Saturday, April 25, 2015

Being Forgiven Means Being Forgiving

The fourth sermon of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel is found in Matthew 18:1 -19:1. The chapter opens with the disciples asking Jesus this question, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Matthew 18:1. The theme of this message answers that question with four attributes of greatness in God’s eyes. The Greek word mega is the word for “greatest,” and means being first in terms of importance, something that is a priority before something else.

It is interesting that the disciples were thinking in terms of a person compared with other persons, while Jesus answered with attributes of a person. His answer teaches of the powerful attributes of the Kingdom, the mega-attributes of a follower of Christ.

The first of the first is humility, 18:2 – 6. Jesus illustrates humility by placing a child in their midst. The word “humbles himself” is the Greek verb tapinos, and means to view yourself as a servant to others. In the Bible days, children were servants. In our day it seems like they have become the masters. But they were first taught to have mega-respect for elders. It was the priority teaching a child learned. This stands to reason since this is the only way to become a student, to humble yourself, and in so doing, you are in the right state of mind to learn.

Jesus links this to the second mega-attribute of a disciple, which is to choose your teachers, your elders, wisely, 18:6 – 11. Jesus teaches this truth with the image of one who would take advantage of a child. The Bible calls them false teachers. They teach others to sin. The source of this evil is the world, the flesh, and the devil.

False teachers have always been around and are still with us today. And Jesus taught in this passage that my own thoughts, emotions, and bodily desires can become false teachers. This is one of the places where Jesus taught of how our bodily desires can become like control freaks, and must be disciplined to learn their role as servants, not masters.

The third mega-attribute in God’s Kingdom is the activity of bringing others into it. Jesus taught this attribute with the well-known parable of the lost sheep and the shepherd that goes out to find it. Each of these attributes is seen most clearly in the life of Jesus, especially this one. He came to find you, and to bring you back into a right relationship with the Father. When you do this, you are most like Christ, which pleases the Father, giving Him mega-joy, 18:13.

The fourth goes under the heading of being forgiving since you have been forgiven, 18:15 – 35. This is one of the major teachings of Jesus because He came to provide forgiveness and to inaugurate God’s Kingdom on earth as the Kingdom of the Forgiven, whose main activity on earth is to forgive others because they have been forgiven of so much!

The instructions are very clear that when you seek to forgive and reconcile with others, Christ Himself is in your midst to answer your prayers to accomplish this mega-activity. Jesus then gave a stern warning with a parable about a servant who was forgiven a $3 billion debt (10,000 talents = 200,000 years of wages of a laborer), but refused to forgive a $5,000 debt (100 denarii = 100 days salary of a laborer). The consequences of such an action, as Jesus describes, will cause you to shutter, 18:34 – 35.

Today, meditate on the mega-attributes of humility, choosing good teachers, bringing others into the Kingdom, and forgiving others since you have been forgiven of so much. As you do, these mega-attributes of the Life of Jesus, will begin to show up more and more in your life, as your life, which pleases the Father. This is what it means to worship the Father in spirit and truth.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Spiritual Truth in the Flesh

The third sermon of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel is a collection of parables that Jesus told on the nature of the Kingdom of God, Matthew 13:1 – 53. The word “parable” is from the Greek word para-boley, which literally means to set beside.

A parable is one thing is set beside another thing in order to understand the first thing. In the parables of Jesus, spiritual truth is set beside some kind of everyday occurrences so that the truth of spiritual truth can be seen and understood. Another word for parable is incarnation, spiritual truth in the flesh.

The parables in Matthew 13 reveal the spiritual truth of God’s Kingdom, the new creation, along side of God’s created order in which we now live. From the parables of Jesus you come to see that God’s new creation, His Kingdom, is now here just as much as the old is in which we now live. You do not have to wait for the new, receive it, turn and follow Christ and walk right in!

The disciples wondered why Jesus taught in such an indirect way, with parables. To them it seemed as if He was trying to veil the truth rather than speaking it clearly. They asked, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 13:10. The answer Jesus gave raised even more questions, “…the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” 13:12.

The parable that Jesus told about the seed and the four soils, 13:3 – 9, answered their question. It is the parable of all parables because it points to the way to understand all of the parables. Parables point to something greater. If you miss the point, all you have is a nice story, which does not bear fruit, but rather at some point is taken away from you.

When Jesus told this parable, the disciples went to Him and asked Him to explain it to them. This is the key to understanding the parables; you must go to Jesus and ask Him, or the spiritual truth will never be seen no matter what everyday occasion it is placed beside. Jesus Christ reveals spiritual truth as you follow Him.

Everyone knows that food comes from plants, which comes from seeds, which are planted in soil. But some soil seems to partner with seeds better than others. The fruit is locked up in the seed, every seed, but when planted in good soil, the fruit grows and develops and is given, in abundance, but only when the seed is received in good soil.

