Monday, September 30, 2013
Jesus makes a comparison between how it was in Noah’s day with how it will be when Christ returns. In the days before the flood, Noah knew what was coming. For 120 years He was preaching (2 Peter 2:5) and preparing (Hebrews 11:7), but people continued with their normal activities. Despite Noah’s warnings, they remained unaware or unconvinced that destruction was coming upon them. The crisis was unexpected. The unbelievers were not prepared for God’s judgment. Only when it was too late did the people know how wrong they were.
They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. Jesus had referred to this imagery before (Luke 17:26-27). The point is not that these things were wicked in themselves, but that people are so absorbed in worldly pursuits that they pay no attention to solemn warnings. Some were planning for their future on the earth, but not for their future in eternity. Jesus wanted His disciples to understand the signs of the times, and be ready, unlike those who did not believe and would not understand, and not be ready.
One will be taken and one left. This does not refer to believers being taken out of the trouble, but rather to unbelievers who are taken in judgment during the trouble. Just as people were taken away in judgment by the flood of Noah’s day, so too, will people be taken away in judgment during the return of Jesus.
One of the many things that separate believers from unbelievers is that believers trust God’s prophetic word. An unbeliever has to be shown these things through experience. If you have to learn this lesson by experience, it will be too late. The time to get aboard the Ark is now.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
Matthew 24:32-36 / Mark 13:28-32 / Luke 21:29-33…
Jesus uses illustrations to give us a seasonal approach to prophecy. He had spoken about the coming destruction of the temple, and also about the signs of the Second Coming. He says that the signs He had been speaking about would help us recognize when His return is drawing near. It will be just like you can recognize the nearing of summer when a fig tree puts out leaves. We will know when the season is upon us, but we will not know the exact date of His coming.
Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. The generation that sees the signs will see His return. When the signs of the beginning of the end come, then the end will come relatively quickly, within a generation. Jesus’ words had relevance to those who heard Him speak these words. There was tribulation, and there was destruction. They will also be relevant to the saints of the last days as well. There are some things yet to be fulfilled, in a sense, and the return of Christ will be preceded by these same signs.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Jesus does not allow us to dismiss these words, no matter what generation we are in. There will be deception and destruction, discernment and deliverance. How this looks in each generation may seem different, but it will still be true. The ultimate fulfillment of this is the eternal state.
But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. In the Incarnation, Jesus was still fully God, but He had now also become fully man. In doing so, Jesus voluntarily limited His knowledge to what the Father chose to reveal to Him. So you see, no matter how neatly we can package our prophetic predictions, the question remains. It isn’t, “When is Jesus coming back?” It is, “Are you ready?”
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Matthew 24:29-31 / Mark 13:24-27 / Luke 21:25-28…
It is interesting how, even though we humans are all quite the same in most ways, what brings us distress or delight can be quite different. It can even be that way with the same things. One person loves something, another hates it. One adores something, another wants to avoid it altogether. Something that brings nothing but satisfaction to one person is the very same thing that brings nothing but sorrow to another.
So it is with the spiritual life. As a Christian we receive a new set of standards and affections. Things we once despised we are now devoted to. Things we once advocated for we now admonish against. Things that brought us sinful pleasure now bring us spiritual pain. Some things we couldn’t wait for before we never want to see again. Some things we hoped weren’t true we now look forward to. Things we once lived for we are called to die to.
In describing His return, Jesus uses some incredible imagery taken from the Old Testament. It seems unbelievable, but it is oh so true. Scenes in the sky, cataclysm on the earth, and chaos among the people will be as never before. It is quite the dramatic picture. It will be so vivid, and so intense, that some will simply die of fear. Some may want to but won’t be able to.
Think about that for a moment. For the Christian, the Second Coming of Christ will be the time of greatest joy. Yet for the unbeliever, it will be the time of greatest fear. For the Christian, it will only get better from there. For the unbeliever it will only get worse.
And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call. A real relationship with God, through time and maturation, transmits the character of Christ. Experience only confirms this knowledge, producing trust, which in turn fosters obedience. If living for Christ, winning others to Christ, and edifying our brothers and sisters in Christ isn’t becoming our consuming passion, then are we really worshipping Christ? If you aren’t answering the call now, what makes you think you will receive it when He returns?
Friday, September 27, 2013
Matthew 24:23-28 / Mark 13:21-23…
Jesus had been describing a scenario with many troubles, set for the near future, and also with a more distant fulfillment. When these awful events take place, many will be looking for the appearance of Christ. Yet He would not be found in the places people were saying He was. There are always false messiahs lurking about and looking to lead people into destruction. This would be especially true around the times Jesus was talking about.
These false people will be very popular because they will manifest power. Yet just because something is real doesn’t mean it is right (Deuteronomy 13:1-4). Just because something looks good doesn’t mean it is good (2 Corinthians 11:4, 13-15). You can have powerful experiences, but again, just because it is “real” doesn’t mean that it is “true”. Not everything that claims to be Christian actually is.
Anything that doesn’t line up with the Jesus of the Bible is a false Christ. Anything that lessons our esteem for Jesus as the omnipotent God who created all things, is eternally self-existent, and became flesh (fully God AND fully man), is not from God. Jesus must be portrayed as the only means of salvation. His centrality and supremacy must be at the forefront of anything that claims to be from God (Revelation 1:8).
