The Parable of the Vineyard Workers

Vineyard Workers

The Gospel of Matthew: The Messiah of Promise Pt. #3 Matthew 20:1-16

Preached @ Anchor Community Church on September 27th 2015

As we continue our series in Matthew and specifically in Matthew 20, it would be easy to get caught up in the social justices of improper wages, and while the bible does have more direct verses dealing with these injustices such as James 5:4, which says, “Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” But this sermon is not a sermon on proper wages, or fairness in the workplace. As we look at it in context, it’s another parable highlighting what Jesus has been teaching about the Kingdom of God. And that teaching demonstrates that our salvation isn’t about you!! If this teaching was about wage earning, it certainly wouldn’t be fair for a group to do all the work and get the same pay. This parable is about the Kingdom of God, not individuals pay for the work they did. That’s why it begins with, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a master of a house.”

In our passage today, Jesus is still answering Peter’s question in Matthew 19:27, “…what will we have? It’s that gnawing question we often ask, “What do we get out of this?’ And as we saw in Jesus’ answer, we get everything and that everything is Him; it’s “eternal life,” which according to John 17:3 is to “know God, the only true God, and Jesus Christ His Son. Jesus is our prize! Too often we look to Jesus to give us what we want to soothe us and to give us happiness, when He is the end game. Jesus’ answer doesn’t work for those looking for ‘more.’ Matthew 19:30 ends with, “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Peter still doesn’t get it He still is looking for what Jesus can do for Him, especially in the restoration of Israel as a power in the region. So Jesus tells yet another Parable, and what we see is the parable ends with very similar words to V. 19:30. “…the last will be first, and the first last.” There are 2 differences, one is Matthew reverses the order in 20:16, and in the Greek manuscript, he adds definite articles for emphasis. This displays a clear bracket around this story emphasizing Jesus’ main point, which is; In God’s Kingdom It Is Grace (Unmerited favor) That Reigns Not Our Actions. This is the basic idea behind the “The first will be last and the last first.” In our modern churches, grace has often become what JI Packer referred to as “Boring Grace.” It becomes boring when we don’t think we need it. The Jews had many years of “Service” to God, and after awhile, you start thinking that “I have done a lot for God! Doesn’t He owe me something?” After awhile, we feel we haven’t really sinned that bad, and we have done a lot to earn God’s favor so;

  • Why didn’t God answer my prayer?
  • Why didn’t God allow me to get that job?
  • Why is my marriage so bad?
  • How come God didn’t heal my mom?
  • How come my church doesn’t grow?

It’s not that hard to fall into this category. Until we realize that God’s Kingdom is once again, that upside down Kingdom. The world thinks totally different than God in relation to God’s grace. Humans instinctively desire some sort of god or gods. We want some sort of “Spirituality,” but we want to take part in it. We want to “Own” our beliefs, but God consistently reminds us that we are too broken for that to happen. We can’t do enough, and without His grace we are steeped in our sins and lost forever.

A second thought in regard to our story is the idea that God’s Compassion Is For People, Not What He Could Benefit From People. Those hired in the eleventh hour wanted to work, but there was not enough work for them. These people needed to work daily to eat and support their families, but there wasn’t always enough work for them. No one wanted to over-hire because it would cost too much money, but God in His compassion brings these workers in at the last hour of the day, and then pays them for a full days wage, which was a Denarius (The wage that the early workers had agreed upon). This master did not benefit at all from these workers. Certainly not a full days wage worth, but he paid them that anyway out of his compassion for them, and their great need for the money to sustain them.

One last thought from our passage is that Our Place In The Kingdom Is Not Based On When We Start, But On Who Calls Us To Work. It isn’t how long you work, or how much you work that matters, just that God called you to work. The Jews really had entitlement issues, and Jesus is telling them that none of their history, and none of their works entitle them to anything. It is about Him who calls, and when we are called by Him to work, we do so diligently, not for pay, but because of the joy set before us, and what He has done for us. We see this clearly from Jesus, our example in Hebrews 12:2. “…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus is the place we look to for our calling; that even when we are called to hard ministries, we do so looking to Jesus, who found joy in the midst of His painful calling. It is easy to get caught up in the “It’s not fair” argument, and that God owes you something, but in reality God doesn’t owe us anything. He righteously could have us all condemned to hell, but He chooses to save some to be His people for His purposes.

Do you use God and People for what you can get out of them? Maybe it’s time to repent of your self-righteousness, and bitterness toward God for not giving you what you deserve. There is nothing we do to earn our salvation; that is secured and made secure in Christ. Subsequently we have no right to demand anything out of God.

To listen to the sermon, go to: The Vineyard Workers

Questions To Ponder

  1. Why is this message of grace hard for some?
  2. Why do we sometimes feel God owes us something?
  3. In what way(s) do you feel this at times?
  4. What type of person does this attitude foster in a person?
  5. What can we learn from this passage in application to our own life?

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

For further dialogue with the sermon go to www.anchorlongbeach.wordpress.com

 

 

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The Gospel of Matthew: The Messiah of Promise 19:16-30

Give to the Poor

Is money evil? Not according to the very misquoted 1 Timothy 6:10, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” There are plenty of figures in the bible who are considered godly and have ample cash.

Our passage today is also one that is often misquoted and misused. There are some who want to make this an absolute for everyone who calls themselves a follower of Christ. However a deeper look into the passage shows that this isn’t the case. Our passage today (Matthew 19:16-30) demonstrates that God is sovereign and loving, and our heart idols are the very things that keep us from loving God well.

The rich young man in this narrative asks the question many ask in regard to their desire for eternal life, “What good thing must I do to have eternal life?” It’s the question many of us have had from time to time, whether we are religious or not. What’s interesting is Jesus’ response. He doesn’t go into the typical 3-4 point pithy gospel presentation asking him to accept Himself into his heart, as we would see many evangelicals do today; but Jesus probes further, because our salvation isn’t contingent on our adding Jesus to our already busy lifestyle. It is because of Jesus’ love for this man that He digs deeper in to the heart issues that are bugging this man (See the parallel passage Mark 10:21). Jesus tells him to keep the commands. Why? It isn’t because Jesus is contradicting His own teachings , as well as the disciple’s teaching that we are saved by grace through faith, but He is trying to show this man where his problem lies; in his heart.

