Saturday, March 31, 2018

Greater than the greatest

Matthew 11:7-19 / Luke 7:24-35…

John was no weak minded, immature believer. He was the most confident man ever. He was fearless against the religious establishment (Matthew 3:7). Jesus said he was not a reed shaken with the wind; that is, he was not tossed about by circumstance. He was a rock, he stood up to Herod and that is why he was imprisoned. He lived in the wilderness, not delicately, and had camel’s hair as clothing, not soft raiment (Matthew 3:4). John the Baptist was used to and prepared for hard living, even the dungeon. John wasn’t weak, and in fact, Jesus said he was the greatest man who had ever lived.

So why does Jesus say that the least in the kingdom is greater than the greatest? From a vocational standpoint, John the Baptist had the greatest calling, but from a spiritual standpoint, we are greater in the sense that salvation is greater than vocation. Now we have the greatest job, proclaiming that the king is coming again. Fellowship with God, with each other, and triumph over sin will all be complete in heaven. The one thing we do here that we cannot do in heaven is telling people about Jesus. How do you “tell” people? You live for Christ, win others to Christ, and edify your brothers and sisters in Christ. To reject this wisdom is to become as a Pharisee or a selfish child.

Still, when you get frustrated, and fail, and fall; when you have doubts, despair, and depression; Jesus doesn’t call you a failure, He doesn’t call you weak, He calls you great. Even when you feel like the least Jesus says you are greater than the greatest. We can fail but He hasn’t so we don’t ultimately. Instead of thinking “I have to do something great for God”, realize God has done something great for you. This is the gospel; this is our peace, our joy, our safety, our satisfaction, our rest. We don’t have to be the greatest for Jesus to give us the greatest love of all.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The crisis of circumstance

Matthew 11:1-6 / Luke 7:18-23…

John the Baptist saw more signs than anyone ever. He had been prophesied as being the herald to the Messiah (Isaiah 40:3 / Malachi 3:1, 4:5-6). He knew it (John 1:23), as did his parents (Luke 1:17, 76) and Jesus (Luke 7:27). He was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15), leaping in his mother’s womb at the presence of Jesus (Luke 1:41). John heard directly from the Almighty (Luke 1:80, 3:2 / John 1:6). He knew his role (John 3:26-30). He knew the role of the Messiah (Luke 3:16). He had humbled himself before Jesus (Matthew 3:14). God told John what the sign of the Messiah would be (John 1:33-34), and he heard God declare Jesus to be His Son (Mark 1:11). John proclaimed Jesus to the multitudes (John 1:29, 36).

All this, but by now he had been in prison for perhaps as much as two years, and had obviously become depressed. Even the greatest of the saints can experience doubt. John’s career had come to an end, and he was wondering if he had understood Jesus rightly. Jesus doesn’t speak to his emotions (and John was family), He sends John back to the Scriptures (Isaiah 35:5-6). Jesus provided reassurance, but notice that this would be faith in the report of others. Jesus was tender, but truthful: John, you’ve done your job, the king has come, and the kingdom has been inaugurated.

God sometimes doesn’t meet our expectations, but we are blessed when we seek Him further instead of draw away in offense. We often are tempted to stumble over God’s providence, but even when we can’t trace His hand we can trust His heart. Sometimes our faith fizzles out. Instead of looking inward (at our lack or our doubt), or outward (at our circumstances or at others), we look upward (at our God and Savior).

The guilt we feel about our doubt is not something that we have to sit under until we outrun it through our good works and obedience. Instead, guilt over sin, doubt and despair are vehicles that drive us to the cross where we see the culmination of Jesus’ obedience for us. Jesus puts the gospel of grace and His own person and work in focus. When we drop the football, remember, Jesus has already scored the winning touchdown.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

When crowds collide

Luke 7:11-17…

Think about this scene for a moment. Here we have two great crowds, going different places, for different reasons, but coming toward each other. One was a fervent crowd, the other a funeral crowd. The one crowd was following death, the other crowd was following Life. When they met in the middle, and Jesus proved to be the master of ceremonies, they all became one fearful crowd. The power of God starts the fearful parade. This fear is a sacred awe of God’s utter holiness. It involves respect and veneration in the presence of such absolute majesty.

