Overlooking the Kingdom

January 27, 2020 at 1:44 pm | Posted in Luke | Leave a comment
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And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

Luke 17:20-21

Jesus answered the Pharisees’ question, but He reserved the details for the Disciples. People were especially expectant for a deliverer around the time of Passover. Moses was the deliverer at the first Passover. John the Baptist showed some promise but he had ultimately not panned out as the deliverer. Jesus seemed like a strong possibility, and He was headed to Jerusalem! The Pharisees had been listening to Jesus for about three years and they wanted to know when the Kingdom of God would appear! How sad that they were so opposed or obtuse concerning Who Jesus was. They were like patrons walking into a serve-yourself buffet restaurant, hungry, but just sitting down and waiting for a waiter to bring food.

And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:

Luke 17:20 (emphasis added)

The Pharisees’ “observation” amounted to hiding and looking, following secretly, and faithless testing. They acted like James Bond, when any run-of-the-mill investigator could have told them Who Jesus was in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

Luke 17:21

The Kingdom was “within” their midst, but it did not penetrate the hearts of the Pharisees. The Deliverer was not some obscure person hiding in a monastery somewhere. He was the one Who had been healing blind people, raising the dead, curing lepers, saying, “I’m the One.

Christians should study future prophecy, but do not let the study of prophecy overshadow ACTIVITY. Expect the coming of the Lord Jesus not by waiting and watching idly, but by staying busy until He comes back.

Blindly Riding the Hobby Horse

November 27, 2019 at 10:48 am | Posted in Biblical Eyesight, John | 1 Comment
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They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind.

John 9:13

The reason that the man’s acquaintances brought him to the Pharisees after they saw that he had been healed of lifelong blindness was probably because such an astounding miracle required, they thought, some type of religious explanation. Of course, the Pharisees had a special hobby horse they liked to ride called “How many ways can people violate the Sabbath?”

And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.

John 9:14-15

They were interested in the method of healing used because the Pharisees were experts at finding Sabbath-violations. If Jesus mixed water with dirt to make clay (mud) they could accuse him of “kneading” on the Sabbath, and people weren’t allowed to knead dough for bread on the Sabbath. It was a stretch, but they were already biased against Jesus and looking for a way to say that, even though He had miraculous healing powers, He couldn’t really be sent from God because He was a sinful Sabbath-breaker.

Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.

John 9:16

No Christian has complete and total victory over sin in every single area of his or her life – at least not all the time. What’s more, many of us would admit to struggling with certain sins on a daily basis, and having some particular types of sins which have given us trouble for years. However, I’m guessing that there are at least a few categories of sin where God has given you significant victories, and possibly some where you never faced great temptation to begin with, and that you really can’t understand how some people can sin so egregiously in those areas. Perhaps people who are compulsive liars really get on your nerves (the 9th Commandment). Maybe it’s children who rebel openly against their parents (the 5th Commandment). What about people who steal other people’s property (the 8th Commandment)? Are they the ones who really get your goat (figuratively if not literally!)?

For the Pharisees who opposed Jesus during His earthly ministry, their “pet peeve” seems to have been people who were lax in their observance of the Sabbath day (4th Commandment). They were so keen to prevent the Sabbath commandment from being violated that they fashioned a bunch of additional cautionary rules around it to keep people from even coming close to breaking it. Maybe they originally had good intentions, but the problem was that, over time, they considered these man-made safeguards to be co-equal with the Law of God itself. In other words, they began to worship the Sabbath itself rather than the Lord of the Sabbath.

Let us not fall into this same trap. If you are exceedingly honest, you probably have a bias against liars. If you have worked hard to provide for your family, you probably have a strong dislike for thieves. And if you respect and honor your own parents, you might have little patience for rebellious, sarcastic, and disrespectful children. However, we must remember not to worship honesty, hard work, or filial respect. Instead, we worship the God of truth, provision, and authority, and, if He has communicated those attributes to us, we recognize them as gifts to bring Him glory, not as proud accomplishments with which to demean others.