See, I have told you beforehand. Many know the signs but don’t know the Savior. They will fall prey to a superstitious type of expectancy, and follow false Christ’s and false prophets. We even see it happening today. It will only increase. True believers won’t be deceived, but the problem is that many are deceived into thinking that they are true believers. A saving faith leads to a living faith. In the end, while there are many who know certain facts, they don’t live the faith, and they will not get away with it (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12).
When Christ comes it will be like lightning in the sky. You won’t miss it, just like you can’t miss the vultures circling around the dead meat. The coming of Christ to the earth won’t be a secret entrance, it will be very visible. The coming of Christ into a life is also not something that can be hidden. It will have manifest evidence.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Matthew 24:15-22 / Mark 13:14-20 / Luke 21:20-24…
Jesus gives instructions to the people in Jerusalem that would be going through a severe time of tribulation. It is clear that He is speaking of the first-century Roman invasion. Yet it is equally clear that Jesus was also referring to a time in the more distant future, because there are other things mentioned that were not fulfilled in the first century.
When looking at an obviously prophetic passage, we are tempted to think it doesn’t apply to us because it was something that happened in the past, or it is something we won’t be around for in the future. Of course, we can go too far in the opposite direction and make the study of prophecy the singular focus of our daily life. The point is that eschatology (the study of the end) should spur us to evangelism (the sharing of the faith) and earnestness (1 John 3:2-3).
There are several things in this passage that apply to us today. The trials that we face are in accordance with the plan of God revealed in His Word. We know that we will face trouble because we stand for the truth. But that doesn’t mean we should put ourselves in harms’ way, or court conflict. Things may get intense, and it’s okay to pray for the suffering to end, and for the strength to endure. Whatever may be going on in our lives, we should always remember that God writes the whole story, so we can trust Him as He brings us through the drama.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Matthew 24:9-14 / Mark 13:9-13 / Luke 21:12-19…
Jesus had just told of some troubling times that would begin to happen near the end of the age. The disciples had probably thought that these things would happen at the same time as the destruction of the temple and that this would all coincide with the return of the Messiah. Yet Jesus made it clear that while some of these things would happen before the destruction of the temple, all of this would happen before the return of the Messiah. It isn’t one conclusive event.
In the meantime, Jesus let them know that they should anticipate persecution and hard times. The true Christians of this world will be marked for malice. Many will fall away from the faith. If you are a true believer, you will not be able to disguise yourself. The distinctions will be made, and the false believers will come against you.
There will be all sorts of offense, sin, betrayal, and hatred, especially towards the true. We will be seen as the problem, and false prophets will lead many into deception. Because of this rampant sin and deception, the world will embrace a love that isn’t love. Civil rebellion, mutual suspicion, and hatred for the holy will reign. Outright rage will be the reality.
These kinds of things are always present in a fallen world (Philippians 1:29 / 2 Timothy 3:12 / 1 Peter 4:12). But there will be times when they will increase in intensity. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. This was true near the end of the age of Jerusalem in the first century. It will also be the case with the end of the age in the future. In any time, our duty is to hold fast to our profession (Hebrews 10:23-25).
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. This certainly has the flavor of the future about it. Still, it did concern those disciples and the near immediate future. Yet it also has something to do with all disciples and the future of all of us. The truth is, the end of your life will come, and the gospel has been preached to you as a testimony. The question is, if you were to die today, or if Christ were to return today, are you ready for judgment (Hebrews 9:27-28)?
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Matthew 24:3-8 / Mark 13:3-8 / Luke 21:7-11…
Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age? There is a wide diversity of interpretations offered for what is often called the “Olivet Discourse”. Some say that it is entirely about events related to the second coming of Christ. Others say that it is entirely about events related to the destruction of Jerusalem which occurred in 70 A.D. Still others believe it contains reference to both of these events. In any event, it is scripture, and therefore profitable for us to examine (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
See that no one leads you astray. Before Jesus gives the sign of His coming, He points to several happenings to be looking for. These things are important to understand no matter what era of time we are in. The main point that Jesus is teaching the disciples, all disciples, is the same thing, in essence. The point of all these prophecies and warnings is that we may not be lead astray and away from truth and into error. The key in all of this is to be anchored to the true, living Christ.
Jesus paints a prophetic picture, where these trends and troubles would run concurrently and crescendo like the pains of a woman giving birth. False teachers and fearsome events will bring temptations to apostasy. There will be many who claim to be of Christ or claim they are the Christ, and will lead many away from the One True God. There will be an increase in deception and destruction, war, famine and death.
Still, the end is not yet… All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. We can be on the lookout for such things and still be looking away from Jesus. That is the nature of deception: we don’t know it. The question is, are you growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), or are you carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability (2 Peter 3:17)?
Monday, September 23, 2013
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).
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Mark 12:41-44 / Luke 21:1-4…
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,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.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
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.
Friday, September 20, 2013
Matthew 23:1-12 / Mark 12:38-40 / Luke 20:45-47…
Who you are following matters. Who and how you lead matters. Being a disciple means submitting to a higher authority who serves as your teacher, guide, and leader. The warning of Jesus addresses the dangers of discipleship as practiced by the Jews of His day, and also exposes the critical danger threatening the church and its disciples today. Actions speak louder than words. But words help people to understand actions. And we are called to have both.