Generally, this man is a good man. The culture saw him as good, but Jesus, who doesn’t judge the outside, but the inside heart issues, realizes that this man has not used his money well, and has developed a love for money that has negated his love for his neighbor. This is why Jesus tells him to do commands 6-9 and another command found in Leviticus 19:18. Those were external commands that the man could appear to keep, but it’s only when Jesus reaches deep in to the real issue (Greed, love of money) that exposed his idols and his heart strings. Jesus tells him there is one more thing, “Sell what you possess and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven, and follow me.” Jesus hit him right where his idol was; his check book. We can deceive ourselves into thinking we are pretty good, and in most cases that may be true; but it is those things we can’t live without and that get in the way of a real relationship with the God that hurt us as people. Jesus cared enough to expose that reality, but instead of repenting of that idol and following Jesus, the text says “…he went away sorrowful for he had great possessions.” His “treasure” was not Jesus. Jesus promised him the treasure he is seeking by letting go of his idol and following him.

In many ways we do the same thing. We’re too busy for Jesus. We have other loves on our mind. We too often seek God, not as the prize or treasure, but as the means to that treasure.

What comes next is interesting. Jesus’ disciple’s witness this, and are “Astonished.” From their vantage point then was “If that guy is out of the Kingdom, then who can get in?” It’s a fair question, and Jesus immediately reminds them that with man it is impossible, but with God “All things are possible!” Our salvation is not from our works. If it were, we would be in trouble. Our salvation comes from God’s “Good Deeds” in Chris Jesus. We are called to repentance from our good works (Hebrews 6:1), as well as, the idols and sins that beset us, and trust that Jesus is truly who He says He is; the Messiah. The reason it is hard for the rich man to obtain salvation is not because of his riches, but because of his affections. His true love and reliance, trust and worth is based on money, not God. This is the heart of man’s problems. It is these heart lusts that oppress others that often lead to greater issues in our world. Jesus is here to heal us from our addictive bondage to our sins and desires that continue to ruin us.

We all have idols, and it is through God’s sovereign grace that we are saved at all. When his disciples, still astonished, ask “What then will we have?” Jesus reminds them that whatever they have left for Him, will be given back to them one hundred times. We are all seeking our joy, worth and sustenance from everywhere but who we were created to get it from, and it has created desires in all of us that separate us from the creator who created us with the purpose to worship Him, and find our joy and worth in the praise itself.

We will be very surprised I think in the end, as we realize those that we thought were first, and those we thought were last will be first. Once again, we have the crazy upside down Kingdom of God, where those that die, live, and those that try to find life apart from God, die.

Humanity: What Is It? Fallen!

Week #5 Fallen

Humanity: What Is It? Genesis 3

Preached @ Anchor Community Church, August 23rd, 2014

“A gulf has opened up in our culture between the visibility of evil and the intellectual resources available for coping with it”

Andrew Delbanco

Intro

It is interesting that we have a culture that teaches us that we are randomly evolved from the animal kingdom, and there are no moral/ethical absolutes, yet it’s a culture that’s creating more and more laws to stop people from hating one another, killing one another, assaulting one another and stealing from one another. Seems a bit hypocritical, or at least a bit contradictory. After all we decry the “Murder” of Leo the lion, yet we don’t prosecute his brother for savagely killing and eating a deer (Leo was ‘murdered by a rich hunter who paid thousands to hunt a lion in the African continent). The views of many other gospel stories fail to remain consistent.

We have been looking at the reality that there is a God and that triune God created all of Humanity in “His Image, both male and female He created them.” And it is because of that that we believe that humanity is similar, yet unique to the animal kingdom. God called everything that He created “Good”. And He created everything on this earth for life to flourish. He created humanity with a purpose to glorify Him with the vocations that God gave them to do, and made humanity co-rulers with Him to keep and serve and cultivate the land that He gave them. So what’s the problem? If we’re created in His image, with a clear purpose and everything we need to succeed; what’s up? What happened to Paradise?

According to our text, everything that God gave the first humans were not enough; we wanted more! And because of that, we (Through Adam) disobeyed the only command God gave us to do; “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”

Today we are looking at the fact that: Humanity is totally depraved! What’s wrong with humanity? We are! It is our heart Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart of man is desperately wicked, who can understand it?” Famed writer GK Chesterton responding to an article in the newspaper entitled “What’s wrong with the world?” and wrote back with these short words, “I am, yours truly GK Chesterton.” Christianity is the only worldview that teaches this idea that we are “Born this way” In Psalm 51:5 David says, “In sin my mother conceived me.” We are a broken people in need of a savior!

From the Head…

The Fruits of the Fall

Proof of Human sin is all around us. As humanity has “Advanced” more deaths have occurred due to war/oppression. Despots like Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin, Milosevic, have killed millions. Genocides like Rwanda and the Sudan have killed close to a million people. Abortion of innocent victims has taken the lives of over 50 Million Americans since 1973. There are currently 10 wars being fought in our world today and 8 “Conflicts.” It’s not just this type of problems the world has. We have destroyed relationships; murder, theft, hatred, bitterness, slander and many other perversions from the way things were created to be. The world looks at most of these issues as a disease to be cured one day. The fact is sin is not a disease!. It is rebellion against God. When David sinned he said, Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4a) Romans 8:7a says, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God.” Not only is it rebellion against God’s law, but it is also a placing of our affections on things and people above God, causing a desire for something more than we are created for.

The Details of the Fall

Satan used a created being, a serpent who the bible says was “Craftier than any beast of the field.” Not sure what constituted the serpents craftiness, but suffice it to say Satan used the serpent to deceive Eve. It’s also interesting to note that evil/Sin was present in the garden via Satan and His fall from grace.

Satan deceived Humanity with rhetoric, misunderstanding and doubt.

“Did God say?” Really? You sure? A little doubt can go a long way, and Satan knows that. What was Eve’s answer? “…but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Notice her deviation from God’s word. God never told Adam and Eve not to touch the tree. This is what pious people do; they add pious commands to God’s commands and appear more righteous than others who don’t abstain). The problem is adding to God’s laws do not make you any more righteous. Colossians 3:23 says, “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” Satan goes from casting doubt to contradicting God; “You will surely not die.” Don’t worry, have fun, nothing will happen to you, it’s a ruse to oppress you and keep you subjected to the church.