This parable points to the spiritual truth that a new heart, good soil, is needed before God’s word will bear the fruit that pleases Him. The new heart is the fruit of the Life of Jesus, which died and was planted in the tomb, which the Father raised from the dead.

When that Fruit and the Seed of that Fruit is received, new soil is created, which becomes ideal for Him to grow and develop in so that more and more of His Fruit can be given to the Father. Every believer has a mixture of the four soils, but as the new soil expands into the other “dead fields,” more Fruit is produced and given! Hallelujah!!!

This is called spiritual growth, which pleases God. This is what it means to worship the Father in spirit and truth. Today, receive more of God’s word in the good soil of the new heart so that you become more and more of a parable, an incarnation, of spiritual truth for the Father and the watching world around you.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Giving All That You Are to Receive All That He Is

Matthew’s gospel is arranged around five sermons. At the end of each one you will find the phrase, “…when Jesus had finished these sayings…” which all five share (7:28, 11:1, 13:53, 19:1, 26:1). Together, these five sermons cover the full range of Life with God on earth through faith in Jesus Christ.

The second sermon is found in Matthew 10:1 – 42. The theme of this chapter is the missionary nature of God’s Kingdom, we gather to scatter. This pleases the Father because He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, on the same mission to earth. When you follow Christ, He sends, just as He was sent, because He knows that when you go, it pleases the Father.

In this chapter there are several clear instructions for missionaries, the first of which is sometimes overlooked, “And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them…” 10:1. Sometimes, all that comes after the phrase gave them is focused upon; the authority, the instructions, the warnings, the promises.

But the main point is sometimes missed. Ambassadors of God’s Kingdom only go out after they have been with Jesus and received from Him all that He gives.  Because, of all that the Lord gives, He first gives Himself, so that everything that follows has Him in it, so that of all that is shared, He is shared first, even if it is a cup of cold water to one of the little ones, 10:42.

The warnings, 10:16 – 39, are the major part of this sermon, the hard part. But one of the major points in the warning section is best part of the sermon, which is that regardless of the response or the reaction, God works it together for His purpose of revealing Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. This leads to knowing Christ more and more (the rewards), which leads to greater and greater glory for the Father and greater and greater joy for you (more rewards)!

Another verse that is often quoted in the context of our mission on earth is Romans 8:28, “And we know that God is working all things together for good for those who love Him, for those who are called according to his purpose.” The key phrase in understanding this verse, as well as of the warnings in Matthew 10, is a single word in Greek, the word soon-ergo, which literally means, “works together with and through.”

The idea is of something going through something else and producing something with something. The first “something” is a Person, the Holy Spirit. The second “something” is a person, you. The third “something” is a Person, Jesus Christ. The fourth something are the events of your life with Christ.

The Holy Spirit is forming Christ in you, with you, through you, seen and known as you, before the Father and the watching world around you, with everything that happens to you. And He will not do this without you!

Every event that happens to you, He forms Christ in you, whether it is something good or something bad, something easy, or something hard. But only as you give it all to Him, knowing what He will do, which is to form Christ in you. This is the method God has chosen to spread His Kingdom on earth. This is what it means for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, to worship the Father in spirit and truth.

Today, give all that you are, to receive all that He is, so that as you go, you go with Him, by Him, for Him, knowing that you are becoming more like Him through every event of the day. He gets the glory and you get the joy! Hallelujah!!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Life That Blesses the Father

The gospel of Matthew is arranged around five teachings of Jesus for His disciples. These five “sermons” have been used since the beginning of the church as a catechism for new believers. The message in all five is a revelation of the life of Jesus. Each one describes the life of Christ and what His life looks like in the life of the new believer.

The first of these sermons is the most famous, known as the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5 – 7. Some have tried to understand the teaching in these chapters as a new outline for what we are supposed to do, as if Jesus were the new Moses with a new set of rules to keep. Others see it as a far look into the future of how God’s people will one day live in heaven. Both overlook the main message of the sermon, Jesus and His life, which is offered to whoever will follow Him.

When you read these chapters, you will soon discover that what Jesus is describing is His own life, how He thinks, feels, and acts. You will also quickly discover how totally foreign this way of thinking, feeling, and acting is to the way you are, which is the main point of the message.

This message reveals the truth that man needs a new heart, a new life. The problem we have is not our environment, nor is it ignorance, nor is it a lack of opportunity; it is our sinful heart, which is totally dead to the things of God and is the spring of every thought, feeling, and act, regardless of our environment, education, or opportunities. The Sermon on the Mount describes the new life that is offered in Jesus Christ to those who desire to receive from Him the life that pleases the Father, His life for you.

The most difficult part of the Sermon on the Mount is coming to the realization that you do not in any way, shape, or form come close to actually thinking, feeling, or doing the things that Jesus outlines in His message. This also becomes the most blessed, the good news of the message. You can’t, but Jesus did! And He offers what He did to you and for you.

