Archive for January, 2012

Wearing The Right Clothes

January 31, 2012

“And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?”  Matthew 22:12

Recently I had a sleepless night when I found myself waking up several times in night because of crazy dreams.  One of the dreams that keep me awake related to this mornings scripture reading, Matthew 22:1-22.  In my dream, I was asked to preach at a mega church.  I was so excited about the opportunity.  This church is a great church with a historic witness for Christ.  When I got to this church, I suddenly realized I was wearing jeans and a polo shirt.  Now there is nothing wrong with jeans and a polo shirt.  But in this historic church no one had every preached without a coat and tie.  I found myself scrambling to find a suit, but to no avail.  Finally I threw myself on the mercy of the pastor who said, “I am sorry you cannot preach today.”  In this moment of rejection I woke up with a deep sadness until I realized this was but a dream.

This mornings scripture reading is not a dream, and there is great sadness.  Matthew 22 continues to account for us the story of Jesus discussion concerning the Kingdom of God.  Several things stand out in the text: Notice those who reject the kingdom, Vs: 5-7.  These people make excuses for why they refuse Christ invitation to come.  These same people face the eternal flames of hell.  They had an opportunity to respond but in their rejection they were judged because they refused the only remedy for their sin.

Notice those who are rejected by the King, Vs: 8-12.  These Jewish leaders and their followers are deemed not worthy to receive the Kingdom of God.  Still there are others who want the kingdom, but they want it on their own terms.  They are not clothed in the “Righteousness of God.”  

Notice those who are received by the King, Vs: 13-14.  These are the ones who are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.  Such a person realizes they have been chosen by God, called by God, cleansed by God, and clothed in His righteousness.

This morning I realize I can rest in complete assurance that I will be accepted in heaven because I have his righteousness and not my own.  The fact is, I could never be accepted before God based upon my works, Psalm 118:20.

This morning I offered to God this prayer, “Lord, I thank you for choosing, calling, and cleansing me by your will.  I praise you for the robes of righteousness I have because of Christ.  Some day I will be able to enter heaven because of your invitation and your clothing.  This day, help me to share this good news with all I meet.  I pray for all those serving on foreign fields, that they may stand strong robed in your righteousness.  May many people ask them about their spiritual garments this very day.”

For further study, I encourage you to read Revelation 3:18, Revelation 19, and Zechariah 3:3-5.  Also a wonderful resource is A.W. Tozer’s book, “The knowledge of the holy.”

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A Miserable Wretch

January 30, 2012

“They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits of their seasons.'”  Matthew 21:41

Question, “Has anyone recently characterized you as a miserable wretch?”  Most likely, If anyone has, a fight ensued.  The fact is most often we reject those who point out bad things about us and we run with those who point out the good things in us.  This mornings scripture reading, Matthew 21:22-46, is a testimony to this fact.

Jesus has entered Jerusalem, 21:1-11.  The crowds who received him were at a fever pitch.  The city has swollen to ten times its size because of the upcoming Feast Of Passover. Jesus ministry is coming to a head.  Many are thinking he is headed for a crown but he is headed for the cross.

The scene in chapter 21 intensifies as Jesus drives those out of the temple, Vs: 12-17, who had turned God’s house into a den of robbers.  At this point we see a push back from the religious establishment, Vs:23-27.  These leaders question as to what authority Jesus had in overturning what they were allowing.  In Jesus response we discover the very heart of these leaders and we see our own hearts apart from the saving work of God.

Jesus makes this bold statement about those who question his authority, “Truly, I say to you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.”  At this moment, one must question Jesus.  Here were people who were attending the temple services weekly.  Here were people who were fasting, tithing, and studying the law.  But Jesus say’s, “Tax-collectors and prostitutes will go into kingdom before them.”  How can this be?

The answer is contained in the last section of our reading, Vs: 33-46.  God had blessed Israel to be the apple of his eye.  He has given them all they needed to be successful.  But they chose to reject his leadership.  They chose to seek glory for themselves. However, God in his grace sent prophets to them but they rejected and abused the prophets.  Now God was sending his own son to turn their hearts around but they would reject and crucify him.