Satan tempted Humanity through their natural “Lusts

All of the ‘Good’ things God created for life to flourish would now be used against us. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” God doesn’t want you to know everything! The temptation here is the temptation to be our own gods. And Satan uses the very things God has given us as good to do it. Things like sex, food, love, intimacy, etc. can now all be distorted and used against us, and against many others. Instead of good, they now can bring oppression, depression, illness and death.

Satan’s tactic is much like John describes in I John 2:15

Lust of the flesh à “The woman saw that it was good for food

Lust of the eyes à “That it was a delight to the eyes

Boastful pride of life à “…it would make you wise

The ultimate sin of Humanity is our desire to be our own god. One theologian said, “Man’s sin lies in his pretension to be God” (Niebuhr). Both those made in God’s image willfully took matters into their own hands. “Thus the origin of sin according to Genesis 3:6 ought not to be sought so much in an overt action, but in an inward, God denying aspiration, of which the act of disobedience was the ultimate expression.” What is sin?

Many Terms/Ideas For Sin

  • Miss the Mark
  • Rebellion/Active Disobedience
  • Perversion/Twisting
  • Straying Away/Apathy
  • Sins of Commission and Omission

Our sins are active and non-active. There are some things we should be doing we don’t, and things we shouldn’t do, but we do. Our sin is a missing the mark, or a perversion of what God intended for humanity and for life to flourish. Sin is destructive, yet it’s celebrated by most humans until it destroys something, and the our culture searches fro methods, laws and systems to change things, and it becomes a hypocritical mess.

The Consequences of the Fall

Humanity is fallen in Adam

The first consequence of the fall is realizing that now, all of humanity is fallen and doomed. Both Romans 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 15:22 remind us that because of Adam’s sin, we are all sinful. Therefore, We aren’t sinful because we sin; we sin, because we are sinful! Sin is more than selfishness. Sin is more than your actions. Sin is an attitude of privilege that sees God as our equal, and gives us rights to question God’s authority and laws.

Thus, humanity creates their own laws, and even the church preaches the human gospel of “Good Works,” which in God’s economy is something we need to repent of. The gospel of good works that many preach, only confuse the matter, because then the church creates an “us versus them” mentality, where safety and righteousness is found in the church, and not out in the cold, cruel world. This only works until you go into that same world, and realize the world is often more righteous and caring than the church. Then you have a culture war to determine what strategy, system and laws work best for humanity to flourish, instead of looking to Christ as the only hope humanity has. That fall has caused many consequences!

Shame

Genesis 3:7, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made for themselves loincloths”

Problems with God

Genesis 3:8, And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden”

Relational Issues/Blaming

Genesis 3:12, The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.

Environmental Consequences

Genesis 3:17, “…cursed is the ground because of you!”

Work/Roles Related Stresses

Genesis 3:16 “To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

Genesis 3:18-19a “And to Adam He said…thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field, By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.

Death

Genesis 3:19c, “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return

Ongoing Sin (Genesis 4ff)

…to the Heart

The fact is we are broken people. The world only has systems that don’t work for long. The bible gives us clear answers to Humanity’s problem; and it’s us! Our choice at this time is to ignore this, or call it wrong to call someone a sinner, or realize that it is the most honest thing we can do, and then change our minds (Repent) and believe that what God says is not only true, but the only way toward the joy and wholeness we are looking for. Next week we will look at the Bible’s only answer. Suffice it to say it’s Jesus!

 

Created In His Image

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 6.25.51 PM

One skeptic referred to humanity as a “Happy Accident,” meaning that there is no real purpose behind humanity, and in that sense, humanity has no real meaning or special place on the planet. I suppose that could be, but then there’s really no reason for me to care then. We are starting this study “Humanity: What Is It? to examine humanity from the lens of scripture, particularly Genesis 1-3.

We are doing so because there is much confusion as to what humanity is, who we are, why are we here type questions. I do not purport for this to be definitive or to persuade the hardened skeptic, because not only does the honest skeptic eschew meaning, they deride ‘religion’ for trying to give life meaning. So be it, I guess we all have a gospel to tell.

Also this study’s scope in no way will answer all of the questions regarding Genesis that a more exegetical study should offer. Let’s suffice it to say that the writer(s) of Genesis in no way meant for it to answer questions 21st century science is attempting to answer. And as believers it would behoove us to stay away from the debates in regard to science and the bible since the two are not at odds with one another, and our goal isn’t to win a science debate. It may be even possible to agree with the late Stephen J. Gould who was an atheist and eminent Harvard professor of Paleontology when he wrote, “Science and religion can be seen as nonoverlapping but equally valid means of understanding the world around us, and neither should encroach upon the domain of the other.” Christian Theologian RC Sproul once said that, “When people ask me how old the earth, I tell them I don’t know, because I don’t.” Not a bad tactic. As believers let’s stick to the gospel and not arguing subjects we know nothing about. The bottom line is the bible teaches us that God is the Ultimate cause of the universe, whereas science is trying to determine the Proximate cause.

The fact is the bible has proven itself well from an accuracy and historical perspective. There have been many skeptics saying the opposite, but the skeptics have most often had to change their positions when all the facts came in; like the existence of the Hittite Empire, which was spoken of often in scripture, but skeptics derided until 1948 when archaeological discoveries were made proving the existence of such an empire making the skeptical claims null and void. We can trust the bible for our “Life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), and trust it to place a mirror before us explaining who we are, what we are created to do and why we don’t have the joy we are seeking as humans. The authority of scripture is either a real part of our lives, especially as it relates to the many issues in our culture today, or it’s not.  Of course we always have the prerogative to discard scripture and go our own way, but it can’t be based on the fact that scripture isn’t accurate, or is a book of horrible advice as some say.

In our passage today (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:7), we are exploring the meaning of the “Image of God.” What we are taught in the first couple of chapters of Genesis is that God is infinite and separate from His creation and the uncaused cause of all matter (Which is finite), which makes Him very different than many other gods. And that He created humanity in His image.

Being created in the image of God is the believers foundation for our identity, and for treating ALL people with dignity, love and compassion. This is an area I believe a purely macro-evolutionary theory has to trade in its foundational belief to make work. If we really are just “Happy Accidents,” and no different than the animal kingdom then there is no real, philosophical basis for me to care about the other person, especially if that person is ‘unfit,’ and not pulling his weight in the culture. Bible authors use this idea of being created in God’s image to stop murder (Genesis 9:6) and the cursing of humanity (James 3:9). Thus we are to see all humanity as created in God’s image!