Jesus said that as long as the people in power would agree with the law of God, you are to do what they teach. But He also tells them that they are to be careful who they follow and how they follow them. Like many, there was a difference between their words and their works. They could tell you what the Word of God said, but they themselves do not do it.
They are hypocrites. They don’t practice what they preach. Look at how Jesus speaks of them, and relate that to today. The application is clear. They are taskmasters who won’t even take up the task themselves. They are showmen without shame. They want the spotlight on their spirituality. They are tickled by hearing their titles. Do we see that today?
This isn’t just about spiritual leaders; it applies to all our desire for recognition, especially if we have not merited the mention. People can acclaim you, and that isn’t bad in itself. It is when we seek their approval instead of God’s that we fall into this snare. Have you looked in the mirror?
Jesus tells His disciples to avoid such things. Leave the accolades to the actors, and the self-promotion to the sanctimonious. The truly great one spiritually is the person who serves with humility. This is the person who doesn’t have to exalt themself. God takes care of that, in His own time and His own way. If you don’t believe that, it is because you lack a humble trust.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Matthew 22:41-46 / Mark 12:35-37 / Luke 20:41-44…
In His back and forth with the religious leaders, Jesus had answered the big questions about our responsibility to government (Matthew 22:15-22), life after death (Matthew 22:23-33), and our most important duty (Matthew 22:34-40).
Now He would add a question to that mix, and it is the most profound of them all. The right answer to this question is the difference between heaven and hell. No matter what you are going through today, or any day, the most important issue in your life is your answer to His question. What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?
They said to him, "The son of David." It had been taught for hundreds of years that the Messiah would be the son of David, in other words, a descendent from his physical line (2 Samuel 7:13 / Isaiah 7:13-14, 9:6-7, 11:1-4 / Jeremiah 23:5-6 / Ezekiel 34:23-24 / Amos 9:11 / Matthew 1:1, 21:9 / Luke 1:69-70 / John 7:41-42 / Acts 13:22-23). He would be the God appointed ruler who would stop the enemies of God’s people and establish justice and righteousness in the land.
Their answer was obvious, but it was only half right, and a half right answer isn’t enough for the most important question of life. They thought of Him as a human warrior rather than a divine Savior. Jesus was telling them that He would be much more than that. They thought all they needed was a king who would lead them out of captivity. They didn’t realize that the real bondage they needed delivery from was sin.
Jesus penetrates deeper into who He really is with His next question. If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son? If the Christ is who you say He is, then why does the Word of God say what it says (Psalm 110:1)? Jesus was saying that King David was calling the Messiah Lord (cf. Acts 2:34-35 / 1 Corinthians 15:25 / Hebrews 1:13). He is asserting the deity of the Christ.
Have you considered the ramifications of the deity of Jesus? Apart from it there is no hope of salvation. No matter what your problems are, in the end, Jesus is the answer to everything. The silence of the Pharisees didn’t hide their guilt. Everyone has to answer the most important question in the world.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Matthew 22:34-40 / Mark 12:28-34…
And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. This man is perhaps a little less closed minded than the rest (Mark 12:28, 32-34) but he still has an agenda. The religious leaders had believed that the teachings of Jesus were against Moses. Of course, Jesus said otherwise (Matthew 5:17). They want Jesus to say that He was giving them a law that superseded Moses, so they could charge Him as a blasphemer. In fact, they were the ones who changed the law by their traditions, while Jesus pointed to the spiritual essence of the law.
Which commandment is the most important of all? Jesus quotes Moses (Deuteronomy 6:4-5), exactly what they thought He wouldn’t do. We are called to love God with our whole being. It is more than mere belief (James 2:19), and it wasn’t something new (Nehemiah 1:5). In the light of this command, the religious leaders were hypocrites (Matthew 23:13-36).
God’s desire has always been that people would love Him fully, which results in trust and obedience. Specifically, it results in loving your neighbor as yourself. If we have this vertical love, toward God, then horizontal love, toward others, will naturally flow. If we relate to God rightly then we will relate to others rightly, and conversely if there is a problem with others we have a problem with God.
God is not saying we need to elevate our love for ourselves or for others as much as He is saying that we already love ourselves enough (Ephesians 5:29) and we should love others as much (Leviticus 19:18 / Matthew 7:12 / Galatians 5:14 / James 2:8-10 / Romans 13:8-10). This is done by loving God first. We must get the order of this right or we miss the point.
The real problem is that none of us can do this fully. However, and hallelujah, Christ has done it for us. Now, as Christians, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can begin to fulfill this in our daily lives. The more you look to God and His love for you, the more you will live like it matters, and the more you will show it towards others.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Matthew 22:23-33 / Mark 12:18-27 / Luke 20:27-40…
First the Pharisees tried to trip Jesus up, and now it was the Sadducees turn. They tried to outwit the Master. Their question about whose wife this seven-times-married woman would be in the resurrection stemmed from a law that God gave his Old Testament people through Moses (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). God set down that law to protect widows and to guarantee continuance of a deceased man’s family line.
