Gospel Wednesday | The Forgiveness of Jesus Christ

bibleLast week we closed out Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount series as found in the Gospel According to Matthew chapters 5 through 7. It took us several weeks to work through the sermon. The whole time we’ve been pointing out how deeply Jesus was teaching the Law while being the Gospel in the flesh. This weekend, we celebrate the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Western holiday of Easter. Today, we are going to skip ahead in Matthew to examine the Gospel of Jesus… how what He did for us saves us and how Only by Him we can know true forgiveness. This will not be exhaustive, so we will work through these passages again when we get to the end of Matthew.

Indeed All Have Sinned…

God sends His Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life on our behalf. He perfectly fulfills the entirety of the Law and the Prophets. Think about that… He did what was and still is completely impossible for us to do, and He did it not to be “an example for us to follow” (for no one can follow that example); rather, He did it so that He could die in our place, paying for our sin, and imputing His righteousness onto all who Believe in Him, by Grace through Faith. Amazing.

Matthew 26 (ESV)The Plot to Kill Jesus

When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”

Even unbelievers acknowledge (at least here in the West) that the Jewish leaders were responsible for plotting against Jesus. Notice here, though, that Jesus was absolutely clear in what he said to His disciples. He tells them plainly that He was going to be crucified. Despite His clear warning, they didn’t understand the Scriptures that pointed to the cross.

Matthew 26:14-25 (ESV) | Judas to Betray Jesus

14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. 17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’”19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I,Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”

Judas was one of the twelve. One of the one called by Jesus at the beginning of His ministry. One who had seen everything, heard everything, and was so convincingly “one of them” that the other disciples didn’t see it coming. Judas plotted to betray Jesus. How did he manage to slip away and meet with the chief priests? The text does not say, and it really doesn’t matter. The fact is that he deliberately chose to betray the Son of God for 30 pieces of silver.

These are criminal acts against the Creator, but there is more to come. While it is clear that the world hated Jesus enough to kill Him, and Judas betrayed Him for money (and whatever other motives compelled him), but we’ll see that the other disciples will also fail Him.

Matthew 26:30-32 (ESV)

30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.31 Then Jesus said to them, You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”

Every single one of them will fall away from Him that night. They will flee. They will run. They will be scattered. This is a scary notion, the idea that they would fall away from Christ. Before we go into Peter’s rebuttal and fall into the typical “hot-headed Peter” discussion, I wonder if Peter was reacting more to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 16:

Matthew 16:24-26 (ESV) 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his lifewill lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

Perhaps he realized there was more at stake than just dying. Jesus had already advised them that saving your own life is pointless if in doing so you forfeit your soul. No doubt all of them are still working out what to do about Judas’s betrayal and its ramifications as Jesus instituted Communion. Maybe this was going on in the background, or maybe Peter was just insulted at the idea that they would not only suffer the Lord to be crucified but that they would all flee in fear for their lives in just a few hours. Whatever the case, Peter doesn’t just object… he swears and oath… to the Son of God. And his fellow disciples who remained did likewise.

Matthew 26 (ESV) cont…

33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times. 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

Peter presumed to correct Jesus. Not me, Lord, I will never! Even if all of these brothers fall away, Not me. Surely, you can’t mean me, too.  Jesus then specifically tells Peter “yes, you, thrice”. Again, Peter swears on his life that he will not deny Christ. My heart breaks for Peter here… I suppose because I know where this story is going, but also because I’ve uttered equally rash, prideful, even boastful statements in my ignorance before. I’ve had them blow up in my face. I’ve seen the hurt and the betrayal in the eyes of a loved one when such an oath is demonstrated as false. I’ve watched the trust and respect drain from their eyes as the truth of my sin and error are revealed. I also know that in my worst moments… none could compare to what Peter is about to face in a few hours.

Matthew 26:57-75 (ESV)

57 Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58 And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. 59 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” 62 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him,“You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Manseated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”

69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.”73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.”74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Oh, dear Peter. He had sworn to Jesus that he would not deny Christ, much less 3 times. However, that very night, not only did he deny it, he swore an oath and invoked a curse on himself in his denial. Indeed, everyone had fallen away from Jesus that very night. All had sinned… even His disciples.