The fact is, these were”Miserable and wretched people.”  But so to were the tax-collectors and prostitutes. The bottom line is, “We are all born as miserable wretches.”  However not everyone remains a miserable wretch.  For those in whom God open’s their eyes to the gospel, there is a confession of sin, a confession of Jesus authority as the Cornerstone, and a complete surrender to His provision for their salvation.

Miserable wretches become magnificent worshippers at the feet of the one who saved them.  This is what would happen with the Gentiles, when God closed the eyes of Israel.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I praise our Lord for his deliverance of this miserable wretch.  I want to spend every day not only praising him, but also proclaiming his message of deliverance to a world filled with miserable wretches like me.

For further study consider I Peter 2, Psalm 118:2-23.  Also consider reading David Jeremiah’s book, “Amazing Grace.”

Only With Difficulty

January 27, 2012

“And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.'” Matthew 19:23

This mornings readings come from Matthew 19:23-20:16.  Here we find ourselves engaged with Jesus in making sense out of man’s rejection of the gospel.  If you are a genuine follower of Christ, with certainty I can say, “You have had this experience with people.”

I can still remember how broken-hearted I was over a person years ago.  I had met them in the town where I was pastor. Immediately the Lord had placed this man in my heart.  I just knew this man would come to Christ.  I would daily pray for him and I would seek to share the gospel with him every time I would see him.  I can remember sharing Christ one evening in a crusade.  I looked at the back of the building where we had gathered and there he stood.  I can still remember how I pleaded that night that He would come to Christ.  But he did not. To this day, this man has not been born again.

In Matthew 19, Jesus shares truth with a rich man who is more in love with his riches than he is with the one in whom there is true riches.  The disciples had to be in shock when this man went away sorrowful. This was a good man who did many good things.  These guys were shocked that he would not follow Christ.  Jesus knew this so he engages these men in a discussion that every student of the gospel needs to engage in.

Jesus makes it clear that salvation is only in Himself (With God all things are possible). He also makes it clear that people have roadblocks to the gospel.  In this man’s case materialism was a roadblock.  This man was giving up eternal riches for earthly riches.  Outwardly he looked ok but inwardly he was not.  The disciples could not understand this.

They questioned, “Who can be saved?”  Jesus answer is clear, “Only those that God saves!!!”  Brothers and sisters we have the task of sharing the gospel.  God has the task of saving sinners.  Every person has roadblocks called sin.  As we so the seed of the gospel, God removes those roadblocks with His precious blood.

Out of this discussion the disciples wonder what benefit there is in forsaking materialism and following Christ.  The answer for Jesus is amazing, “Those who follow Christ will receive 100 fold in the life to come.”  Serving Jesus had eternal rewards.

Yes there will be days of difficulty when people, like my friend, say no to Jesus.  But there are days, as I had last week, when people will say yes to Jesus.

So my challenge to you is simply this, “In days of difficulty and in days of delight, stay focused on your task.  The gospel is the power of salvation to everyone who believes…”

For further study consider Acts 8:26-40.  Also for further development join us in committing to sharing Christ with all those around you.  

What Do You Think?

January 26, 2012

“And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” Matthew 19:3.

Each morning for the past 14 years I have had the privilege of talking to the same guy (my best friend) at 7 am.  Over these years we have been through many things together. Our range of topics have been more than this blog could hold.  However one question often dominates our conversation.  Here is the question, “What do you think?”

This morning I was reminded of this very question in our bible reading, Matthew 19:1-22.  In this section of Matthew Jesus is faced with no less than 4 questions.  These question deal with 4 subjects: “Marriage, Single living, Childlikeness, and Works salvation.”  In each of these questions, man is always trying to insert his opinion.

For our time, I want to examine the first question.  Jesus is questioned concerning the subject of marriage and divorce.  The passage begins with man’s interpretation of scripture , Vs: 3.  Here we discover man’s desire to make the scripture say what he wants it to say.  Check out Deuteronomy 24:1-3 for more information.  The passage turns the other way as our Savior gives God’s interpretation, Vs: 4-6.  God’s plan for marriage never included divorce, Matthew 5:31-32, Gen. 2:18,21-24.

This passage becomes intense as man challenges the scripture, Vs: 7.  Man is always looking for errors so that he can justify his error.  Next we notice that our Savior identifies our sin, Vs: 8-9.  Suddenly it becomes clear that divorce happens as a result of man’s sinful disobedience to God’s plan.

This passage teaches us God’s view of marriage.  Marriage is to be the coming together of two lives.  These lives become one united under the leadership of Christ.  These lives leave their former life and they labor for life to be what Christ called them to be.  Each couple will have to work through many things in their lives together.  Sadly even martial failure will come to some couples.  When this happens God’s plan is for forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-25) and restoration.

However none of these things can be accomplished if we live by our own opinions.  This very day I encourage you to resist the temptation to interpret scripture in your wisdom.  Many people look at a verse and think, “What does this mean to me.”

Brothers and sisters we must look at scripture and allow scripture to interpret scripture.  God’s word has one meaning.  This meaning is his meaning and not ours.  The meaning of scripture is not up to our debate or our choice.  We must discover God’s meaning and we must dedicate ourselves to living out that meaning.

If we do not live this way, we will find ourselves as did the people in Matthew 19.  We will make decisions based upon the hardness of our hearts.  Our lives will be a wasteland of misinterpretation of God’s word.

Follow God’s path in obedience to His word.  You will be able to say, “This is God’s view.”  Then and only then will you find success in life!

For further study consider reading II Timothy 2:15, II Peter 1:15-21.  Also for further study concerning what God says about marriage, read Paul Tripp’s book, “When Sinners Say I do.”  

Forgiveness Is The Key

January 25, 2012

“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”  Matthew 18:35

Several days ago, several of the guys from my church were sitting around our table with me.  The topic of our conversation was the recent interview with Joe Paterno who was giving his reasons for not doing more in regard to his assistant coach who is being accused of mistreatment of children.  As we talked it was clear that each of us wondered how we would respond if our children had faced such things.  The issue of forgiveness was much on our minds that evening.

This morning the subject of forgiveness is much before us as we look at our scripture for today, “Matthew 18:8-35.”  In these verses Jesus gives us extensive teaching concerning sin and how we are to deal with the sin problem in the world.  Jesus begins with a strong warning to never be the one who places opportunities for others to sin (18:7).  Jesus follows this with a warning to remove those things from our lives that would create a pathway of sin in our own lives (18:8-9).  Next Jesus teaches us how we are to have a shepherds heart for those who fall into sin (18:10-14).  Finally Jesus teaches us how to correctly confront those who have unconfessed sin in their lives (Vs:15-20).

At this point, you might be asking, “How does all of this relate to forgiveness?”  The answer is seen in Jesus encounter with Peter and the parable that follows (Vs: 21-35).  Without a forgiving heart we cannot accomplish any of the things Jesus teaches in these verses.

Here was my prayer after reading this text:  “Dear Father, I praise you for forgiving me of my sin.  I plead with you to keep me from ever falling into sin or leading others to fall into sin.  This day may I reach out to those brothers and sisters who have fallen into sin.  May I in love seek to see them restored to you.  As I seek this may I deal honestly, graciously, and kindly with all I meet.  Help me to resist the temptation to limit forgiveness.  This day I seek to forgive in the same way I have been forgiven.  

Brothers and sisters this is what you and I have been set free to do.  This morning I was blessed with Paul’s words to the church in Rome: “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, have been set free from sin, having become slaves of righteousness.”  Romans 6:17-18

The fact is, the guys around my table were all followers of Christ.  If we choose to walk in obedience to Christ we will forgive as Christ forgave us.  If we choose to walk in the flesh we will seek to take judgment in our own hands.  This day may all who read this choose to walk in obedience to Christ.

For further reading consider I Cor. 13, Romans 7

Tired of, “And They Could Not”

January 24, 2012

“And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” Matthew 17:16

Do you every grow weary of not being able to do things?  I can still remember in my childhood getting upset with my parents because it seemed that we could never take a trip together as a family.  There were always reasons why we could not go.  I can still remember making a commitment to myself, “When I have a family I will seek to always try to do the could not’s.”

Now as an adult I realize that there were many reasons why we could not do certain things when I was a child.  Some of those same reasons keep me from doing things today.  But that story is for another day.

This morning we focus our attention on the could not from our bible reading, Matthew 17:9-18:7.  Here Jesus encounters (17:14-21) a father who has a son who is demon-possessed.  This father has brought his son to Jesus disciples for healing and they could not.  Now Jesus comes and the could not is replaced with the power of God.

As we follow the story line Jesus makes a very revealing statement about the could not, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.”

Think about the implications of what Jesus said: How often do we struggle in our own attempts to do something about the could not’s. We struggle and we struggle in our own strength (How twisted we are in thinking that dead people can bring life to other death people).  How often are we short-sighted in our attempt to do something about the could not’s?  Here Jesus is right before them and they try in their own strength.  People who believe in Jesus must walk in faith totally walking in his power and not their own.

This morning I was greatly encouraged by Christ’s words, “Truly, I say to you, ‘if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

As we believe in Christ we begin to evidence faith in Christ’s power and teaching. At first we take baby steps but then we get on our feet and we walk in his word.  We now walk in humility and we now encourage those who come behind us to walk in this same faith.

Over the years I have discovered that the only could not’s that need to be overcome are those could not’s that come when we look at God’s word and we say, “I can’t do it.”  Brothers and sisters, “Yes you can.”  If you don’t believe me, “Look at the father’s son who is now in his right mind because of Jesus.”

For Further reading, “Mark  9:14-28, I John 4.”  Also Adrian Rogers book, ‘The Power Of Kingdom Authority.”  

Testing Our Understanding

January 23, 2012

“And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.'” Matthew 16:17

Last week you might have read about the Italian cruise liner that ran aground. This wreck cost several people their lives.  I was amazed at the headlines (Cnn.com) “Ships wreckage due to human error of captain.” Personally, this statement could easily be made about every failure in my own life.

This mornings scripture reading, Matthew 16:13:17-8, illustrates for us an alternate way of living life.  To truly grasp the depth of Jesus words one needs to go back to the beginning of chapter 16 where Jesus encounters a group of Pharisees and Sadducees.  In the encounter these elitist were questing Jesus concerning the signs of the times.  In Jesus response we discover two things (16:1-5): Humanity has the ability to understand signs in the world such as when rain is coming.  But humanity does not have the ability to understand the signs in God’s word.  Only Jesus opens the eyes of any man to understand His word (16:5-12).

We see and example of this in Vs: 13-20.  Jesus poses a question to Peter; “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  Peter’s response is right on the money, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In this moment we are reminded that Peter’s understanding was a blessing from the Lord.  In no wise could Peter understand this without God’s wisdom.

This very day we have a reason to celebrate because we have been giving understanding.  But with a gift there also comes a responsibility with the gift.  We see this in Vs: 21-23.  Jesus begins to reveal more and more truth to his disciples.  In this he is testing their understanding.  Very quickly we discover how Peter fails to seek and submit to God’s wisdom.  In this moment, a man who is blessed to understand becomes a stumbling block to the gospel.

For me, I find great conviction in being careful to submit to God’s word.  It is so easy to fail to seek his understanding.  I am often like Peter wanting to enforce my will into God’s work.  In those moments my Lord is quick to remind me, “I must deny myself, and take up my cross and follow him.”  

Brothers and sisters we have a great responsibility in submitting our minds to his will.  We have a great responsibility in seeking his understanding in all of our lives.  The great discovery of our faith is when we realize that submission brings greater clarity as God reveals himself more and more to people who take up their cross and follow him.  This happened to three of the disciples in 17:1-13.

Brothers and sister, may it never be said, “That we failed due to human error.” May it be said, “Daily they sought God’s understanding and daily they submitted to standing on his understanding.”

For further study, “Proverbs 6:20-23.”  

Where Did That Come From

January 21, 2012

“It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”  Matthew 15:11

This morning, I could not resist the urging of God to blog.  Our scripture for the day is Matthew 15:1-28.  As usual the chapter begins with Jesus being confronted with the questions of the religious leaders (Vs: 1-9).  For me the tough part of the passage is Vs:10-20 where Jesus deals with our heart.

The condition of our heart is revealed in many circumstances.  For example, in your home you get into an educated discussion (Argument) with your spouse.  I promise you, the condition of your heart will be revealed.  There are many other examples.  I personally witnessed this last evening during our last adult league basketball game.  This morning as I thought back to that moment, I felt the warmth of tears on my face as I realized most of us overlooked the condition of the heart!!!