 To be created in God’s image is to be ‘Like” Him. We are told to be “Perfect” like our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:48). Thus God’s communicable attributes are part of what it means to be made in His image. Attributes such as love, holiness, goodness, truthful, rational, personal, merciful, free, etc. are all part of what it means. But, while many church fathers and theologians have included the above, as well as, reason, intellect, free will and the ability to rule over the creation as what it means to be created in God’s image, I think our context speaks more clearly to this.

First, I think the image means that we have ‘Dominion” (Co-Regency) over creation. This is certainly part of it, but not the whole. We will discuss this more next week. Being made in His image also carries a second idea. which is the essence of who God is. He’s a triune being unlike humanity. God is a perfect community in of Himself, with no need for anything else. He created out of His creative personality (Another attribute humans share with Him), and out of His pleasure and will, not because He needed anything. He exists perfectly as three distinct personalities united in one being. This isn’t a contradiction, yet it is hard to comprehend, which is what we’d expect from God. This is also very important to who we are as humans. We are created for community and personal interaction, like God. God therefore, created diversity as a good thing. Distinction is important to Him, as it is united in diversity. Things like marriage are two distinct and diverse people coming together as ‘one flesh.’ The church is “many members, yet one body.” This idea of God being diverse yet one is unique. These aren’t three different illusory manifestations, but three real persons, distinct from one another, yet unified in one. Theologian Karl Barth wrote, “God is in relationship, and so too is the man created by Him. This is divine likeness.” This then brings us to our third likeness in our context and that is the idea of being male and female. Genesis 1:27 reads, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” He defines that image as two distinct and different, yet unified persons. Distinctions and diversity are not evil. The fall has created this tension between people, God is in the business of redeeming that.There is something at the foundational core of God that desires diversity, distinction and oneness. The world is clamoring for it to be “One,” but doesn’t have a clue of how to make that happen. In our day and age when we have been promised that computers, jets and the internet would make us globally one, we have developed more factions, tensions and wars as the cultures have crashed into one another. As one song says, “The world is heading for mutiny, when all we want is unity.”

How do you understand who you are? What or who is your identity in? Looks, fame, money, success, accomplishments, relationships? What gives you worth and meaning? Our identity is not in our sexuality, our jobs or our lineage, it is the God and creator of the universe. We are accepted, because He accepts us in Christ. It is because of this that we have no right to judge others and look down upon others as ‘sinners,’ since we are just as fallen as anyone else, yet loved and accepted in Christ Jesus.

Since that is true then, we must become the community that God has called the church to be. Instead, many are running away from the church, when in reality God has called out (Eklesia) the church to be a family of sinners saved by God’s grace. We are called together to love one another, bear one another’s burdens and to proclaim to a dying world the truth of God’s story; that Christ has come to redeem the world, so that there would be “neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). That’s God’s goal for the world; what’s the goal of evolution for humanity?

The Cost of Forgiveness

The Cost of Forgiveness

The Gospel of Matthew: The Messiah of Promise 18:21-35

Preached @ Anchor Community Church on July 19th 2015

Intro

Last week Jesus walked through clear steps for the body of Christ to walk through to solve issues believers have with one another. The fact is, if we are truly going to be a church that welcomes and is working toward diversity, then peacemaking and rules of conflict management are a must.

This week Jesus turns toward a key component in making peace with one another and that is the issue of forgiveness. It is crucial for reconciliation, and it is at the heart of the gospel. Recently we have seen some high profile injustices ending with the victim(s) granting forgiveness to their oppressor(s). We saw that in the event when Ronnie Smith was gunned down by terrorist in Libya, and his young wife forgave his assailants on CNN. The same was true in the heinous hate crime in Charleston SC, when every family was represented in the forgiving of killer Dylann Roof. This was also the case in the horrible beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians at the hands of Isis.

What prompts these extraordinary moves toward forgiveness, and is it a healthy thing. Many side with the philosophy of men like Friedrich Nietzsche who believed that forgiveness was a weakness that only masked hate and bitterness. While much of the world applauds some of these acts, they struggle with it in practicality. When boys like Josh Duggar repent of their terrible actions, and are forgiven by the victims, the world often decries this as an ‘easy’ way out, that doesn’t help the victims at all. But is that the case with Jesus’ concept of forgiveness.

Big Picture: The Christian is called to forgive even their enemy with no buts attached!

From the Head…

Peter’s Question (Matthew 18:21)

The question from Peter is simple, ‘How many times should I forgive my brother who sins against me?” What’s interesting is who Peter is. He’s a zealot. Zealot’s were sort of the terrorist, pro Zionist’s that were out to right all the wrongs their oppressors (Roman Government) had done to them. They were filled with rage and hurt for many heinous things that were done to them.

Peter’s question therefore was not a trivial one, it had a lot of background to it, and it marks much of the hate, tension and bitterness we see in many parts of the world today. Peter also may have asked the question with a bit of pride. The Jewish Rabbinic view at the time was that “If a man commits a transgression, the first, second and third time he is forgiven, the fourth time he is NOT forgiven” So when Peter says seven times, he is more than doubling the norm, and may have been quite surprised at Jesus’ answer. In Peter’s mind, there was a limited scope of how much a person should forgive another. I wanted to take a brief look at how some other major world views looked at forgiveness

The Islamic view the Quran (Surah 42:40-41) says, “The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah: for (Allah) loves not those who do wrong But indeed if any do help and defend themselves after a wrong (done) to them, against such there is no cause of blame (Emphasis Mine),” indicating that forgiveness is good, but not expected if the cause was valid.

In the Buddhist view one writer said that,”When you forgive me for harming you, you decide not to retaliate, to seek no revenge. You don’t have to like me. You simply unburden yourself of the weight of resentment and cut the cycle of retribution that would otherwise keep us ensnarled in an ugly samsaric wrestling match. This is a gift you can give us both, totally on your own, without my having to know or understand what you’ve done (Emphasis Mine).” In this view, which is very close to the Christian one, forgiveness is a good thing, but it is more self centered, and its marred by the Buddhist cosmological view that everything is ultimately an illusion and therefore not connected to a real offense or the need for real justice.

While the Humanist view is hard to nail down one writer wrote that, “Rather, in granting forgiveness, a victim of wrong re-orients a relationship that has been disrupted or compromised by wrongdoing. This theme is an integral part of forgiveness common both to western philosophical and theological traditions, and is often envisioned as part of a more elaborate interaction in which people seek to atone for wrongs and secure forgiveness in the name of interpersonal reconciliation or in the pursuit of the ultimate human benefit, divine salvation (Emphasis mine).” It appears this view is based on reconciliation, and is more of the “Moral Ought” which has its foundation in the rational ‘norm’ and not in anything really intrinsic. If the oppressor is truly repentant, and has ‘paid’ his dues, then you should forgive your assailant.                                                            

Jesus’ Answer (Matthew 18:22-35)

Now Jesus’ simple answer to Peter’s question is basically “Every Time!” It’s a “Way of life!” Jesus’ 7×70 is a sort of figure of speech. He wasn’t saying that on the 491st time your free to not forgive, he was blowing away Peter’s search for a number, because in the kingdom of God the number doesn’t exist; the answer is always!

Now how does this all work our practically in Jesus’ thinking? First we need to understand that Christianity has not cornered the market on ethics and morality. Most Religions and world views, as we saw, extol the virtue of forgiveness, and unfortunately Christians are sometimes the worse transgressors of this. Christianity for too long has placed a moralistic gospel out on the forefront that is easily destroyed by skeptics of the gospel, because as followers of Jesus, we are not more moral, so we are God’s people, we are chosen by God unconditionally, and most often in spite of our brokenness. The mark of a believer is not his/her goodness, but his/hers graciousness, and thankfulness for what God has done for them.

Is Christianity Different?

The simple answer is yes, because it’s NOT motivated by our own internal Goodness or “Moral Ought.” Forgiveness in Christianity is motivated by Christ’s (God’s) actions toward us.

Luke 23:24

“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”

Colossians 3:12-13

“12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive”

Being able to forgive is an indication of true repentance. If we have not really seen God’s holiness and our sin, we struggle with repentance and the need to be forgiven, so we are often not that gracious to those who do not ‘measure up’ to our standard. Religious people often are the slowest toward repentance because they believe they have to maintain a veneer of righteousness, but deep in their own hearts is a seething bitterness, or a cold self-righteousness.

Ultimately forgiveness is connected to Anger and Justice. “You don’t know my pain!” is the cry. Imprecatory Psalms are Psalms that reflect this kind of hurt, and a desire for God to wipe out their oppressors. These are often the scoffing center of skeptical minds that find this off putting, but in reality, those that think these Psalms are bad don’t know real pain, because those that know real pain like the Syrian refugee I met in the middle east who lost his twin daughters to chemical weapons, and the many other atrocities I have witnessed, can understand the real emotions of these biblical authors. That’s what’s great about the bible, it’s real; it’s not a fake spirituality that western elites succumb to. It’s easy to be a pacifist when nothing really horrible has been done to you. To this Croatian theologian Miraslov Volf wrote,

“My thesis that the practice of nonviolence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many Christians, especially theologians in the West. To the person who is inclined to dismiss it, I suggest imagining that you are delivering a lecture in a war zone (which is where a paper that underlies this chapter was originally delivered). Among your listeners are people whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit. The topic of the lecture: a Christian attitude toward violence. The thesis: we should not retaliate since God is perfect non-coercive love. Soon you would discover that it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence corresponds to God’s refusal to judge. In a scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die. And as one watches it die, one will do well to reflect about many other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.” [1]

The Psalmist who wrote these imprecatory Psalms believe what Volf did, that the real hurts of humanity are either going to be healed through violence, or the belied that there is a real, perfect judge, that will take care of all of the world’s injustices either on the cross, or in eternal judgment.

We have seen Jesus teach that we are to ‘love our enemies,’ and Paul teaches us to ‘bless those who persecute you,’ which can only be done when we realize we serve a just God. Romans 12:19 Recognizes God as the one who will judge perfectly in the end; “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Jesus goes on to tell a story about a King who forgave a man a lot of money, and the man turned and choked out someone who owed him a little money. This Parable is told to contrast our great offense toward God and our enemies small offense to us. The wicked man owed the King 10,000 Talents, which was the highest weight measurement (Gold/Silver) of the day. On the flip side the man’s servant owed him 100 Denarii, which was bout a days wage. There was 6000 Denarii to 1 Talent.

Jesus’ point is clear, when we recognize God’s great act of forgiveness toward us, it is only obvious that it is expected when smaller offenses are made against you. There are no “Buts” to this command!! This does not diminish our real pain and hurt. Losing two daughters is painful, but this teaching is commanding forgiveness in spite of this hurt.

This sounds crazy to those sexually molested, and those that have loved ones murdered, and those that have seen their villages plundered and their sons killed. No wonder Nietzsche felt this was weak virtue, and no wonder he ran into so many believers that taught forgiveness but seethed with bitterness. But is the doctrine of forgiveness asking the victim to seethe in bitterness? No! The man’s debt to his master was an impossible debt to pay, so when he says he will repay it in verse 26, it is nothing but rhetoric. The king had every right in their culture to sell his family in slavery, because in lieu of jails, this is how this culture dealt with crimes like theft and debt. The key in all of this is the motivation. The bible tells us that “man judges appearances, but God judges the heart.” Verse 27 tells us that “Out of pity for the master…released him, and forgave him the debt.” The word “Pity” (σπλαγχνίζομαι splagchnizomai) carries with it the idea of “Compassion” or “Mercy.” The slave deserved his punishment, but instead, he was shown mercy. We are able to show compassion, when we realize the compassion that has been shown to us. What is interesting, when the master realized his servant wasn’t reciprocating this mercy to others, he didn’t say, you should have forgiven the debt, he said, “Should not you have had Mercy on your fellow servant, as I had Mercy on you?” Jesus addresses the heart issue, not the action. When we understand the gospel, and what God has done for us, and how holy He is, and how sinful we are, the cross of Jesus is really big in our lives, and we are able to give grace to others, but when those aren’t realized in our lives we struggle with both repentance and forgiveness, the two major components of the gospel. In verse 35 Jesus addresses the man’s punishment, “

“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Forgiveness is not a moral ought, it’s not something we should do because we are ‘good’ people, it is an intrinsic response to the grace we are given via Jesus’ cross, and God’s undeserved gift to us.