Matthew 27:3-5 (ESV)

Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself. And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.

Judas “repented” here, but sought to fix the error himself. Judas went to the chief priests and elders (those who hated Jesus and rejected the Son of God) for his absolution, and received none. What is that to us? was their reaction, and See to it yourself was their charge. The world will treat you harshly for repenting, for recanting their views, and for even suggesting that they are wrong. Judas wasn’t just saying he had done wrong, he was telling the chief priests and elders that they shared in his sin… and they turned on him. Indeed, Judas had sinned and was utterly and totally lost… but rather than turn to Jesus, he took his own life.

What takes place next I hope will be covered at your local churches on Good Friday or Easter Sunday services. We will cover this in detail at a later date, but we are in no way a replacement for your local church. I want to follow Peter, our brokenhearted Apostle. For that, we’ll have to jump to the Gospel According to John.

John 21:1-19 (ESV)| Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples

21 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Jesus returned, sought out His disciples, called them to Himself again, and prepared a a meal for them. Then He addressed Peter, directly, and restored him. Relief from our sin isn’t immediate, and each of us will have to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Jesus. Peter would end up doing this literally. Peter was restored by Grace, by Jesus Christ the Son of God. He is the Way the Truth and the Life. Jesus laid down His life so that in the Resurrection, God the Father wouldn’t see Peter’s sin of denial; rather, He would see the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, imputed to Peter by Grace through Faith.

Romans 3:21-26 (ESV) | The Righteousness of God Through Faith

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

That same promise is available to you and to me:

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.

Until Next Week…

I pray you and your families spend time together this weekend. Remember Christ, the Cross, and the Resurrection. Remember your Baptism, remember the Promise of His Return.

Romans 15:5-6 (ESV) 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.

Amen. In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 7

bibleLast week we looked at Jesus’ teaching regarding anxiety and where we should put our hope and our focus. Today, we are going to look at how the Jesus closes out the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel According to Matthew, Chapter 7. I didn’t do a great job of planning out how to segment Chapters 6 and 7, so today we’ll just knock out the whole chapter today. Next week, we’ll be jumping ahead to the fulfillment of the Gospel at the cross in time for Easter.

Summing Up the Law and the Prophets

As we close out the sermon on the mount, we will see Jesus take all of the teaching on Worship and service for our fellow-man, with our focus on treasures in heaven and our anxiety, hope, and trust laid firmly at the throne of God, how are we to conduct ourselves?

Matthew 7 (ESV)

Judging Others

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

The first section is often misquoted and twisted to rebuke any who declare Truth in the face of error, and rebuke sin and falsehood. Is Jesus saying we are not to rebuke sinfulness? Absolutely not. This section needs to be read in context of the entire sermon, both what has already been spoken and what is still coming later in the chapter. Let’s look at how Jesus followed up His demonstration of how we are to pray in the preceding chapter.

Matthew 6:9-15 (ESV)
9 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.

There is a difference between identifying sin and falsehood, and sitting in judgement over our neighbor. Don’t let anyone silence you from preaching God’s Law, practicing discernment, or rebuking sin. However, in your rebuke, discernment, or preaching of the Law do not stop short of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Christ, we’ve been given a ministry of reconciliation. And when your brother (or sister) repents, forgive him (or her) for the sake of the Gospel and for our own forgiveness according to Jesus. To sit in judgement over a brother or a sister, is to place yourself in the wrong seat. Jesus Christ is the Judge. We are to provide counsel to our brothers and sisters, and some of us are called to shepherd Christ’s flock, but we will all answer to the Judge, Jesus Christ.