This weekend, it is of great importance that we examine our hearts.  Tomorrow morning we will observe the Lord’s Supper with our church.  I want to make sure my heart is clean before God.  I encourage you to do the same as you prepare to worship the Lord.

If you are wondering what to look for, here is what Jesus said: But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.  For out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”  Matthew 15:18-19. 

 

Why Are They Following?

January 20, 2012

Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” John 6:26

This morning I found myself engaged with the crowds who followed Jesus in Matthew 14:13-36.  I tried to imagine myself as an investigative reporter interviewing people in the midst of the crowds. I limited my questions to just one.  Here is the question, “Why are you following Jesus?”

Once the interviews were complete, I was able to make several observations.  First: The people are coming from all walks of life (14:13-16).  Each family or individual who came had some distinct need. These people believed Jesus could meet their needs.  Second: Jesus showed compassion on all who came (14:14).  The compassion of Jesus was amazing.  I can honestly say, “I was afraid for anyone to ask me if my compassion mirrored that of Jesus?”  Third: The disciples did not share the same compassion as did Jesus (14:15). I did not hear anyone comment on the compassion of the disciples.  All were looking to Jesus.  Again I felt conviction as I often seek to pass off people’s needs to someone else.  Fourth:  Jesus gave the disciples opportunity to grow in their faith (14:16-18).  Here the disciples failed in seeing that Jesus was the source of all that they needed.  This was so important because they were about to enter a storm and in this storm they would need the truth of His power.  Finally, Jesus gives the crowds and illustration of who He (14:19-21).  Jesus multiples the fish and loves and feeds everyone who was there.

As the people are leaving, “I asked, has your viewpoint changed?”  Sadly, for most, they still only saw Jesus as a means of instant gratification for meeting their felt needs.  This brought great sorrow to my heart.

Certainly, by now, you know that I could not personally interview these people because they were alive in Jesus day.  But one thing is for sure, we can interview them based on the scripture.  All one has to do is to turn to John’s account of this moment.  The text is John 6.

As you read you discover Jesus goal is to move these people to look beyond their immediate gratification to their immense need of eternal grace.  Here is Jesus message of grace, “Do not labor for the food that perished but for the food that endures to eternal life which the Son of Man will give to you.  For on him God the Father has set his seal.” John 6:27

Question, “Why are you following Jesus?”  I pray it is not because of instant gratification but because you are in love with the one who has given you immeasurable grace.

For further study read John 6 and also Sinclair’s Ferguson book, “By Grace Alone.”

What Is Most Important?

January 19, 2012

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up.  Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys a field.”  Matthew 13:44.

This morning the words of Jesus intersect us at the crossroads of another busy day.  In most of our lives we find ourselves cramped for time and often crowded with little time to think about what we read.  With this truth in mind I offer a question, “What is most important?”  Your answer to this question determines how you approach every moment of your life.

Consider the following, Jesus in our reading today, Matthew 13:44-14:12, offers three parables concerning what every believer considers to be the most important thing (Which is the gospel).  In these parables we see the value of the gospel in what people are willing to give up in order to share the gospel.

As I read these verses, I found myself asking, “Is the gospel so valuable that I want others to have it?”  The gospel is so wonderful in that it is offered to all of humanity.  But for many of us we offer things to our fellow-man that are far less of value than the gospel.  Anything less than the gospel is a deadly gift.

This was illustrated for me as I read the story of a 7-year-old girls death this past week.  She was on the playground with her friend.  Her friend gave her a peanut and she ate it.  In this moment the little girl remembered her allergy to peanuts.  The school nurse worked hard to reverse the allergic reaction but to no avail.  Certainly this young girl would have never given her a peanut if she had known the devastating results.

Brothers and sisters we must be careful in what we give others.  For example, a bad attitude can be deadly to those around us.  A word misspoken can be devastating to those around us.  Oh how I encourage you to pay close attention to what is most important.

As one reads Jesus words in Matthew 13 we discover afresh the value of the gospel.  I want to encourage you to memorize, meditate, and communicate this gospel to those around you.

For further study consider reading Romans 10.  Also Purchase a copy of Two Ways To Live, which is a wonderful resource that teaches you how to effectively share the gospel.