JESUS' GREATER GALILEAN MINISTRY

Jesus' greater Galilean ministry covers the period of time from His choosing His twelve apostles to the end of His third evangelistic tour of Galilee. It was a time of continued immense popularity for Jesus, but also a time of increasing resistance and persecution from the religious leaders in Galilee. While Jesus continued to teach His disciples the truths about the Kingdom of God, He began teaching the multitudes of His followers in parables. Why did He do that? Read on and continue this life-changing adventure with me!

 

JESUS CHOOSES TWELVE MEN TO BE HIS APOSTLESFN

 

Mark 3:13-19, And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. {14} And he ordainedFN twelve,FN that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,FN {15} And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils:

{16} And Simon he surnamed Peter; {17} And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: {18} And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, {19} And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house.

Mark 3:13-19 (ESV), And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. (14) And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach (15) and have authority to cast out demons.

(16) He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); (17) James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); (18) Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, (19) and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Luke 6:12-16, And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.FN {13} And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles;

{14} Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, {15} Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, {16} And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.

 

After His confrontation with the Pharisees in the synagogue, Jesus went to the shores of the Sea of Galilee and it was here, once again, where multitudes of people came to Him (Mark 2:13, 3:7-10). Now in the midst of this kind of popularity and ministry, Jesus went up into a mountain and spent a whole night in prayer. The choosing of the twelve, then, was preceded by a night of prayer. Jesus’ choice of His apostles was made in communion and consultation with His Father.

Looking at the list of apostles, the twelve are a diverse group of men from different backgrounds. [see CHART OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES.] Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen. Matthew was a wealthy tax collector. Simon the Zealot was a political antagonist of Rome. Judas Iscariot was greedy and a thief. Nathanael or Bartholomew, on the other hand, was a man without guile. Thomas was slow of learning and faith. James and John wanted a place of prominence in glory. Peter was both fearless and fearful. They weren’t the kind of men that a rabbi or religious leader of that day would have chosen. But that’s just the point. God chooses the rejects (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

The thing that I would like to draw your attention to in this passage of Scripture is the fact that Jesus ordained the twelve that they might be with Him (Mark 3:14). It’s easy to get caught up in the fact that they were chosen to minister with Him. But the thing of it is, FIRST AND FOREMOST, THEY WERE CHOSEN TO BE WITH HIM. Before ministry comes communion or fellowship.

You see, prior to this incident, these men followed Jesus from time to time. They didn’t follow Him everywhere or all the time because they had jobs and families to tend to. But when Jesus chose them to become apostles He wanted them to stay with Him. In effect, they quit their jobs, left their professions and families, and followed the Lord everywhere He went. What I’m saying is, THE CALL TO MINISTRY WAS FIRST OF ALL A CALL TO COMMUNION.FN Jesus wanted these men to be by His side.

Friends, Jesus wants you by His side. I’m talking about communing with Him on a daily basis as you go about your daily routines. It’s easy to live six days of our lives without any thought or care for Jesus. It’s easy to forget Him and leave Him out of our lives. But the thing that I want you to see is, when Jesus calls us He calls us to be with Him. He’s got a job for us to do. But before He sends us out to do that job, He wants us to stay by His side. It’s called having a close or personal walk with Jesus.FN Discipleship, my friends, isn’t all about us going our own separate way, living the life we want to live. Discipleship is all about us walking with Jesus and staying close to His side.

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT

Luke 6:17-19, And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; {18} And they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed. {19} And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtueFN out of him, and healed them all. Luke 6:17-19 (NLT), When they came down from the mountain, the disciples stood with Jesus on a large, level area, surrounded by many of His followers and by the crowds. There were people from all over Judea and from Jerusalem and from as far north as the seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon. (18) They had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those troubled by evil spirits were healed. (19) Everyone tried to touch Him, because healing power went out from Him, and He healed everyone.

 

Having chosen the twelve, Jesus descends with them to a level place where multitudes of people were gathered to hear Him preach and to be healed of their afflictions. Jesus didn’t disappoint them! No one went home sick that day! Brethren, when you come in faith to Jesus for healing expect the same result! Our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Our God is a God who heals! He doesn’t leave you sick or oppressed.

 

Matthew 5:1-2, And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: {2} And he opened his mouth, and taught them. Matthew 5:1-2 (CEV), When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on the side of a mountain and sat down. Jesus' disciples gathered around him, (2) and he taught them:

 

After Jesus is done healing the multitudes, He goes up to the higher elevation of a mountain and delivers to His disciples that great sermon which we know as the sermon on the mount.FN

Now Jesus preached many sermons covering a variety of different themes. But the sermon on the mount bears the unique honor of being the greatest or longest of Jesus’ recorded sermons relating to Christian character, piety and conduct. The sermon is recorded in great detail by Matthew, but even then, he didn’t record the sermon in its entirety. Fortunately, Luke provides portions of the sermon not found in Matthew.

Remembering that Jesus has just got done choosing His twelve apostles, I’d like for you to take note of the fact that one of the first things Jesus does with them is He teaches them. Before He sends them out to minister, He instructs them.

Brethren, JESUS HAS SOME THINGS TO TEACH YOU BEFORE HE USES YOU. Before ministry comes instruction. Sit still, stay awhile, and concentrate on learning all the things Jesus wants you to know. In the haughty, know-it-all times in which we live, every one--whether Christian or not--thinks they know all there is to know about God and the Bible. They know more, they know better, than even God Himself. Many are unteachable. They want to teach and not be taught. If you were in the crowd that one historic day in Jesus' time, would you have sat down at Jesus' feet and listened?

I'll be the first to admit that knowledge has made many a Christian act, speak, and behave in an unchristian manner. This is deplorable and shameful. Jesus knew it all. He had, and taught, knowledge. Yet He himself wasn't proud or brutal with the truth. Brethren, Jesus expects us to be like Him. He expects us to have knowledge without being ugly or brutal with what we know.

