CTT | Don’t Narcigete Your Church, Either

CTTToday’s Completing The Thought (CTT) post should be fairly short. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, I trust you are familiar with exegesis and eisegesis. If you are not familiar with narcigesis, it is the conflation of narcissism and eisegesis.  There is a great definition of Narcisgesis available at Apprising.org, the work of the late Ken Silva.

NARCIGESIS [nahr- si -jee’ -sis]

[(From: narcissus; 1540–50; < Latin < Greek nárkissos plant name, traditionally connected, by virtue of plant’s narcotic effects, with nárkç numbness, torpor; probably from a pre-Gk. Aegean word, but associated with Gk. narke “numbness” (see narcotic) because of the plant’s sedative effect.) (From: eisegesis; 1890–95; < Greek eisḗgesis, equivalent to eis- into + ( h ) çge- (stem of hçgeîsthai to lead) + -sis -sis {C19: from Greek eisinto, in + -egesis, as in exegesis}.)]

Common Examples of Narcigesis

furtickWe’ll start out simply with Steven Furtick. If you want a case-study on how NOT to exegete a passage of scripture but instead narcigete it, go to any book written by Furtick, or sermon preached by him. The dude wrote an entire book (and sold lots of church bible-study paraphernalia) and preached several sermons based on the narcigesis of Joshua 10:12. One. Verse.

Joshua 10:12 (ESV) At that time Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.”

Furtick then encouraged Christians that they should all pray “Sun stand still” prayers. It wasn’t a prayer, we are never taught to pray that way, God had already promised Joshua that battle, and the text itself in (verse 14) clearly states this was a unique and isolated event.

But even if you haven’t heard of Steven Furtick, I’m sure you’ve heard Hillsong’s “Oceans (where feet may fail)”, right? That song narcigetes the story of Jesus walking on the water, suggesting that God is asking each of us to walk on water. He isn’t. Many times the Story of God defeating Goliath is told in such a way that the listener plays the role of David and needs to find his 5 smooth stones, or master a skill in his “down time” doing menial tasks of watching sheep until “such a time” as the LORD would call them to use their skill (sling) to defeat the Goliath in their lives…. see where this is going? Narcegisis points to people… the Scriptures point to Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God.

The heroes of the Old Testament point us to the Messiah, God’s Anointed One, Jesus Christ. While we should seek to emulate their faith (Hebrews 11), their actions are not always commendable, nor are they a prescription for getting the same results they got. Because their actions didn’t make them chosen, their actions didn’t curry the favor of God, it was their faith. And faith doesn’t come by copying the actions of one of the heroes in the Bible, faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). We’ve said it many times, don’t read yourself into the heroes of the Old Testament. Read yourself into the sinner that needs the Savior, sure… but not at the expense of missing the Truth of Scripture when Jesus rebuked the Pharisees by telling them, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” (John 5:30-47)

Corporate Narcigesis

It happens with churches, too. The most common area where I see this happen, is whenever a church does “a series in Acts”. This isn’t always the case, but it happens a lot more than you’d think. Even in churches claiming to engage in expository preaching. Yes, it is possible to work through a text verse by verse and still engage in Narcigesis… by having a preacher chase rabbit trails and share personal or even corporate anecdotes throughout a sermon. Even if a passage is read aloud in-context at the beginning, a preacher looking to “deepen the congregation’s understanding of the passage” can engage in narcigesis by skipping around proof-texting verses to emphasis a point that isn’t even being made by the text. In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, many a small church preacher will read in Acts 2 how 3,000 men were added to the church and how more were being added every day and think that the key to being a blessed church is to grow in numbers. Others will look at the miracles God performed for the lame beggar in Acts 3 and think that the reason the church isn’t seeing such miracles is that we don’t have men of great faith (dare I say audacious) like Peter and John, or that we aren’t all of one heart and soul (ch 4:32) so as a church we need to focus on being more Unified and then the church will be blessed. These are all false-readings. Let’s look at how Luke introduced his work.

