Book 20 Chapter 15

Book 20 Chapter 15

The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.
Proverbs 15:28

Recommended Reading – Proverbs 15:27-33

According to A Dictionary of American Proverbs, there are lots of variations to the rule, “Think before you speak.” One version says, “Think before you leap.” Another says, “Think more and talk less.” Another says, “Think twice and say nothing.” And yet another says, “You can think what you like, but don’t say it.”1

However it’s put, this is biblical advice. It’s easy to open our mouths and let the words fly. We’re living in a day when people talk without using the filters of wisdom. But wise people study how to answer. One of the best ways of doing this is to pray before speaking. This is what Nehemiah did. “Then the king said to me, ‘What do you request?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king…” (Nehemiah 2:4-5).

Every child of God can develop a reputation for giving good advice. We can be people to whom others come for counsel. By God’s grace, we can be respected for our quiet wisdom. But only if we learn to think—and to pray—before we speak.

Think before you speak, but don’t speak all that you think.
An old American proverb

1A Dictionary of American Proverbs (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).

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Greater Works Shall You Do

Greater Works Shall You Do

“Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.” (Acts 2:22)

Jesus did all of His miracles as a man, not as God. Let that sink in. This is a profound truth that has major implications for you and me. It changes everything.

Jesus said of Himself: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does (John 5:19-20).” In the Greek language the word ‘nothing’ has a unique meaning — it means NOTHING. Just like it does in English! He had NO supernatural capabilities whatsoever!

While He is 100 percent God, He chose to live with the same limitations that man would face once He was redeemed. He made that point over and over again. Jesus became the model for all who would embrace the invitation to invade the impossible in His name. He performed miracles, wonders, and signs, as a man in right relationship to God… not as God.

If He performed miracles because He was God, then they would be unattainable for us. But if He did them as a man, I am responsible to pursue His lifestyle. Recapturing this simple truth changes everything… and makes possible a full restoration of the ministry of Jesus in His Church. “[1]

Jesus said you and I will do even greater works than He did. “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12-13)

The question for each of us is, “How dependent and obedient to the Holy Spirit are we so we can experience this same power?”

What is Possible?

What Is Possible?

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
Mark 9:23

Recommended Reading – Ephesians 3:20-21

There is a part of the body of Christ that has adopted a slogan from the secular self-help movement: “If you can conceive it and believe it, you can achieve it!” If you can conceive of yourself as an astronaut or a star player in the NBA, and believe it with all your heart, are you likely to achieve such a goal? The answer for most adults is “No.”

What’s good about the “name it and claim it” school is that it encourages us not to limit ourselves or God. What’s wrong with this approach is that it misapplies the words of Jesus. For example, a corollary of Jesus’ words in Mark 9:23 is that “all things are possible for [God]”—words Jesus spoke on the night of His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:36). Jesus believed it was possible for Him not to go to the cross, and He also believed it was possible for God to keep Him from that suffering. Yet He went to the cross anyway.

Our beliefs and possibilities have to be in line with the will of God. That’s how Jesus lived His life and how He taught His disciples to live (John 5:30). When our lives are lived in obedience to God’s will, nothing is impossible. Dream big—but dream biblically!

Called to Someone Versus Something

Called to Someone versus Something

“But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name'” (Acts 9:15-16).

Sometimes we can place the idea of calling too much on the thing we do versus the One we are called to serve. Paul said that he was “called to be an apostle.” This has made some feel that if we each do not have a “special call” then we are second class citizens.

Paul saw his calling like any other believer’s call to salvation and obedience. We cannot negate the fact that God did call Paul in a dramatic encounter with the Lord that had broad significance to the rest of the Lord’s churches. And, there are assignments that are going to impact the Lord’s churches more than others. However, this is not the case for every believer and we should not feel slighted should we not have the same level of call.

Every believer shares the same basic calling with Paul, “as a bondservant of Jesus Christ, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ,” as he says in (Romans 1:6). Paul was saying to the Roman Christians their call was the same as his. They were not all apostles, but they were all “called of Jesus Christ.”

For most of us, God will work out His calling upon our lives in many different and varied ways. Like Paul and the rest of the New Testament Christians, we are all called with the same glorious calling and thus stand as equals before God.