The Pharisees found themselves in a quandary, though, because, if they claimed that sinners could not do miracles, then the fact of the miracle must mean that Jesus WAS NOT a sinner.

They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.

John 9:17

The blind man had not yet come to saving faith in Jesus as the Son of God, but He clearly knew that Jesus was the “real deal” and had at least as much spiritual power as a true prophet from God.

But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight.

John 9:18

The Jewish religious leaders suspected that maybe the man had been able to see at some point in his life, so the healing was not really miraculous. Only his parents could testify that he had truly been BORN blind.

And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see? His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself.

John 9:19-21

This does not tells us the age of the man who had been healed, but it does tell us he was at least 13, because that was considered to be “of age” back then. A 13 year old boy/man could testify legally in court. His parents didn’t want to get in trouble with the Pharisees, but they did confirm that he was born blind before passing the buck by saying, “He can speak for himself about how it happened and what He thinks of Jesus.”

These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.

John 9:22

This lets us know that the Pharisees were not only actively plotting the death of Jesus, but had instituted serious persecution against those who would worship and follow Him. Truly following Jesus has always been costly.

Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him. Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.

John 9:23-25

The Pharisees then turned on the healed man again, trying to get him to denounce Jesus, but you can see he was starting to suspect their ulterior motives.

Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?

John 9:26-27

This was a very sarcastic response because obviously the Pharisees did not want to be Jesus’s disciples, but it was like saying, “Why are you so interested in Him? Is it because deep down you know He might be the Messiah?” This made them very angry.

Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes.

John 9:28-30

It sounds like the healed man was really having fun with them now. They were claiming to be the representatives of Moses, but they didn’t even recognize that Moses testified about a greater Prophet who would be sent from God.

Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.

John 9:31-34

This sums up the Pharisees’ biggest problem: the prideful denial that they were born in sins. All of us were born in sin, and Jesus will forgive us, but the condition is that we have to recognize that we are sinners and always have been, and therefore we NEED to be forgiven and saved. The Pharisees could not or would not do this, so they could not “see” who Jesus really was.

Doubling Down on the Hypocrites

July 15, 2019 at 2:30 pm | Posted in Biblical Eyesight, Luke | 4 Comments
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No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.

Luke 11:33

Jesus is the Light for Christians. He is the only thing that illuminates spiritual darkness. If you are going to have an impact for the Kingdom, you are going to have to bring out Jesus and shine Him into blinded minds.

The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.

Luke 11:34

The person with double vision – speaking from experience – does not see twice as much. If your eye be “double” then your “light” becomes darkness. Double-sightedness = spiritual blindness. Double-mindedness = instability.

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

James 1:8

Double-heartedness = idolatry.

Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.

Psalm 86:11

Here are some Biblical examples of people with “double vision” who wound up in the dark:

Samson – his name meant “Son of the Sun,” but he liked to look at things he shouldn’t look at and had divided affections between the Lord and his own lusts, and he wound up blind, pushing a mill stone.

Lot – he was double-minded. He believed in God but wanted to live in the world. He ended up in a cave, in the dark, drunk, committing incest with his daughters.

Saul – he had a divided heart. He wanted to be the king but did not want God to be the King over him. He wound up in spiritual darkness, committing suicide on the battlefield.

And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat.

Luke 11:37

Jesus would spend time with sinners, and and He was often harsh and condemning toward the religious leaders (Pharisees, scribes, and lawyers) because they would criticize Him and say, “Why are you hanging out with sinners? It makes you seem like a sinner, too.” This would be like asking a doctor why he’s always so sick since he’s always hanging out at hospitals, but we need to remember that Jesus loved the Pharisees and the religious hypocrites, too, and He did spend time with them also. He loves sinners, including “religious” sinners, but He does not brook their hypocrisy.

And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.

Luke 11:38

We do not know if this was a conscious action on the part of Jesus, designed to provoke a reaction, but it did cause a reaction for sure. Jesus responded with some very harsh rebukes.

And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?

