Going Beyond

going-beyond-competition

In Matthew 5:43-48 is another well known passage where Jesus is teaching on loving your enemies.  Matt 5:44 says “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Bonhoffer in “Cost of Discipleship” clarifies enemies are those who have hostility against us, not necessarily those against who we have hostility against.   How we treat people in those situations says a lot about where our hope is based and how much we understand we have been loved by God in Jesus.

v47  is pretty key in understanding this concept – “and if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?”

Christians are called to go beyond what others do and say.  We are called to be different.  Called to stand out.  In all situations, we are called to glorify God.  This is different, “extraordinary.”  The temptation is to blend in, to not stand out from others.  Yet we see from the Word of God that we are called to “do more.”  This isn’t an effort based system of earning God’s favor, but if you are disciple of Jesus you are already accepted by God.  Now, we work to go beyond the norm, we avoid sin, we love our enemies — because of who we are in Christ.

If we are truly living our lives according to God’s word – we will stand out.  Sometimes this will be hard, as anyone who desires to live a Godly life will be persecuted.  (2 Tim 3:12).  We are not promised an easy, financially prosperous, and healthy life – no matter what the false teachers on the “Preachers of LA” say.

But, what we do know, is that a life lived for God’s glory is the most fulfilled life that one can have, because we are walking in obedience to our Creator, and living a life of love, and in that is the blessing of growing in Christ and being more and more filled with the knowledge of Him as we go thru life.  Only in that is true peace and joy.

Advertisements

Jesus – God’s Chosen Servant

As I’m proceeding through Matthew in my yearly read, there seems to be a “ratcheting up” of the fact that Jesus is the Messiah – God in the flesh, The One that has been foretold in the Old Testament (as far back as Genesis 3) that will reconcile sinners to a Holy God.

In Matthew 12:15-21 the section heading in my Bible is “God’s Chosen Servant.” It speaks of the works of Jesus – the healings – and the purpose? (v17) “This was to fulfill what was spoken about by the prophet Isaiah.” And then goes on to quote Isaiah 42:1-3…”Behold my servant whom I have chosen…” The ties to the Old Testament prophets are unmistakable in the Gospels, Jesus is the One. It’s a good reminder that all of scripture points to Jesus. There is one story line of the Bible – it’s God’s plan to redeem his people from their sin, and it centers around his chosen way of doing that – the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, His Son.  All of scripture is about Jesus. The Holy Spirit opens our minds and hearts to understand the Word. Look at Jesus’ own words after his resurrection in Luke 24:44-45: “…everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

One thing that my heart keeps being drawn back to is that Jesus is not “optional.” As Chandler says you have to do something with this truth.  Later in the passage in Matthew 12, Jesus himself in Matthew 12:30 says “Whoever is not with me is against me.” There is no middle ground and the stakes could not be higher. On one side is freedom from sin, life abundantly here, eternal life to come, and peace in our hearts because we have peace with God. On the other side, is slavery to sin, futility of life here, no peace in our hearts because we do not have peace with God, and an eternity spent apart from God in punishment.

God please use your Word and your Spirit – open our hearts to understand you more, to submit ourselves to you, and to live lives that glorify you.

Doubting the truth in the darkness

My good friend Stacey Pop once encouraged me by saying “Don’t doubt in the darkness what God has told you in the light.” She then went on to feed my soul with several scriptures and pray for me. I remember that day well, as an example of God’s goodness in the ministry of His word within the church body.

In Matthew 11, John the Baptist is in prison. He is in a very dark place and begins to doubt. He sends word to Jesus “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” This, from the man who just a few chapters ago boldly proclaimed Jesus coming as the Messiah. Now his situation has changed, and quite naturally he begins to doubt that everything is still going according to plan.

As hard as it is, we must not live live by our feelings or let the situations cloud the truth. Feelings and situations change, truth does not. The solid truth of the Gospel of Jesus does not change. He is the Messiah, the one who came to take away the sins of the world. There is no other.

Only in Jesus is there true rest and peace, as our souls find rest in our Creator. Later on in that same chapter Jesus says this “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)

Our Greatest Need

In Matthew 9:1-8 is the account of Jesus healing a paralytic, but with a twist – look at the first 2 verses:

And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”

This man is paralyzed, they brought him to Jesus obviously for physical healing, and Jesus first declares his sins are forgiven. Huh? One would think that Jesus would take care of the physical needs first. He takes care of the spiritual needs first.

Likewise, our greatest needs is reconciliation with the God who created us, that we (all of us) have rebelled against in our own way. Our greatest need is not to have the marriage fixed, or the bills paid, or the issues with our kids straightened out – our biggest need is forgiveness of our sins – and therefore our biggest need is Jesus. This is the need that precedes everything, and is not optional – either our sins are atoned for by Jesus on the cross, and we trust and live each day in that by his grace in faith – OR they are still on us and we face judgment from God and eternal separation.