Jesus taught His disciples. HE DIDN'T HAVE A DISCIPLE THAT HE DIDN'T TEACH. HE HAD NO SPIRITUALLY-IGNORANT, BIBLICALLY-ILLITERATE DISCIPLES! Friends, Jesus wants to teach us. If you are a believer and follower of Christ, then come to Him, listen and learn. Don't forsake or reject knowledge and learning. Contrary to whatever we may think, IF WE AREN'T BIBLICALLY AND SPIRITUALLY KNOWLEDGEABLE, LEARNED, OR INFORMED--IF WE ARE UNTEACHABLE--THEN OUR IGNORANCE EVINCES THE FACT THAT WE HAVEN'T DONE A VERY GOOD JOB OF FOLLOWING AND LISTENING TO CHRIST. Brethren, if you are anywhere near Jesus, He will teach you and transform you into His likeness. If you aren't listening, you aren't following.

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT

THE BEATITUDES

First a brief word of introduction. The word beatitude is not found at all in the Bible. This portion of Scripture is so called because, back during the earliest years of the Roman Catholic Church when services were conducted in Latin, the Latin word for blessed was beatitudo. Hence, our English word beatitude.

Jesus begins His Sermon by telling us the blessedness of all those who believe, follow, and obey Him. Here is the King. He’s surrounded by His subjects, the citizens of His Kingdom. And He begins with a word of encouragement to let them know they’re blessed.

Blessed comes from the Greek word makarios, which means ‘happy’. There’s nothing wrong with the word happy. God wants us to be happy! He calls us happy!

But for many years now, happiness has gotten a bad rap because—as an emotion, it’s so fleeting and temporary. You can be happy one minute, then the very next minute be totally sad or depressed. There’s nothing lasting about the emotion. It can be very short-lived.

Scholars needed a word to describe how a Christian is makarios no matter what emotions he’s feeling at the moment and no matter what circumstances or sufferings of life he’s going through. Instead of using the word happy, they used the word blessed. Blessedness is not an emotion. It’s not dependent on what your circumstances are. Whether you’re happy or sad, rich or poor, going through a trial or not; you’re blessed. BLESSEDNESS IS A STATE OF BEING. IT’S WHAT YOU ARE NO MATTER WHAT YOUR LIFE IS LIKE AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT IN TIME.

A famous and authoritative Greek Lexiconist by the name of Walter Bauer came up with a definition of makarios. He based his definition of the Greek word on how he saw the word used throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament. His definition of blessed is 'the privileged recipient of divine favor'.FN There’s nothing wrong or unscriptural with this definition. To be blessed means more than just the fact that you’re happy. TO BE BLESSED MEANS GOD HAS GIVEN AND GIFTED YOU WITH HIS FAVOR, HIS GIFTS, HIS GOODWILL, HIS KINDNESS AND GOODNESS. YOU’RE PRIVILEGED. YOU’RE SPIRITUALLY RICH AND WEALTHY.

So much for the intros. Let's get on with the study!

 

Matthew 5:3, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Luke 6:20, And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Matthew 5:3 (NIV),  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

The Lord isn’t extolling poverty because we know that being poor isn’t a condition for entering Heaven. Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you’re saved or going to Heaven. Rather, the Lord blesses those who recognize their own spiritual need or poverty. Those who recognize how much they lack or how far short they fall of God’s will are blessed because they’re aware of their true spiritual condition. They’re not kidding themselves and pretending they’re a lot better off than what they really are. They’re not fooling themselves or God. They recognize their need for more of God in their life.

Do you want to be blessed? Take a good look at yourself in relation to God and recognize where you really are. Don’t boast about your accomplishments or your spiritual wealth or strength. Admit how much you lack. Tell God how much you need Him. God blesses those who have an honest, humble opinion of themselves. This sort of honesty and humility will get you to Heaven.

 

Matthew 5:4, Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Luke 6:21b Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Matthew 5:4 (NIV),  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

 

There’s a lot of grief, sorrow, and sadness in this world. God knows what you’re going through. He did, after all, watch as His Son was maligned, tortured, and killed by hateful, murderous men. He really does feel your pain. And He wants to comfort you. It’s one of the many, many promises He’s made—to comfort all of us who are crying, hurting, and grieving. He takes us beyond the sorrow we feel and gives us His hope, peace, and joy. The promise of God’s comfort tells us that God doesn’t want us to mourn forever. He doesn’t want us to go through life being down and depressed. He wants to comfort us, lift us up, and get us going again. And because He wants to comfort us, then we can be sure that He'll find a way to do that. We may not know how in the world we can ever be happy again. But, believe me, God is a specialist in what He does: He knows exactly what to do to dry our tears and get us laughing and living again.

 

Matthew 5:5, Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5 (NASB), "Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

 

Being meek means to be gentle. Mild-mannered. Not easily irritated or angered. Not letting your temper run loose. Meekness is being kind and loving in one’s actions, attitudes, words, and disposition. Some people equate meekness with humility, others, with being weak, spineless, and a coward. I prefer to look at meekness as being self-controlled. Being patient and longsuffering with people. When people are being hard and unreasonable with you, when they start irritating you and rubbing you the wrong way, it’s easy to quit being the nice, gentle person that you normally are and become a vicious, vindictive, angry person. God doesn’t want us to be two-faced like this. He isn’t raising us to be monsters or animals. No matter who we’re with, no matter how they’re treating us, no matter what the circumstances are; God wants us to be patient, gentle, kind, humble, and loving. That’s not natural when we’re being provoked. But that’s where His grace comes in. When we’re being mistreated and we’re tempted to lash out, God gives us the grace to do what’s unnatural, and that is, love in return. Anyone can get mad and throw a fit. But a person who’s meek chooses to love and exercise self-restraint instead of inflicting harm and hurt—whether by his actions or by his words. That’s why I insist that meekness isn’t weakness. It takes tremendous inner strength to be meek under provocation. When you love someone, even your enemy, you don’t want to hurt them. You want to show them the same kind of love that Christ has for them. Do you want to be blessed? Then don’t let people get under your skin. Be gentle, loving, and kind at all times. That's hard to do at first. But if you work at it with God's grace and Spirit, you'll get there. There's a new heaven and a new earth coming. Be meek and you'll be a citizen of this new earth (Revelation 21:1).