When life and death collide…Jesus wins (Acts 2:22-24 / Revelation 1:18). We will all die (Hebrews 9:27), but the question is, do you feel free enough to truly live (John 11:21-26 / Hebrews 2:14-15)?

Don’t try and crowd Jesus out of your life, because Jesus is the ultimate in crowd control, and He will eventually separate everyone into the two groups of eternity (Matthew 25:31-46).

Who are you following? Which way is your crowd headed? Are you on a collision course with God, or with…?

My prayer for you is that if you are going the wrong way that Jesus will meet you in the middle, and take over your show.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The sign of faith

Matthew 8:5-13 / Luke 7:1-10…

Man’s nature is not submission but rebellion; however, Jesus calls submission to authority a sign of great faith. This man had understood that Jesus was in submission to His Father (John 5:17-19, 30). He knew that all he needed was a word from Jesus and his servant would be healed. Humility understands the authority of God and the misery of man without Him. It lifts up its estimation of Christ and lowers itself in submission.

Many problems in life can be traced back to a misunderstanding of submission to authority. We thought we could do it our way and it messed us up. We ruin our relationships and wreck our faith because of rebellious attitudes. We quibble with the clear teachings of the Bible regarding submission and obedience. Obedience is about our actions toward authority, while submission is about our attitude toward authority. God is the focus of submitting to governmental authority (1 Peter 2:13-17), to workplace authority (1 Peter 2:18-20), and even to those who cause us suffering (1 Peter 2:21-25, 4:19). Respect for and obedience to authorities is important because it is an expression of God’s authority over us.

Think about Jesus and His relationship with the Father, and you will realize that the essence of spirituality is submission. The Gospel started by the submission of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11). Therefore, because of Christ, as we learn submission we experience His power (Philippians 2:12-13). Submission is the sign of faith, not to always get what we want, but knowing that God will give us what we need, even when it hurts, especially for the sake of others.

Will you trust God to be the authority in your life? Show Him the sign.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

More than confidence

Matthew 7:28-29…

Jesus had just finished His teaching with a warning about being self-assured, and the crowd was amazed. He spoke with authority, without wavering.

The Christian life and witness is to be lived out in a similar way. However, this is not simply about confidence, but about conviction, and these convictions must be the correct ones. We can have firmly held convictions that are formed around falsehood. Many a man sets sail in the soil of his own imagination. Pride blinds our perception, and Jesus told us in the strongest of terms that many will deceive themselves and others.

In teaching, preaching, and witnessing for Christ, our eternal effectiveness does not lie in simply being confident, or in resonating with an unregenerate crowd, but in grounding our proclamations and our practice in the revelation of God’s Word (Isaiah 55:11 / 2 Timothy 4:1-4).

Real authority comes from real authenticity, but this doesn’t mean “just be yourself”, it means you are to be who God wants you to be, the new you (Ephesians 4:22-24). Love and live the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). If we want to be like Christ, we must remember that we can only exercise authority to the extent that we are under it.

What Jesus had backing Him was not opinion, backing Him was omnipotence.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Irresistible force or immovable object?

Matthew 7:21-27 / Luke 6:46-49…

Jesus closes the Sermon on the Mount by talking about the eventual, eternal implications of either doing or refusing His words. Many, having done a lot, will be quite assured of their standing before God, but are rejected. What does that say to those who are assured and have done nothing, or very little? Being right with God is more than doing things, but it isn’t less than that. Activity and success, as the world defines it, is not the measure Christ will use. Who we are truly trusting, in Christ or our own works, this is the deciding factor.

Jesus illustrated our lives by two houses. One house stands and one falls, both the result of inclement weather. Consider well the fact that both houses had a storm. Yet one served to destroy the house and the other pointed out how secure the foundation was. The truth is that the events of life are an irresistible force; they will come, no matter any of our plans. However, we can be like the immovable object, our being grounded in Christ gives Him glory when the inevitable storms of life come our way.

