Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 9:9-38

bibleLast week, we followed Jesus as He continued to perform miracles demonstrating who He is, the Messiah, the Son of Man prophesied to come. We left off with Jesus making a major point that He was given authority to forgive sin, and the demonstration of that authority was given in the form of healing a paralytic. The crowds are following the spectacle and seeking healing and deliverance from demons, but Jesus purpose is an eternal one, not merely temporal. So that we do not get mired in analyzing miracles in isolation, today we’ll work through the rest of Matthew Chapter 9 so that we can keep the over-arching context of what we are seeing here. Jesus is the Gospel, not the miracles. The Miracles testify of Him.

The Harvest Is Plentiful, the Laborers Few

Matthew 9:9-38 (ESV)

Jesus Calls Matthew

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

This is a good opportunity to point out the principle of interpreting the unclear with the clear in Scripture. Jesus’s response to the Pharisees is a bit of pointed sarcasm here. The last statement is the key to the sarcasm, Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous, He came to call sinners. Is He saying the Pharisees are righteous? Only in their own sight, by their own measure. The Apostle Paul addressed this very well in his letter to the Romans:

Romans 3:9-20 (ESV) | No One Is Righteous
9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18   “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Clearly, Jesus was not acknowledging the righteousness of the Pharisee, but dismissing them according to their unbelief. A sick person needs a physician, but a sick person who believes himself to be well will not seek a physician. In fact, even when a physician tells the person, “you are not well” the sick person who esteems himself more highly than the physician will think the physician a fool and reject his call. When it comes to sin and salvation, there are no valid “second opinions”. Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous, for there were none to be called. All have sinned. Jesus came to call sinners to repentance.

Matthew 9 | A Question About Fasting

14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.

I’ve seen this passage used to justify mandating some proposed change in church practice, structure, or doctrine. Such approaches usually compel the listener to git rid of the old and become new so that you can get a new and fresh (word/anointing/impartation/etc.). That is not what Jesus is teaching here. Notice that the disciples of John include themselves with the Pharisees in the fasts being questioned. The old wineskin is NOT about orthodoxy, stubborn resistance to change, or Pharisaism. What fasts are these disciples (and Pharisees) observing that Jesus’ disciples were not? The fasts of the Mosaic Covenant. The old covenant points forward to Christ. Now that Christ had arrived, He would usher in a New Covenant (wineskin) by His body and by His blood into which He will pour His Spirit (Pentecost) to all who are brought into the covenant by faith.

Hebrews 8:1-7 (ESV) | Jesus, High Priest of a Better Covenant
8 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

Hebrews 8:13 (ESV)13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Acts 2:38-39 (ESV)38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

Jesus made it clear that fasting in and of itself was not going away, just that the mandated fasts of the old covenant were not binding on the disciples who lived in the presence of God the Son, Jesus.  A time would soon come when the disciples will fast, when the bridegroom is taken away from them. New wine in a new wineskin, we fast in worship to God in light of the Gospel, not the mere observances of the Law.

Matthew 9 | A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live. 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples.20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well. 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well. And instantly the woman was made well. 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion,24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.

Faith. The father had faith that Jesus could raise his daughter from the dead. The woman had faith that touching His garment would make her well (as opposed to making Him unclean). I’ve seen many a teaching follow rabbit trails out of this passage, stay focused on the message of faith in the person of Jesus. There were doubters (the flute players and crowd making commotion) who laughed at Jesus. These were unable to interfere with God’s work. Jesus put them outside, and healed the girl. The focus is on faith in Who Jesus Is.

Jesus Heals Two Blind Men

27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” 28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.”31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.

Faith. Not in the miracle, but in the person of Jesus the Messiah.

Jesus Heals a Man Unable to Speak

32 As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. 33 And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” 34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”

Unbelief. Dangerous, stubborn, prideful, arrogant, narcissistic, unbelief. The sin of unbelief is our birthright in Adam. Praise be to Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for by His blood we might be made sons and daughters of the Most High, adopted into the kingdom of Heaven and into the Promise of Eternal life as our inheritance, in Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Amen. I want to take this moment also to point out a major distraction within the Pentecostal community. An unhealthy fixation on the apostolic signs and wonders is unhelpful for the preaching of the Gospel of Salvation. Jesus was walking in the flesh, preaching of His Father’s Kingdom and performing miraculous signs and wonders and unbelief yet remained. As the Apostles were sent out from Pentecost, the signs and wonders that followed them did not end their persecution either, but served as a testimony to their preaching, that they were indeed sent by Jesus Christ out into the world to preach. We have that word and the same Holy Spirit, but we dare not trade the preaching of the Word of God for the preaching of signs and wonders. That is backward and a huge distraction from our Commission as Stewards of the Gospel of Grace. Preach the Word, and God the Holy Spirit who remains Sovereign over His Gifts will convict the hearts and call sinners to repentance. I think it is fair to say to the Evangelical Church in general, “Stop trying to major in the minors, preach the Gospel, make disciples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them all that Jesus has commanded.”