 

Matthew 5:6, Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.FN Luke 6:21a, Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Matthew 5:6 (BBE), Happy are those whose heart's desire is for righteousness: for they will have their desire.

 

What are your interests and goals in life? What do you spend the most time thinking about, pursuing, or doing? Do you want to be righteous? Right? Pure? Do you desire more of God? Want to know more of God’s will for your life? Do you strive to obey God and live to please or glorify Him? Or do you live for yourself? Do you concentrate on doing the things that please you, bring you happiness and pleasure? Do you spend your time getting yourself dirty? Sinful? Carnal? Worldly? Perverted? The problem with living a selfish, carnal life is it leaves you empty, frustrated, and depressed. That’s because God made you for Himself and when you don’t give your heart and life to God there’s a void in your life that nothing and no one else can fill. To be truly happy in life you’ve got to give your heart and life to God, to His service, to His pleasure and glory. Do you want to be blessed? Seek God. Draw nigh to Him. Desire to be like Him. More righteous. Despise being selfish, carnal, or worldly. If you seek righteousness God will show you how to be more righteous and He’ll give you the power to live the right way. You can do it! With His help, of course. [Be sure to read my footnote 288a. It's mandatory reading if you lack righteousness!]

 

Matthew 5:7, Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Matthew 5:7 (NIV),  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

 

God cares about how we treat people. He’s very interested in the way we treat people. We can be harsh, condemning, critical, judgmental, unsympathetic, impatient, and intolerant of people. But that kind of attitude doesn’t help them. Or us! God wants us to be merciful. We know what people deserve: justice, judgment, and punishment. There’ll come a day of justice, judgment, and punishment. But until that day comes, God wants us to be merciful to people:

(1) because God’s not willing that any of these should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9); and

(2) because these people need mercy, a chance to get things right, get their lives right, get right with God, get forgiven, and get out of the Hell that they’re in. Mercy keeps people alive so that they can give their hearts and lives to God.

Do you want to be blessed? Start being merciful to others. Give people a chance to get things right. Help them get things right. If you’re merciful, God will be merciful to you. Believe me, when you’re standing before the Judgement Seat of God in Heaven’s Courtroom that’s the only thing you’ll want and need—for God to be merciful to you, spare you, and allow you to live in Heaven. Guess what. You need God’s mercy right now, not just when you're face-to-face with God. Your life is literally in His hands and He can take your breath away at any time He wants. But He allows you to live. That’s mercy. Remember God’s mercy the next time you’re tempted to be harsh with people. If you want mercy, show mercy. I know it’s a hard thing to be merciful to people we don’t think deserve mercy. We don’t deserve mercy either. But God is merciful because He’s loving and kind even to those who don’t love Him or care for Him. Change your attitude towards people. Start loving people the way God loves them. And you’ll find that being merciful really isn’t as hard as we’ve made it out to be.

 

Matthew 5:8, Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8 (NIV),  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

 

Hungering and thirsting after righteousness speaks of our actions or conduct; it’s about doing the right thing or living the right way. But a person can do all the right things and live the right way and still be terribly sinful or wicked in heart. The preacher that we look up to for being such a great man of God can be so perverse in thoughts and give himself to adultery or wickedness behind closed doors when no one’s around or when no one’s looking. Being pure in heart is all about what’s inside your heart or mind. If your heart or mind is a cesspool, it’s because that’s what you’ve put inside it. What’s in your heart or mind is there because you’ve put it there. The devil can parade all kinds of sewer before your eyes and mind, but he can’t put any of it inside your heart or mind. You alone have the key to your heart. It’s up to you to decide what goes in and what doesn’t. You alone decide what stays in and what has to get out. Do you want to be blessed? Give yourself to purity. Clean up your heart and mind. Hate evil. Get so sick and tired of being a hypocrite. Get rid of those wicked thoughts and desires. Fill your heart with God and you will see God. God will not see you or have you in Heaven if you're dirty. Get serious, friend. The filth that you may enjoy will keep you out of Heaven. Get rid of it and you will see both God and Heaven.FN

 

Matthew 5:9, Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.FN Matthew 5:9 (NIV),  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

 

A Christian is a peace maker, not a peace breaker. Often times we think of being peace keepers. That's good. But not good enough. In fact, that's not what we're called to be. We're called to be a peace maker. What's the difference? A peace keeper keeps two people at peace; he keeps them from fighting. A peace maker steps into the middle of a fight and makes peace where there is no peace. You’ve got two people or factions fighting. There’s no peace between them. Your job as a Christian is to bring peace between them. Get them to become peaceable toward each other. This takes a lot of patience, wisdom, and grace because you’re caught right in the middle of the war and you’re the one who’s going to get attacked and falsely accused of being partial or taking sides. You’ve got to love the people who are fighting to make peace between them. If you don’t care about people, you won’t bring them together: one of them will leave, maybe both of them will. Jesus came to bring peace between God and men. We are most like God when we love people and bring peace to them. Do you want to be blessed? Don’t break the peace. Keep peace even when it’s hard to do that. And when there’s no peace at all to be had, find a way to make peace. God will show you how.

 

Matthew 5:10-12, Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. {11} Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. {12} Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Matthew 5:10-12 (NLT), God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. (11) "God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are My followers. (12) Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.
Luke 6:22-23, Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. {23} Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.

