Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Need For Repentance

Matthew 11:20 Then He proceeded to denounce the towns where most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent:

Will Jesus denounce us? Have we been witnesses to His miracles and failed to repent? We live today in a country that has been blessed by God beyond anything the world has ever seen. We are free to worship God, we are free to own a Bible, we are free to share the good news of Jesus without the threat of death. But we have taken these freedoms for granted. And more importantly, we have become so calloused to these freedoms that we possess that we are no longer drawn to the God who provided them. In the passage that this verse was taken from Jesus goes on to say "Woe to you Chorazin! Woe to you Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you would have been done in Tyre and Sidon they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you."(Matthew 11:21-22)

The lands of Tyre and Sidon were both destroyed when God judged them for their sin, and here Jesus is telling us that had they witnessed what the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida saw, they would have repented of their sin. But Chorazin and Bethsaida did not repent, and I would argue that we in America are no different than they.

Is Jesus talking to unbelievers here, or is He talking to the church? I guess you could make a case for both, but I think we are missing the point if we say that judgment is a result of sinners acting like sinners. Don't get me wrong, sin will be judged and we will all, saved and unsaved, give an account of our lives to God. But how much more severe will the judgment on our land be if we, as followers of Christ, continue to nurture our own "pet" sins instead of repenting in sackcloth and ashes?

1 Peter 4:17 tells us that judgment will begin with the household of God, so each of us needs to make sure that we have our own house in order. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, "If my people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

If we want America to be healed then it is up to us who are of the household of God to come to Him humbly, repent of our sins, seek His face and turn from our wicked ways. Only then will God hear from heaven and heal our land.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Cost of Discipleship (Part 1)

"The person who loves father of mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever doesn't take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me."
Matthew 10:37-38

These are some pretty harsh words; it says that if we don't love Jesus more than our parents, or our children, or even our life, we are not worthy of Him. But this is exactly what Jesus is telling us here. John MacArthur, in his commentary on Matthew said that the mark of a true disciple is a "willingness to forsake everything, including one’s own family if necessary, for Christ’s sake." I think this is a foreign concept to a lot of us here in America; we have a kind of Christianity that tolerates everything, and doesn't want to offend anyone. We have taken tolerance to the point that we never hear anything like this preached from most of our pulpits anymore. It is a very rare preacher today who will say, "if you are not willing to give up your family in order to follow Jesus then you are not worthy to follow Jesus."

As foreign as this sounds to us here in America, the idea of giving up ones family in order to follow Jesus is not that unusual for people living in most of the rest of the world. In fact, in the Islamic world when a person decides to follow Jesus they are often disowned by their family, and in some cases even killed by them. These people know the cost of following Christ - of being His disciple, but here in America have so taken for granted that we are not often required to go to this extreme. But this is the standard that Jesus set for His disciples.

But please note that this passage is not teaching that we have to give up our family, only that we must be willing to do so if necessary. Jesus is to be first in everything; nothing is to come before Him, not our parents, not our children or grandchildren, nothing. He is to be our number one priority and come before everything.

The other thing that Jesus tells us here, and again, something that we don't hear much today, is that we must also must give up our very life to follow Him. That does not mean that we must die, even though that could very well happen in some cases; what this means is that what we want is now superseded by what He wants. We are no longer to live life for ourselves; we are to live our life for Jesus. Our will is now to be subjected to His will. Jesus gave us the perfect example of this in the garden the night before He was crucified. While praying that if there was any other way that He would not have to drink the cup of God's wrath, He said, "nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done." (Luke 22:42)

This is the cost of discipleship, so today, spend some time with your Heavenly Father and ask Him to show you anything that has become an idol in your life, whether it be an object, your family, or even your own life. Then repent of whatever it is He shows you; you will be glad you did.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Kingdom Has Come Near

Matthew 10:7 "The kingdom of heaven has come near"

What a wonderful thought; the kingdom of heaven has come near. But what does this mean for us? John MacArthur writes, "The kingdom of heaven is above all the domain of God’s lordship, where He rules by His divine will." The question we must ask is this, Do we, the church in America, really live our lives as if we are living in the domain of God's lordship, or are we so consumed with our own agendas that we are neglecting the lordship of Jesus in our lives?