Acts 1:1-8 (ESV) | The Promise of the Holy Spirit

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me;for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Yes, we call the book the Acts of the Apostles… but their acts, clearly defined by Jesus, were to be witnesses of Him. When the Apostles cast lots to select a replacement for Judas Iscariot, they narrowed the field to only those who were fellow witnesses from the beginning. The Apostle Paul was an undisputed witness of Jesus, since his encounter with Jesus produced immediate repentance. Jesus began the work, and He continued the work through His Apostles who were promised the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Promise of the Holy Spirit wasn’t limited to them:

Acts 2:38-41 (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. 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying,“Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Had Peter done anything special to earn his calling? No. Was Peter the head of the church? No. Christ is the Head of His Church, and He gave us His Apostles, the last of whom was the Apostle Paul. Don’t read your church into these texts hoping to discover some formula for building a successful church… men do not build Christ’s Church. Peter rejected these notions even as he addressed the men of Jerusalem after God miraculously healed a 40-yr old lame beggar

Acts 3:1-16 (ESV) | The Lame Beggar Healed

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico

11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

Conclusion

We need to start scrutinizing the rabbit trails and personal anecdotes that have overrun our sermons and bible studies. The occasional anecdote can be helpful in as much as it points to the Scriptures. Too often, however, these anecdotes merely engage the audience in a bit of humor, or tend to highlight the creation rather than the Creator. This needs to stop. It is my sincere belief that the vast majority of those who are guilty of this form of narcigesis do so honestly; meaning they are so caught up in poor methodology and worldly ecclesiology that they’ve bought into the lie that it is up to them to make the Word of God relevant for their hearers. Men, if you start to recognize these trends in your pastor’s sermons… remain humble and gracious, and grant him the benefit of the doubt and ask to speak with him. Women, first speak with your husband and ask him to speak to the Pastor. If you are an unwed woman, ask to speak with the pastor’s wife or the wife of an elder. To everyone, walk in grace and humility, and engage the text, the Word of God. Trust in God the Holy Spirit to open the eyes and ears of His servants. They are your overseers, after all, and they will have to give account for their stewardship.

Romans 15:1-7 (ESV) | The Example of Christ

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “All Hail” by Jovan Mackenzy (Revised)

Revision 8/13/15. This is a revised version of a review done back in February of 2015. In that review I had made some erroneous assumptions of Jovan Mackenzy‘s theology which fueled some conjecture on my part as to what Jovan was trying to say in the lyrics of this song. If you’d like to see that original review, click here.

Today we are going to try a different approach to “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)). On Tuesdays, we look at what is currently popular on Christian Radio top 20 charts. I wanted to introduce my readers to a song and a music artist of whom you may not be familiar.

Writing music is no simple task. There is a great deal of hard work and creativity at work in the writing, composing, and producing a song. Tougher still is the task of writing a Gospel-centered, God-honoring song lyric that is well-produced and gains airplay. We spend most of our time here in our DiM posts pointing out the vagueness and even questionable theology that is found in the messaging of popular “Christian” music, and I must admit that it can become discouraging. Especially when a favorite song turns out to be void of lyrical meaning. We try our best to rescue a popular song with proper Biblical understanding; however, some songs are simply meaningless and unrecoverable as Christian song, and are really secular songs performed by a band of professing Christians.

For our first DiM of this type, I wanted to challenge myself by choosing an art form of which I am not particularly a fan… rap. Clearly, this is a rough genre for me since I was completely unaware of Lecrae’s collaboration with For King and Country, much less did I anticipate them winning a Grammy for it. Today, we’ll be taking a look at Jovan Mackenzy. He’s been a rap artist for several years and I became aware of his work via Fighting for the Faith. I decided to review the title track for his album “All Hail”.

Music Videos

Unofficial Music Video, just plays the audio track. You can also listen to the album at http://jovanmackenzy.com/audio/all-hail/

Lyrics (as I hear them*)

All Hail by Jovan Mackenzy

[chorus]
He reigns, He reigns
I ain’t talkin’ ’bout precipitation
I’m talkin’ Father God
He Gave Jesus the Nations
And He’s ruling now,
Even over pagans
One day He’s coming back
You just gotta have patience

(All Hail) King Jesus x8

[verse 1]
I’m born again I’ve got peace of mind
the peace of mind that He gives
and I ain’t got to write deeper lines
’cause He’s as deep as it gets
He’s the High Priest who sits
Who sits on His Throne
He’s the only one that’s equipped
For our sins He did atone
don’t you see that Jesus purchased me
See the Blood on that Mercy Seat
As a man, He was born in Bethlehem
but He’s from eternity, now that’s Bible
Micah 5:2 “you believe He’s God?”
Yes I Do!
The only hero to die for the villains
and that’s poetic like Haiku
I was pathetic and prideful
sin is death – I should have died, too
worshiping the idols
in my own eyes I was wise, too
at the right time when we were still weak
Christ died for the ungodly
now I write rhymes for Him
the fullness of Deity that dwells bodily

