Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Fighting the Ghosts

God is the potter, and Christians are his clay (Jeremiah 18:4 / 2 Corinthians 4:7). And he is shaping you into the likeness of Jesus, using all of life to do it. That’s the idea of Romans 8:28-29. But when you go against his guiding hand, God has to break you to remake you. And God may use the devil to break a believer down.

Maybe you’ve experienced this. Everything seems to upset you. You try and try, but things just go wrong, and you can’t seem to get a break. It seems like awful is amplified all over your life. It’s like you’re fighting a ghost, whose arming your enemies. 

Now sometimes, God is allowing this season to show your faithfulness as an example to others.  God may allow an attack to show his strength in your life. You’re wearing the full armor of God. You learn to have the patience of Job. You’re earning rewards in heaven. And those who would accuse you of sin are wrong. You need to stand strong in the Lord despite all the hurt feelings, lack of support, and hard circumstances. And your faith will be vindicated.

However, sometimes you aren’t just fighting your emotions, or people, or systems, or situations. Sometimes, God will allow the devil to invade your life because you have continually opened the door. You have continued in a pattern of particular sin, and God will use the devil to break and humble you. God uses the devil in a Christian’s life to accomplish his purposes. God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves.

 Satan wants to use this time to further cement you into distrusting, disbelieving, and disobeying God. But God intends for this season to liberate you into a deeper trust and greater belief and joyful obedience. The deliverance you need is not just from the devil, but to Jesus. It is no good to cast the devil out when you keep inviting him back in. If you want to stop fighting the ghosts, you’ll have to stop fighting against God’s will. 

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, October 04, 2021

The midnight cries

Matthew 25:1-13…

The teaching of Jesus is that we cannot know the exact time of His return but we can know the signs of it drawing near. He repeatedly speaks of the suddenness and the unexpectedness of His coming, and calls us to be prepared at all times. Many know of the Second Coming, and they may believe in it, but they don’t behave like it matters what they do in the meantime. 

As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. This doesn’t mean that sleep is wrong or that everyone has to go through some period of backsliding. No, it means that life would go on as it had for a while. We have been waiting for 2000 years. Still, the wise live in a state of readiness, while the foolish are careless about it (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:6-10).

Remember, all ten virgins were supposed to be part of the wedding party. They all knew what was coming.  All ten took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.  There are many that are in some way affiliated with the church, or who have some feelings of attachment to Christ, but they are like the five foolish virgins who took no oil with them.

But at midnight there was a cry. All ten were awakened to the call. But if there is no oil in the lamp when the call comes, it will be too late. You won’t be able to get in based on family or friends. You have to buy the truth right now (Proverbs 23:23). There will be no time to buy when you hear the cry. This is true whether that be at death or upon the return of Jesus.

Truly, I say to you, I do not know you. This gives us a clear picture of what the oil represents. The foolish are those who never go beyond a superficial knowledge of scriptural truth. They have just enough knowledge to assure themselves that they can make themselves ready when the time comes. They think they can do it their way but Jesus says no way.

Lord, lord, open to us. You see, there will be a second cry in the night, but you don’t want to be a part of that one.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Prepared means productive

Matthew 24:45-51 / Luke 12:41-48…

When we might know something important is about to happen, but don’t think that it is going to happen too soon, we are tempted to be somewhat derelict in our daily duties. We have to rush to clean up if company is coming, having allowed the mess to accumulate to the point that we are frenzied before the family or friends arrive. We cram for the exam, having allowed ourselves to be lax in our studies. We sprint to the store, having forgotten the anniversary or birthday.

Last minute preparations are fine, unless we waited to prepare until the last minute. Putting the finishing touches on something is much easier if we have been in touch with the situation all along. Production is always preferable to procrastination.

Certainly, there are times when we are caught unawares and unexpectedly have to race in order to get something done. It is inevitable. Yet something that is expected arriving sooner than expected or at an unexpected time is the point Jesus is making here. The Lord will return, and we are to be about our business of living for Christ, winning others to Christ, and edifying our brothers and sisters in Christ, while we wait on Christ to return.