Jesus said the truth was that they didn’t understand the truth in the first place. He knew that they didn’t believe in the resurrection, and He confronted their unbelief with the truth of the Scriptures. He took them back to the burning bush (Exodus 3:6), the time where God told Moses about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and said “I am” their God not that “I was” their God. Therefore Jesus declares that the Lord “is not the God of the dead, but of the living” This stopped the Sadducees in their tracks.
The God of the living will raise everyone from the dead. The question is, to what are you going to be raised to, eternal life or eternal damnation (Job 19:25-27 / Daniel 12:2 / John 5:28-29 / 1 Corinthians 6:14)? It all depends on what you do with Jesus (John 11:25-26 / Hebrews 9:27). A saving faith leads to a living faith (1 Peter 1:3-9), in the God of the living (Galatians 2:20).
Monday, September 16, 2013
Matthew 22:15-22 / Mark 12:13-17 / Luke 20:20-26…
Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians. The religious and political leaders were not in agreement with one another about Roman rule, but they were in cahoots about Christ.
The Pharisees were anti-Rome, being loyal to the religious establishment. They did not favor taxes to Caesar because it intruded on their dominion. The Herodians were loyal to Herod, the political leader dependent on Roman rule. They favored taxes to Caesar because it expanded their dominion.
Both groups felt threatened by Jesus, and wanted Him out of the way. If Jesus were to say it is unlawful to pay taxes to Caesar, the Herodians would charge Jesus with advocating a political rebellion. If He said it was lawful, the Pharisees would charge that Jesus was advocating a compromise with Rome, and disloyal to God. They wanted to charge Him with either blasphemy or insurrection.
Jesus doesn’t avoid the question, but He doesn’t give them their yes or no answer either. His answer affirms the good purpose of civil government, and calls for us to be good citizens. Jesus would pay taxes to a pagan Roman government. He also paid taxes to a corrupt religious body, questioning its validity, but paying it anyway (Matthew 17:24-27 / cf. Romans 13:7).
The coin bore Caesars image, but humanity bears God’s image. We can support civil government and remain devoted to God, unless it commands what God forbids or forbids what God commands.
The Pharisees and Herodians were worried about what type of revolution Jesus was fomenting. They didn’t understand that His revolution was launched by putting Him to death. Ultimately the enemy is not the one we disagree with politically, the enemy is the sin inside.
Sunday, September 15, 2013
Jesus had been teaching for three years, but the leaders have rejected Him, becoming hostile. He used parables as a sign of judgment against all those who would not receive Him as Messiah. This is the last of three consecutive parables used to convey this spiritual truth.
In the story, a king sent out invitations to a royal wedding for his son, with a feast that would be lavish and a festival that would last for days on end. It would be inconceivable that those invited would not come to this wondrous occasion. In fact, they would be in trouble if they dishonored the king and his son by not coming. Yet they rejected the first invitation.
However, the gracious king offered another invitation to these same guests. There was still plenty that had been prepared. Yet they were indifferent. To the people listening to this story, it must have seemed impossible to believe. Who could be so ignorant, and so ridiculous?
Worse, some of the people actually took and murdered the messengers. Not coming to the feast was bad enough, but killing the servants was simply malicious. The king had finally had enough, and his judgment of the people was swift and severe.
So a new invitation was given to everyone and anyone. The moral and the immoral are invited just the same. But one man came as an intruder; it was obvious that he didn’t come on the king’s terms. He was thrown out and would suffer great regret.
In the story, the Father was the king, and the son was Jesus. The guests were the Israelites, the servants would be the preachers and prophets, and the feast would be heaven. But we must realize that vs.11-14 talk about us. And there are no “gate crashers” in the kingdom. You have to have on the right clothes (cf. Isaiah 61:10 / Jeremiah 23:6 / 2 Corinthians 5:21). The evidence of this is a life that desires holiness, a living faith (Galatians 2:20 / 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8).
The gospel invitation goes out everywhere. We must accept the gracious invitation by coming to God on His terms. That is, humbly, gratefully, receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in repentance and faith. This is what it means to be among the chosen, not just the called.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Matthew 21:33-46 / Mark 12:1-12 / Luke 20:9-19…
Hear another parable. Jesus is once again bringing the religious leaders into the story, having them draw a conclusion, and then turning their own judgment back on them. He shows them the folly of their own way. Of course an image in the mirror can be hidden by a hard heart.
The owner represents God. The vineyard represents Israel (cf. Isaiah 5:1-7). The tenants were the Jewish leadership. The servants were the prophets. The son is Christ. God had brought the Jews out of Egyptian slavery, and gave them a land. God sent prophets, and they beat and killed them (cf. 2 Chronicles 36:15-16). When God sent His Son, they would not respect Him, but would seek to kill Him. Like the wicked tenants, they sought their own gain, but it only revealed their own depravity. They did not honor or respect the things and call of God. Jesus quotes one of their favorite Psalms to show them their error in their own words (Psalm 118:22-23).
The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. Because those entrusted with the vineyard of God had cared for it so badly, God’s program would be given to another people who would produce righteousness (Romans 9:25-26). The role of the Jewish rulers over God’s covenant people was coming to an end (cf. Isaiah 8:13-15).