There are three aspects to living in the kingdom of heaven, and we need to understand each of these to fully appreciate what Jesus is telling us here:

First, as one who has been born again, we need to recognize that our position is that of being a subject in this kingdom. At conversion we left the kingdom of this world and we entered the kingdom of heaven. We are no longer the lord of our life, we have come into a new kingdom where we have accepted the lordship of another; we have bowed down to the King, and we are to follow Him.

Second, we are to live a holy and consecrated life, which means that we are to be set apart for God; we are to be separated from the world. We are to live like members of the kingdom to which we now belong. 1 Peter 1:15-16 says, "but as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, 'Be holy, because I am holy'." Also, Romans 14:17 says, "the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit."

And third, we are to look forward to, and pray for, the soon return of Jesus to the earth to rule and reign. Again, John MacArthur writes, "the kingdom will be seen in its glorious millennial form when Christ returns to earth to establish and rule it in person and then sets up His eternal kingdom."

There is a lot in this one little verse; spend some time today contemplating what it means to be in the kingdom of heaven, and thank God for the promise and the hope He has given us.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Worship the Creator

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
Romans 1:20 (NASB)

This verse from Romans chapter one tells us that all men are without excuse when it comes to their knowledge of God, because He has made His invisible attributes, His eternal power, and His divine nature known to us through what He has created. But what does it mean that we can know His invisible attributes?

What Paul is saying here in this verse is that by observing the order of the universe we know that God is a God of order; by observing the power of the ocean or or the power of the sun we can know that God is powerful; by looking at a oak tree we can see that God is strong. God is not any of these objects, but His nature is seen in all of them. Through His creation we can see that God in Omnipotent, we can see that He is Omniscient, we can see that He is loving, we can see His beauty. In other words, this verse makes it clear that on judgment day there is not a man who has ever lived who will be able to say "I just didn't know that You were really real." The witness of creation will just not allow it. William MacDonald writes:
The argument here is clear: Creation demands a Creator. Design demands a Designer. By looking up at the sun, moon, and stars, anyone can know there is a God."
The verse then goes on to say that because of this all men are without excuse. So what does man do with this knowledge? Look at the next few verses:
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
Romans 1:21-23 (NASB)

These verses make it clear that all men know there is a God, but that because we have chosen to not honor Him as God our hearts have been darkened by foolish speculations and unprovable theories. Man has exchanged the glory of God for idols we have made with our own hands and minds. We no longer worship God; we worship His creation, as is seen in verse 25:
For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Romans 1:25 (NASB)

In Ecclesiastes 3:11 we are told that God has placed eternity in the heart of every man. Here in Romans we can see that the creation speaks of God's eternal power. Christianity is not a blind faith; we don't step blindly into the dark. We can see the attributes of God through His creation. God is not opposed to science; He created it, and it all points to Him. Robert Jastrow, an astrophysicist and director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has said:
Now we see how the astronomical evidence supports the biblical view of the origin of the world. … The essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same. Consider the enormousness of the problem: Science has proved that the universe exploded into being at a certain moment. It asks what cause produced this effect? Who or what put the matter and energy into the Universe? And science cannot answer these questions. …

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been there for centuries.
(God and the Astronomers [New York: Norton, 1978], pp. 14, 114, 116)

The problem is that man is sinful and we don't want to accept that there is a God that we will one day have to stand before and that we will have to give an account of our lives, so we have chosen to believe a lie and we have exchange the glory of God for the worship of what He created. 2 Peter 3:10 tells us that "...the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up." and 1 John 2:17 says, "The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever."

Why do men worship creation when we can worship the God who created it? Becasue we are sinful. Spend some time today observing the creation around you, remember that through it we can see His power, His nature, and His attributes reflected in what He has made. Pay attention and see what you can discover about God through it, you may be amazed by what He reveals about Himself. Then spend some time worshiping Him and thanking Him for the beauty of what He has created for us to enjoy.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Abundant Harvest

Matthew 9:37-38 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Why is this? We have all been given a great gift; if we have trusted Jesus as our Lord and Savior our sins have been forgiven and we are assured of eternal life with God. But there are people who have never heard, people that don't know that Jesus came. They are dying and will spend eternity in hell. They just need someone to tell them the good news. Jesus tells us that the harvest is abundant; there are people everywhere we look who have never heard the gospel, but the workers are few. Why are we not all workers? Jesus said that we are to go into all the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). He didn't say "you preachers" or "you missionaries", He just said Go! And here we sit. While the world around us dies, we sit. We are afraid to open our mouths because we might be laughed at, or we might offend someone, or we think we don't know enough to answer their questions, or a thousand other reasons. And while we sit the world dies.

