Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 18

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 17.

Last week’s look at Matthew 17 ended with a short demonstration of God’s provision for His people. I debated stopping short of that portion so that it could serve as the introduction into today’s, but decided against it since chapter 17 is such a short chapter already. Today, we’ll start with what today would seem to be a deep theological question of who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 18 (ESV)

Matthew 18:1-6 (ESV) | Who Is the Greatest?

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Notice how Jesus addresses the question… He didn’t answer “who is the greatest” He instead charged them to focus on who will even enter. That should be a sobering thought for each of us. Now, usually when I read this passage, my thoughts go to exploring what it means to have a child-like faith, and what I need to do to cultivate such a faith (notice how the flesh is so bent in on itself always looking for works to perform to gain faith)… but this time around, my thoughts focus more on verse 6. When we talk about the dangers of false teachers and wolves in the church, maybe we should start emphasizing the need to protect the children first and foremost. My kids are 5 and 3, and right now nothing scares my wife and me more than the idea of allowing our kids to falsely indoctrinated in a public (pagan) school system… or in a Sunday School class that mishandles Scripture for the sake of entertainment.

This is a bible study, but I hope you’ll allow me to share some personal application. Last night at dinner, my 3-yr-old daughter prayed for the blessing on the food. Immediately after the Amen, she said, “Daddy… you wanna know something about God? He never sins. You wanna know what God has? A Holy Spirit. And God is Jesus.” So at dinner, my wife and I discussed with our 5-yr-old and 3-yr-old the definition of sin, the nature of God, and the Trinity all while gobbling up some delicious arroz con pollo (chicken and rice). Now sure, I had to say several times, “I know it can be hard to understand, so for now we say that God is One in three persons, God the Father, God the Son Jesus, and God the Holy Spirit.” I was so moved by the experience, and the weight of the responsibility as their father and the priest of the home is heavy, particularly with what Jesus said in verse 6 above. Thankfully, it is not by my will or intellect… but by grace through faith that I can walk humbly and faithfully in my responsibility to the children God has placed in my care. This is why we don’t entertain fantasies such as santa, the tooth fairy, or the easter bunny. We refuse to bear false witness to our children about these lies and we fear causing the little ones who believe in Christ to stumble.

Matthew 18:7-9 (ESV) | Temptations to Sin

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

Temptation will come… and it is necessary. It was necessary for Jesus to be tempted, we know this because the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness for that express purpose. But woe to the one by whom it comes. There is really poor argumentation out there that suggests that the ends justify the means. Christians should know better, but we are weak. The ends are in God’s hands… He allows the means, but He is the only Judge over all. God doesn’t tempt, but He allows it for our good and His Glory.

James 1:12-14 (ESV) 12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

Part of remaining steadfast, is knowing when to flee temptation. Knowing that we are sinful creatures for sin yet remains in our flesh even though we have the Spirit of God working within us, Paul was clear in his writing of the war that rages within between our sinful flesh and the Spirit. Jesus graphically depicts the need to avoid temptation by any means necessary. Resist the devil, yes, and that includes fleeing youthful lusts. But we don’t blindly run away, James tells us to draw near to God and He will draw near to us (James 4).

Matthew 18:10-14 (ESV) | The Parable of the Lost Sheep

10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

This parable should be held in close connection with Jesus’ charge in verses 5 and 6. The Father takes special notice of the little ones who have gone astray. Remember the millstone. He actively seeks out the one who is lost. Woe to the one by whom temptation comes! The Father rejoices over the lost that was found more than over the 99 who never went astray.

Matthew 18:15-20 (ESV) | If Your Brother Sins Against You

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

This is how we are to deal with fellow members of the Body of Christ. This is how Church Discipline is to be administered. Sadly, steps 1&2 are often skipped and people jump straight to shunning and excommunication. What follows is a parable that reinforces what Jesus was teaching above, but from a different perspective… one of stewardship of God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy.

Matthew 18:21-35 (ESV) | The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him,“I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Fellow Christians… be good and faithful stewards of God’s grace and mercy and extend forgiveness in Jesus’ Name. This isn’t a matter remedied by mere lip service… for God looks at the heart. We are to forgive our brothers from the heart… and repent of the sin of falling short of that standard.

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through some tough topics such as marriage, divorce, celibacy, works-righteousness and idolatry. I look forward to continuing our trek through the Gospel According to Matthew. Until then, continue walking in faith and growing in knowledge of Christ through the reading of His Word.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 4:1-11

bibleLast week, we looked at the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, and we saw how God the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus and all who were there heard the voice of God the Father testifying of Jesus. What takes place next is titled “The Temptation of Jesus”. Let’s take a look at this encounter with the enemy and see what Scripture is telling us.

Matthew 4:1-11 (ESV) | The Temptation of Jesus

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him,“Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
    and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Amen. So what we have here is the conclusion of a 40-day battle. Jesus, the Son of God, being filled with the Holy Spirit was led into the wilderness specifically to be tempted by the devil. He never knew sin, but he was about to know weakness and temptation fully, without falling to it. Is this the only time Jesus is tempted? I think not, but this is the primary battle with temptation directly from Satan, the father of lies. I believe later Jesus continues to be tempted by the weakness of the flesh, my mind jumping directly to His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus never sinned, but it wasn’t for a lack of temptation. In our text for today, we see 3 specific temptations crafted by the devil to attack Jesus. We will look at each temptation individually and then collectively to identify what is going on here.