To delay deciding on this is to our peril, like that paralytic, our greatest need is forgiveness from God that he richly and freely offers us in Jesus.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
(Romans 3:21-26 ESV)

Building Your House on the Rock

house-rock

In Matthew 7:24-27 Jesus says this:  “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who builds his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded (NIV: foundation) on the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of mine and odes not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

In the immediate context of the sermon on the mount, when Jesus says “these words of mine” contextually he means everything he has just said from Matt 5:1 -7:23.  Of course in the larger context of scripture we know that all of the Bible is God’s word, but if we look at the surrounding context of what “these words of mine” being a rock foundation to build your house on it would focus on many things, but to name a few:

Hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and therefore not pursuing sin (5:6), showing mercy (5:7), making peace (5:9), being salt and letting our light shine among men so they can see our good deeds and give us glory….er…I mean give God glory (5:13-16); grounding and centering your life and faith on Jesus, God, the Messiah, the one who came to fulfill the Old Testament law (5:17-20);  do not be sinfully angry, it’s the same thing as murder in the heart (5:21-26); do not lust after others, its the same thing as adultery in the heart (5:27-30), remember marriage is a covenant before God forever (5:31-32), keep your word (5:33-37);  do not retaliate and escalate a situation unnecessarily (5:38-42); love your enemies…ouch (5:43-48); give to the needy, quietly and humbly (6:1-4) ; pray like Jesus taught us, that God is glorified and his will is done in all things, that we are thankful for his provision and forgive readily (6:5-15); do not idolize and store up material things here on Earth (6:19-24); do not be anxious and worry and brood about situations…it’s sin (6:25-34); do not improperly judge others – God is the only one who will judge salvation, we are called to spur each other on, but do that in humility and gentleness and only after a good long look in the mirror (7:1-6); ask God in prayer for good things (7:7-11); treat others how you’d like to be treated…hey…that IS in the Bible…I thought Ben Franklin said that…(7:12-14); test all teaching, look at it’s fruit.  Look at our fruit, is it bad?  Do we have any? (7:15-20).

That’s a pretty solid foundation, eh?

Matthew 6

Matthew 6 (and 5 for that matter) have so much in them – so many wonderful things to sit and soak in. It’s kind of hard to pick out 1 thing – but perhaps what did jump out at me most this morning is the place God needs to rightfully have in our lives if we call ourselves His followers.

Matthew 6:9-13 is the “Lord’s prayer” perhaps a prayer that most everyone knows. It starts ‘Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be your name.” In the Greek it’s aorist so it’s a statement of fact – “God your name is holy, set apart, hallowed.” Therefore, since that is a fact, we need to recognize that and submit to Him as such. You see that in the following verse “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” May we submit to God’s purposes and plans in our lives. Again, he has a sovereign plan for his kingdom, we need to submit to it. We need to change our wills and hearts to match his.

Speaking of which – check out Matt 6:33, as Jesus wraps up his section on worry and anxiety – “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” Jesus teaching us thru his word that we are to have his purposes first, and that mean to avoid sin and pursue righteousness. This means trusting that his way really is the right and best way for us, instead of our own ideas and sin.

Lord, I pray that I do seek you first, your kingdom, your purposes, and your will in my life today. I trust in you.

Which kind of servant are you?

I was reading the Parable of the Talents this morning [Luke 19:11-27 / Matt 25:14-30] and it kinda hit me in a new way.  Jesus tells this story of a master who gives three servants three different amounts of money – Matthew tells us it was five talents, 2 talents, and 1 talent each according to their ability.

OK, so stop right there.  Does God still give us things according to our ability to handle them well for His glory?  I think the answer is yes…we all have been given different gifts, abilities, and life situations – each custom designed by a sovereign loving God to fit who we are, where we are and what we can do to bring glory and honor to Him.

So, back to our story – the master goes away and the first two servants invest the money and when the master returns they give it back to him with interest.  Obviously, the master is happy about this.

So, again…stopping to ponder – when Jesus does return and when we stand before him to give an account. [Rom 14:10-12].  Those who are followers of Jesus will not be judged for our sin, (that already happened on the cross, and when you trusted in Jesus you were instantly justified) – we will be judged for our lives – our actions – what we did with what he gave us.   I think this story tells us that we are supposed to be growing God’s gifts to us.  Are you growing what he has given you?  We are getting closer to New Years’ resolution time BTW…

The master then gets to the third servant who, out of fear, doesn’t invest what the master gave him.  Instead he hides it.  When the master returns, the servant says “Here is your money back.  It’s all there.  I didn’t lose any of it!”  The master is pretty ticked off, yes…he didn’t lose any of it, but he didn’t gain anything either which was the point – the servant was supposed to make more with what he has been given and he didn’t do that.

I was reading a commentary on this passage this morning that had this to say about the third servant —

He is a believer who has not found the state of grace offered by Jesus so brilliant as he hoped – a legal Christian who has not tasted grace, and knows nothing of the gospel but it’s severe morality. It seems to him that the Lord gives very little to exact so much. With such a feeling, the least possible only will be done. God should be satisfied with us to abstain from doing ill, from squandering our talent. [Godet, Commentary on Luke, 222]

Ouch.

The sum of Christianity is not keeping the rules and waiting around for Jesus to return and we can go to heaven.  This story tells us that God has given each of us something, according to who we are in his sovereignty – and we are called to be responsible and grow what he has given us and bring him glory.  Not to just keep the rules and hide our gifts.   Out of the astounding grace that he has shown us in Jesus – why wouldn’t we?

Who are you more like today?  The third servant or the first two?