God often bestows wonderful blessings, but we often make bad use of them. If God did not spare those generations of Jews who rejected Him, it will be the same for us if we reject Him through our rebellion (Romans 11:21). Those who claim to be disciples must submit to the authority of Christ and bring forth fruit of repentance. Being born again means we have a changed life.
Friday, September 13, 2013
What do you think? Jesus used stories to draw people into the message, in order to powerfully apply the truth and bring it home to the heart. He caused the religious leaders to come to a conclusion about it, and then used that as a mirror in order to convict them of their sins. He also used these stories to provide comfort to those who would turn to Him. If we prayerfully read our Bibles, and men faithfully preach the Word, it does the same things for us.
This parable gives us a clear picture about the nature of repentance. A certain son said he would not do the work his father had asked him to do. Yet he later repented and did the work. There are those who have openly rebelled. Yet they have seen their sin, turned from it, and come to Christ. They have done God’s will. They repented.
This parable also gives us a clear picture about the nature of rebellion. Another son said he would do the work his father had asked him to do. Yet he rebelled and did not do the work. There are those who say the right thing, but do not do it. They are hypocritical about their sin, remain in it, and do not repent. They have not done God’s will. They rebelled.
Both sons were disobedient, but one realized he had done wrong, and had a change of heart. The other only pretended to be obedient, but he remained hypocritical. This represented those in Israel who had been openly rebellious, but who turned to Jesus, and those who looked and sounded righteous, but who had rejected God.
Jesus is telling the religious leaders that they are the hypocritical son. It is the Father’s will that we see our sin, repent of it, and place our trust in Christ. Hypocrisy keeps us from receiving grace because we pretend we don’t need it by refusing to confess our sin.
The question is, which son are you?
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Matthew 21:23-27 / Mark 11:27-33 / Luke 20:1-8…
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, when He cleansed the temple the first time, they had questioned His authority (John 2:18). They are asking the same question again, even though they knew that Jesus always claimed His authority was from God (John 8:28-29). They were hoping He might say it directly here in the temple, because the crowd was at a fever pitch because of Jesus’ teaching (Luke 19:48), and they thought they might charge Him with blasphemy.
Instead, Jesus confronts them with a counter question. “John’s baptism” referred to his ministry of repentance, preparing people for the coming of Messiah, and announcing the Messiah. The leaders realize that Jesus has put them on the spot. If they say it is from God, then they are exposed as frauds for rejecting it (Luke 7:29-30). If they say it’s from man, they would be accused of blasphemy instead of Jesus, because most people saw John as a prophet. They either have to admit that Jesus is the Messiah, or deny that John the Baptist was a prophet of God.
So they answered that they did not know where it came from. Their refusal to answer the question shows their refusal to receive the light that was given to them, both through John and through Jesus. Wherever John’s authority came from is where Jesus’ authority came from. They claimed to be religious, but were simply rejecting God on all counts.
It is just so today. Sometimes people claim to be agnostic when they just want to avoid what they really know to be true. Many use the excuse of not being able to understand the Bible as a reason for not admitting the truth they do know, and what their conscience tells them. But none of that will excuse you before God. God has made Himself clear. The reason you don’t understand Jesus is that you won’t admit that He is right about your sinfulness.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Matthew 21:20-22 / Mark 11:20-26…
The disciples noticed that the fruitless fig tree (Matthew 21:18-19 / Mark 11:12-14) had dried up. Jesus used this to teach two important lessons. A saving faith will lead to a living faith, and spiritual fruit is the sign of spiritual life. He mentions two specific fruits of genuine faith that are very difficult to counterfeit. Jesus also teaches us that these things are linked.
The first fruit was prayer, a fruit He found missing in the temple (Matthew 21:13 / Mark 11:17). He was not teaching us that grace has given us a “blank check” and that all we have to do is express sufficient faith to “fill it out”. We must always have confidence in God’s power but also submission to His will (Mark 14:36 / 1 John 5:14-15). Prayers are expressions of faith, that God will accomplish even the impossible, according to His sovereign will.
The second fruit was forgiveness. Forgiven people become forgiving people. If you know God’s forgiveness in your heart, you can forgive others from your heart. Conversely, unforgiveness is the great obstacle of faith and faithful prayer. It is when we are not forgiving others from our heart that we begin to doubt God.
The object of faith is God, who empowers His children to believe, serve, and glorify Him through the power of the faith in Him that He gives to us. The opportunity of faith is to believe in Him for and through the seemingly impossible. The obstacle of faith is unforgiveness. We must be willing to forgive, because a biblically forgiving spirit is a faithful one.
It is time for some fruit inspection in your life (2 Corinthians 13:5). Are you only appearing fruitful from a distance? How is your prayer life? When the tough times come, do you still believe in God, faithfully praying? How is your forgiveness account, do you dole out the mercy and grace from your heart and before God quickly, or do you have a bitter bank statement? Does a closer examination reveal true, lasting fruit (Psalm 19:12-14, 139:23-24)?