 

A lot of people hate Christ, Christianity, Christians, and the Church. They’ll hate you just because you’re a believer and follower of Christ. Now when you mess up and get in trouble for it, that’s not persecution. That’s the law of sowing and reaping in effect: you’re reaping the consequences and punishment for messing up. Persecution is when you’ve done nothing wrong and you still get in trouble. IT’S POSSIBLE TO GET IN TROUBLE FOR DOING NOTHING WRONG. Christ-haters will come up with all sorts of things to say to get you in trouble. That’s persecution. It’s not fair. It’s not right. But it’s life. It’s what happens. It’s what we’re promised. And when it happens to you, God wants you not just to be happy about it—as hard as that may be; but even more, God wants you to be exceedingly glad about it. That’s really, really happy. Not down, depressed, tearful, or sad. But so full of happiness that it’s just oozing out of you. How can you be happy when you’re troubled? It’s called perspective. People are doing to you what they did to other Godly people throughout the centuries. It’s like you’re joining ranks with the privileged company of persecuted believers. It is an honor and a privilege that God Himself gives you to be persecuted. Philippians 1:29, For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake. Do you want to be blessed? Just live the Christian life. Be faithful to God. Do His will. And persecution will find you. When it does, be glad about it. The persecuted will be greatly rewarded in Heaven.

 

Luke 6:24-26, But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. {25} Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. {26} Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. Luke 6:24-26 (NIV),  "But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.  (25)  Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.  (26)  Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

 

Woe is an ancient Jewish expression of grief or sorrow. Whenever uttered it signified a foreboding of trouble ahead: alas, you’ve got bad news coming, you’ll be in one sad and sorry shape. Christ here pronounces woe on the rich, well-fed, and the well-liked: what they've got coming to them is not going to be good; they’ve got nothing good to look forward to. Friends, you can get all wrapped up in this world, in the pursuit and accumulation of wealth, material goods, pleasure, and acceptance by the world. You can enjoy the good life now. But be forewarned: trouble’s ahead for you—the good Lord knows that—and His woe is His urgent plea for you to get things right with Him before it’s too late.

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT

CHRISTIAN WITNESS AND MINISTRY

After telling us how we can be blessed, Jesus speaks to us about how we're supposed to conduct ourselves in this world. Specifically, He talks about how our conduct affects our ministry and witness.

Here's a question for you to ponder. If you were Jesus and you were the leader of a worldwide movement, with millions & millions of followers, and you were gonna lay the law down; what would top the list of your laws? What would be the first, or most important, thing you’d like to say to your followers? The first thing Jesus address in His Sermon deals with our Christian witness. Jesus is so concerned about how the world sees us—how we’re supposed to impact and affect this world—that it’s the very first thing He says as far as our conduct in the world is concerned. So pay very close attention because you're reading stuff that Jesus thinks is very very important.

 

Matthew 5:13, Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Matthew 5:13 (NIV),  "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

 

Our salt today is derived from sodium chloride which is a pretty stable compound that doesn’t lose its saltiness. But the salt in Jesus’ day was taken out of the earth, or in marshes, where it was mixed with plant matter or minerals. When taken out of the earth and exposed to air and light the exposed salt tended to lose its saltiness rather quickly. It looked just like regular salt, but it just wasn’t salty. The saltless salt wasn’t any good and the only thing that people did with it was throw it out on the street or road.

Salt was used primarily for two things in Jesus’ day. First, as a flavor enhancer. But second, and more importantly, as a preservative. They didn’t have freezers and refrigerators back then; and they didn’t can anything. So, aside from drying them, the only way to make their meat and fish last past a day was to salt them.

*As Christians, God have given us His gifts, graces, and Spirit so that we can flavor this world and make people’s life more meaningful and enjoyable. People’s lives are worth living when it’s filled with the love of God, family, and friends; when the fruit of the Spirit is being poured out on them.

*Besides that, we have a preserving influence in the world. By our righteous conduct, works, witness, and stance; we stem the tide of evil and preserve righteousness alive. Just think. If there weren’t any Christian or Bible-based laws in America; if there weren’t any Christians who spoke up against wrong and stood up for what’s right; America would be in a very bad way. Evil would triumph. And as Edmund Burke said, The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Here's a question for you. How do we impact the world for Christ and for good? How can we help this world and make a difference for Jesus? The answer is, ALL WE HAVE TO DO TO HELP THIS WORLD IS BE A CHRISTIAN. Be the kind of Christian God wants us to be. If we want to help this world we’ve got to quit being like the world and start being a Christian. We’re not doing anything good for this world by being just like the world. Saltless salt isn’t any good. And that’s what happens to us when we let the world mold us and we become just like the world: we lose our saltiness. We lose our distinctive flavor. Brethren, we can’t help this world—we lose our ability to help--when we quit being salt.

 

Mathew 5:14-16, Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. {15} Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. {16} Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV), "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. (15) Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. (16) In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

 

Jesus made us salt and He made us light. A light can’t help but give off light because that’s what it is; that’s what it’s supposed to do. Jesus had given us His light—His truth, His Spirit, His Christ Example; so that we can let His light shine through us. Aside from God’s Word, the Holy Bible; there is no other light in this world than the light of Christ shining through us.

HOW MUCH WE HELP THE WORLD DEPENDS ON WHETHER OR NOT WE’RE LETTING OUR LIGHT SHINE. You know what happens in a dark house when the lights are off: you walk into things, stumble, fall, and get hurt. When we hide our light we can’t help people find their way in darkness. Like stumbling around in the dark, WE ENDANGER THE WORLD WHEN WE TURN THE LIGHTS OFF. Why would we do that? Fear, shame, love of acceptance, love of sin, lack of care or compassion for the lost, to name a few. No matter what our reasons are, we ought to be bothered and convicted by the fact that we’re not helping the world any by hiding our light—our Christian witness and testimony--under a basket.

As I said at the start, Jesus is very concerned about our Christian witness. How do we be a good witness for Christ?
(1) Be a good Christian; and (2) Do good works. When we do good works we're allowing the Lord to use us to do good things for people; it's one way they see the love God has for them. This kind of care and kindness touches the heart and soul of people and it gets them thinking about the Lord. It makes them open to what you have to say about the Lord. When we aren’t doing anybody any good; when we’re not doing good works; people can’t see a whole lot of God in us. They can’t see a whole lot of light. OUR LIGHT SHINES BRIGHTEST WHEN WE DO GOOD WORKS AND ARE THE KIND OF CHRISTIAN GOD WANTS US TO BE—very public, very vocal, and very active in showing people the love of Christ.

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT

CHRISTIAN RIGHTEOUSNESS

Matthew 5:17-18, Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. {18} For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Matthew 5:17-18 (NIV),  "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  (18)  For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

 

Jesus was very well aware of the religious opposition He was getting from the Pharisees and Scribes over His stance on the Sabbath laws. No doubt, the Pharisees were spreading a picture of Jesus that clearly wasn’t true. They were telling the people that Jesus was a lawbreaker because He was in the habit of breaking the Sabbath. So here and now, while He's surrounded by gobs and gobs of people, Jesus lets everyone know where He stands on the Law. And in doing so, He corrects a false notion or perception that people may have about Him. IF PEOPLE HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT WHERE YOU STAND, LET THEM KNOW WHERE YOU STAND.

Jesus didn’t come to destroy the Old Testament. That is, He didn’t come to set it aside and say, It’s over. It doesn’t apply anymore. It’s done. It’s out of date. The Old Testament was given to the Jews and, for them, the Old Testament still stands. It's still binding and valid. Why is that? Because the Old Testament hasn’t been completely fulfilled. There are still prophecies in there that need to be fulfilled, like the prophecies of Christ’s millennial and worldwide reign; the national restoration of Israel to all of her ancient lands and boundaries; the Jewish reception of Jesus as Messiah on a national level. The Old Testament is still in effect for Jews. [Click here to read additional notes on Christ, Christians, and the Law.]

*Jesus speaks about the jot and tittle in verse 18. Jot is the Hebrew letter yod (which corresponds to our English I) and it’s the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet.

*The tittle is the horn of a letter. It’s the smallest part of any letter.

What Jesus is saying here is the smallest part of the smallest letter in all of the Old Testament is not going to be set aside, destroyed, or nullified, until every single thing in it is fulfilled. And Jesus lets us know that as long as Heaven and Earth stands, the Old Testament will remain until everything in it is fulfilled. Nothing of God’s Word—not one promise or prophecy, no matter how small, minute, or trivial—will go unfulfilled. Everything God said in the Old Testament will come to pass!

So many people, Christians included, don't take God's Word seriously. They see it just as the words of men, that is, the Biblical writers: some of it is true and some of it is, well, to put it nicely, the ignorance of unenlightened men. Friends, God takes His Word seriously! He will personally make sure that His every word will come to pass. Learn it here and now: God keeps His Word!

 

Matthew 5:19-20, Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. {20} For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:19-20 (NIV),  Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  (20)  For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

 

There are more than just 10 commandments in the Law. The rabbis counted up all the laws in the Old Testament and came up with 613 commandments: 248 were positive commandments, Thou Shalt's and 345 negative, Thou Shalt Not's.

The rabbis were also notorious about arguing which commandments were supremely important and which were the most trivial or unimportant. Deuteronomy 22:6 was regarded as the least; the greatest was Deuteronomy 6:5.

Regardless of whether the commandment is great or small, God expects every one of His commandments to be kept and observed. Just because it’s minor doesn’t mean it’s not important. It doesn’t mean it’s okay to disobey it or forget all about it, act as if it isn’t in the Bible, and thus not obey it.

The Pharisees took the teachings of the rabbis and, along with the Law itself, made it a very legalistic religion. They came up with every conceivable way in which the Law could be obeyed, or way in which it could be disobeyed, that they had a million-and-one laws. And they kept all their laws, or so they thought! They truly wanted to be obedient to God’s Law! So, as far as the Jews are concerned, if anyone was going to Heaven it’s definitely going to be the Pharisees!

But Jesus shocked everyone when He told them that the Pharisees weren’t even going get anywhere near Heaven! For us to get to Heaven Christ expects us to be more righteous than the Pharisees! How is that possible? Do we come up with more rules and get so nit-picking specific? No! A thousand times, no!

The Pharisees dealt with the mere externals of the Law, but Jesus went to the heart of what the Law required. He addressed matters of the heart. He made righteousness a matter of having a right heart too. Exceeding righteousness, my friends, is a matter of the heart. It’s not solely a matter of the heart because, as we’ll see later on in this sermon, Jesus addresses matters of conduct and behavior. But the starting point for these things that are externally seen is right here in the heart. Read on because Christ is going to give us some examples of the kind of righteousness that He wants us to have and pursue.

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT: CHRISTIAN TEMPER

CHRIST'S PROHIBITION AGAINST ANGER

 

Matthew 5:21-22, Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time,FN Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: {22} But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a causeFN shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca,FN shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool,FN shall be in danger of hell fire. Matthew 5:21-22 (NASB), "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' (22) "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

 

The sixth commandment forbade murder, Exodus 20:13 with Genesis 9:6, Leviticus 24:17. Jesus gets to the heart of murder by forbidding anger which is what makes people kill one another. So now, instead of murder alone being wrong, Jesus makes both murder and anger wrong. They’re both liable to the same judgment, which is death.