Luke 11:39-40

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Matthew 5:21-22

How could Jesus call someone a fool and not sin, when, for us, such name-calling is tantamount to breaking the Sixth Commandment? The reason is that when when we get mad enough to call somebody a fool, or a jerk, or an idiot, we are committing the sin of unrighteous anger usually, and and hypocrisy always, but when Jesus did so in this instance He was pronouncing prophetic “woes,” or curses, in keeping with His Divine calling. And He was not done with the name-calling either:

But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Luke 11:42

They tithed out of even their spice racks, but they didn’t truly love God or His people, and they judged with their own judgments while ignoring God’s judgments.

Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.

Luke 11:43

They paid for the best seats, and they wanted to be noticed and seen, because they were seeking worship for themselves insted of for God.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.

Luke 11:44

The scribes were included in this third woe, which was especially insulting because they would go to great lengths to mark out graves and keep away from the defilement of dead bodies.

Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also.

Luke 11:45

One of the lawyers who heard these woes suddenly became passively-aggressively “offended,” and, in doing so, bit off more than he could chew:

And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.

Luke 11:46

Jesus accused them of wanting to tell everyone else how to live, but not wanting to make it easier for anyone else to live right.

Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.

Luke 11:47

They were trying to rewrite history so that they could repeat it with impunity.

Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation. Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.

Luke 11:48-52

They were fake teachers, adding to burdens instead of easing burdens. The scribes and Pharisees responded with anger.

And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.

Luke 11:53-54

They tried to “catch” the Words coming out of His mouth. They went hunting with traps.

 

Law Keepers or Lawbreakers?

April 2, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Posted in Luke | 4 Comments
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And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands.

Luke 6:1

The act of plucking wheat and separating the chaff from the kernels of grain was viewed by some of the Pharisees as harvesting and preparing food, which they claimed violated the fourth Word of the Decalogue, prohibiting working on the Sabbath day.

And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?

Luke 6:2

Assuming that the Pharisees were actually concerned about seeing a violation of God’s law (usually not a valid assumption where Jesus and His disciples were concerned), were they right to take this view?

When thou comest into thy neighbour’s vineyard, then thou mayest eat grapes thy fill at thine own pleasure*; but thou shalt not put any in thy vessel. When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbour’s standing corn.

Deuteronomy 23:24-25

It appears that even a strict interpretation the Old Testament law as it applied to the case at hand would have made it permissible for Jesus’s disciples to do what they were doing, as long as they didn’t use a farming implement or a container.

And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him;

Luke 6:3

“Have ye not read so much as this” indicated that Jesus was pointing out that His disciples had at least one case-law precedent on their side.

How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?

Luke 6:4

We can read about this in more detail in I Samuel 21:1-6.

And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

Luke 6:5

It’s as if Jesus was sayin, “And, besides, the Sabbath is all about Me, anyway, if you really want to get technical. It’s Mine and I’ll do what I want.”

And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.

Luke 6:6-7

The more organized Jesus and His followers became, the more systematic and scheming the Pharisees became about shutting Him down.

But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?

Luke 6:8-9

The Sabbath was set aside by God as at time of “rest” – meaning rest in reference to God’s cessation of the work of ex nihilo creation – but also as a means of separating the Jewish people from the pagans among whom they lived, and as a way to demonstrate the right kind of difference between the ways of the world and the ways of God’s Kingdom. The Sabbath was made “for man” in that sense, rather than man being made for the Sabbath.

And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

Luke 6:10

What was the reaction of the religious leaders to this miraculous act of kindness, generosity, and healing? “Good job on the healing?” Sadly, no, not even close.

And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.

Luke 6:11

The Greek word translated as “madness” is anoia. They were so frustrated and confused about Jesus’s teaching, compassion, and power that they became enraged. And not only were they overcome with “madness;” they were FILLED with madness! Behaving crazily was bad enough, getting angry was even worse, but they were crazy and full of rage at the same time! Sure, the Pharisees were supposed to be experts in the Mosaic law, but who was more in violation of God’s law here? Jesus’s disciples, who “might” be seen to have technically violated a tradition attached to the Law? Or the Pharisees themselves who were filled with rage because God miraculously healed a man with a useless hand?