How Do Your Expectations Shape Your Relationship With God? Matthew 11:1-19

Great Expectations

Preached @ Anchor Community Church on January 25th, 2015

“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.” Flannery O’Connor

Intro

What do you expect out of God? Our expectations and assumptions shape our experience with relationships, especially our relationship with God. We go in to marriages “Expecting” one thing and getting another; therefore, we often struggle in our marriages because our partners have not “Come through” for us. Many of us struggle with God, because we expected God to be something different or do something different for us. Maybe it was a misunderstanding or just bad theology, but it’s all you know is God isn’t measuring up. “You just knew that God would heal your __________” becomes the reason you are struggling in doubt, and your faith is waning.

Big Picture: God is not bound by our Demands, Desires and Expectations

We are going to look at Three Areas of Doubt from our passage today that is often a thorn in our own flesh.

From the Head…

The Anatomy of Doubt (Matthew 11:1-6)

The question for our passage is did John doubt? The Patristic fathers (Except Tertullian) said no. Solid theologians like Calvin have seconded that. Most likely they do so to either defend John or scripture, since he previously said that Jesus was “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world (Matthew 3:14 cf. John 1:29); Now? Not so sure.

Many modern Commentaries however believe that John certainly has real doubts here. From his question, to Jesus’ answer directly to John (v. 4), it seems apparent that this is an episode of depression and doubt. If not a doubt of Jesus’ mission, certainly a doubt in the way Jesus was handling His mission.

The problem for John was that the Prophets prophesied a Jubilee (See Isaiah 61:1-3); a freeing of Israel from Tyranny, and a judgment on those that have cursed Israel. John was a very righteous man (According to Jesus in our passage, the most righteous of men among women), and Jesus on the other hand was chilling with “Gluttons and sinners (See Matthew 11:19 cf. Deuteronomy 21:20). John expected Jesus to do one thin g, but He seemed to be doing another.

Was John judging his cousin? Was he possibly disgruntled with His cousin for not acting properly? Not handling business, as He should? Did He not meet up with John’s expectations of the Messiah?

Too often we place biblical characters up on a pedestal of perfection, and don’t realize that they had their idols and their problems with doubt just like we do. This is an act of doubt for sure. We doubt in times of distress. It is our prison experiences that shape our understanding of God. John extolled Jesus’ virtues when he was a free man, working his ministry, but he struggled when he was sent to prison for being bold in the face of King Herod’s sin, when Jesus, who was supposed to be the Messiah, was not judging those in the way the prophets predicted He would. We are like that. Our doubts occur when God doesn’t act the way we believe He should be acting. When He doesn’t do what we believe He should be doing, or He doesn’t act on our time frame.

How does Jesus answer John? With scripture (Especially Isaiah 35:4-6a cf. Isaiah 61:1-3 cf. Luke 4:18ff). His basic answer is “Yes I am coming to judge, but first, I am saving my people!” I will fulfill all of these prophecies which are in the context of judgment, on my time, not your time, but I am also fulfilling a certain aspect of those prophecies right now, I am healing people and saving them.

Jesus reflected a balanced understanding of the gospel. Both the grace and love and the holiness and justice are part of God’s plan, and He is working His plan according to His purpose and will (See Ephesians 1:11).

The Human Default of Doubt (Matthew 11:7-15)

At this point, Jesus turns to the doubting crowds, showing them who John really is. What we see in our passage is humanity’s default mechanism; doubt. When things don’t go to our expectations, we doubt. Jesus started out with the crowds following Him, and ended with a small group of rag-tag followers. As soon as people realized that Jesus wasn’t going to give them what they wanted, and then He started talking this crazy talk about loving Him more than mom and dad and your kids, and taking up your cross, etc. they bailed. We don’t want that, we want Jesus to be __________, fill in the blank. Jesus wasn’t going to play that game, and gave them clear reasons to believe He was who He said He is. He names John as the prophet that came in the “Spirit and power of Elijah” as promised (Malachi 3:1; 4:5 cf. Luke 1:17) to prepare the way for His ministry as promised (Isaiah 40:3). John wasn’t Elijah the prophet as he made that clear in John 1:21, but He was metaphorically and in the spirit of Elijah. John came as that prophet to pave the way, calling all humanity to repentance, while Jesus preached grace. It wasn’t the antithesis of John’s preaching, it was in concert with John’s preaching. The grace of God is made clear through repentance, but repentance is something human nature rebels against. As writer Flannery O’Connor says, “All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.” We struggle with repentance because we don’t see ourselves as that bad, and we struggle with grace because we want to save ourselves. Both sides of the salvation coin in Christ are an anathema to those perishing. We don’t want to admit our sin, and we don’t want someone else stealing our glory.