Make no mistake, in this passage and woven into the whole fabric of the New Testament is the idea that the storms will come. We cannot simply name it and claim it so as to avoid them. No way, because that would not give God the glory He is due, it would only save you from suffering and serve to sever you from sanctification. Besides, what gives more glory to God; to have you gloat about being in His favor, or for people to see you stand in the power of His might?

Friends, faith in Jesus is about the power to withstand the storm, not the power to withdraw the storm. Christianity, from the sanctification side, is less about being an irresistible force, and more about being an immovable object. The rain will fall, the floods will come, and the winds will blow. The question is, will your house stand as a testimony to the faithfulness of God, or will it fall as a testament to a life lived without following God?

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Wolves in sheep’s clothing

Matthew 7:15-20 / Luke 6:43-45…

Jesus warns us that the devil dresses false prophets in the designer clothes of deception. False teachers seem innocent and devoted, but they are insatiable and devouring (2 Peter 2:1-3, 14-19). They are not discerned by outward appearance and attitude (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). What they speak resonates with the world’s way of religion but not the Apostle’s doctrine (Jeremiah 6:14 / 1 John 4:5-6). We are always to be on the lookout for them (Acts 20:28-31).

Jesus tells us that we can know who they are by the effects. The fruit reveals the root. When the tree is shaken the fruit falls down, when the fruit is used for food the juice flows. Through the pressures and pleasures of life whatever is filling the heart will come spilling out. Doctrine instructs devotion and leads to demonstration.

This goes for those who teach as well as those who are taught. We can be deceived ourselves, not knowing we are wolves. What is truly in the heart will evidence itself, sooner or later, either the greed, immorality, and thirst for power and control, or the goodness, purity, and humility (1 Timothy 5:24-25). This fruit is the inevitable result of who we are.

We are not to judge hypocritically, but in our desire to do things rightly, we must be careful not to let the pendulum swing too far, from overly critical to overly casual. We cannot judge a person’s soul, but we can keep them from peddling rotten fruit in our assemblies.

Are you a false prophet, as in living a false profession? If there is venom on your lips there is poison in your heart. Your true values will be voiced, viewed, and verified by your life.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Eureka

Matthew 7:13-14…

Every person who has ever lived has been looking for something. Jesus says many will find what they are looking for, but few will find what they truly need. To get what we truly need, Jesus says we must first find the gate, but then we must also walk in the way. If your destination is heaven your destiny is holiness. You can find the door but not enter the room. Many may marvel at the door, but dare not enter in.

People want to find God as a means to an end not as the end in Himself. They are looking for what “works,” what they like, and not looking for what glorifies God. To the natural mind, the way of destruction looks good and tastes delicious, and the way to life looks gross and tastes lousy. People aren’t looking for Repentance Road; they are looking for Satisfaction Street.

Walking along the road of true repentance means that the way will be narrow and hard. If we are to keep walking in the way, we must keep renewing our minds to find it in faith. Eventually you won’t have to worry about people holding you back. If you follow a certain path there comes a certain point where certain people won’t follow along. You don’t have to lose the lost; they will lose you (1 Peter 4:4).

Most people are not looking for a way out of the world but a way into what they want. Believe me, or better yet, believe Jesus, if you have found the true way you will follow it. It depends on what you are looking for.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Jesus meets the measurement

Matthew 7:12…

This Golden Rule is the essence of a faithful life (Leviticus 19:18 / Matthew 22:37-40 / Romans 13:8-10 / Galatians 5:14 / James 2:8). This is to be our guiding principle in following Jesus.

The Golden Rule is not…

• Do unto others or they will do unto you
• Do unto others before they do unto you
• Do unto others because they have done unto you
• I won’t do unto others so that they won’t do unto me
• Do unto others as they would have you do
• Do unto others so that they will do unto you
• I won’t do unto others because they won’t do unto me

The Golden Rule is…

• Universal (whatever you wish that others would do to you)
• Positive action (do also to them)
• Grounded in divine revelation (for this is the Law and the Prophets)

We cannot simply say, “Go out and live in perfect obedience to everything God said and then you will be like Jesus.” If anyone could do that, then Jesus was not the unique Son of God. You need Jesus or you will not be able to walk the road, but we can walk it by faith, knowing that He has accomplished the walk for us, and when you fall He lifts you up. It is not your walk, your good works, it is His. Jesus IS the Golden Rule (Matthew 5:17), the way the truth and the life of it. Only He meets the measurement.