[interlude]
[chorus]

[verse 2]
Even though we still on Earth
In Heavenly places we’re seated
Ephesians 2, you should read it
It’s only ’cause we’re in Jesus
But I don’t think some believe it (I don’t think so)
And I don’t think that they see it (they don’t)
They think the Church is defeated (what?)
But why do we call Him King Jesus (why?)
I can’t imagine how folks feel
They don’t know that this post is real
They don’t know about post mil.
Enemies are just road kill (road kill?)
And that’s so Real (so real)
Yeah that’s so Real
Christ Jesus is dominating like Carmelo at Oak Hill
And this ain’t High School
King of Kings is His title
Christ Jesus is #1
And I ain’t talkin’ ’bout iTunes
What’s that under His feet?
Oh that’s just Jesus crushing idols
So I’m in the Church thinkin’ it’s gettin’ worse
But he ain’t got no rivals

[interlude]
[chorus]

[verse 3]
Psalm 2:12, kiss the Son and perish
If you’re waiting for Him to come and reign then you’re in error
on the throne of David, the Savior is already there -uh
this is somethin’ that some in the Church is not aware of
we’re the sheep but the King will protect us from the werewolf (Satan)
And the meek Jesus said that the Earth they shall inherit.
Some think that it’s getting worse, but how? Jesus removed the curse
He has dominion from sea to sea to the ends of the Earth
Now He’s reigning from Heaven (right now)
May all the kings bow down before Him and all nations serve Him, Psalm 72:11
This a anthem this song is not an apologetic (this an anthem, ya’ll)
This a song that lets you know Christ is King ’cause I read it
If you want a debate, name a time and place and we’ll get it
The progression of the Kingdom of God is where my head is
A post-millennial age is where we’re headed
Christ is conquerin’ the nations
yeah, I said it.

[Conclusion: sermon excerpt, speaker: Jeff Derbin of Apologia]
Jesus the Messiah brought the expected kingdom on time and as planned. He is seated and reigning now. His kingdom will grow in history through the preaching of the Gospel and in the power of the Holy Spirit. The world will experience the transformational blessing that peace with God brings. Jesus will return for the resurrection of the just and the unjust after… after… all His enemies are put under His feet in victory. The last enemy is death.

Publishing: © 2014 JovanMackenzy.com. All Rights Reserved.

Positive Elements

While in a previous post I lamented the poetic, faddish phrasing used in most Rap lyrics and how it doesn’t lend itself well to clear messaging, Jovan Mackenzy has packed a lot of scripture into this song. That’s very refreshing. So let’s work through the song from top to bottom, paying special attention to the passages referenced overtly.

Chorus. The message of the Chorus is that Jesus reigns… specifically as the King over all Creation. He is sovereign over all things, even the pagans, and He is coming back.

Verse 1. The atonement, the mercy seat, the deity of Christ is all proclaimed in this verse. Tightly packed and filled with theology. It is interesting that Jovan chooses to reference the scriptural declaration of Christ as both the One born in Bethlehem and from ancient days (Micah 5:2).

Micah 5:1-5a (ESV) | The Ruler to Be Born in Bethlehem

Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops;
    siege is laid against us;
with a rod they strike the judge of Israel
    on the cheek.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
    one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
    from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
    when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
    to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
    to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.

Verse 2. The second verse opens with a summary who we are in Christ as declared in Ephesians 2. What I find cool here is that Jovan isn’t just offering a summary, He’s challenging the listener to read the whole chapter. That’s awesome, because that chapter is an excellent summary of Law and Gospel. We did a Gospel Wednesday overview a while back where we looked at the overall message Paul wrote in the first 3 chapters of his letter.