Anger not only manifests itself in murder: it also manifests itself in name-calling. Not a whole lot of commentary is needed here because we've all been there and done that: we've called people names when we were angry. Jesus wants to wean us away from that because it's sinful and wrong. As far as God's concerned, ANGER IS NOT ONLY MURDER WITH A WEAPON OR MURDER WITH OUR EMOTION; ANGER IS ALSO MURDER WITH OUR MOUTH. Brethren, you don't need a knife or gun to kill. Words spoken in anger have a killing effect. You know what I mean because you've been hurt by people's words. So learn a lesson here, my friends. WHEN YOU’RE ANGRY BITE YOUR TONGUE AND SHUT UP! You’ve already sinned in your heart. Don’t add to that sin, or multiply it, by sinning with your mouth.FN

TO BE MORE RIGHTEOUS THAN A PHARISEE YOU MUSTN’T GET ANGRY OR MOUTHY WITH PEOPLE. [Click here to read additional notes on Christians and anger.]

 

Matthew 5:23-24, Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; {24} Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Matthew 5:23-24 (NASB), "Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, (24) leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

 

Jesus is still dealing with murder and anger. In these two verses, He’s dealing with anger in terms of our relationship. Sometimes we don't necessarily want to hurt or kill the person we're angry with: we’d just like to be rid of them. We distance ourselves from them. We unfriend them. We quit being their friend. We no longer see them, talk to them, or hang out with them. But, here again, Jesus lets us know that alienation is wrong and whatever caused it, whatever the problem is, we’ve got to take care of it.

Now in every conflict there’s an innocent party and a guilty party. Sometimes, both parties are innocent. Sometimes, both are guilty. But, generally speaking, one person’s right and the other person’s wrong.

This passage deals with the guilty party or with the person who’s done the wrong. Let's say you’re the wrongdoer. When you’ve done somebody wrong you can do that knowingly and intentionally; or you can do that unknowingly and unintentionally. Sometimes you know what you’ve done wrong; and sometimes you don’t. But regardless, the other person has been wronged because of you and he or she therefore has something against you; they've got bad feelings and thoughts towards you because you wronged them.

If you’re worshipping the Lord and you find out that someone’s got bad feelings towards you because you wronged them; then God wants you to go to the offended brother or sister and get things right with them before you come to Him and worship Him. IF YOU’VE WRONGED SOMEBODY DON’T COME TO CHURCH UNTIL YOU FIRST GET THINGS RIGHT WITH THE PERSON YOU WRONGED.

What happens if you don’t know you wronged somebody? Sometimes we say and do things without fully realizing how it affects the other person. A person can be offended by what we said or did without us even realizing we didn’t anything wrong. What should be done in this case? The person who’s been wronged and hurt should say something to you and get things cleared up so that there isn’t any animosity or alienation in the relationship. When they fail, neglect, or refuse to talk to you about it, then, personally speaking, I think they bear some of the guilt and blame for the deterioration of the relationship.

Whether they say anything to you or not, you need to be sensitive to the Spirit. He'll let you know what you need to know and do. Other people might also let you know. Sometimes, if you’re sensitive or alert, you’ll notice a change come over the person; they’ll act or behave differently in a bad way around you. You’ll have to use these cues to take the initiative, approach the person, and ask if you’ve done anything wrong, and get the relationship mended.

THE POINT IS, JESUS WANTS OUR BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS MENDED. HE WANTS US TO TAKE CARE OF WHAT’S WRONG. GOD WANTS RECONCILIATION, NOT ALIENATION. The things that keep us alienated, or that keep us from getting things right, is what’s wrong with us and it’s what Jesus wants us to fix and get right. A lot of times, it’s anger that keeps us alienated. Sometimes, it’s pride. Or fear. Unforgiveness. Resentment or Bitterness. Hatred. WHATEVER KEEPS US FROM GETTING THINGS RIGHT WITH ONE ANOTHER IS WHAT MAKES US WRONG AND JESUS WANTS US TO GET THINGS RIGHT.

You may be perfectly right about something or someone. But your refusal to reconcile or patch up the friendship or relationship makes you wrong. You’re right on the one hand, but wrong one the other. And when this is the case, in God’s sight, you’re wrong overall because God's concerned about the relationship. He wants you to patch it up and you’re not doing it. Make no mistake. It's important to be right. God wants us to be right. But it's also important for our relationships to be right. We've got to get it right or else we aren't.

TO BE MORE RIGHTEOUS THAN A PHARISEE WE'VE GOT TO KEEP OUR RELATIONSHIPS RIGHT.

 

Matthew 5:25-26, Agree with thine adversary quickly,FN whiles thou art in the way with him;FN lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. {26} Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.FN Matthew 5:25-26 (NIV),  "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.  (26)  Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

 

Jesus speaks next about matters of litigation where one person is taking another person to court. In such matters, one person is usually in the right and the other person in the wrong. Jesus talks to us as being in the wrong. Jesus uses a monetary debt as an example of an outstanding obligation. If we have done something wrong, or if we’ve failed in our obligations towards another; and we don’t get it right; the person we wronged is going to take us to court and legally force us to pay up. What does Jesus want us to do if we’re being taken to court? He wants us to work quickly to resolve the complaint by settling the matter out of court. The burden of responsibility is on you as the guilty party to be friendly or be kindly disposed to the plaintiff. You are, after all, in the wrong. You have a debt to repay. And it’s up to you to pay that debt, plus penalties, interests, and court costs. In other words, Jesus requires you to meet your financial or civil obligations and do what you should have done a long time ago, and done voluntarily, and that is, pay up. Don’t default on your financial, civil, or legal obligations!

TO BE MORE RIGHTEOUS THAN A PHARISEE YOU MUSTN’T WRONG PEOPLE OR DEFAULT ON YOUR OBLIGATIONS TO THEM.