By the way, just because you do it doesn’t mean others will...it is the Golden Rule, not the Guaranteed Reciprocal.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Trust Takes Time

We need to make a distinction between being forgiven of something and being done with something. This is a matter of justification, regeneration, and repentance. Transformation is a process. Just because someone has been forgiven of their sins by God, or forgiven of a particular sin, by others, this doesn’t mean that the person doesn’t still have a sinful problem.

The power of sin is not instantly fixed through forgiveness. By virtue of justification, the eternal penalty for sin, and being guilty in the eyes of God, that is “fixed”. But there remain consequences in this life. Sinful patterns must still be dealt with. By virtue of regeneration, Christians do have the power to overcome sinful patterns, but they must endeavor to do it. It is not automatic. It takes time, effort, and commitment. Christians should forgive, but they should not act as if their forgiveness of a person, or even God’s forgiveness of a person, means that person is fully and finally healed of their sinful pattern.

There is a difference between repentance proclaimed and repentance proven. Repentance proclaimed (a confession) begins in a moment of time. Repentance proven (a conversion) happens over the course of time. When repentance is proclaimed, we forgive. When repentance has been proven, then we forget. To do otherwise is not wise. Trust takes time.

The answer is always yes

Matthew 7:7-11 / Luke 11:9-13…

Prayer is the pipeline to the power and presence of God. Jesus tells us to be persistent, and in a sense it is a progression, don’t just ask, but seek and knock, keep bringing it up, keep looking for it to happen, keep causing a stir. If we lack in prayer we lack in experience.

Believe it or not, Jesus is saying that God will always answer our prayers with a yes. He isn’t telling us we can ask for anything we want, and that if we don’t receive it is because we don’t have enough faith. Jesus is saying that the Father will answer all our prayers, not according to our desires, but according to His goodness. He will answer our prayer as if we prayed it knowing what He knows. The answer is not always the yes we want, but the yes we need. Sometimes the yes is a no, because what we are asking for is inappropriate for us, or the time isn’t right yet.

If we ask God for something good He won’t give us something evil, if you ask for a fish, the Father is not going to give you a snake. But that is the test – if you get a snake, you know it wasn’t God who gave it to you. Do you know the difference? You may be hungering for something God doesn’t allow, doesn’t want us to have, or simply doesn’t exist, like some made up anointing that some “prophet” claims we can have. We have to be careful of counterfeits, and there are even good things which God in His providence does not desire for us to have. You can “get’ something, and it not be from God (2 Corinthians 11:3-4). If we ask for something good, He doesn’t give us something bad, and if we ask for something bad, He doesn’t give it to us. But you cannot use this truth as some sort of defense against counterfeit gifts.

The big yes is that the Holy Spirit is with us in prayer (Romans 8:26-27 / Galatians 3:14); we are in communion with God and He interprets our prayer, to answer it as if we were wise enough to know what to ask for. We stop praying because we don’t think it is working, but it is working, it is working on us. God listens to our prayers, and He answers them; will we answer the call to prayer and learn about God in and from our prayers?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

There comes a time

Matthew 7:6…

Jesus is illustrating the problem with treating holy things as common by using a reference to throwing meat sacrificed to God to animals. In His time, dogs and pigs were considered unclean and dangerous (Psalm 22:16, 59:14, 80:13). He is speaking of people who are set in their sinful ways (Philippians 3:2), degenerating (2 Peter 2:22) and deviant (Revelation 22:15). Today, it would be akin to offering the Lord’s Supper to those who hate Him.

There is a difference between destructive criticism and careful discernment. Jesus was warning us about standing over someone as judge when we haven’t yet looked in the mirror (Matthew 7:1-5). Now He instructs us that even when we have looked in the mirror, we should be careful who we are dealing with, because some people are not believers, they remain profane, and to give them wisdom is to invite their wrath (Proverbs 9:7-8). Don’t be mouthy and think this makes you a martyr for ministry.