In the middle of this verse, there is some slang that references “this post is real” and “this post mil”. I believe Jovan is referring to Heaven, Eternal Life, in the post-millennial reign of Christ through His Church. Jovan is referencing his post-millennialist view. Post-millennialism is not the Gospel, but it does affect how you interpret the scriptures regarding the role of the Church on society and in Christ’s return. I do not share this view, so my first understanding of this line was that Jovan was calling out those who have rejected the literal return of Christ as those who don’t believe in the “post mil”.  This portion also dives into a pop-culture reference that I had to look up to understand. I don’t follow basketball. So, if you are in the dark about who Carmelo Anthony is, or that he played High School basketball at Oak Hill Academy, you are not alone. At least now you know. Incidentally, he plays for the NY Knicks.

Verse 3. Here we get 2 references to Scripture. Let’s look at Psalms 2.

Psalm 2 (ESV) | The Reign of the Lord‘s Anointed

Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
    and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

A Church comprising of all peoples and all nations to the ends of the Earth. The kings of the world who persecute the Church do so at their own eternal demise. He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. When Christ Returns for His Church, it will be too late… judgement is coming. We dare not treat the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a ticket that was punched a long time ago that assures us entrance into God’s Kingdom. We are to serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the son and take refuge in Him, lest He be angry and we perish in the way.

The next reference is to Psalm 72:11. I highly recommend reading the full Psalm 71, but we’ll look at the immediate context of this verse.

Psalm 72:8-11 (ESV)

May he have dominion from sea to sea,
    and from the River to the ends of the earth!
May desert tribes bow down before him,
    and his enemies lick the dust!
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
    render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
    bring gifts!
11 May all kings fall down before him,
    all nations serve him!

The last portion sounds like the audio from a sermon. I couldn’t find the sermon myself based on the words spoken, so if you know please share in the comments below.

Concerns

The poor enunciation of “all hail” bothers me. Every time the chorus is repeated my ears catch “awe hell” instead of “all hail”… and that’s a problem for me. Couple that with the fact that the line is repeated 8 times at then end of the chorus, it’s almost enough to make me quit on the song. Because I know this is the title track for the album and the album cover very clearly says “All Hail” and the immediate context of “King Jesus” makes it clear that he’s saying “all hail”… still my ears get confused.

Theologically, there is the risk of people coming to the wrong conclusion that “All Hail” is preaching Dominionism (the idea that its the Church’s responsibility to subject the nations of the world under Christ’s feet). I’m not sure there is any clear way to avoid this confusion, and it’s a minor concern given how much clear theology is conveyed in this song.

Conclusion

While I do not follow rap music, this song sets a very high lyrical bar. It’s clear in its declaration of Jesus Christ as our Savior, King, and Creator. I couldn’t ask for a clearer message of the Gospel in a song. I wish we had more of this effort of pouring theology into popular musical forms on our Christian airwaves across genres.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

ps – Jovan has an older video on his youtube channel where he explains the Gospel.

CTT | A Thought on Christian Liberty

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet’s take a look at a systematic approach to proselytizing, and see if you can identify what is being presented as good news here:

  1. You’re sick. You aren’t nearly as healthy as you think you are. Somewhere, deep down inside, you know you’re not complete. There’s something missing in your life and you’ve filled your life full of empty or even poisonous things that are killing you. Don’t you feel like life could be better?
  2. Have you settled for surviving, when you should be thriving and living prosperously and in great health? Whether it’s pride, rebellion, or fear of failure, you need to humble yourself and accept that how you’ve been living life all this time has been wrong, self-indulgent, and self-destructive.
  3. There is a way out. There are a lot of counterfeits out there, lots of empty promises, lots of people claiming that their truth is THE truth only for their systems to crumble into falsehood and despair. I have good news for you, and I stand here before you as a witness to its power and meaning. I’m not selling anything, I’m sharing what I believe to be the Truth.
  4. But it won’t be easy. While some might issue challenges to “give it a try”, I’m here to tell you that this isn’t about experimenting with something incrementally. If you’re ready for real change, meaningful change, your entire life will have to change. You must turn away from the way you’ve been doing life, and follow the narrow path to new life that I’m presenting to you today.
  5. You’ll need to throw out the old, don’t hold onto the things of the past, they will only hold you down and tempt you to fall away. They might even cause you pain. Your friends won’t understand why you no longer live life the way they do. But once they see how much more happy and healthy and powerful you’ve become, they’ll ask you what is different in your life, and then they’ll be ready to listen. Then they’ll taste and see. And perhaps, they, too, will come out of the dead-end, fruitless life, they’ve grown up in.

