matthew follows the line of David’s son, Solomon while Luke follows the line of another son of David, Nathan. The result is two different genealogies but both affirming Jesus’ genetic right to be King in Israel and to sit on the throne of David. There are other things I could say here but time if of the essence and if anyone wants a further explanation, I would be glad to offer it.
4) Please note that after declaring the repetitious story of this one begetting this one, it changes when we get to Mary in verse 16. It does not say that Joseph fathered Jesus but that he was the husband of Mary “of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.” This protects and affirms that virgin birth of Jesus.

2. Christ Born of Mary (1:18-25)
We have just finished the Christmas season so this paragraph should be fresh in everyone’s memory. This is the birth of Jesus from Joseph’s perspective where the Luke birth narrative is primarily from Mary’s perspective. We can only imagine the difficult position in which Joseph found himself. Even more, we sometime forget the dangerous position Mary was in.

We see Joseph, the betrothed husband of Mary, discovering her pregnancy and jumping to the obvious conclusion, “Mary has been unfaithful.” I am certain Mary maintained her innocence and pleaded for his trust but how could he believe such an incredible story. The angel, the Holy Spirit overshadowing her and the child she bears is to be the Son of God. Just imagine.

We find Joseph weighing his options. The betrothal process was more than the exchange of rings. There was a contract. He owned her. He could have her stoned to death as an adulteress. He could marry her and raise the child as his own since on one had come forth to claim the baby. Or, he could divorce her according to Moses’ law. He could write her a bill of divorcement, place it in her hand so she could go and marry another man, assumedly the man who had impregnated her. He opted for the third option. Even more, he did not want it to be done publicly. He would be discrete and do the best he could to save her reputation, even at the expense of his own pride and dignity. I suggest that his motives were driven by love he had for that young girl.

Then God intervened. He sent His angel to Joseph in a dream to confirm Mary’s story. As incredible as it must have seemed to Joseph, Mary was to bear the Son of God who would save His people and all people from their sin. And as a sign of trust and grace, Joseph was to name the boy, Jesus. Immediately Joseph took steps to bring Mary home with him to care for her and protect her from the gossip of cruel tongues
I see this as a love story on two levels. First, the love of God for His creation. John said it this way, “God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son” as He had promised in Isaiah 7:14. The angel explained that was what was happening was a fulfillment of that prophecy that had been spoken eight hundred years earlier.

But it was also the story of a man’s love for a woman. Joseph truly loved his wife. He did not have intimate relations with her until after the birth of Jesus. But scripture records that they had children other children born to them later (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3).