Look at what happened in the verses proceeding this one. In verses 27-31 we are given the account of two blind men who came to Jesus to have their sight restored. After they demonstrated their faith Jesus touched their eyes and healed them. He then told them to keep quite about what He had done for them, but they could not. Verse 31 tells us that they went out and spread the news about Him throughout the whole area. Why? Because they were healed of their blindness! Is what Jesus did for us any different? Did He not heal us of our spiritual blindness? Is that not more important than any physical healing? And yet Jesus can still say " The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few."

Jesus tells us to "Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers into the harvest", and we need to do this. Take some time today to pray for the missionaries and other workers in the great harvest fields of the world, but more importantly, ask God where He wants you to go, and pray as Isaiah who prayed,"Here am I, send me!"

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Call

Matthew 9:12 ..."Those who are well don't need a doctor, but the sick do. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Jesus has just forgiven the sins of a paralyzed man, and to prove that He had the authority to do so He also healed his body. From there He went on and He called Matthew, a tax collector, to follow Him, and Matthew immediately got up and followed Him. We next see Jesus having dinner in Matthew's house. We don't know if it was the same day, or if this was a few days later; the text doesn't say. What it does say is that many tax collectors and sinners came to eat with Jesus and His disciples, and that the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, were once again upset with Jesus and His actions because He didn't fit into their conception of righteousness, and they asked His disciples, "why is your teacher eating with sinners?"

You see, in the world of the Pharisees there was no room for "sinners" because being associated with sinners would have defiled them and they would no longer be able to show how righteous they were; it was all about what they looked like, it was all about what other people thought. They were not righteous on the inside where it counts, and Jesus told them so over and over again. He told them that they were like whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside but inwardly full of dead men's bones (Matthew23:27).

It is to these people then that Jesus says, "Those who are well don't need a doctor, the sick do." The Pharisees didn't see their sinfulness, they thought they were righteous because they "kept" all of the commandments and laws, but what they had missed was that the commandments and laws that God gave were to show us how sinful we are, not to show us how to be righteous. The commandments of the Law deal with our attitudes more than our actions. What Jesus is telling us here is that in order to be set free from the bondage of sin we must first admit that we need to be set free. Jesus didn't come to save the righteous; they don't think they need a savior, he came to save those who know that they are lost, that they are sick, that are broken over their sin, and that acknowledge their need for a savior.

So spend some time today thanking Jesus for coming to seek and save the lost, and thank Him for dying in your place.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Asking Jesus to Leave

Matthew 8:34 At that, the whole town went out to meet Jesus. When they saw Him, they begged Him to leave their region.

Let's set the stage here; Jesus has just been ministering in Capernaum and has told His disciples that they are to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. When they reach the other side, in a place called Gadarene they are confronted by two demon possessed men who lived there among the tombs. The text tells us that these demon possessed men were so violent that no one could pass by there. When the demons that were possessing these men saw Jesus they began to shout "What have You to do with us, Son of God? Have You come to torment us before the time?" The parallel passage in Luke tells us that the demons begged Him not to send them to the abyss (Luke 8:30). The story goes on and tells us that there was a herd of pigs in the area, and the demons begged Him to send them there. He granted their request and all of the pigs ran down a steep bank into the sea, and they all died. Those who witnesses this went into the city and reported all that they had just seen, and it is here that we come to our verse for the day. After hearing everything that Jesus had just done, these people looked Him in the eye, and they begged Him to leave.