The list I’ve just provided probably looks a lot like a jab at western evangelical “give your life to Jesus” pitch. It actually wasn’t. What I presented above is what I’ve witnessed from the gospel of Atkins, Gluten-free, Vegan, and Paleo diets. Definitely a works-based religion. Are any of them inherently evil? Not at all. In fact, if you are celiac, I’ll recommend a gluten-free diet right along with the medical community. If you struggle with self-control in the area of junk foods, I might recommend a more Paleo-like diet. If you simply (for whatever reason) find meat and dairy un-palatable, I’d recommend researching vegan-best-practices. Some of these diets serve a purpose for some people who for various reasons need help making basic food decisions. None of these things is a panacea, and none of them save. Yet, I see far more aggressive food-evangelism than I do Christian.

America is Sick

However, more important than the pervasive general obesity in America, is the rampant unbelief and false doctrine that is filling society. Society is rejecting the Authority of the Bible. That’s a problem that needs constant attention. That is the role of the church, and our charge as Christians, stewards of the Gospel of God’s Grace. We are to be witness of the Truth of God’s Word.  Yes, America is overweight and generally unhealthy. Yes, we should be better stewards of the life we live by God’s grace.  As Christians, we need to keep the message clear… and sometimes proselytizing a diet (or vehemently opposing one) distracts from the Gospel. It did in the early church, with the Judeaizers. Paul dealt with it explicitly in his letter to the Romans, and he did so in a way that still find applicability today.

Romans 14 (ESV)

Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall confess to God.”

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building.

20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

As long as we are living our lives in humility and Worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our diet (fad or real) is a matter of Christian Liberty. Only when your diet becomes an idol for you or a stumbling block for you or a brother/sister who is weak in the Faith, does Scripture have a hard say. For the mature, the prohibition from drunkenness doesn’t mandate a rejection of all things alcoholic. For the immature, such abstinence may be necessary as a guardian until maturity in self control is achieved.

Conclusion

I truly do not care how a brother or sister in the faith has chosen to eat or drink. Vegan, Paleo, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, Omnivore, Kosher, doesn’t matter. Your diet isn’t a Gospel matter; your tastes in food or drink, your food allergies, or your personal distrust of processed food products are not Gospel matters. Crash diets are a concern, and the motive for such diets are generally what need to be addressed, Biblically. Faith, and the object of our Faith, is the concern, not diet. As an ominvore, I will poke fun at trendy diets and fad diets. I won’t make fun of anyone’d diet that is forced by allergies/ailments/injuries, though, that’s no fad or trend. What does draw my ire, and what has led to this post, is when Christians lose sight of the line between nutrition and Gospel. The Scriptures are quite clear that God has declared all food clean. So there is no Scriptural basis for insisting on any particular diet, or even suggesting that one diet is morally superior to another. I fell victim to this before, where I noticed I was proselytizing a diet more naturally and aggressively than I was the Gospel. That was a problem for me, and I am now hyper sensitive to it.

Dear Christians, in your desire to live a more healthy lifestyle, guard your hearts. It is far too easy for our sinful hearts to slip into idolatry, where our faith gets misplaced in our health, our beauty, our fitness, our diet, our uniqueness, etc. And while we will not agree on the best flavor of ice-cream… or on whether or not one should even eat ice-cream, we will live in unity of the Faith, the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Romans 15:1-7 (ESV) | The Example of Christ

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Amen. In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Impossible” by Building 429

Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).

May 07, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Impossible” by Building 429 which is currently being praised for having broken some airplay records.

Provident Label Group pop/rock band Building 429 has officially broken a radio record. Their brand new single, “Impossible”, received an astounding 95 radio adds on add date, making this an all time first for the band. This is also the highest number of adds its first week ever for a Provident Label Group artist. This radio feat hasn’t been achieved since “Free To Be Me” by Fancesca Battistelli in 2008.

“Everyone has that story of when something out of the ordinary happened in their career,” shares Andrew Patton, VP of Promotions, Provident Label Group. “The minute I heard ‘Impossible’ I knew it could be one of those moments. And as exciting as this record-breaking add date has been, I’m looking forward to even more exciting things ahead with this song and with Building 429.”