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT: CHRISTIAN PURITY

JESUS' PROHIBITION AGAINST ADULTERY AND LUST

Matthew 5:27-28, Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: {28} But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28 (NLT), "You have heard the commandment that says, 'You must not commit adultery.' (28) But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

 

The seventh commandment of Moses’ Law forbade the physical act of adultery. But Jesus’ law of the kingdom went even further—it went inside a person’s heart—and it forbade the lustful look or desire. This applies to both men and women! WHEN YOU LOOK ON A PERSON AND HAVE LUSTFUL THOUGHTS OR DESIRES TOWARDS THAT PERSON, IN GOD’S SIGHT, YOU’VE COMMITTED ADULTERY. YOU’RE JUST AS GUILTY OF ADULTERY AS THE PERSON WHO ACTUALLY COMMITS THE SIN OR ACT OF ADULTERY.

What constitutes adultery? In Jesus' eyes, adultery is not just having sex with someone who isn’t your husband or wife; it's not just having an affair, or being romantically involved, with someone who isn’t your husband or wife. Adultery is having lustful thoughts or desires towards someone who isn’t your husband or wife. For example, you have sexual fantasies with that person; you dream of having sex with that person; you’d like to see that person naked; you’d like to go to bed with that person; you’d like to be that person’s husband or wife; you’d like to have an affair with that person; you’d like to hug, hold, or kiss that person in a really intimate way.

We’re all mortal and we all battle sinful thoughts, lusts, and desires. That comes from being human. There’s a difference between being tempted to commit adultery and actually committing adultery. IT’S NOT A SIN TO BE TEMPTED TO LUST AFTER SOMEONE. Satan is a tempter. That’s his job. That’s what he does. And just because he’s tempting you and trying to fill your mind with thoughts of lust doesn’t mean you’ve sinned and committed adultery.

It’s not a sin to be tempted. What determines whether you sin or not is what you do with the temptation. If you don’t resist the temptation; if you don’t block out these thoughts and pictures out of your mind; if you start thinking about the temptation and start having these lustful thoughts and desires; then, at that point, you’ve committed adultery. You can blame the devil for planting these wicked thoughts and desires in your mind; you can blame a woman for dressing immodestly and flirting with you; you can blame a man for being such a handsome stud and for seducing you. But, in God’s sight, if you’re the one who’s lusting, if you’re the one with the evil eye or heart, if you’re the one who’s given in; then you’re the adulterer and God holds you responsible for your own thoughts, actions, and desires.

If you’ve got a sexual weakness, or if you’re romantically vulnerable and prone towards adultery; what can you do?

1) Pray and ask God to help you not to be tempted, Matthew 6:13. Ask Him to give you the desire and strength to be faithful, true, and pure, Philippians 2:13. The will, and willpower, comes from God. If you don’t have the desire to be pure, ask Him to give you that desire.

2) Learn to think differently about adultery. Learn to hate it. It’ll kill you and damn your soul—even if you call yourself a Christian (1 Corinthians 6:9 with Galatians 5:19-21).

3) Don’t allow yourself to think sinful thoughts or have sinful desires. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 tells us what to do when we’re confronted with sinful thoughts, reasonings, and persuasions. We cast them down, get them out of our mind, and take these thoughts captive to Christ. Christ isn’t going to let these wicked thoughts linger around us. He’s going to send them back to the devil where they came from. As long as you’re thinking these wicked thoughts the devil has a foothold in you and you’re strengthening and empowering him to continue tempting you and driving you to sin. But when you rebuke these thoughts and bring them to Christ, these thoughts won’t linger around you because Christ will drive them away.

4) Walk away from the temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God provides a door, or a way of escape, whereby you won’t have to give in to the temptation. Like Joseph with Potiphar’s wife, you can run out of the room and get away from that wicked man or woman (Genesis 39:7-12). You can close your eyes and look at something else beside that sexually-suggestive man or woman who’s standing in front of you. You can close the magazine and put it away. You can shut down the internet or navigate away from that pornographic website. You can shut off the porn movie. God isn't going to do any of these things for you. He'll help you, but it's up to you to do the actual walking away from temptation.

 

Matthew 5:29-30, And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. {30} And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. Matthew 5:29-30 (NLT), So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (30) And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

 

If you’re having such a terrible struggle with lustful desires and thoughts; if you’ve tried everything you know to do and nothing’s working; if you can’t get free from this addiction; then Jesus’ last cure for you is, pluck out your eyes. Your eyes are your gateway to adultery and if nothing’s working for you, then pluck out your eyes. You’re better off blind and going to Heaven, than having your sight and going to Hell.

Is Jesus being literal here? Does He actually want us to do this? Or is He just using a figure of speech? Jesus repeats this same advice in Matthew 18:8-9. I believe Jesus is being literal here. If that’s what it takes for you to get to Heaven, then do it. Nothing is worth going to Hell over.

The downside of this is, you can be blind and still be an adulterer because you’ve still got a mind to think about adulterous thoughts. You’ve still got a heart that can desire sinful things. So blinding yourself, or emasculating yourself, isn’t the ultimate cure. Don’t be too quick to pluck out your eyes! Deal with your heart and mind first. Get rid of your lustful thoughts and desires. The adulterous thoughts and desires that are in your heart and mind have got to go. That’s what the cross is all about. You put these desires and thoughts to death on the cross. Galatians 5:24 shows us the way: They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. IT’S POSSIBLE TO PUT THE LUSTS OF THE FLESH TO DEATH SO THAT THEY WON’T BOTHER YOU ANYMORE OR LEAD YOU ASTRAY. But that’s not enough. The cross is vital, but it’s not enough!