Matthew 7 (ESV) cont…

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

Verse 6 is a tough verse. As we deal with it in this present context, it seems to be addressing those to whom both Law and Gospel have been preached yet they remain unrepentant. Bearing in mind that we are NOT to take the judgment seat and damn the unbeliever to hell for their unbelief, we also shouldn’t attempt to pour out holy gifts (of teaching, sound doctrine, and eternal promises) unbelievers. For an unrepentant, faithless, generation will simply trample these things underfoot and turn to attack you. Let that be a warning to those caught up in the “churching the unchurched” bandwagon. Church is for believers, for the repentant sinner-saved-by-grace, not for the unbelieving. For this understanding, I’m drawing heavily from the Reformation Study Bible’s cross-reference to Acts 13.

Acts 13:44-51 (ESV)
44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,

“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium.

In that last portion, we see Paul and Barnabas doing as Jesus taught His disciples when He sent them out (Matthew 10:13-15). If any place would not receive them, they were to shake the dust from their feet against them and move on.

Matthew 7 (ESV) cont.. | Ask, and It Will Be Given

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

The Golden Rule

12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Now, regarding verses 7 through 11, what is the context of this promise? Growing up in Pentecostal churches, I’ve heard this passage used to justify asking anything of God and expecting it to be given to me. In the previous chapter, Jesus expressly commanded His hearers not to lay up for themselves treasures on earth. He is not now opening the prayer requests as some sort of prosperity vending machine. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, don’t be anxious for what you will eat or what you will wear… set your sights on upward call toward Heaven, and God will meet your needs. We’ll address this again when we reach Matthew 10 and look at how Jesus instructed His disciples in going out. This teaching bears weight in those instructions. Yes, God the Father gives good gifts, and He will meet our needs. But our inheritance is stored up for us in Heaven.

The Golden Rule, as it is often called, is to do for others what you would wish for them to do for you. This should guide our Worship of God through our service to our neighbors. Don’t let anyone presume to skip the Greatest Commandment and hold only to the second commandment of “loving your neighbor as yourself”, for without the first, the second is impossible. Jesus laid that out already at the start of this sermon on the mount.

Matthew 7 (ESV) cont…

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

A Tree and Its Fruit

15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

I Never Knew You

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Build Your House on the Rock

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Notice how quickly after summarizing how we are to conduct ourselves and deal with our brothers and sisters Jesus turns to the matter of discernment and false teachers. Guard your doctrine. Hold fast to sound doctrine, the Word of God. Remember this whenever someone tries to use the beginning of this chapter to silence Biblical discernment and just rebuke. This whole section goes together. What is the fruit of a false prophet? False teaching and false doctrine. When you recognize the thorns and thistles on the tree, you don’t continue looking for figs. Do not wait for the floods to come and knock down the house to then ask the question, “should I be building my house on this sand?”

Can a false teacher be forgiven? Yes, but not without repentance.  Are we to call them to repentance? Absolutely. If they remain in their unbelief, we do not move from the preaching of repentance, we do not cast pearls before swine, neither do we endure their false teaching.

Romans 10:5-17 (ESV) | The Message of Salvation to All

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Indeed it does.

Matthew 7 (ESV) cont… | The Authority of Jesus

28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

All authority in heaven and on earth were given to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Until Next Week…

We will pause our working through the Gospel According to Matthew, and take a look at Christ’s finished work on the Cross in preparation for Easter Sunday. After Easter, we will pick back up beginning in Matthew 8, hopefully keeping these posts shorter as we address each account in smaller bits. Until then, be blessed, and continue to spend time in the Words of Christ.

Romans 15:13 (ESV)

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Amen. In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 6:25-34

bibleLast week we looked at Jesus’ teaching of the Law as it pertains to Worship. How we are to be about good works, prayer, and fasting. Jesus commands His audience not to lay up treasures for themselves on earth. Our focus is NOT to be earthly prosperity, for it is temporary. Instead, our focus is to be on treasures in Heaven. Over the past several weeks as we’ve studied Matthew, it should be abundantly clear that any notion of pleasing God by keeping the Law is futile and presumptuous. No man born in sin has a hope of maintaining the righteousness of God by avoiding sin. Jesus begins transitioning into more and more Gospel preaching. We know that before the cross, a veil remained over their understanding, and even His own disciples failed to grasp the full Gospel until after Jesus revealed Himself to them after the resurrection.