It is inevitable. Jesus will return. The problem is that in the realm of true religion, we cannot afford to be perverse. Jesus is teaching us that He won’t allow it. And this is about more than the end times. The Lord rewards those who are about His business, but He will capture the spiritually lazy in their own sloth. 

Saturday, October 02, 2021

The reason we cannot see

Luke 21:34-36…

Being ready for the Lord’s return doesn’t mean trying to discern the exact time of His return. Being ready means that we are living for Christ, winning others to Christ, and edifying our brothers and sisters in Christ. In other words, we remain ready by truly worshipping Christ. To have a diligent, faithful expectation means living for today by having an eye for tomorrow (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 / 2 Timothy 4:7-8 / Titus 2:11-14 / Hebrews 9:28 / 1 John 3:2-3).

Jesus tells us that the reason people aren’t making themselves ready is not for a lack of evidence, signs and warnings. It is because they are dull of mind and heart, and so they fail to see the signs as they are. So Jesus warns us of three evils that blind us.

The first is “dissipation”, which means over indulgence. It is like we have a hangover, and we are insensitive to anything we’re not directly involved in. The second, drunkenness, is related to the first. Drunkenness is the cause and dissipation is the result. People are tempted to medicate with drugs, entertainment, busyness, or any number of other numbing things, as a solution to all the chaos they see and feel. They get what they want; they wind up dull to the danger. The third, worry, means that we spend all our energy on anxiety over worldly things.

The antidote is the same for all people in all times. Knowing what is to come, we should not place too much value on material things, and we should place our value in the Word of God. Knowing that over indulgence will dull our sensitivity should motivate us to self-control, not self-indulgence. Knowing that worry hinders our watchfulness, we should pray (1 Peter 4:7).

Many say they love Jesus but their lives deny it. Seeing a sign isn’t the same thing as submitting to its instruction. 

Friday, October 01, 2021

Wake up

Matthew 24:42-44 / Mark 13:33-37 / Luke 12:35-40…

Believers in Christ are admonished to always be alert. Jesus likens this to someone who has been given a warning that a thief is coming to rob his house. This person would obviously be ready for the event. The person who did not know of the warning or who did not believe it would obviously not be ready.

Once again, Jesus is pointing out the difference between believers and unbelievers. Unbelievers will not be aware and so will not be alert. Many will scoff at the idea of a coming judgment (2 Peter 3:3-7). For them, the Second Coming of Christ will come as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 / 2 Peter 3:10).

It is amazing to realize that so many will rationalize away these cataclysmic events leading up to the return of Christ. It is even more sobering to realize that the reason that so many will be sleeping through it all is because they are not made ready now. Jesus has been telling us that we cannot simply know the signs, we must know the Savior. Otherwise we will miss the meanings of all these events. We think it impossible that people could witness these incredible things and still not see the significance. But Jesus says it will be just like that. 

The way to stay awake is to get right and stay right with God right now (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6 / 2 Peter 3:11). With so many warnings that Jesus gives, and with so many places in Scripture that echo this, what are you waiting for? 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Get on board

Matthew 24:37-41…

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.  

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The question remains

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?” 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Behold, He comes

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?

Monday, September 27, 2021

An unmistakable entrance

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 lessens 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. 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Signs for all times

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. 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Hard times

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)?

Friday, September 24, 2021

Just the beginning

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)? 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

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). 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

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.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

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.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Practice what you preach

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.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

The most important question in the world

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.  

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Don’t miss the point

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.

Friday, September 17, 2021

The God of the living

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).

Thursday, September 16, 2021

To pay or not to pay

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.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Time to RSVP

Matthew 22:1-14…

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. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The tale of the tenants

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.

Monday, September 13, 2021

A tale of two sons

Matthew 21:28-32…

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?

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Nothing more to say

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. 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Faith in God

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)?

Friday, September 10, 2021

Famous last words

John 12:44-50…

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).

Thursday, September 09, 2021

You see what you seek

John 12:37-43…

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.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Value the vision

John 12:20-36…

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.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Favor or flavor

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. 

Monday, September 06, 2021

Ministry, money, mission

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).