Does Forgiving Cause Anxiety and Cooped Up Bitterness?

One Philosopher (Giles Frazier) think so:

“In other words, Nietzsche is brilliant at diagnosing the hidden hatreds that lurk within the Christian breast, but he does not appreciate that these hatreds are themselves the by-product of a victory over real violence. Ressentiment is the collateral damage of forgivenessGiles Frazier

I believe this is a sad thought from a Christian philosopher. While he may be right in practice and experience, this is the antithesis of Christian forgiveness. When our heart clings on to God’s justice and love, we can truly ‘let go,’ and be healed, forsaking the hate and the bitterness in our hearts. There is no ‘collateral damage’ in God’s kingdom. There is healing and wholeness, when we turn to His gospel, and His story for our healing.

What is Forgiveness?

The word for forgiveness is ἀφίημι (aphiēmi). Literally “To Send Away; Let go.” I’d like to define a few things about forgiveness and am primarily using an exerpt from Mark Driscoll’s sermon from his series on Ephesians. I saw this online, and felt it summed up some things well:

7 Things + 1 Forgiveness Is: (I added the last one)   

  1. Forgiveness is cancelling a debt owed to you.
  2. Forgiveness is removing the control the offender has over you.
  3. Forgiveness is giving a gift to yourself and to your offender.

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”                                                Nelson Mandela

  1. Forgiveness is forsaking revenge. Romans 12:19
  2. Forgiveness is leaving ultimate justice in God’s hands.
  3. Forgiveness is an ongoing process. 70 x 7 = “keep forgiving.”
  4. Forgiveness is wanting good for your offender.
  5. Forgiveness is costly!

7 Things Forgiveness Is Not:

  1. Forgiveness is not denying that it happened and diminishing its evil.
  2. Forgiveness is not enabling sin.
  3. Forgiveness is not necessarily a response to an apology.
  4. Forgiveness is not covering up crimes committed against us.
  5. Forgiveness is not forgetting. It’s not bringing it back up (Like Forgetting)
  6. Forgiveness is not trust.
  7. Forgiveness is not reconciliation. It takes two people to reconcile.

We are commanded to forgive whether one asks for that forgiveness or not. Jesus forgave humanity of the cross, but reconciliation is something done between two parties, which includes repentance and forgiveness.

…to the Heart

Do you have trouble forgiving people? Our lack of graciousness is most often a sign of internal hurt and bitterness and a miscalculation of God’s holiness and your own sin. Maybe it’s time to be reconciled to God and place your hate, and bitterness on His cross, who took on all of our hate and sin, so that we could be reconciled to Him, and enjoy Him forever.

Questions To Ponder

  1. Do you struggle with forgiveness?
  2. What would be the hardest thing for you to forgive?
  3. Why does God demand that we forgive those that have hurt us?
  4. Isn’t forgiveness a weakness?
  5. What if the other person has done heinous things to you?
  6. Shouldn’t I wait until that person asks for forgiveness before I grant it?
  7. Is there a “Special” situation where we don’t have to forgive the offender?

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

 [1] Volf, Miroslav (2009-07-10). Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (p. 304). Abingdon Press – A. Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

 

 

Humility and Entrance Into the Kingdom

Humility

The Gospel of Matthew: The Messiah of Promise 18:1-7

Preached @ Anchor Community Church on June 21st 2015

Intro

Is there a ‘special’ place in heaven for people like Billy Graham and Mother Theresa? Are there “Super Saints?” Why do we have categories like ‘fired up,’ ‘sold out,’ ‘radical,’ and ‘carnal?’ Is it because we are more enamored with what we are going to do for Jesus, that we have forgot Jesus? After all we go to conferences called ‘Exponential,’ Catalyst’ and ‘Launch,’ to get the strategies we need to change our world! And when we don’t change our worlds like the speakers say, we feel like lesser, second citizen Christians.

Many of us feel the need to be great; to change our world. When the evil Syndrome (The Incredibles) wanted to thwart greatness, he desired to give everyone powers and “When everyone is super, no one will be” No doubt the New Testament church turned their world ‘Upside down,” but was that done through strategies and celebrity speakers? What happened to Ordinary?” Is it possible that turning the world upside down meant being different than the world in very ordinary ways? Theologian Michael Horton writes in his book ‘Ordinary,” “Being Ordinary “is not a call to do less, but to invest in things that we often give up on when we don’t see an immediate return.” Is it possible that we are afraid of ordinary because our culture only celebrates celebrities; even in the church?

Maybe the disciples were feeling a bit of jealousy? Was Peter getting too much attention? Their question was simple, “Who’s the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” The disciples were still trying to figure out God’s “Kingdom” “Who’s going to be the political aids of the king when we take over?” Could it be that we’re afraid of being ordinary citizens in God’s kingdom. I think too often, we are searching for greatness, and the every day grind of being a believer in our world isn’t sexy, and we find out ultimately, it’s too hard. We’re looking to make ‘impacts’ for Jesus, but Jesus has called most of us to ordinary greatness in Him.

Jesus is teaching them that In the Kingdom of God, greatness is measured by humility!

From the Head…

Why A Child?

They were most vulnerable in that context. Most likely the child was a girl, because females in that culture were even more vulnerable. Women and children have often suffered greatly in many cultures, because they were seen as chattel, or insignificant, which is very true in the culture Jesus came into. This child was vulnerable, not by choice, but by the reality he/she was reliant on others for their survival.

It interests me in our culture how men like Sam Harris can assault God’s character because many children are killed daily and God doesn’t do a thing about it, and at the same time be Pro Choice, giving women the ‘right’ to kill their babies for no reason other than convenience.[1] How do we really care for dying children when we support the death of so many in the name of choice and freedom? Does God care? I believe that our text will show that He does.