If you are the Son of God, command these stones…

Right out of the gate, Satan attacks the deity of Jesus Christ in light of His humanity. Yes, Jesus is hungry after His 40-day fast, but that is not the full extent of this particular temptation. Matthew is writing to a Jewish crowd, and the significance of the 40 days in the wilderness pointing to the 40 years that Israel wandered in the desert is plain. However, Satan didn’t challenge Jesus to rain manna from heaven nor did he urge Him to make water spring from a rock. Where did this stones to bread come from? I believe it came from the words of John the Baptist. Why? To point back to the most recent confirmation witness from Heaven that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. Let’s review what John the Baptist was preaching before Jesus presented Himself to him.

Matthew 3:7-12 (ESV) But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Satan’s temptation is to have Jesus demonstrate is Deity by satisfying His flesh. When you think about it… it doesn’t really square. Remember, Satan is the father of lies. Remember the lie in the Garden, “…and you will be like God…” (Genesis 3).

It is actually Jesus who refers back to the Law in Deuteronomy to refute Satan. Let us look at the reference.

Deuteronomy 8:1-3 (ESV) “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Amen. It was the Holy Spirit who led Him into the wilderness for testing. Jesus was not going to cut it short simply to feed His flesh. His flesh didn’t need bread only, but it would live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Satan went after the most recent testimony (a fresh word) and Jesus responded in Scripture.

Throw yourself down, for it is written…

Satan knows Scripture, too. Extremely well, in fact, for he is a master at twisting and perverting it and leading man away after idols and doctrines of demons. Satan slams Jesus with a proof-texts from Psalm 91.

Psalm 91:1-13 (ESV)| My Refuge and My Fortress

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
    nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
    and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
    the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
    no plague come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
    the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

This temptation here is where much of the visible, modern-day, seeker-sensitive church resides. It is here where professing Christians no longer know how to read the Bible for what it says, because they’ve grown up feeding on narcissistic eisegesis. They turn to “anointed ones” to hear their lectures and buy up their books to see what “that scripture means for me”. They can’t come to the same conclusions themselves because the texts aren’t about them. It almost sounds right, here. Almost. We know it wasn’t because Jesus quickly dismisses it in a fashion that truly those peddling the Word of Faith heresy should heed.

Deuteronomy 6:13-19 (ESV) 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth. 16 You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. 17 You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you. 18 And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers 19 by thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord has promised.

If you’ve been following our reading of the Book of Hebrews, you will understand that such promises of God point toward Jesus, and that the “good Land” of promise is in-fact pointing to the Kingdom of Heaven. Satan’s final temptation is an attempt to convince Jesus to accept “another way” to accomplish His mission… a shortcut, if you will.

All these I will give you, if…

Satan offered a trade. Jesus would have NONE of it. Jesus declares the truth of the Law in what He would later teach as the First and Greatest Commandment, Deuteronomy 6:4-5;13-14 (ESV) 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might….13 It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods…

Then the devil left Him…

The battle is the Lord’s. By His mighty Hand, He has delivered us from the snare of the fowler. You see, Psalm 91 is true, and it points to Christ and the protection, provision, and life that can be found nowhere else but in Christ Jesus. This life is not our home, this isn’t the promised land… for all of this is temporary.

1 Peter 1:2b-9 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope
2 …May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 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.

Amen. May the Lord bless you and keep you in Him until that great day.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

If the devil is riding your back…

There is a church near my home that has one of those marquee signs out front where they like to put up different clever sayings from time to time. I don’t have any strong feelings either way on these signs, other than I think that most of the clever sayings I see are only understandable by the saints. Especially those that look like they are targeting the lost… they just sound odd. Perhaps the worst example of being too clever to be useful was, “Stop, Drop, and Roll won’t work in Hell”. However, this morning I noticed the sign say something that immediately brought to mind Scriptural truth.

If the devil is riding your back
Take off the saddle

Now, since I am already of the mindset that these signs are mostly for Christians, my mind went to Ephesians 4:26-27 (okay, I know I quote Eph 4 quite a bit, but hey, this is a blog about Christian living and faithful stewardship 😉 ):

Ephesians 4:26-27 (NASB, emphasis mine)
26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.

Here is the saddle. As Christians, we have been bought by a price and redeemed out of the dominion of darkness and into the Kingdom of Jesus, the Son of God, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin (Colossians 1:13-14). However, as humans we are still susceptible to influence when we yield to the enemy. Allowing ourselves to be overcome with strong emotions (like anger, anxiety, fear, doubt, etc.) can lead to sin (notice, clearly there is room to have an emotion without yielding to sin)… by giving the devil an opportunity, or by allowing a saddle to be placed on your back.

So how do we remove the saddle? By the Truth of God’s word, particularly His promises about who we are in Him and who we have in the Holy Spirit.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV) For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NASB)Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 5:23-24 (NASB) 23 Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

Matthew 5:33-37 (NASB) 33 “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, “You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.

James 4:6b-8 (NASB) 6b Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (emphasis mine; I recommend studying all of Chapter 4)

As for the sinner, the lost, they are born wearing a saddle. In fact, we were all born broken horses in captivity. Saddled by the world, bridled by sin, corralled by darkness, and destined for death and eternal separation from God. But for His Son, Jesus, we’d still be in that broken and controlled state. Through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we can be set free from our bonds, released from captivity, and inherited into the Kingdom of God to forever be with Him! Amen.

As long as we walk on in this world, we will have to contend with the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10) who is constantly looking for  someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8) or to put on a saddle and ride into the ground. The devil cannot steal you away from God, but he can cause you to stumble and fall, especially if he can get you saddled and bridled (James 3). That’s why we must  keep ourselves in God’s Word, praying and seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit daily as we are encouraged in Romans 12.

So yeah… today’s clever message blessed me. I hope some of you were equally blessed. Have a wonderful weekend!

In Him,
FS