How many times do we witness the work of Jesus and then ask Him to leave? Oh, we may not come right out and say that we want Him to leave, but our actions couldn't be any more clear. The people in this account didn't raise an objection to the demon possessed men being set free, they didn't even object to the death of the pigs; their problem was with Jesus. Why? Because when sinful men come in contact with a holy God they are terrified. When we see Jesus for who He really is we must, without exception, also face our own sinfulness, and most of the time we are not willing to do that. It is a scary thing to be confronted by the holiness of God. When Isaiah saw God he said "Woe is me for I am ruined" (Isaiah 6:5) and Peter fell at His feet proclaiming "Go away from me, because I am a sinful man, Lord!" (Luke 5:8) when he recognized the holiness of Jesus. But look at Jesus' response in verse 10,He said to Peter "Don't be afraid." That is always His response to the sinner who is willing to admit his sin and turn to Him for healing and forgiveness.

Today take some time to review your life and see if there is any area where you have told Jesus to leave. If there is repent and ask Jesus to come back; if not just rejoice in His holiness.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Ask, Seek, Knock

Matthew 7:7-8 Keep asking, and it will be give to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks the door will be opened.

How many times have you been praying and thought that what you wanted was just not big enough to bother God Or how many times have you prayed for something really big only to give up because you didn't get the answer you wanted right away? Well both of these scenarios are addressed in this passage; Jesus tells us that we are to ask, to seek, and to knock.

The first thing I thought of as I read this passage was Jeremiah 29:13 "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for me with all of your heart." Do we seek God like this; with our whole heart? How much better would our lives be if we sought Him with the same passion and commitment that we go after other things?

The three words used here are important, we ask for what we want, we seek what we are missing, and we knock when we feel we have been shut out. We are to ask, and keep on asking. We are to seek, and keep seeking. We are to knock, and knock, and knock... Why are we to do this? Because the goal of prayer is not to get stuff that we can use on our own sinful desires; the goal of prayer is to get God, and by asking, and seeking, and knocking, we are allowing God, through His Holy Spirit, to shape our thoughts, to invade our attitudes, and to make His will our will. This is why the apostle John said, "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked from Him." (1 John 5:14-15 NASB) The act of praying conforms our will to His will, and when we asking God for His will, He will answer.

Is there something that you need from God today? Ask Him. He delights in giving good gifts to His children. This passage goes on to say that if we who are evil know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will our Father in heaven give good gifts to us when we ask Him. James tells us that every good and perfect gift is from God (James 1:17) and that we don't have because we don't ask (James 4:2). Jesus is inviting us to ask Him for what we want, to seek Him, and to knock persistently. You just may find in the process that what you really wanted was there all the time just waiting for you to ask.; you may find that what you needed was not more stuff, but God Himself.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Cure for Worry

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.

The context in which this verse is given is that of worry. Jesus is telling us that we are not to worry about what we will eat, what we will drink, what we will wear. He then goes on to say that worrying and seeking after these things is what the idolaters who don't know God do. God knows that we need these things, and He will take care of us; He takes care of the birds who do not work or save. If He feeds them, Jesus asks, won't He also take care of You? Are you not more important than they are?

But please note that the verse does not say that we are not to stop striving and working for everything because God will provide; it says that our priority is to be for His kingdom and His righteousness. Instead of worrying about the things of this life we should be "worrying" about how we can be more like Jesus, how we can advance His kingdom here on earth, and how we His righteousness can become such a part of our lives that other people are drawn to Him.

So what does it look like when we are seeking Gods kingdom and His righteousness? John MacArthur says, "To seek God’s kingdom is seek to win people into that kingdom, that they might be saved and God might be glorified." So part of seeking God's kingdom is doing whatever you can to help build that kingdom. He goes on to say, " Instead of longing after the things of this world, we are to hunger and thirst for the things of the world to come, which are characterized above all else by God’s perfect righteousness and holiness." Seeking God's righteousness then is pursuing a holy life; it's not focusing on the cares of this world, but on the one to come. A few verses earlier Jesus said, "Don't collect for yourselves treasures here on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don't break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

So the cure for worry is to focus all of our attention on God, on His kingdom, and on His righteousness. When we do these things we are storing up treasure in heaven, and showing that our heart is not in this world, but in the world to come. You say you want to stop worrying; take your focus off of your problems and put it on your heavenly Father. There is not a single situation you will ever encounter that is bigger than He is.