The Reason of Doubt (Matthew 11:16-19)

The reason of doubt is simple. When we want to believe something our faulty reasoning paves the way. Jesus is using reason and the facts of prophecy to make His point, but He is still being rejected, because when people want to believe something, their own reason mysteriously takes them where they want to go. To this, writer George Bernard Shaw wrote, “The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, and become blind to the arguments against it” Jesus uses a strange but clear story to illustrate His point. He uses childish games, illustrating how selfish, self-centered children act when they are playing. They get upset when no one plays the game the way they want to play. The first was the Wedding Game, which would call for a flute and everyone would dance, while the Funeral Game played a sad “Dirge” where everyone was supposed to morn; but the problem is, the children didn’t always do what the leader children wanted, and they got upset. It is in this same way, that Jesus calls out this generation, who wants God to play their games their way, but God isn’t falling for it, and that angers the skeptic. Thus skeptics often take either side of an argument, as long as it fits their worldview. I have heard skeptics demand that the US is a “Christian Nation” when they want to put down how horrible our nation has been, but when you try to use the Christian nation card to interpret law, etc. the same people claim it was never influenced by Christians. Or they will argue that killing is wrong, and then support abortion. They use their “Reason” that is convenient for their outcome. Their experiments amazingly support their hypotheses.’

John and Jesus won’t play Humanity’s game and we’re upset! God can’t win with a skeptic, and our passage is no different. When John comes as the fundamentalist fire and brimstone guy, he is said to have a “Demon,” and is rejected, when Jesus comes partying with the boys, and loving people, He is said to be a “Glutton and a Drunkard” (See Deuteronomy 21:20). No matter what; when repentance or grace is preached, it is rejected by those that do not desire to bow down to God and morn their sins. Their reasoning allows them off the hook, and instead of doubting like John, who took his doubt to Jesus, the skeptic non-believer takes their doubt to their own reason, and it wins every time. Doubt is not wrong, but it is when we feel we have the right to be God’s judge. That is a doubt beyond reason!

…to the Heart

What expectations do you have for God? How are those expectations hurting your relationship with God at this time? What agendas are you putting forth to God? Do you trust His will and His purposes, or is your theology minimizing God’s providential sovereignty in this world, while elevating your own?Do you need to take your doubt to the cross of Jesus where perfect justice and love met? If so, it’s time to repent of your mistrust, and receive His grace and love that was clearly displayed in God’s purposed plan for this world.

Questions To Ponder

  1. Why is it important to realize that John was sent by God?
  2. Why do you suppose Jesus was called a “Drunkard and a Glutton?”
  3. Why is the concept of the Kingdom of God so hated?
  4. Why was John and Jesus killed? What does that matter?

For Further Reading

A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Craig S. Keener

The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, Michael J. Wilkins

The Gospel According to Matthew, Leon Morris

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament 1A, ed. Manlio Simonetti

Sermon On the Mount; Sinclair Ferguson

 

Keep Growing!

Keep Growing!

We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other.
2 Thessalonians 1:3

Recommended Reading – 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10

Are you a child or a grown-up? Don’t answer too quickly. Whatever our age, we’re still growing up in Christ. He isn’t finished with us yet; we can become more mature and effective than we’ve ever been before.

Listen to these verses from the epistles: Grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ. Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.1

If you’re young, get a head start on maturity by reading and applying God’s Word every day. If you’re at midlife, don’t have a crisis. Rededicate yourself to growing stronger in the last half. If you’ve been around awhile, don’t stop growing. There are still lessons to be learned, wars to be fought, people to be helped, and mountains to be taken. Remember Joshua and Caleb.

Wherever we are in life, it’s crucial to keep growing spiritually. Otherwise we’ll risk spiritual injury or inertia.

Book 20 Chapter 15

Book 20 Chapter 15

A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention.
Proverbs 15:18

Recommended Reading – Proverbs 15:18-26

As the Super Bowl draws near and the NFL ends another season, sports historians will look back at this year and wonder where all the anger came from. Football, after all, is a contact sport. But for some players, the contact on and off the field was dangerous and destructive. Some of the athletes faced charges of domestic violence, and the entire league was forced to grapple with issues of abuse and anger. Football—like all of life—can be ruined by short tempers.

Do you have a short fuse? So did Bible characters. Moses’ temper frequently got him into trouble; and James and John were so hotheaded Jesus called them “sons of thunder.”

If you struggle with this, check to see if your church offers classes or counseling in anger management. But here’s something you can do right now. Read Proverbs 15 and circle every verse dealing with wrath, anger, harsh words, and foolishness. There might be a verse worth memorizing. It might be verse 18: A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention.