Thursday, January 31, 2008

My Words Will Never Pass Away

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away."
Matthew 24:35 (NASB)

Jesus tells us here that Heaven and Earth will pass away. This is nothing new to the Christian; we have all been taught that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and the letter to the Romans tells us that this creation groans and is waiting to be remade (Romans 8:18-22). 2 Peter 3:10-12 tells us that the heavens will pass away with a roar and will be burned up, as will the earth. But we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13).

But the promise that Jesus makes here is not that the heavens and earth will pass away. The promise that He makes is that even though everything we know in this world will be burned up, we can depend on His word because it will never pass away. This promise should give us security and hope because this means that all of the promises of God's word will endure forever. Here are just a few of them:

  • God says, "I will never leave you or forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)and His word will never pass away.
  • God says, "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13) and His word will never pass away.
  • Jesus said, "I am going to prepare a place for you." (John 14:2) and His word will never pass away.
  • Jesus said, "I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me." (Revelation 22:12)and His word will never pass away.
  • It is written, "What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, and what has never come into a man's heart, is what God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). And His word will never pass away.

These are just a few of the many promises in the Bible, so the next time you are feeling discouraged, or feel like there is no hope, open your Bible and read the promises that God has made to each and every one of us who has put our faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Heaven and earth will pass away, but His words will never pass away.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Don't Be Deceived

Then Jesus answered them: "See that no one leads you astray."

In my last post we saw that the disciples had some questions about what Jesus was teaching, and they asked Him privately when these things would take place, what are the signs of Your coming, and what are the signs of the end of the age. In Matthew 24:4-31 Jesus is going to answer these questions.

The first thing that Jesus tells them is that they need to be careful that they are not lead astray - that they are not deceived. He tells them that there will be many who claim to be the Christ, and that they will lead many astray. Later in the passage He tells them that these false prophets will will perform miracles and if possible would lead even the elect astray. Jesus warns them that no matter what they hear about these men they are not to believe it.

Jesus tells them that there will be wars and rumors of wars, and that nation will rise against nation. But they are not to be alarmed; this is not yet the end. He tells them that there will be famines and earthquakes, but these are just the beginning of birth pains. He tells them that they will be persecuted for their faith, they will be betrayed and hated, but that it is the one who endues to the end who will be saved. He tells them that the gospel will be preached throughout the whole world, and then the end will come.

Jesus then describes the Great Tribulation. I know there is a lot a debate about when this event will take place, and if Christians will go through it or not, but what I want you to see here is that Jesus is telling His disciples what the tribulation will be like, and He tells them that when they see these things taking place they should not even go back into their houses to gather up their belongings, but flee to the mountains.

Jesus then concludes this passage by saying that after all of these things take place He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet and they will gather together the elect; those that have chosen to follow Jesus.

No matter what your position is on the sequence of end time events, the thing that you need to take away from this is that God is sovereign, He is in control, He has a plan, and that no matter what happens He will not be not taken by surprise. And when it is all said-and-done it is those who chose to put their faith in Jesus who will live forever with Him.

Take some time today and read Matthew chapter 24 then spend some time in prayer thanking Your Heavenly Father for letting us know what we could expect in this world, and for the promise of eternal life when it is over.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

George Street

This is one of the best evangelism stories I have ever heard; it shows that we have no idea the influence we may be having on those around us, and that we need to keep on sharing the gospel at every opportunity.

Now, go share your faith!

Ask Jesus

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?”

Jesus has just concluded His condemnation of the Pharisees where we saw that He called them hypocrites for the way they twisted the law and made themselves appear to be righteous, yet all the while they remained as evil as ever on the inside. Jesus concludes by saying that this is the reason prophets were sent to them, but they chose to kill the prophets instead of heeding their warnings. Now Jesus tells them that the blood of these prophets is on their hands, and that the generation that was hearing these words would be judged for all of these things.

Jesus then tells them that His desire was to gather them up and protect them as a mother hen does with her chicks, but they are not willing to submit. Because of their attitude of self righteousness, judgment is passed on them and Jesus tells them that their house will be left desolate. All of these things happened in 70 A.D. just as Jesus said they would, but that is not where I want to focus our attention today.

The disciples were also here and they have witnessed this exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees; they are confused by what they have just seen, so they come to him privately and they ask Him 3 questions: When will these things take place, what is the sign of Your coming, and what is the sign of the end of the age? Again, I am not going to deal with these questions today; today I want us to focus on the fact that the disciples came to Jesus privately and asked Him questions about what they didn't understand from His teaching. This is what we, as disciples of Christ should be doing as well. How often de we read something in the Bible that we do not understand and our first inclination is to find our favorite commentary or study Bible to see what has to say about the passage instead of seeking the answer from God Himself.

I realize that the disciples had Jesus physically with them, but we have the Holy Spirit with us and we can ask Him questions just like they did with Jesus. So today, I want us to take some time to think about the fact that the disciples asked Jesus questions, and that He answered them. Then remember that in John 16:7, Jesus said that it was to their advantage that He go away, because then the Holy Spirit would come, so the next time you are reading the Bible, or listening to a sermon, and think "I don't really understand this" go get alone with God, and asked Him to give you the answer? Remember, we have an advantage that the disciples didn't have (at least at that time); we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us.

Ask Jesus, He does answer.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Woe To You

So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Matthew 23:28 (ESV)

"Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees." Jesus says this phrase eight times in Matthew 23:13-33. He calls the Jewish leaders hypocrites, He calls the snakes, He calls them blind guides, whitewashed tombs, and tells them that they are fit for hell. This dialog is a continuation of the passage that we looked at in my last post, and once again we need to examine ourselves to make sure that we are not doing the same things that the Pharisees were doing.

According to this passage some of the practices of the Pharisees were: they "locked up the kingdom of heaven from the people." What they were doing here was ignoring what God said and making up their own lists of rules for the people to follow. Their legalism was keeping both themselves, and those who followed them out of heaven. We need to be sure that we are not making up rules for people to follow that have noting to do with the gospel of grace. We cannot earn our way to heaven, and we shouldn't be trying to make others do this either.

Another thing they were doing (which goes along with the one above) was to pay a tithe on everything while ignoring the rest of the law. Jesus was not condemning them for their observance of the tithe; He was making the point that they needed to also observe the more important parts of the law: mercy, justice, and faith. The problem was that they were so concerned with how they looked to men (their outward appearance) that they were neglecting the way the looked to God (the inner man). Jesus tells them that they were outwardly clean, but inwardly they were full of greed and self indulgence. He told them they were like whitewashed tombs, beautiful to look at, but full of dead men's bones.

We need to pay attention to this ourselves, because it is easy to appear righteous to men, but we cannot fool God. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again (John 3) and this applies to us as well. We cannot keep the law externally and earn our place in heaven. That is what the Pharisees were trying to do and Jesus condemned them, and this is what we try to do today as well. We must humble ourselves before God and allow Him to transform us from the inside out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Drive Through Church

Here is a little parody that illustrates what happens when we try to please everybody in our churches. Instead of trying to make people comfortable and happy maybe we should just get back to preaching the Gospel!

Isn't Jesus better than anything else we have to offer?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Practice What You Preach

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you — but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice."

Jesus is once again speaking about the Pharisees, and here he tells those listening to Him that the Pharisees, who were their teachers, were not to be looked to as examples because they didn't practice what they taught. Notice in this verse that Jesus did not tell the people that they should not listen to the Pharisees; He actually told them to observe, or to do, whatever they told them to do. This means that what the Pharisees were teaching the people was correct and accurate, the problem was not with their doctrine, it was with the application in their own lives. In other words, do what the tell you, but don't follow their example, because they don't listen to their own teaching and follow it themselves.

Are we guilty of the same thing today? How many times do we tell someone else how they should live but not live that way ourselves? How many time have we tried to remove a splinter from our brothers eye while ignoring the plank in our own? Jesus says that the Pharisees do everything to be observed by others. They do things to show everyone how religious they are, they love to be honored for their piety, they love to receive honors and have dinners called in their name. They love to show you how much knowledge they possess, they love to be called "Pastor" and "Dr." and "Teacher", but they are hypocrites when it comes to following their own advise. They expect others to live by rules and regulations that they are not willing to live by themselves.

Does this sound like anybody you know? Does it sound like you? I think there is a little bit of this in each of us. It is so easy to see what everyone else is doing wrong, but it is so hard to admit it in our own lives. We all like to receive the praise of men; we all like to be honored for our achievements, but what Jesus is telling us here is that it is much more important to be right before God than it is to be praised by men.

Jesus then says in verse 12, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled , and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." So, the question we must ask ourselves is this: would I rather be exalted here on earth by men, or exalted in heaven by God? The choice is yours and Jesus has told us how.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Who Do You Love?

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22:37-40

The Pharisees were always trying to trap Jesus by asking what they thought to be trick questions. They reasoned that if they could ask Him a question, and then show by His answer that He was either violating either the law of Rome, or the Law of God, they would finally be able to get rid of Him. In every case Jesus was able to show them that they were wrong in their assumptions, and that their testing Him showed their own ignorance. This passage is no exception.

The Sadducees had tried to trap Jesus with a question about marriage and the afterlife. The interesting thing about their question is that the Sadducees didn't believe in an afterlife or in a resurrection. When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and one of their experts then asked Him which commandment was the greatest.

Jesus didn't even hesitate in His answer; He immediately said, "Love the lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind." The interesting thing here is that this answer that Jesus gave covers the first four of the ten commandments. If you love God with your whole being, you will not have another God before Him, you will not have any idols, you will not misuse His name, and you will keep the Sabbath day. Then Jesus adds that the second greatest commandment is to "Love your neighbor as yourself." This covers the next six of the ten commandments; a person who loves their neighbor will honor their parents, they will not murder, they will not commit adultery, they will not steal, or lie, or covet their neighbors possessions, because each of these thing will cause harm to their neighbor.

In these four short verses we see not only the wisdom of Jesus when dealing with the Pharisees, we also see a pattern for us to live by today. Take some time today to ask God to show you anything that is causing you to not love Him with your whole being, or anything you may be doing that is not showing love to your fellow man. When He does, repent, ask His forgiveness, and make the necessary corrections in your life. You will be glad you did.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Wedding Invitation

Matthew 22:2 "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son."

In Matthew 22 we come to another parable that Jesus told to the people in order to teach the truth of God in a way that they would easily understand. In this parable Jesus uses the illustration of a wedding banquet, and He tells them that is what the kingdom of heaven is like, so let's go through these few verses and see what we can learn.

The first thing we see here is that there was a king who was giving a wedding banquet for his son, so he sent out his slaves to summon those he had invited. When the slaves told the invited that it was time for the banquet they didn't want to come. The king then sent his slaves out a second time to again ask then to come, but they paid no attention because they had other things to do. Enraged, the king sent his army to destroy those men and their city.

He then sent out his slaves again telling them that those he had invited were not worthy, so go now to the places outside of that city and invite everyone you can find. The slaves did as they were told and they invited everyone, whether good or evil, and the kings banquet was filled with guests. But when the king came in he found one guest who was not dressed for the wedding, so he asked him how he got in, but the man couldn't answer the king, so he was bound and thrown out; for many are invited but few are chosen.

There you have a quick paraphrase of the parable, but what does this mean for us today?

This king in this story represents God the Father. He is planning a wedding feast for His Son and He invited the nations of Israel to the feast. But they rejected their Messiah, which in essence was a rejection of the invitation to the banquet. So our first lesson from this parable is that we need to be sure that we do not reject the invitation of God by rejecting Jesus the Messiah.

Those who were invited second are the Gentile nations; when the Jews rejected Jesus the Gospel was taken to the rest of the world and now we are invited to the feast. The banquet was full and the king was pleased, but then he saw a man without a wedding garment. This man represents someone who is in the church but who has never really experienced salvation.