*My wife and I shared a good laugh over Deuteronomy 23:24, because this was similar to the advice given to us by my grandmother-in-law when we first got married. She told us that, if times were tough in the early years of our marriage, we could always take a little shopping trip to the local grocery store and pluck a few “free” grapes from the produce section as we walked by! Thankfully, by God’s grace, even during our leanest financial periods, we’ve always been able to pay for our grapes.

Conformers, Reformers, or Transformers

February 28, 2018 at 3:43 pm | Posted in Luke, parables | 5 Comments
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And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.

Luke 5:29

Levi, who was a tax collector, would become Matthew the Gospel writer. The “publicans” were his fellow tax collectors.

But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?

Luke 5:30

The scribes and Pharisees were grumbling and complaining to Jesus’s disciples ABOUT Jesus, but not directly TO Jesus.

And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.

Luke 5:31

If you are tempted to talk negatively about someone behind his back, you need to remember that God can hear you, even if the person can’t. What do you think the Pharisees took from Jesus’s statement about only sick people needing a doctor? They probably thought, “At least He’s admitting that these publicans are sin-sick.” What SHOULD they have taken from it, though? They should have understood that He was saying that they themselves were sin-sick too!

I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?

Luke 5:32-33

The followers of John the Baptist probably fasted frequently in imitation of John’s nazarite vow, but this response showed the attitude of the Pharisees concerning the “outwardness” of the Law. Do you see the two sides to the same dangerous coin here? Some people think that Jesus is only for those who aren’t too bad – hard-working honest folks who seem basically good, so it would be a shame for them to go to hell because they haven’t trusted Jesus. You can even throw in drug addicts and poor people because they’re down on their luck, and He’s their only hope. On the other side, they think Jesus can’t really be the answer for child molesters and especially bad criminals and terrorists, because those types of people really deserve to go to hell.

Neither of those views, nor any variations on them, are the Gospel. Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Who falls into the category of “sinners?” In the Pharisees’ view “sinners” were gentiles and Jewish people who didn’t even try to keep the Law. But in Jesus’s view everyone fits into that category. This background sets the stage for two short parables that conclude Luke Chapter 5.

And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old.

Luke 5:36

People didn’t put patches on torn clothes in those days because clothes weren’t “pre-shrunk” the way they are now. A new patch on an old garment would tear the garment and shrink the patch. Both would be ruined.

And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.

Luke 5:37

I don’t know much about the fermenting process, but it produces some kind of gas, and old “bottles” made from the skin of an animal would be brittle, causing it to burst with the expanding gas, thereby causing the loss of a nice bottle, as well as the wine.

But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved. No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.

Luke 5:38-39

It’s in our nature to hang on to what we’re familiar with, but Jesus brings radical new life. It was scary for some people back then, and it’s scary for some today, but it’s less scary for “publicans and sinners.” When they are saved by Christ, they leave behind, in most cases, misery and unfulfillment. They find joy and acceptance in Christ, and their rejection by the world seems to them a small price to pay. It’s not always “easy” for them, but it’s not nearly as scary for them as it can be for someone who thought that he “had it all” before he met Jesus.

The Pharisees and the followers of John the Baptist faced two different predicaments when confronted with the “newness” of Jesus. The Pharisees were “conformers.” They were comfortable with the old. If something “new” showed up it had better look a lot like the old – or at least be able to be “conformable” to the old (like old wineskins). The disciples of John the Baptist, on the other hand, were not “conformers,” but they saw themselves as “reformers.” They knew the old wasn’t working, but thought it could be “patched up” (like old garments). Jesus, however, wasn’t a “conformer” or a “reformer.” He was a “transformer.”

No, not like the cars that turn into robots! Jesus brought in the “new,” not by “destroying” the old, but by “fulfilling” the old. The “old” was always meant to point to the “new,” and it had a “metamorphosis date.” Are we, as Christians, making the mistake of trying to conform? To fit our “newness” in Christ into our old life? Or are we trying to “reform?” To merely patch up our ways so that we don’t lose our identity? Both are in error. We need to be willing to be “transformed” – to live like new creatures in Christ, putting away the old man and the lusts thereof, and putting on the righteousness of Christ so we look like Him and not like our old selves any more.