Greatness In The Kingdom Is Measured By Humility (Mathew 18:4)

Entrance into God’s Kingdom begins with humility, and this word is defined as we said above by vulnerability. It’s a realization that we are incapable. It’s not a trait of the child, like their love, or purity, it’s the fact that child is a lowly citizen in a very cruel world. This is very similar to Jesus’ words in the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” We come to Jesus with nothing, trusting that He has everything. This flies in the face of the proud that believe they can earn their way into God’s kingdom. To the atheist/agnostic, it is absurd, not only for believing in a heaven and a god, but assuming that any entity other than yourself is going to do anything for you at all. They mock reliance on a god or gods, or anyone else, and champion self-reliance, which makes them strong and independent. The problem is in reality, when we are truly honest with ourselves, we realize that we are not in as much control of our lives as we think.

Greatness In The Kingdom Is Measured By Serving the Weak (Matthew 18:5)

There are some commentators that see the children as God’s children and “Messenger” of Kingdom (See Matthew 10:40-42), thus receiving their message is receiving Christ. The context however seems to be talking about Humble service, serving those that are weak. It makes sense from the flow that humility (Vulnerability) brings you into the kingdom, then kingdom work would be natural as a result, and serving the vulnerable is at the heart of God. Proverbs 14:31 amongst many other Proverbs says, “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.” In our book, Matthew 25:40 seems to reiterate Proverbs, and when talking about those that help those who are vulnerable in the culture, says “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” To “Receive” someone is to become intimately involved with them. The problem in our culture is the needy are invisible, because our worlds are isolated. It is too easy to read verses such as Proverbs 14 and Matthew 25, and skirt over them without any application in our own lives. That’s for other people to do, not me. I too struggle with its application, but it is no excuse for our ignorance of God’s calling on our lives.

Greatness In The Kingdom Is Measured By Holiness (Matthew 18:6)

Lastly, greatness in the God’s Kingdom is measured by holiness. It is better that we tie a “Millstone” around our necks and jump into the sea, than to make just one little one stumble! This is true about literal children and figurative (Spiritual) children. If our lifestyle makes someone else sin, woe be to us. Here we see God’s end game. If you want to exploit children, and make them sin (Via selling drugs, prostitution, robbery, etc.) you WILL get yours! Perfect, holy, righteous and loving justice will come your way! God will not be mocked, so Sam Harris et al, can know that in the end, God wins, and little children, as well as many other victims of exploitation and oppression will be vindicated either on the cross, or through a just judgment of their actions!

The problem is that in our culture, we thing a judging, wrathful God is archaic, and will only lead to violence and hate. Pastor Tim Keller gives the following 2 reasons why we need a judging God, and why it’s great to know there is one. First, it gives Meaning to our actions. Arthur Miller wrote a play called “The Fall,” in which he presented the idea that life is a series of proofs. You prove your smart, capable, good parents, great workers, etc. One day the main character in the story looks up and there is no judge judging, and it caused him great despair because he recognizes that all his actions result in nothing but “endless litigation and arguments.” Without a judge it’s all opinion, there is no real meaning in any of his actions. We may feel more liberated at first, but if we’re really thinking, we’ll eventually realize that without a judge, there is no real meaning in our actions, good or bad. We’ll be like Sisyphus, who pushes a rock up a hill all day, only to have to repeat it the next. And don’t think for a moment that we don’t have judgment, because as Arthur Miller says, that judgment is just a bunch of endless litigation and arguments. Just ask Caitlyn Jenner, Josh Duggar or Tom Brady. They’re judged in the court of public opinion with many opinions and hardly any facts.

A second benefit of a perfect, judging God is It brings Hope to a messed up world. The culture says “if you believe in a judging God, you’ll become violent.” Theologian and Philosopher Miraslov Volf wrote a book entitled “Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation.” Volf is a survivor of the genocide and destruction of the Balkan war. He has seen much oppression and exploitation, and brutal rapes and murders. Volf, himself is a pacifist, and says that the notion of a judging God brings real hope to a world that is characterized by righteous vengeance. He says,

“My thesis that the practice of nonviolence requires a belief in divine judgment will be unpopular with many Christians, especially theologians of the west. To the person who is inclined to dismiss it, I suggest imagining you are delivering a lecture in a war zone. Among your listeners are people whose cities and villages have been first plunders, then burned and leveled to the ground, who daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit…In a scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it (The liberal notion of an non-judging, loving God) will invariably die, one will do well to reflect about many other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.”[2]

In other words, those that don’t think we need a prefect, divine judge, they haven’t felt real pain and oppression, because the only thing, the only hope we have of escalating violence is recognizing that “Vengeance is mine says the Lord.” That’s how we can love our enemies, and “bless those that persecute us!

Sin is real, both corporate (V. 7) and individual (VV. 7-9). If you think oppression, exploitation, killing, etc. is wrong, you believe in sin, and you believe in justice. God is not allowing any children to suffer in vain, He is going to righteously judge those for their actions, or their judgment comes on the cross of Jesus Christ.

…to the Heart

Humility is elusive. Some find this “virtue” either weak (Nietzsche) or useless (Ayn Rand). But when we see for real, it’s admired. We’re not talking about successful people going, “Awe shucks, I’m not that great,” or the downtrodden saying “Wore is me, I’m so bad.” We’re talking about individuals who know that without Christ they are nothing, but in Christ, they can humbly serve mankind with an attitude of thanks, not pride. Many of us have read Philippians 2, and discussed the attitude we should have with one another, but we struggle to live it. We know it, but we can’t seem to live it. It is because of that, we can be grateful that Jesus died in our place, because even when we want to do good, we fail miserably. Thanks be to God there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, because God’s justice as well as His love is found on the cross.

Questions To Ponder

Why are these verses here at this time?

How do they speak to the justice of God?

How does this problem of evil connect to the cross of Jesus?

Why does God allow evil to co-exist with His love and grace?

In what way(s) do we contribute to the injustice toward children in the US and the world?

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

[1] Most abortions happen in the 1st trimester, and are the result of choice, not the mother’s health, rape or incest., which make up about %2 of abortions in America

[2] Miraslov Volf, “Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation”, pg. 304 (Kindle Reader)

Believe: Does Your Faith Work?

Believe

The Gospel of Matthew: The Messiah of Promise 17:14-21

Preached @ Anchor Community Church on June 7th, 2015

Intro

Our passage today reminds us of the great hope we have in Jesus Christ. We are consistently promised that if we believe (Trust) in Him, we will be able to move mountains, and we will receive “Anything we ask.” What does that mean? How many of us have already experienced the opposite? How many of us have lost love ones, and prayed with great faith that God would save them from physical death and it simply didn’t happen?