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
And Jesus cried out and said…He had already departed and hid himself from them (John 12:36). Here John is giving a summary of what Jesus had been saying and revealing in this gospel account. The words of Jesus cry out against the fear of men (Matthew 10:28 / Luke 12:4-5 / John 12:42). To believe in Jesus is to believe in God the Father (John 1:3, 15:24 / 2 Corinthians 4:6 / Colossians 1:15 / Hebrews 1:3). To believe Jesus is to receive Light from God (John 8:12, 9:5, 12:35), and to reject Jesus is to remain in darkness (John 3:19 / Ephesians 5:14).
Jesus came to save people (John 3:16-17), and those who reject Him are rejecting the only means of salvation (John 14:6 / Acts 4:12 / 1 Timothy 2:5). They will not do the things Jesus has said are the commandments of God (Matthew 7:24), and so therefore they will be judged according to the words Jesus has spoken (Matthew 7:26). These commandments are essentially a call to believe on Jesus as Messiah, as Christ, as the Son of God, as the only Savior, and as our personal savior (Matthew 10:32 / Mark 1:15 / Luke 12:8 / John 6:28-29).
It is all one package together. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is functionally subordinate to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:27-28 / Philippians 2:6-7), obeying His will perfectly and completely (John 5:19, 8:28-29, 42, 14:10). Jesus is not the originator of the message, He is on a mission from the Father and it is the Father’s words He speaks. The words and works of Jesus that result from the commandment the Father has given Him are the source of eternal life in the world. Therefore, to believe in the Son is to believe in the Father, is to have eternal life (John 6:68, 17:3, 20:31 / 1 John 2:25, 3:23-24, 5:11-13, 20).
Monday, September 09, 2013
The rejection of Jesus was not a rational thing. He had done so many signs and wonders it was an almost more amazing wonder that most had not believed. Instead of an intellectual thing, it was a prophetic thing. This rejection was to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 53:1-3). Their own sin led to the hardening of their hearts, and the miracles only calcified their consciences. However, their unbelief did not ruin the purposes of God, but rather confirmed them.
Therefore they could not believe. John wants us to understand the grace of God toward us who are not Jews. The plan of God included us and in order for that plan to include us as an individual, it had to be taken away from Israel as a nation (Romans 9:6-8, 11:25). God ordained that the Jews reject Jesus that He might be crucified for our sins.
This rejection involved both the will of the unbelieving Jews and the will of God (Acts 2:23). This was all known to God and all predicted by Isaiah, who saw the glory of the Lord (Isaiah 6:1-4), and therefore submitted to His sovereignty (Isaiah 6:8-10). He was given the picture of the Messiah as the Suffering Servant, the sacrifice for man’s sin (Isaiah 53:4-12). God is sovereign, and to deny that is to attempt to rob Him of glory.
People think they can wait to submit to Jesus, but the longer they wait, the more difficult it gets. Even when we have committed to Christ, Christians struggle with the temptation to be secret and blend in with the world (but for fear…they did not confess it). The truth is that we are more concerned with our own comfort than we are about seeing God’s glory as revealed in Scripture. Consequently, we fear the world and love its glory. Conversely, if we see His glory, this is what calms our fears.
For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. If you seek your own glory, you will see Jesus with the eyes of fear. If you seek God’s glory, you will see Jesus with the eyes of faith. There is a price to following Jesus. The offer is free, but it will mean the loss of certain things. For Jesus, obedience cost Him His life. In one way or another, it will cost you yours as well.
It all depends on how you see things.
Sunday, September 08, 2013
Jesus teaches us that to die to self and to serve Him will bring honor from God the Father, and spiritual light will be the result. Walking in this light will increase our fruitfulness, and it will lead us down the path of finding our satisfaction in God and His plan.
We say that we believe this, but then we ask, “Why is it so hard?”
The truth is we don’t fully submit and so we see the obstacles to faith not the object of it. Sometimes we see Jesus as our all in all in general terms, but something else looms larger in the moment. We stop walking and the light grows dim, we can’t see where we are going, and we fail to move from fear.
For some it is simply a struggle with submission itself. For them spiritual vision is mostly an idea. Jesus really isn’t in focus day by day, and He is just turned to when everything else is closing in on them. Many people want just enough God to get out of trouble, but only so as to try it their way once again. The problem with this is that if you get out of trouble, but you don’t get into truth, you will get back into trouble again. Your way won’t work, and you have to see that submission to God is the way into true fulfillment for you.
This is the true problem; people don’t believe God will do right by them, as far as they measure such things. They feel and live as if their ultimate good must also include their temporal satisfaction. They may indeed let God define a good ending but they define a good life.
The way to spiritual vision is the same in every avenue of life. You must follow Christ to the Cross by faith. There is no side road to salvation, or deliverance. If you want the power of God, if you want to learn to value the vision, to see how good God really is, you must go down Repentance Road, and make sure you stop at Submission Street. If you don’t, believe me, you will have made a wrong turn.
Saturday, September 07, 2013
Mark 11:18-19 / Luke 19:47-48…
And he was teaching daily in the temple. He cleansed it, then He healed in it, and now He taught in it. The religious leaders were boiling mad. They had tried to outsmart and outwit Him, and that having failed, they were out to kill Him.
But they did not find anything they could do. It was evident to them that Jesus had power with the people; they were looking on Him as a hero. This meant that while the chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, they had to be careful not to start a riot, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.