The GRAMMY-nominated and Dove Award-winning band debuted “Impossible” during the WinterJam Tour this past winter and spring playing to a record-breaking 600,000 fans over 47 dates. “Impossible” is the first single from their upcoming album slated to release September 25th. [ref CCMMagazine.com]

Since this song has yet to appear on the Top20 chart we currently use for DiM Tuesday, I thought we’d take a look at it today. With this much promotion behind this thing, it is only a matter of time before it appears on our charts. Is this song worthy of so much attention? No. This song is a fraudulent promise based on proof-text, vision-casting, and word-of-faith theology. This is going to be another long post, because we are addressing a major theological error. Making promises on God’s behalf, that He did not promise is blasphemy. It is one thing to have a “vision” or a “dream” of what YOU would like to see happen in your life, but quite another to claim that the vision or dream is from God. Dangerous, even. Let’s discuss this.

Official VEVO Lyric Video

Lyrics (via KLOVE)

Impossible
by Building 429

You got a vision
You got a dream
But it feels a million miles away
You got your passion
You got to believe
That this is why you were made

It takes a little time
Takes a little time
It takes a little time to see
I said it takes a little time
Takes a little time
It takes a little time to believe

We can rise above the typical
And be anything but usual
We know
We know
We know
That there’s no such thing as impossible

And nothing is unreachable
When we trust the God of miracles
We know
We know
We know
That there’s no such thing as impossible

We’re never given the spirit of fear
Only the power of love
We’ll keep on running and not grow weak
His strength is more than enough

It takes a little time
Takes a little time
It takes a little time to see
I said it takes a little time
Takes a little time
It takes a little time to believe

Rise above the typical
And be anything but usual
We know
We know
We know
That there is no such thing as impossible

That nothing is unreachable
When we trust the God of miracles
We know
We know
We know
That there is no such thing as impossible

There is no such, no such thing
There is no such, no such thing
There is no such, no such thing as impossible
Impossible

There is no such, no such thing
There is no such, no such thing
There is no such, no such thing as impossible

Rise above the typical
And be anything but usual
We know
We know
We know
That there is no such thing as impossible

Nothing is unreachable
When you trust the God of miracles
We know
We know
We know
That there is no such thing as impossible
Publishing: © 2014 Sony/ATV Tree Publishing / Havery Publishing / Jord A Lil Music (BMI) / Sony/ATV Timber Publishing / Not Just Another Song Publishing (SESAC) All rights admin. by Sony/ATV.
Writer(s): Jason Roy, Chuck Butler, Casey Brown

Discussion

Well, folks, what we have here is a Vision-Casting / Word-of-Faith anthem of empty promise cloaked in what seems to be truth (truism). This could very well be a CTT post. The phrase “with God all things are possible” occurs several times in the New Testament. When isolated, pulled from its context, it gives the notion that “nothing is impossible for God” is a valid ultimate truth. However, this isn’t the case. This isn’t a mathematical equation or Greek philosophy of possibility, the realm of possibility is defined by God. He has clearly stated certain things are impossible, such that we might have full assurance in His Promise.

Hebrews 6:13-20 (ESV) | The Certainty of God’s Promise

13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

All Scripture is God-Breathed. Some take this Truth to mean that if you can find any phrase in the Bible and apply a meaning to it, then it is infallible. That’s not how it works. You see, God’s Word is defined by God’s Word. One cannot simply pluck out a phrase from the Scriptures and apply it in whichever way seems beneficial and expect God to honor it. This song’s assertion that as long as you believe in God your “vision” or “dreams” will all come true is complete bunk. Let’s do a quick survey of the Scriptures to flesh out the limits of “possibility” for mankind.

With Man it is Impossible

Let’s look at what Jesus was teaching when He said, but with God all things are possible.

Mark 10:23-27 (ESV)

23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

Matthew 19:23-26 (ESV)

23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Luke 18:24-27 (ESV)

24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said,“What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

Salvation. It is impossible for man to save himself. Salvation is a work of God, so that no one should boast (Eph 2:1-10 ESV).  It is also impossible for man to please God without faith.

Hebrews 11:5-7 (ESV)

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

Now, let’s look at what Scripture tells us of the nature of man after the fall. Let’s look back to the days of Noah.