Okay, Who Forgot to Bring the Food?!

April 10, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Posted in Mark | 2 Comments
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Jesus had twice fed large groups of people by miraculously multiplying a few fish and loaves of bread. After proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that those who followed Him by faith would have their physical needs met according to His will, the Savior was experiencing grief upon being confronted by persistent disbelief.

And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.

Mark 8:12

The skepticism which caused Him to sigh was par for the course for the Pharisees, but Jesus’s concern was that their attitude would infect His disciples.

And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side. Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf. And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.

Mark 8:13-15

Leaven is a substance which is small and unseen, but which will quickly permeate an entire loaf of bread. Here, Jesus compares it to the false doctrines of the Pharisees and the followers of Herod. But the disciples, who were foolishly worried because somebody had forgotten to bring bread aboard the ship, thought the Lord was making an underhanded comment about their failure to pack food.

And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread.

Mark 8:16

I am not sure I want to describe Jesus’s attitude as that of “frustration” here, because that, in one sense, implies a discouraged surrender to circumstances. When we, as fallen creatures, experience “frustration” because of the failure of others to live up to our expectations, we almost always, if not, in fact, always, commit the sin of unrighteous anger. Jesus never sinned. However, we can surely see His holy grief in His response:

And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?

Mark 8:17-18

How quickly we often forget the blessings the Lord has given us, and the miracles He has done in our midst, when we are faced with unexpected inconvenience or the possibility of bearing someone else’s blame! The warning of Christ was right on target, and we must heed it even today. If we are not careful, a little lack of faith will cause the dough of our life to rise into a big loaf of questioning God, and a burnt crusty mess of unbelief. We must beware of a little leavenly bout of heavenly doubt resulting in a satanic rout.

Biblical S.T.O.P. Signs

March 31, 2017 at 4:54 pm | Posted in Mark | 5 Comments
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In Mark Chapter 8 we are warned of four main things that might sidetrack us from obeying the Word of God. When you see one of these: STOP… beware… and go back to your Bible.

stop sign

S.igns and wonders

And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.

Mark 8:11-12

Why couldn’t the Pharisees who were present while Jesus was on the earth have a sign of their own, signifying Who He really was? One reason is that they already had the Old Testament. They were self-appointed experts in the Law of Moses, and the Law of Moses was one giant sign – the biggest sign ever, prior to the Cross – pointing the way to their need for a Savior. Another reason is that they also had the Old Testament prophets, who described Who Jesus would be. In fact, their forbears, whose traditions they honored, had been killing the prophets, and King Herod had just killed John the Baptist, the last and most specific of all the Old Testament prophets. Jesus knew the hearts of these Pharisees, and He knew that their request for a sign came from a place of unbelief. If you ever find yourself tempted to challenge God to let you see signs and wonders as evidence of His reality or goodness, STOP… beware… go back to the Bible. The desire to see a miraculous show is a sign that you are doubting God’s Word. Do not imagine that God is desperate for your approval. He is not impotently wishing people would believe in Him. He has not simply suggested that people should believe “in” Him – He has sovereignly commanded people to BELIEVE HIM. He’s looking for doers – participants – not gawkers and spectators. He doesn’t care how many people mindlessly chant, “Our God is an awesome God.” If you really think He’s the awesome God, you’ll be serving Him, not waiting for Him to entertain you.

S.igns and wonders
T.emporary needs

If you are antsy about ordinary, day-to-day needs, and feel like you should have to concoct your own schemes to help God meet those needs, or if you are trusting men or the government or a church, instead of God, to meet your needs, then beware: STOP… go back to your Bible.

Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf. And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and [of] the leaven of Herod. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, [It is] because we have no bread. And when Jesus knew [it], he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?