Jesus was at the height of His popularity for now. There was an excitement about His ministry, but it was mostly a “mob” mentality. The increase of the crowds stirred excitement, but the religious leaders will eventually get the people to turn on Jesus. For all the people were hanging on his words, but they did not do them (Ezekiel 33:30-33 / Mark 4:16-17 / James 1:22).
Many can be stirred to excitement for a moment, yet in the end it is merely an excitement about being a part of the “in crowd”, being at the place where things are “happening.” It is the same today as it was back then; Christians and churches can be swept away with such a mentality.
Are we using church activity as a covering for a life of sin? Are we being transformed, or are we merely excited that our church or doctrine is growing in popularity? Is this thing permanent to you? It does no good if your favor of Jesus is just the flavor of the week.
Friday, September 06, 2013
Matthew 21:12-17 / Mark 11:15-17 / Luke 19:45-46…
Near the beginning of His ministry, Jesus went to the temple and drove out those who used the people for the sake of money (John 2:13-22). Here, near the end of His ministry, Jesus once again enters the temple and demonstrates the nature of His kingdom.
The problem for Israel was not Roman oppression, but their abandonment of God. They had went right back to doing all the ungodly and unholy things they were doing three years earlier when He came the first time. And so Jesus once again demonstrated God’s vengeance against false religion and blasphemy.
The religious authorities had been looking to kill Jesus, yet here He shows who has the real authority. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. They weren’t able to stop Him from stopping their enterprise.
In the intervening years between these temple visits, Jesus had seen much injustice, and He will indeed set all these things right when He comes again. But the political, economic, and social issues were not Jesus’ mission. In His first advent, sin was the issue. He must first come as savior, and then as sovereign.
He drives the money out and calls the ministry in. Their corruption is contrasted by His conviction (My house shall be called a house of prayer, cf. Isaiah 56:7) and His compassion (And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them). Their contention (But…the chief priests…were indignant) is met by His correction (Out of the mouth of infants…you have prepared praise, cf. Psalm 8:2). The chiefs were full of wrath while the children were full of worship.
Yes, it takes money to keep a machine going. But it takes the Spirit of God to keep ministry going. While God seems to allow all of this false religion and blasphemy to go on, when He decides it will end, He will end it, starting with the church (1 Peter 4:17).
Thursday, September 05, 2013
Matthew 21:18-19 / Mark 11:12-14…
This was not some impulsive act by Jesus. It might not have yet been fig season, but this particular tree had already put out leaves. In the case of figs the fruit comes before the leaves. This is why Jesus said what He did. It was because the tree had put out leaves, and so there should have been figs on the tree. This was a vivid object lesson. The nation of Israel was withering. It had some of the look of a righteous people, but it in fact was headed for destruction, which would happen in 70 AD. Jesus was predicting and proclaiming this.
This lesson also applies to us as individuals. Many hold promise but they have no produce. In other words, many seem to have the fruit of godliness, but only from a distance. Upon closer inspection it is revealed that their produce is in the realm of earthly, worldly graces. It is not evidence of saving faith. It has the look of the leaves but is simply evidence of a false fruit, fools fruit, which can be had by anyone under the sun. It is not born from the Spirit of God but by the heart of man.
Fools fruit, like fools gold, looks like the real thing, but to the trained eye, it is seen to be the worthless fake that it is (Hebrews 5:14). There are many plans, programs, and personalities out there that purport to be Christian, and that promise us freedom and faithfulness, but they are the stuff of Satan and his minions (2 Peter 2:19 / 1 Timothy 4:1).
What about your own life? Is Christianity for you just some sort of reforming movement, or are you truly being transformed? Is there something new in your life, something unmistakably supernatural, as from the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22-23)? The world can counterfeit the fruit of the Spirit; do you know the difference (2 Corinthians 13:5)? Is there real fruit in your life, or are you just becoming “a nicer person”? Do you know what you are looking at?
If you have no real fruit you have no real future. Not with God, anyway.
Wednesday, September 04, 2013
Jesus knew that His so-called Triumphal Entry was not what many thought. He knew that judgment was coming upon Jerusalem because you did not know the time of your visitation. The people didn’t understand the deliverance that was coming to them. They would refuse Jesus as the Messiah, and rejecting Him as the way of peace led to the destruction that would follow.
As He began to enter Jerusalem, the parade of people seemed to know Jesus was Messiah. However, as He drew closer, we see that Jesus knew that they didn’t actually know the things that make for peace. They were looking for Jesus to fulfill a need they didn’t really need, and were blind to the need they really had. What they needed was not peace with the Romans being overthrown, but peace with God because sin was overthrown.
Unfortunately this same rejection plays itself out repeatedly in the lives of many people. So often, we assume that we will have many chances to respond to the same opportunity. People reject the peace of God by their rebellion, and think that He will be there for them to follow whenever and however they may choose. Some may eventually come to the Lord, or return to Him, but life is short and its length is uncertain (James 4:14), and soon you will be called to account (Hebrews 9:27). Now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).
There are many people today who think they know what they need to, but they in fact do not have the true knowledge they need. We forfeit much peace as the consequence of rebellion and earn nothing but heartache after heartache. Some have their hearts become so hardened that they never return to the Lord. Let’s live for Jesus and let our lives not be squandered on what is not peace! Jesus knew the terms of peace. Do you?