Matthew 9 | The Harvest Is Plentiful, the Laborers Few

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

We serve a truly Great and Compassionate God. Jesus taught in the synagogues and proclaimed the gospel of the Kingdom. He healed every disease and every affliction. There was nothing He couldn’t heal. There is nothing He can’t heal. Did everyone believe in Him? No, for if they had there wouldn’t have been anyone to plot His death.

We need more laborers today. Jesus told His disciples to pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. One final warning for this post to the modern-day evangelical church industry… the Lord of the Harvest sends out laborers into His harvest. It does not fall to men to scheme, manipulate, woo, and entice the lost into the Kingdom of Heaven. There is no call to “church the unchurched” or to make the Gospel “more Relevant” to our culture. That’s not our call, that’s not our commission.

2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV) | Preach the Word
4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

In Christ Jesus,

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 6:1-24

bibleLast week we looked at Jesus’ teaching of the Law as it pertains to how we deal with one another in Matthew 5:31-42, further demonstrating the depth of our depravity and transgression. While many might find this section somewhat less punishing than the first portion, this section was not easy. In Verses 43 through 48, we Jesus transitioning out of the clarification of the Law regarding sins and into more of how we are to serve the Lord (Worship) lawfully. What does it mean to serve God according to the Law. While the Law does reveal sin, it also points us to how we are to serve God. The first point of this transition is in dispelling the notion that we are allowed to hate our enemy or vindicate ourselves for mistreatment. We are to love our neighbors & our enemies. This is still Law, as He made clear in the last verse, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt 5:48)“. I am not, therefore I am sinful and desperately in need of Salvation. This is the work of the Law, to bring us to repentance. In this life, we will not graduate from this lesson… we must always bear fruit of repentance, until the Day of Christ’s Return. He is Faithful.

Worship in Spirit and in Truth

Matthew 6:1-24 (ESV)

Giving to the Needy

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Practicing your righteousness is an act of worship to God. God works are done in worship to God, for they are only possible by His Grace through Faith (which He gave you by His Word). God decides how you are to receive your reward. If you’ve determined in your heart that you use the occasion of your worship to draw attention to yourself, then Jesus says quite plainly that you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven. Your reward will be limited to the recognition of men that you sought, and you may not even get that (because man is sinful). In verse 2, Jesus presents giving to the needy as an example, but His first statement covers all practices of righteousness, of good works.

In our day here in the US, those who give to 501(c)(3) Non Profit organizations (among whom Churches are included… for now) get a tax credit for their donation. Are you giving to these organizations as a form of worship to God (for doing good works)? or are you giving so that your donations might be recognized and rewarded by the Government, other organizations, or so that people might regard you (or your organization) with esteem? Is the organization the needy, or do they serve the needy, and if so to what degree is your donation to them serving the needy? I leave these questions between you and God the Holy Spirit to discern for yourselves. We aren’t talking about whether or not you are sinning, that has already been covered, we are talking about the quality of your Worship and Service to God the Father in Heaven. If you’ve done it to be recognized by men, you’ve received your reward. If your worship is for God’s glory, He will reward you as He sees fit… and His rewards are always better. Soli Deo Gloria is an excellent guideline here, too.

But this isn’t just about giving money, or food, or clothing, or shelter, etc… How about extending grace or mercy or forgiveness to your brother or sister in Christ? Neighbor? Enemy? All good works, all practices of righteousness… being ever mindful of our own sin, even in our attempt to practice righteousness. The praise and worship band on Sunday morning… if they are performing so that they might be honored by the congregation, has received the reward for their service. The individual in the Congregation who belts out their best singing hoping to be noticed by those around him/her, has received his/her reward. I’ve been guilty of both errors of worship, so I’m not wildly inventing these examples, nor am I “calling YOU out, specifically”. That was pure confession on my part… though I am confident that we all are tempted in similar ways.

One final example before we move on… if you’ve “taken the high road” in a situation, do so in secret so that your Father in Heaven might reward you. Don’t throw that away by announcing how you decided to “take the high road” in the matter.

