Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Stand or fall

Matthew 24:1-2 / Mark 13:1-2 / Luke 21:5-6…

The disciples were excited because they knew that Jesus was the Messiah, and they knew that the corrupt religious system was coming down. They thought that the establishment of the kingdom was about to take place. So as they are leaving the temple, and heading up the Mount of Olives, they look out and remark upon the majesty and might of the buildings.

They wanted to know how these might be related to the judgment Jesus had been speaking of. Jesus tells them that despite the fact that they were built to last, they won’t survive the destruction that is to come. In fact, they would be totally demolished. The disciples are startled by this answer, and this is why they begin to ask questions about the timing of this judgment. This is the setting for what is known as the “Olivet Discourse”.

Has God brought down your walls? So many things that once seemed so instrumental in our understanding and things that seemed so vital to our daily life can come crumbling down. It is an act of God’s mercy if they are things that have been twisted into an instrument of iniquity in our spiritual lives. It is an opportunity for God’s grace if we need to build again.

Yet it is very possible for us to build upon a strong foundation with wood, hay and stubble (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). This is why we must keep connected to the divine design and our Heavenly Contractor. Otherwise we will be guilty of working without a license (Psalm 127:1). 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

An example of abuse

Mark 12:41-44 / Luke 21:1-4…

In examining this event, we must remember the context. Jesus had just pronounced condemnation against the religious leaders. He was about to pronounce judgment against the temple. In between we see Him speaking to His disciples about the giving of the people.

Certainly we see the obvious meaning. Though the rich threw in large sums, it was the widow’s offering that captured Jesus’ attention. It was not the amount the widow gave, but how much she kept back, which was nothing. In that sense the widow gave more proportionately than the rich.

However, Jesus was not simply condemning those who had put in much money. And Jesus was not simply commending the widow who had given it all. He was pointing to what He had just said about the Pharisees (Mark 12:40 / Luke 20:47). This poor woman was an example of how they were exploiting people in the name of ministry. This was against the Law of Moses and the nature of God (Exodus 22:22-24 / Deuteronomy 10:18).

When a religious system would take the last two coins out of a widow’s hand, under the pretense that it pleases God, something is beyond wrong. It is the kind of religious system that does irreparable harm. The religious leaders were abusing the poor. They had invented all sorts of tradition to manipulate the people (Mark 7:11-13). This type of thing was why Jesus was so fired up against the Pharisees. That temple treasury would fall to the ground, and all the trappings of false religion with it. 

Doesn’t this remind you of some in the professing church, who pry the pennies from the poor in the name of faith? They victimize the vulnerable. For all intents and purposes they teach that we can buy a blessing. They promise something they cannot deliver, taking the name of God in vain.

The truth is that Jesus does require us to give it all to Him. But in biblical ways, and that doesn’t necessarily mean a vow of poverty or the promise of prosperity to prop up some other ministry. False religion twists the biblical notion of self-sacrifice into a demonic device.

You see, false teachers really are the greatest danger to Christianity.

Monday, September 21, 2020

The greatest threat to Christianity

Matthew 23:13-36…

False teachers, with their false systems of religion, are the mortal enemies of truth. What they are delivering is far more dangerous than immorality and indifference. The truly loving thing is not to ignore but to confront, correct, and condemn soul killing error. The New Testament is all about this, and so was Jesus, as we see here.

The Pharisees outwardly honored the Word of God, but the manifesting of external forms of religious observance without an internal reality is actually the farthest thing from God imaginable. Jesus pronounced several denunciations upon them. He said they were “hypocrites”, “blind”, and “fools”. He said that to follow them meant you became a “child of hell”.  He called them “whitewashed tombs”, “full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” They were “serpents”, a “brood of vipers”, who would not “escape the sentence of hell”.

Jesus is not simply name calling or venting frustration. This is a calculated confrontation. His words are well chosen. He wants people whose hearts, from the inside out, have been given over to Him and who love Him with their whole being. He wants people to worship in both spirit and in truth. In the light of the greatest commands (Matthew 22:34-40 / Deuteronomy 6:4-5 / Leviticus 19:18) the religious leaders were hypocrites. He is warning against this type of superficial, external practice of religion.

Look at the “woes” Jesus uses. He curses the Pharisees for not only opposing the gospel message, but for oppressing those who accepted it. They practiced their religion for personal gain, exploiting people in the name of ministry. They evangelized people unto themselves, and people were worse off because of it. They made subtle distinctions in the truth and thereby encouraged people to be untruthful. They dealt with the little things while ignoring the big things. Their ceremony couldn’t hide their corruption. They looked right but were rotten.

They seemed to be repentant about the past but rejected the truth now and would rage against it in the future. They were not going to be held innocent. Jesus pronounced that this rejection would bring judgment. Within a generation of Jesus death, Jerusalem was destroyed and the people were decimated. It serves as a terrible warning to us all that divine judgment on hypocrisy and sin is inevitable.