Genesis 6:5-8 (ESV)

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

God chose to spare Noah to keep His promise to Adam and Eve, and He cannot lie. Nevertheless, all mankind is wicked and sinful. In fact, dead in their sins and trespasses (Eph 2). God spoke to Noah, and Noah believed God and became an heir of righteousness that comes by faith (Hebrews 11). Notice, we are using the New Testament to better understand the Old. Noah didn’t merit God’s favor, it was for His sake, for His Name’s sake alone that God spared Noah. We know this because Scripture has made it clear, but it can also be inferred from what took place after Noah.

Genesis 11:1-9 (ESV) | The Tower of Babel

11 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

Where they seeking after God? No. Were they seeking to honor God? No. They sought to make a name for themselves in the heavens, and that was only the beginning of what they would do. Salvation is impossible for them, we know this. They are dead in sins and trespasses. They do not yet have the Law, this is before the Abrahamic Covenant. Without God, it is impossible for man to do the right thing, to be righteous. Righteousness requires faith, and that faith comes from God. We aren’t “born with it”. Faith comes to us through hearing the Words of Christ. When God spoke to men, they were afforded an opportunity for faith, as we see articulated in Hebrews 11. Even Adam, who saw all of Creation in its perfection, and knew God, was expected to obey His word by faith, that he was not to eat of the fruit of that one tree. Adam lacked faith, and so he sinned, and by one man’s sin, death entered the earth. Only God could provide a way of atonement sufficient for man’s salvation. The Law was temporary, a guardian for the people of the Promise, until Christ could come and establish a New Covenant with mankind.

Hebrews 10:1-14 (ESV) | Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

And Now that We’ve Been Saved…

Okay, but once we’ve been saved by Grace through Faith, can’t we assume all things are possible for us? Is the promise of Salvation temporal or eternal? Who decides what miracle God is going to perform, man or God? Who decided to part the Red Sea, Moses or God? God did. He led Moses to that place, to that shore, and He instructed Moses to act, and He parted the Red Sea, and He saved Israel with His Mighty Hand, and He destroyed Pharaoh’s army when He closed the sea on them. Indeed, nothing is impossible with God… for He is the one who is Sovereign over all of Creation. This goes back to Soli Deo Gloria: to God Alone be the Glory.

You see, the biggest problem with this song that invalidates all of it, is that it begins not with a Promise that God’s Word makes; rather, it begins with the dreams/ideas/visions of mankind, the listener. Bruce Jenner has a vision of being a woman… that’s not God’s Will for him. Mankind will manipulate language, biology, chemistry, and religion to reinforce the illusion that it is possible for him to become a woman… but that simply isn’t possible. Man doesn’t have that power, and never will.

What About the Faith of a Mustard Seed

Let’s take a look at His teaching on faith.

Matthew 17:14-20 (ESV) | Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon

14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, Because of your little faith. For 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.

Is faith an emotion to be stirred up or some heightened state of consciousness to be reached through meditation or asceticism? No. Faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ. This isn’t a question of quantity of faith, but on the object of their faith. The Scripture doesn’t specify where their doubt had crept in, just that if they had the faith of a mustard seed to believe the Word of God they could do the Will of God by His Grace through Faith. With man, it is impossible to cast out demons… it is also impossible to walk on water. Let us look there for a moment because that is where I’m drawing some of my conclusions for this understanding.

Matthew 14:28-32 (ESV)

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

By faith Peter walked on water in obedience to Jesus’s call. Yes, Peter prayed the Lord to issue the command, as we should pray for those things which are impossible with men. Jesus did issue the command, and Peter walked by faith… until he doubted. Notice the rebuke, O you of little faith, why did you doubt? 

Does scripture record anyone else walking on the water after this? No. The point was not to promise Christians water-walking powers, but to point to the deity of Christ. Does scripture (or history) record anyone literally commanding a mountain to be moved and it moving by faith? No. The point is to rest in the Word of God by Faith. Jesus came to set the captives free from the Kingdom of darkness, by faith. There is no worthy opponent or impediment to the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not even demon possession. The Word of God is mightier than any 2-edged sword, preach the Word, say to the mountain “be moved” that the Name of the Lord will be lifted up in praise. Let us not cheapen this truth with false gospels of prosperity or worse, turning the bible into some sort of spell book. The Apostle Paul faced many hardships, trials, tribulation, and was mightily used of God to spread the Gospel and build up His Church among the Gentiles. Notice the introduction of his letter to the Romans.

Romans 1:1-17 (ESV) | The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Amen. In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

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).

Fasting

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,
Jorge