Some do not value the vision of God (Proverbs 11:22). They are wise in their own eyes (Proverbs 3:7, 12:15, 26:12 / Isaiah 5:21 / Romans 12:16), they despise doctrine and become incensed against instruction. If you try and give them something of value, they may become violent. Yes we are supposed to try and help people (Galatians 6:10), but we must be prudent. We are to present the gospel, but when people become abusive and blasphemous, it’s time to cease.

It is the same in the church. Admonishing, correcting, and exhorting a believer is the right thing to do (2 Timothy 4:2 / Hebrews 3:13), but sometimes people persist in their perversity, and we are to let them go (Titus 3:10-11). If they are hurting, hungry, and hearing what you have to say, by all means, continue. Yes we should plead with people, but there comes a time when we are not to waste our words on those who won’t listen.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

More than meets the eye

Matthew 7:1-5 / Luke 6:37-42…

Jesus is talking about hypocrisy, about judging others without first judging yourself. These verses are not some sort of justification or defense for irresponsibility, heresy, or wickedness (1 Corinthians 6:2-3). This is about being hypocritical, which ironically, those who use these verses as a universal prohibition against “judging” are guilty of themselves.

Obviously we must make some distinctions. That requires judging things (1 Corinthians 5:12). The whole idea that we are not supposed to judge ideas, behavior, doctrine, faith and practice is more than ludicrous, it is lawlessness. Indeed, in the same chapter Jesus tells us that we will recognize false teachers by their fruit (Matthew 7:20).

In other words we are all judges. We discern who is following Christ in truth and follow them (Philippians 3:17), while putting away some and staying away from others (Romans 16:17-19 / 2 Timothy 3:5 / Titus 3:8-11). We are supposed to judge (John 7:24), we are supposed to discern (Philippians 1:9), but we are supposed to look at ourselves first (1 Corinthians 11:31).

The account in Luke gives us some more detail. Jesus is talking about the good eye and the evil eye again. The person who has a healthy eye will be generous with grace, merciful and mild. People will most often give grace back in return. The person with the bad eye will be full of meanness, hypocritically judging others, and he will receive the same from others. These things are for our training, so that we may be like our Master.

Jesus doesn’t say we cannot help others unless we are perfect, He is telling us that our vision may also become clouded. If you look into the mirror and can’t see who you really are, then you are blind and will lead others into the ditch of deception with you. When you don’t believe that you can be deceived that is when you already are. He says we shouldn’t just be a hearer or a talker but a doer (James 1:23-25).

In other words, Jesus says ministry starts with the mirror.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Worry to worship

Matthew 6:25-34 / Luke 12:22-32…

Jesus is not telling us to be careless. He is changing our priority, reorienting us away from worry and into worship. Life is more important than the things needed to sustain it. Yet we have the habit or being overly concerned with the everyday needs of food and clothing, in other words, stuff, to the detriment of devotion to God. We even turn stuff we want into stuff we need and we fall right off worship way and onto anxious avenue.

Thank God that He is concerned about our personal, physical, daily needs. We are valuable in the eyes of the Creator. He takes great detail to sustain those things which are lesser and so He does us even more. Yes, you still have to do the work, but God has provided a way, a process for you to prosper. But you must remember that proper prosperity puts God as the priority.

Worry doesn’t enable or empower us with anything but negative energy; it cannot help us up even one step. If it can’t even do that, why are you anxious about the rest (Luke 12:26)? The people who don’t know God are in the place of no peace; their whole lives are consumed by such things. Those who may know God but who are indulging in their worries instead of investing in their worship fall back into that place.

Seek the things of God, and in the midst of that the basic essentials will be taken care of. Living for today by having an eye for tomorrow means we can live one day at a time by thinking about our eternal source. We can rely on our eternal God and His eternal plan while giving each day all we’ve got, not having to worry about tomorrow but eating our daily bread. If God is in control you will have enough, because trust is the currency of Christ.

Worry isn’t serving God; it makes us our own god. You have no reason to worry, and every reason to worship, if your source is greater than your self.