Tuesday, September 03, 2013
Matthew 21:1-11 / Mark 11:1-11 / Luke 19:28-40 / John 12:12-19…
As Jesus made His entry into Jerusalem, He was fulfilling prophecy by riding on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). The excited people were waving palm branches and shouting Hosanna, publically proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah.
This was a tradition which had its roots some 200 years previously, following the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, who was prophesied about (Daniel 7:8, 20, 24-25, 8:9-12, 23-25, 9:26-27, 11:21-39). He was a type of the Antichrist. He placed a statue of Zeus in the temple, and slaughtered a pig in the Most Holy place. Epiphanes beat the Jews into submission, but after several years of this, a man named Judas Maccabee, whose name meant “hammer”, his brothers, and his band of renegades miraculously overcame and drove Epiphanies from Jerusalem.
The people spontaneously celebrated by waving palm branches. From that time on, the back of Jewish coinage depicted a palm branch as a symbol of deliverance from oppression. This is what Hanukkah is all about. So Hosanna is a cry for salvation (deliverance), while at the same time is a declaration of praise.
Now the Jews find themselves oppressed again, by the Romans. When the people cried Hosanna and waved palm branches as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, they were essentially saying, “Be Judas Maccabee. Deliver us from the Romans.” But when they realized Jesus had a different agenda than a political one, a different agenda than a national one, and a different agenda than a material one – some changed their cry from “Hosanna” to “Crucify Him.”
The same is still true. Christians individually and churches corporately will mobilize politically, aiming to change our government, to change our economy, and to change society. That isn’t all bad, but it is one thing to shout at a parade or sign a petition, and something else altogether to stand at the foot of the Cross. It is one thing to cry out against the sins of others, but quite another to suffer the death of your own self and your sin. The Jews wanted religious and political freedom, and prosperity, just like many of the leaders of today. However, Jesus did not come to save us from our social situation; He came to save us from our sinful situation.
Monday, September 02, 2013
The Jewish hope for the Messiah was especially heightened during Passover, when the population of Jerusalem multiplied four to six times and people would be camping all around the area. Imagine the excitement when the people who had come learned that Jesus has recently raised a man from the dead. Lazarus was the living proof of His Messianic claims.
As a result, many Jews were leaving the religion of the Pharisees and going after Jesus. As word gets out that Jesus is near, a large crowd heads toward Bethany to meet Him. They also want to see Lazarus. But while Jesus inspires the messianic hopes of some, the chief priests, who had determined earlier that Jesus must die, now decide that Lazarus must die as well. The hatred aimed at Jesus boils over against Lazarus. One sin so quickly and so easily leads to another.
How can people be so blind? For the chief priests, it was because they cared less about the truth than they did their own positions and power, which Jesus threatens. This is what happens when people no longer pursue the will of God, self-denial, and settle for the will of man, self-preservation. When we find ourselves imagining harm to our brothers and sisters and also imagining that we are somehow justified in thinking it, we are in the wrong place.
The hard heart has no real peace. It refuses to be broken and so it must always look for other things to break. It is only when we learn to sacrifice our sacred pride that we pay the price of peace. God must bring us to that place, because the hardest thing in the world is the hardened heart. Only God can break that.
Sunday, September 01, 2013
Matthew 26:6-13 / Mark 14:3-9 / John 12:1-8
Mary’s ointment was worth approximately a year’s salary. Yet she had no intention of slowly using it for herself. She breaks the container and pours the entire contents on our Lord, starting with His head, and ending up at His feet. By sacrificing the most precious thing she owns, she is pouring out her love on the Savior. This beautiful act blesses everyone with the sweet smell of the perfume filling the house.
But the sweet smell was a stink in the nostrils of the ignorant. In rebuking Mary they are also rebuking Jesus. If this is truly a “waste,” then Jesus must not be worth the value of the perfume. If anointing Jesus is unnecessary, He should make her stop. However, extravagance to and from a king was expected and praised (2 Chronicles 9:1-22 / Esther 2:12). The gift which Mary lavishes upon our Lord is extravagant for her worth, but not for His.
We see that it was Judas who incited the disciples. They didn’t really understand Jesus yet and so they didn’t understand Judas yet either. Judas appeals to the pious notions of his peers in a way that masked his own greed. For Mary to pour the perfume out meant that part of what might be his was “wasted” on Jesus. This puts the whole picture of who Judas was into place. He wanted to get what he could for his own little kingdom.
How awful it must have been for Mary to hear the scorn poured out on her after pouring her love out on Jesus. Of course, her Savior was her defender here as well. Her heart was right, and Jesus even gives her credit for something she might not have fully understood at the time. Consider this incident and the weight Christ places on it, later reinforcing it by example (John 13:1-15). Mary has a greater “sense” of what is about to happen than do the Lord’s disciples.
Unbelievers and apostates sometimes claim to be on a higher moral ground than the Bible. Jesus does not minimize caring for the poor. He simply points out that this was the opportunity Mary had to show her love as she desired. One of the implications of, “the poor you always have with you” is that we can’t pay everyone’s debt, only the extravagant love of Christ can do that.