It isn’t up to You

As we close out Matthew Chapter 6, we see Jesus offering encouragement to those who are being killed by the work of the Law on their hearts. Everyone who heard His words were dead in sins and trespasses and were being shown their sin in the authoritative preaching of the Law by the very Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ.

Matthew 6:25-34 (ESV) | Do Not Be Anxious

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Therefore… Therefore what? Well, they were totally, and utterly sinful men, completely separated from and unworthy of God. They were told to worship God in secret, not looking to men for recognition and not even looking to God for earthly reward; rather, they were to worship God laying up treasures in Heaven. They have no power on their own to affect their daily lives, and they were not to focus on earthly vindication, riches, or the praise of men. Therefore, do not be anxious about your life. The Gospel side of the “you are powerless” coin is that you serve a God who is able, where you are not. He is mighty in your weakness. His Goodness makes everything else evil by comparison. King Solomon was wisest man to live, and was blessed with all manner of earthly riches. Let’s look at one of his Psalms.

Psalm 127  (ESV) | Unless the Lord Builds the House

A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.
Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
    when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

God gives His beloved sleep. God watches over His people, not because they’ve earned it, but because He Loves them. And because He loved us, God sent His Son to pay the penalty of our sin, so that by His blood, we might be reconciled to Him.

Until Next Week…

I will be doing some traveling next week, but I hope to have posts ready up to Gospel Wednesday, where we will close out the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 7 and skip ahead the following week to Christ’s finished work on the cross leading into Easter weekend.

Romans 15:13 (ESV)

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

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

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 5:31-48

bibleLast week we looked at the tough teaching of the Law of God delivered by Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount. We noted that while these were new teachings to those present, Jesus wasn’t completely inventing things whole-cloth, that Moses commended his hearers to love the Lord their God with all of their heart, soul, and might. God’s Law was neither being changed nor was it being abolished by Jesus; rather, it was being fully proclaimed in concert with the preaching of Jesus, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand”. Today, we’ll pick up in verse 31 and cover some of the second table of the Law (sins we commit against God by committing them against our neighbor).

Matthew 5:31-48 (ESV)

Divorce

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

This is a tough passage for our culture, but not nearly as tough as it was in that day. The penalty under the Mosaic Covenant for adultery was death. Leviticus 20:10 (ESV), “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” We saw last week that a man is guilty of the sin of Adultery if he looks at woman with lust in his heart. That’s serious. Now we see, though, that the act of divorce sets up the man and woman for adultery. The caveat given is often misapplied to suggest that adultery excuses the sin of divorce. It doesn’t. Jesus is merely saying that the act of adultery is adultery and divorce in that case doesn’t add the sin of adultery, it was already there. How do I know that? First because I followed the language, but also because the last line doesn’t have a caveat. A man who has not known any woman but marries a divorced woman commits adultery because she has been with another man. No caveat of “unless her divorce is approved by means of her ex-husband’s adultery” can be found. Jesus will teach on marriage and divorce again later in Chapter 19. Is there ever a case where divorce isn’t a sin? No. Okay, but it’s a lesser sin if it was the result of infidelity of the spouse, right? Did Jesus present the sin of lustful desires in the heart compared to committing the act? No and no. Remember, Jesus is preaching the Law here… He IS the Gospel in the flesh for He came to fulfill the Law by laying down His life as the last and perfect sacrifice on the cross. Only in Christ can we find the forgiveness of sin… all sin. All sin is death. Only the Death of Jesus Christ on the Cross satisfies the Wrath of God in Just punishment for our sin. That there is forgiveness for sin, does not mean that sin was not committed. Jesus didn’t abolish the Law, He fulfilled it and paid the penalty on our behalf. Here, Jesus was addressing those who thought they were sinless by not physically committing the act of adultery or by securing a certificate of divorce and marrying someone else. They were wrong and they were not sinless. These days, we see some abuse this verse in a different direction, by treating divorce as the unpardonable sin. If there is no forgiveness available for divorce, then there is none available for lustful thoughts in the heart. In Christ, we have the Only forgiveness of our sins… and in Christ there is no condemnation.