Mark 8:14-21

Trust God, and He will supply all your needs according to His (not your) riches in glory. He has the ability to feed and clothe you. If you are truly a Christian, then you know that He has saved you from eternal damnation and given you the very righteousness of Christ. Certainly you must also believe that He knows how to best work out where you’re going to live, what you’re going to eat, and what’s going to happen with your job.

S.igns
T.emporary needs
O.pposing doctrines

Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. Beware of false teaching and false doctrine. Whenever somebody tries to “add” to the purposes of Jesus – like the Herodians did – or take away from the purposes of Jesus, and say He can’t do what He said He would do – like the Pharisees did – beware… STOP… go back to your Bible. A little false teaching can get in and leaven the whole lump of what you believe. Most heresies didn’t start out with wrong doctrine. Most heresies started when somebody just wanted to add or take away a little bit of what the Bible says.

S.igns
T.emporary needs
O.pposing doctrines
P.recedents

Jesus healed a blind man gradually in Mark 8. The fact that it happened gradually instead of all at once is unusual, at least in recorded Scripture, but it was not unusual for Him to heal in different ways. Sometimes He healed people in front of crowds, and sometimes outside the city. Sometimes He healed with one touch; sometimes with two. Sometimes He did it just by speaking a Word. We must not always expect God to do things the same way. Jesus brought me to saving faith at the front of a church, during an invitation near the end of a service. That was my precedent, but I must not expect everybody to be saved that way. Some people, at the moment of conversion, cry uncontrollably; some shout for joy. My wife was healed instantly and miraculously of a serious physical infirmity, but many others are healed by God through the use of doctors and medicine. Do not try to put a limit on how God operates, EXCEPT when someone tells you that, or you find yourself wondering if, God will act contrary to Scripture. If you say, “That can’t be right; it violates Scripture,” and someone tells you, “Don’t put God in a box,” STOP… beware… stick with the Bible.

In the Book of Mark, Jesus is portrayed as busy. He goes places “straightway.” We are following Him, so we have to move to keep up. But He’s given us stop signs to let us know when we’re following so fast that we didn’t realize He turned right, and we kept going.

Disciples, Defilement, and Division

March 16, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Posted in Mark | 5 Comments
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Chapters 7 and 8 are sections in the Gospel of Mark which highlight the teaching ministry of Jesus and some of the responses to it. The Pharisees wanted to attack Jesus, so it was natural that they went to what they perceived as one of their greatest strengths: tradition. Jesus was not opposed to traditions UNLESS they were traditions that were contrary to the Word of God.

The Pharisees had taken God’s Levitical laws about cleanliness, which God had given to separate the Jewish people from the Canaanites, and to help keep His people healthy, and had completely stripped them of their spiritual meaning. The Pharisees placed all their emphasis on the outward appearance, and none on the inward heart.

They saw some of Jesus’s disciples eating without washing their hands.

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with [their] lips, but their heart is far from me.

Mark 7:5-6

As a parent, you probably make your children wash their hands before they eat, and that’s a good idea. But would you let your children get away with lying, as long as they washed their hands first? If you caught your child with his hand in the cookie jar after being forbidden from taking a cookie, and the child said, “It’s okay that I’m disobeying you, because I washed my hands first,” would you accept that as a valid excuse?

Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. And when he had called all the people [unto him], he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one [of you], and understand: There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.

Mark 7:13-15

It’s not that Jesus was interested in stopping people from practicing basic hygiene, or even in changing their diets to more risky fare in terms of “clean” and “unclean” meats. What He was stressing to them was that physical cleanliness and eating healthy foods did not matter if the attitude of their hearts was not right.

And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, [it] cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

Mark 7:18-23

Now contrast the attitude of the Pharisees, and their pride, with the attitude of the gentile woman who wanted Jesus to cast a demon out of her daughter.

But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast [it] unto the dogs. And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.

Mark 7:27-30

Remember, Jesus always taught with great authority. He was not a mealy-mouthed teacher. It’s almost as if the crowds who followed Jesus were becoming very divided. There were those who pridefully felt they should have some control over the miracles He was doing, and there were those who very humbly and with great urgency tried to fight through the onlookers and the skeptics and the proud observers because they truly believed Jesus was their only hope. We have this same type of people with us today. Will we block their way? Or will we usher them to Jesus?