I hear you asking, "why was this man thrown out, he came in just like everyone else?" The answer is it was the king who supplied the wedding garments, and the fact that this man didn't have one on means that he had rejected what the king had provided. Just like the wedding guests, each of us must be clothed in the righteousness of Christ to be allowed into the wedding banquet; this man represents someone who tries to get in on their own merit. The lesson here is that we cannot earn our way in and there is nothing within ourselves that will merit an invitation (Isaiah 64:6). We must come to the banquet by personal invitation of the king, and we must come dressed in the garments that he provides.

Take some time today to thank your Heavenly Father for not only inviting you to His Son's wedding banquet, but also for providing the "wedding garment" that we could not provide ourselves.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Are You Just Listening?

Matthew 21:45 When the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parable they knew He was speaking about them.

Imagine sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to Him teach and knowing that the parable He just told to show you the wickedness of men's hearts was directed toward you. And then doing nothing to change or repent. That is exactly what the Pharisees did, and that is exactly what we do every time we open the Word of God and ignore what it says.

But why did the Pharisees not respond to Jesus teaching? The verse above tells us that they knew He was speaking about them, yet they did nothing to change. In fact the very next verse tells us that they were looking for a way to have Him arrested, and that the only reason they didn't was because they feared the crowds. I think that one reason that they didn't follow Jesus' teaching and repent is that they believed that they were so righteous they didn't need to repent. But it was also because they didn't recognize Jesus for who He is. They hadn't recognized any of the prophets that God had sent to teach them, and had in fact they had had many of them killed. Now they have the very Son of God in their midst, and they are rejecting Him as well.

But are the Pharisees really that much different from us? Don't we look at ourselves as better than we really are, and at others as worse than they really are? Don't we ignore Jesus' teaching if we don't like what He said? Jesus tells the Pharisees that the kingdom of God will be taken away from them and given to a nation that is producing the fruit of righteousness, and that is exactly what happened. Because the Jewish people rejected their Messiah the gospel went to the gentiles and the Church was born.

I don't think we can apply this teaching to the church the same way that it applied to the nation of Israel, because Jesus taught that His Church would continue until His return. But I think we can look at this and apply the principles here to the individuals within the Church (by which I mean us). James tells us to be doers of the word and not just hearers who are deceived (James 1:19-25), and this is good advice. Spend some time today asking God to show you any area of your life where you have ignored what He has told you to do... And repent.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Fig Tree

And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
Matthew 19:21 (ESV)

This has been one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible. What was Jesus doing here, and what was He trying to tell us by cursing a fig tree? In this chapter we are shown three things about the nation of Israel, and each of these is also a warning to us today, so let's look at them and see what we can learn.

The first thing we see in chapter 21 is what is called the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. What we see here is a nation of people who are only interested in what Jesus can do for them physically; they want to make Him their king, but they don't want Him to be Lord. This could apply to many in the church today; they are only interested in staying out of hell, but they have no real desire to do His will.

Next we see the cleansing of the temple. In these verses Jesus is showing the Jewish people that even though they are religious outwardly they are corrupt on the inside. This is the second time during His ministry that Jesus has cleansed the temple which indicates that the leaders hearts never changed. This is a problem for us today as well. Jesus told Nicodemus that a person cannot enter the kingdom of God unless they are born again (John 3) and this still applies to us today. We have many in our churches who are religious, but that have never been born again.

This brings us to the fig tree. Jesus is now going to tie all of these events together in one picture so we can easily remember them. He walks up to a fig tree, sees that it has no fruit; He curses it and it withers. So again I ask, what is this showing us? Well, in this instance the tree represents the nation of Israel, and the leaves but no fruit on the tree represent that they are outwardly religious, but that inwardly there has not been a change (there is no fruit). By cursing the tree and the tree withering, Jesus is showing the nation that their unbelief has brought about their judgment. Because they have leaves (an outward show of religion) but no fruitfulness they are judged by Jesus, and isn't this the same thing we are warned about in Matthew 7:21 when Jesus says that not everyone who claims to be a Christian will enter heaven, but only those who do the will of His Father?