So what does it mean in our passage when Jesus says, “If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will be able to say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there, and it will move, nothing will be impossible for you?’” Can it mean that we get everything we want, and that all will be well with our health and wealth on this planet; or is it so much more?

Our passage today reminds us that all things God calls us to do, we can accomplish because He is able! And we are ABLE to “Move Mountains” when we depend on Him and are doing His will!

How can your faith help you move mountains? There are three Key Elements in our passage that put this into perspective.

From the Head…

Faith Has An Attitude of Hope (Matthew 17:14-15)

The father in this story asks Jesus, “Lord have mercy on my son” who was struck with epilepsy, which is translated from a word that literally means “Moonstruck” and is akin to our word Lunatic. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good. His boy had been thrashing around since he was young, and throwing himself into fires, water, etc. His dad was desperate, and so much wanted to believe that Jesus could heal him, so he went to Jesus, and asked Jesus to have “compassion” on him and his son, and Jesus healed him “Instantly.” In the parallel passage in Mark 9 we read that Jesus says to Him “’If you can?!’ All things are possible if you believe.”

There it is again, if you believe, you can do anything. Dunk a basketball, get better scores on tests, heal the sick and raise the dead; right? The Father meekly declares that he believes, but then prefaces it with “Help my unbelief! (Mark 9:24). Isn’t this really the case for most of us? We believe; sort of. We need God’s help to believe that He can accomplish what He has promised. Is Jesus really saying that we can do anything if we believe? There are some that think so, but I don’t think either experience or theology backs this up. What is the context? A specific ministry under the authority of Jesus during His ministry on earth. When God calls us to do something, there is no doubt NOTHING is impossible. But using God as our personal valet demanding Him to work based on our faith is not biblical. Doing what God has called us to do according to His will and purposes is a whole other story. This man’s son was healed because he placed his very small faith in the hands of a very big God carrying our His purposes for His glory that that moment. His faith in Jesus was his hope; his only hope!

Faith Brings Forth Clarity (Matthew 17:16-18)

Now we read that when the man brought his son to the disciples “They could not heal Him.” Why not? They did a pretty decent job in Matthew 10? Even Peter walked on water until he took his eyes of Jesus. It is so easy to begin to feel that you can do what God has called you to do in your own power.

Ministry becomes a drain, because we have failed to do what we are called to do by the power of the Spirit, and have done it for so long in our own power that when we fail, or the ministry crushes us, we are shocked. When you stop depending on God ministry gets harder, and I believe that Christian life gets mundane. Real life ministry is hard, and it moves you away from your comfort zone and test your faith regularly.

When Jesus heard of His disciple’s failure He called their faith “Faithless and Twisted.” Another translation uses the idea of “Perversion,” but the word itself means not straight. Another way of seeing it is that it is not clear. When your faith wanes, it isn’t thinking clearly, and cannot see straight.

In reality there is only one that is faithful, and that is Jesus (2 Timothy 2:13), and while we are faithless, He remains faithful. In spite of the father’s small faith, Jesus heals his son.

This demonstrates Jesus’ grace and compassion in His people’s lives. We are blessed, because we serve a God who is always faithful, in spite our lack of trust and faithfulness to Him.

Faith Enables To See Past the Impossible (Matthew 17:19-22)

The question remains why couldn’t he disciples cast it out? In our passage and the parallel passages, there are at east 2 reasons.

  1. Because of your little faith”

Jesus indicates that there faith was little, but in reality compared to His illustration of the very small mustard seed, we can deduct that He is actually decrying their complete lack of trust and dependence on Him. He clearly says that those that have the faith of a mustard seed (Very small) that they’d be able to “move mountains” and “Nothing will be impossible for you.” Mark 9:23 “All things are possible for the one who believes.” Again this is all in the context of what God is calling us to do. The fact is He doesn’t always heal. As a matter of fact, Paul, who definitely healed people through Jesus Christ did not even attempt to heal 2 of his closest friends (See Philippians 2:25-27 and 2 Timothy 4:20. Why not? Because God isn’t our personal puppet doing what we tell Him. He acts for His purposes and glory in His timing.

Then what is faith? It means that we trust God, even when we can’t see how this ends positively for us. We trust that God is good and He really is working. According to Hebrews 11:1, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” It’s believing God can do what he promises He will do.

2 Corinthians 9:8 reminds us “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work”

We serve a huge God that can do ALL things; in His timing and according to His purposes.

  1. Because of a lack of Prayer

A second problem that Jesus’ disciples had is a lack of prayer. While the Matthew account doesn’t include this, the Mark 9 account does, and it is in some Matthew manuscripts, but was left our because the evidence indicated it was probably added later by a scribe who wanted to rectify it with the other accounts. It most likely is in your footnotes, and in many translations verse 21 is omitted and the text goes from verse 20 to verses 22 showing that the verse is not included in Matthew. In Mark 9:29 Jesus says, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer,” while the omitted verse in Matthew includes prayer and fasting. As I said before, the disciples were not only trusting themselves more than God to do the ministry, they weren’t praying either, which is generally a sure sign that we aren’t trusting God for our provisions.

…to the Heart

So what do we do? What are you trusting God for? Is what you’re trusting God for horizontal/vertical? Are we not doing what we know God has called us to do, because we don’t trust Him, and the demand is too much; it’s uncomfortable? We don’t bear much fruit, and have lackadaisical walks with God, because we are pre-occupied more with things that we do trust for our happiness. God is a huge God, who can accomplish so much, and will do so in spite of us, but He is calling us to join in on His mission for His glory.

Of course, there is no way we will be as faithful as Jesus is/was when He was on earth; in perfect trust and subsequent obedience to His Father, He went to the cross for our sins, and the demonstration of God’s “Righteousness” to the universe. We can be so thankful that in spite of our faithlessness, and perverted understanding of the world, He is faithful!

Questions To Ponder

  1. What is faith?
  2. What/Who have you really placed your faith in?
  3. Does this verse teach that all illness’ and problems will be healed? Why? Why not?
  4. If faith in Christ moves mountains, why do Christians still experience death, pain and depression?
  5. What does Jesus mean by our faith moving mountains?
  6. Why do you/we struggle with faith?

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

To Hear the sermon go to http://www.anchorlongbeach.com