As you hear His words and begin to follow Him, He begins to live His life in you, with you, through you, as you, before the Father and the watching world around you. The light of His life begins to shine from within you so that others “…may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16. This pleases God and is what it means to worship the Father in spirit and truth.

Today, ask Jesus Christ to be your life, to live His life in you, with you, through you, as you, before the Father and the watching world around you. Do this because you have come to see that without Christ there is nothing that pleases the Father, and that in Christ everything pleases the Father! His life is the life that blesses the Father because it is the Father’s life! Meditate on this today.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Seeking and Seeing and Staying

The gospel of John is different than Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It was the last gospel written and is known as the gospel of rest. The first red lettered words in John are found in John 1:38 – 39 and are a question, “Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day…”

These verses describe two of the followers of John the Baptists, Andrew and John, and their first conversation with Jesus. They started following Jesus because John the Baptist had pointed Him out as “…the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29. But when Jesus turned to them with the question above, it stopped them in their tracks. It is the question you must answer at some point in your walk with the Lord. What is it you are looking for in Jesus?

Some have wanted Jesus to just help them out with their life. Jesus did not come to help you out with your life; He came to be your life! Others have just wanted some good teaching so that they might have a better life. But Jesus came to give eternal life! And still others just needed healing so that they could have a more comfortable and affordable life. But Jesus did not come to patch up broken lives, but to give new life. This question is one that everyone who begins to follow Christ must answer. What are you seeking?

Those first disciples did not know what to answer and may have been taken back by His question. They answered His question with a question, which became the right answer, one that must have pleased the Lord. They asked, “…where are you staying?” The word “staying” is the Greek word, meno, and means to remain, to stay, to stand, to abide, to live in one place.

This word is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament to describe one of the characteristics of God’s word, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”  Isaiah 40:8, and of the righteousness of God, “…and his righteousness endures forever.” Psalm 111:3, and of God’s steadfast love, “…for his steadfast love endures forever.”

The disciples would hear Jesus use this word in the upper room on the night He was betrayed when He taught them saying, “Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me…whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4 – 5.

As Andrew and John responded to the invitation of Jesus to come see and stay, meno, with Him, it pleased the Father for this was the very purpose for which the Son of God was sent. Seeking and seeing and staying with Jesus pleases the Father. This is what it means to worship the Father in spirit and truth.

Today, meditate on the words of Jesus, “What are you seeking?”

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Father is Searching for True Worshipers

As Jesus began His ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing, huge crowds began to follow Him. The gospel of Mark records a sample day in the life of Jesus in chapter one. You see Jesus preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God in 1:14 – 15, followed by calling His first disciples, 1:16 – 20, followed by teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum, 1:21 – 22, followed by casting out a demon in a man in the synagogue, 1:23 – 28, followed healing Simon’s mother-in-law, and ending the day by healing many others who were sick or demon possessed as they gathered at the home of Simon, 1:29 – 34.

The word spread and the crowds kept gathering throughout the night. When you are sick and you hear of others being healed, you do not wait until morning to get relief. And the Scripture says, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Mark 1:35.

As the people were becoming more and more desperate to find Jesus, He was more and more desperate to find fellowship and strength with the Father in prayer, because He knew that the Father was also seeking His presence and fellowship.

This one verse in Mark, in the context of the events of that long day, teaches a definitive truth from the life of Jesus. It reveals the single priority that guided Jesus regardless of what was happening around Him. Jesus sought to worship the Father in spirit and truth because He knew that the Father was seeking for those who desired His fellowship. And like the one thing a sick person desires, which is healing, Jesus desired one thing, which was the Father’s presence.

The Psalms present the wide variety of human experience and situations, and yet they all arrive at the same instruction, which is to seek the presence of the Lord, regardless of the situation. Psalm 27:4 is a good example, which says, “One thing I have asked of the LORD, and that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.”

The Hebrew word for “dwell” is yah-shab, and is one thing that the psalmist desires. It means to sit, to stay, to inhabit, to live with, to marry. The word “gaze” is the Hebrew word chazah, which means to look intently at something to study it, to learn, and to explore the depth of it. The word “inquire” is the Hebrew word baqar, which means to reflect upon what you have been looking at and to desire to see more.

All three of these words describe what Jesus was doing as He rose up early that morning to desire the presence of His Father. As pleased and happy as all of the people were that Jesus healed the day before, Jesus knew that the Father was more pleased and desired to share His joy and pleasure with His Son. Jesus desired more than anything else to look upon the Father and to think upon His desire.

Today, meditate upon Psalm 27:4, memorizing it and making it your priority in prayer, because this is what it means to become a true worshiper, one what worships the Father in spirit and truth.