Matthew 5 | Oaths

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

Again, tough. Jesus is tying the breaking of any oath as blasphemous, and blasphemy is punishable by death. Again, we see that all sin leads to death, such is the nature of the Law. The scribes and Pharisees are rebuked harshly later in Chapter 23, because they had added to the Law their own traditions… and they did so falsely. Understand, dear Christian, that our post-modernist relativism doesn’t save us here… we don’t get to wiggle out by redefining what an oath is or a promise or a contract. Jesus breaks it down to, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Anything beyond yes or no comes from evil. Let’s look at the Law that was given to Moses regarding this.

Leviticus 19:11-12 (ESV) 11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. 12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.

Swearing falsely by God’s name is blasphemy. Please move beyond the elementary understanding of using the Lord’s name as a curse word being blasphemy. It’s so much more than that. If you say, “I swear to God” that such and such is true, and it turns out to be false, you’ve lied AND you’ve blasphemed. If you say, “I swear to God I will do [such and such]” and you don’t do it, you’ve lied AND blasphemed. If you say “The Lord told me” and what you’ve said isn’t of God, you’ve lied AND blasphemed. We’ve minimized blasphemy in our culture, even in the Church, in much the same way we’ve minimized sexual immorality, in that we only seem to take notice when something Obvious has happened (scandal in the media). This is the Law, and its purpose is to identify sin. There is no muting it, or avoiding it. Praise be to God the Father for providing His Son, Jesus Christ as the only Atonement for our sin.

Matthew 5 | Retaliation

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

So, under the Mosaic Covenant, authority was given to Moses and the Levites to sit as judges over Israel. There are provisions in the Law and guidelines for administering punishment for breaking the Law.

Leviticus 24:17-22 (ESV) | An Eye for an Eye 17 “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death. 18 Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life. 19 If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him.21 Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death. 22 You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the Lord your God.”

At His Resurrection, Jesus will be taking up the punitive authority unto Himself, as He is the promised Messiah, the Prophet who was to come to whom all must listen as the ultimate Judge. The Book of Hebrews lays this out very well when it refers to Jesus as the Great High Priest. The world governments maintain their authority granted to them by God (Romans 13:1-7), and Christ establishes His Church on the foundation of His Apostles. Christ holds the keys of Death and Hades (Revelation 1:17-18), so we (the Church) do not have authority to put anyone to death for sin. For now, the world retains that authority and will eventually use it against us, persecuting us in the Tribulation. We who have been granted eternal life by Grace through faith in Christ Jesus dare not exact revenge or retaliate in the temporal against those who sin against us. Rather, we are to forgive others as we have been (and are being) forgiven. We’ll see Jesus expand on this next week when He teaches us how to Pray.

Matthew 5 | Love Your Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Jesus seems to be returning to Leviticus 19 here, but it seems that He’s addressing a false interpretation of this passage, possibly from the Pharisees. I say that because of the times where Jesus answers the question of the “Greatest Commandment” and when He was asked to define “neighbor”.

Leviticus 19:17-18 (ESV) 17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Again, the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” is the Law. We also see here what we covered last week, that Jesus isn’t adding anything to the Law but clarity. Hate is the sin of murder. The Law of the Lord is perfect… and we are all sinners. Apart from Christ, we are nothing and can do nothing. The Law holds everyone equally condemned. The Grace of God is that He sent His son, Jesus to fulfill the Law, live a sinless… SINLESS life and then present Himself as the perfect sacrifice, the pure and spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Until next week…

We will pick up in Chapter 6 and work through Jesus’ explanation of Worship. Jesus preached the Law, and did so with Authority for He is God. It cuts to the heart of man, and holds us all equally dependent upon His Grace and Mercy. The Law of the Lord humbles us into a right understanding of who we are. Jesus is now transitioning into teaching what proper Worship looks like. I look forward to next week’s study, should the Lord tarry.

Romans 15:5-6 (ESV) 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In Christ Jesus, Jorge