Matthew 6 | The Lord’s Prayer

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Prayer is an act of Worship. Prayer is a gift from God, one of the means of Grace as recognized in traditional confessions (both Reformed and Wesleyan). Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is teaching us how to pray here. An active Prayer life is essential to Faithful Stewardship of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it comes up often. I do not pray as often as I should, and repent for my lack of prayer often. If you’d like to read more on this topic, we discussed this lesson in Matthew on Prayer here and here. For our purposes here today, I want to highlight its position within the greater context of prayer as a form of worship, and the humility, repentance, and God honoring focus we are to maintain. Do you have a speech impediment? An odd/weak/distracting voice? Limited Scriptural knowledge? None of these disqualifies you for prayer. You pray, to God the Father, and rest assured by faith that He hears you. Don’t dress up your prayer to impress those who might hear. Don’t use prayer as an occasion to lecture the congregation. When it’s time to pray, pray to God. Teach your little ones to pray. I try to teach my children prayer before and after our family prayer time. I try to avoid interrupting any prayer with teaching… though sometimes a quick rebuke for foolishness in prayer is necessary (they are ages 3 and 5 after all).


16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Fasting is first and foremost an act of worship. It is a humbling of ourselves before God. It is a proper response to a rebuke and judgement (2 Samuel 12; Jonah 3) as well as a means of supplication for the Lord to intervene (Esther 4:12-17) in a situation. However, fasting is one of those areas where seeking attention for your piety is a major temptation. Our flesh is sinful, and it throws tantrums (you may not remember your behavior as a toddler… ask your parents) when it doesn’t get its way. Breaking your fast, or cheating on your fast aren’t the only pitfalls. Moaning and groaning about your fast is a pitfall, one that Jesus addresses here. Note: fasting isn’t a means of gaining leverage over God, either. God’s sovereignty is immutable. Fasting is a form of worship, not a magic trick to getting your way with God.

Lay Up Treasures in Heaven

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Jesus returns to the concept of reward. Yes, we are promised a great reward in Christ Jesus… but you don’t want to trade heavenly reward for temporal ones (I’m looking at you, prosperity preachers). Nowhere are we promised riches and happiness here on earth. Our Promise is kept in Heaven.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Peter’s introduction in his letter echos Jesus’s statement, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also“. Now, while Jesus was giving this sermon, they probably didn’t fully get it… but by the time Peter is writing this letter, the Apostles understood and taught it.

Until next week…

We will pick up in Chapter 6 beginning in verse 25 and work through more of Jesus’ teaching of good works. We’ll see more elements of the Gospel being opened up in His sermon here, so I look forward to that. Jesus will continue preaching the Law, but we’ll see Him also offering comfort, the kind that can only be received by faith. Let us close in a word of prayer from the Apostle Paul:

Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV) | Prayer for Spiritual Strength
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,

Reaching forward to what lies ahead in 2014…

Happy New Year 2014In my family, New Years is the big holiday for the family to gather together and thank God for the year that has drawn to a close, and pray for His blessing on the year to come.  I am still on vacation, so this post will be rather short today; however, I did want to share what has been on my mind for 2014. A close brother in Christ shared the Sunday morning message at our church and he highlighted the following passage in Philippians.

Philippians 3:13-16 (NASB)
13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16 however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.

My wife and I have spent a great deal of time in December, discussing all of the ways that God has matured us and blessed us. We do tend to focus a bit too much on the various “growth opportunities” (trials) we faced in 2013.

I am not writing to tell you what God has in store for you in 2014… not specifically anyway. Rather, I know that to move on with the proper attitude, Paul begins his advice with the phrase, “forgetting what lies behind”. One thing I noticed here is that Paul didn’t specify “just the bad things that lie behind”. He said to forget what lies behind. That’s important, because too often we become so focused on the good things God did in the past that we fail to recognize any of God’s blessings that don’t look exactly like the blessings of the past. In doing so, we limit God and hurt ourselves and those around us by not being in a position/mindset to fully recognize and acknowledge the blessings of God. But holding on to the trials too tightly can be even worse. Not only can that rob us of future blessings, and blind us of future trials, but holding on too tightly to the trials themselves can rob us of the very lesson God had intended for us to learn from it. Additionally, we can leave room for the enemy to plant seeds of bitterness when hold on too tightly to the trials of the past.

I am writing this to encourage you (and me) to seek the Will of God for 2014. Our church begins each New Year with prayer and fasting. What is God calling you to do in 2014? What is the prize for upon which you need to set your gaze? I recommend, keeping a prayer journal, and writing down what you feel the Holy Spirit speaking to you. Once you’ve written down what you feel is God’s call for you this year, search out the Scriptures for what you’ve written down. Once you’ve found the scriptural basis for what you’ve written down, you can be confident that you heard from God and rest in the fact that He has called you to do good works. If you cannot find scriptural basis, maybe ask a brother or sister in Christ to pray with you and search the scriptures with you.  It could also be that you’ve injected your own desires or what you think God would want you to do. We’ve all done this at one time or another and to varying degrees. Here again, is why we need to be surrounded by Godly council and brotherly love.

I’m looking forward to 2014. I pray that this blog will be an encouragement to your lives in the upcoming year, and that you might share with us the great things He has done in your lives. May the Lord Bless you and keep you this year.

In Him,