When the ExaminEE becomes the ExaminER

June 17, 2016 at 3:19 pm | Posted in Matthew | 5 Comments
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Even though He was truly a King, there were times in His earthly ministry when Jesus submitted Himself to examination by inferior and unsuitable examiners. They questioned Him about taxes:

Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?

Matthew 22:15-17

They questioned Him about relationships:

The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.

Matthew 22:23-28

This is similar to today. People have access to the revealed will of God, and access to the friendship of His Son, but they would rather know about health, wealth, and relationships. People cultivate relationships with people that they can use – use to get things – because things are what they really love. God made things for using and people for loving, and when we get those reversed we are guilty of idolatry.

Now the King had a question for them:

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.

Matthew 22:41-46

Psalm 110:1 would have answered this question for them about how Jesus could be the Son of David and the Lord of David:

The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.

Psalm 110:1

However, they were blinded by their past, their position, and their pride.

In Matthew 23 we see the King’s last public proclamation before the Cross. It is considered unloving these days to criticize unbiblical ministries, but Jesus was not hesitant about exposing false teachers, nor about denouncing them.

Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

Matthew 23:2-3

The Pharisees based their their religion on self-righteousness, but they were not righteous themselves.

For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

Matthew 23:4

They had a strange idea of “ministry:” adding burdens instead of helping bear burdens.

But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,

Matthew 23:5

But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.

Matthew 23:11

The Pharisees thought that they were “great men of God,” but they did not want to serve.

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

Matthew 23:13

They kept others who were trying to “press in” from entering the Kingdom.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

Matthew 23:15

They had a deceitful and dangerous idea of “religion.” They had just enough religion to be dangerous – to use the right words and look the right way without any real conversion. They were like a preschooler who doesn’t really know the answer, but ecstatically waves his hand to be called on anyway: a big commotion with nothing of any value to say.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

Matthew 23:27-28

The Pharisees lived for outward appearances, while the inside was vile and dead.

Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

Matthew 23:33

Jesus referred to their “generation” not as an earthly, genealogical generation, but as the generation of Satan’s “children.”

Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.

Matthew 23:32

They were filling up the cup of God’s wrath. Jesus drank the cup of wrath for believers, but unbelievers will be made to drink their own cup.

Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

Matthew 23:38

He called it “your house” instead of God’s house because it had been abandoned and left empty.

And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Matthew 21:13

A Show of Power for those Who Wanted More than a Show

April 15, 2015 at 1:31 pm | Posted in Matthew | 8 Comments
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The Gospel of Matthew appears to be organized into sections, with a section of factual information, followed by a set of lessons, then a transitional statement, before another section of facts. If this is accurate, then the first such transitional statement in the book is probably:

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:

Matthew 7:28

Since Matthew stresses Jesus’s role as King, and if the Sermon on the Mount found in Chapters 5-7 is read as the King saying, “Here is what my Kingdom is like,” then Chapter 8 is where the King begins to put the power of His Kingdom on display.

There are multiple reasons for why Jesus performed miracles during His earthly ministry. Among them was definitely His desire to help people who were hurting. Another was to give a sign to the Jewish people (I Corinthians 1:22). Yet another was to illustrate the lessons He was teaching. He did not perform miracles merely to attract sight-seers.

And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

Matthew 8:4

In Chapter 8 the miracles He performed benefited outcasts: a leper (unclean); a gentile (the centurion); and a woman (Peter’s mother-in-law. Who could be more of an outcast than a mother-in-law? Sorry, just kidding). According to tradition, the Pharisees had a typical daily prayer that said, “Thank You, God, that I am not a slave [conveniently ignoring their status as Roman subjects], not a gentile, and not a woman.” But these were exactly the types of people to whom Jesus wanted to bring the power of His Kingdom.

Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side. And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.

Matthew 8:18-22

Jesus wanted loyal followers, not just “hangers-on.” He didn’t want an entourage or a “posse.”

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