The cure for adulterous thoughts and desires it to walk in the Spirit, Galatians 5:25 with 5:16. If you give yourself to following the Spirit He will lead you away from the paths of sin and set you in the paths of righteousness. He’ll keep you busy serving God that you have no desire to serve sin again. NO MATTER HOW STRONG YOUR BONDAGE IS TO LUSTFUL THOUGHTS AND DESIRES, GOD’S POWER IS STRONGER YET AND HE CAN SET YOU FREE! YOU CAN BE RID OF THOSE WICKED THOUGHTS AND DESIRES! There’s hope for you. But you’ve got to start doing the right thing and make the right decisions. DON"T LOOK. DON'T LUST. DON'T THINK EVIL THOUGHTS.

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT: CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE

JESUS' PROHIBITION AGAINST DIVORCE

Matthew 5:31-32, It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: {32} But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth herFN to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. Matthew 5:31-32 (ESV), "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.

 

In the Old Testament, Moses allowed the Jews to divorce for any reason whatsoever and remarry (Matthew 19:3). As long as you went through the divorce process and got a legal divorce you were free to remarry and it wouldn’t be adulterous to be a divorcee or a remarried divorcee.

But in Jesus’ law of the kingdom, if you divorce your spouse for any reason besides fornication she’d be committing adultery if she remarried. And whoever marries her will be guilty of adultery too. So where does that put you? Well, you'd be wrong for divorcing her if you divorced her for any reason other than fornication. And, according to Matthew 19:9, you'll be guilty of adultery if you remarry. Remarriage after divorce is adulterous if the divorcee was divorced for reasons other than fornication. In the simplest of terms, NO DIVORCE OR REMARRIAGE UNLESS FORNICATION’S INVOLVED!

I deal rather extensively with the subject of divorce and remarriage in my commentary on Matthew 19, so I don't want to say a whole lot here. I simply want to say that Jesus is talking about His stance on the Law, that is, the Old Testament. He didn't come to destroy, nullify, or abrogate the Law. This includes the Old Testament law of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. But, having said that, Jesus holds His followers to a higher standard--the standard of a pure and righteous heart. If you want to go to Heaven your righteousness has to exceed that of the Pharisees. You've got to go beyond externals and get to the heart of the matter. In the present case with adultery, Christians are not supposed to commit adultery, they're not supposed to have evil eyes or lustful thoughts and desires, and they're not supposed to divorce and remarry except for reasons of fornication.

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT: CHRISTIAN LANGUAGE

JESUS' PROHIBITION AGAINST SWEARING AN OATH

Matthew 5:33-37, Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswearFN thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: {34} But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: {35} Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. {36} Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. {37} But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. Matthew 5:33-37 (NIV),  "Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.'  (34)  But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne;  (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 swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.  (37)  All you need to say is simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

 

The swearing that Jesus talks about here is not the swearing that we so often hear in our world today. People take the Name of the Lord in vain and cuss by God, Jesus, Heaven, and Hell. Jesus isn’t talking about this kind of swearing, but you need to know that this kind of swearing is wrong and God forbids it. The third commandment states, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain (Exodus 20:7).

The swearing that Jesus talks about here is the swearing of an oath. You know how people will often say, "I swear I didn’t do a thing." What they’re doing, basically, is using an oath to certify the truthfulness of what they’re saying. This is what the Jews of Jesus' day did rather freely and extensively. They probably used the oath as often as heathens today profane the Name of our God. They swore by anything and everything: by heaven, by the earth, by Jerusalem, by their head, by their life, by their father, mother, or ancestors, by the Temple, by the altar that’s in the Temple, by the gold that’s in the Temple, and lots more.

Now the Law of Moses allowed people to make vows, both to God and to one another. Both kinds of vows were to be honored or fulfilled. You didn’t make a vow to somebody then break it. Once you vowed something you had to keep it or do it. This was especially true of vows made to God. Leviticus 19:12, Numbers 30:2, Deuteronomy 23:21-23.

But by Jesus’ time the oath or vow had deteriorated tremendously. Vows made to God were still sacred and you still had to keep those vows. But when it came to vows made to people, the Jews made a distinction between vows.

(1) Some vows definitely had to be kept no matter what: you vowed it, you keep it. These were called binding vows or oaths.

(2) Other vows, however, were not so strictly observed. You could make these vows, and break them, without any real penalty. You really wouldn’t be doing anything wrong if you didn’t keep your vow. These kind of vows were called non-binding vows or oaths. [See Matthew 23:16-22.]

What it eventually boiled down to was the Jews were freely using the vow or oaths and freely breaking them without any punishment or consequences. THIS HAD A CHEAPENING EFFECT ON THEIR WORDS AND IT LED TO A GENERAL DISTRUST OF A PERSON’S WORD. In other words, even though a person swore an oath in an attempt to persuade another person that he was telling the truth; the person’s oath, like his word, meant nothing to that other person because he knew the person who swore the oath wouldn’t keep it. Why not? Because he didn’t swear his oath using God’s Name. If God's Name wasn't used, then the oath, for all practical purposes, was useless as a guarantee of truth.

Jesus does away with the oath in verse 34, Swear not at all. Say Yes or No. And if you have to say anything else besides Yes or No, then the Devil’s somewhere in the details and you’re not telling the truth, verse 37. Jesus is forbidding, outlawing, and doing away with something that was very popular and widespread. You’re accustomed to swearing a hundred times a day. Now, I don’t want you to swear at all! No more swearing! No more oaths! James 5:12 repeats this prohibition of our Lord. But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

Does the Lord’s prohibition mean we shouldn’t take a civil or judicial oath? When you’re filling out an application or testifying in court, is it alright for Christians to swear the oath?

*Some Christians believe that all swearing and oaths are forbidden and so they’ll refuse to swear the oath. They’ll affirm the truthfulness of their statements, but they won’t swear. To me, it’s a semantical game. Whether you pledge, swear, affirm, promise, certify, or whatever, you’re basically saying the same thing, namely, that what you’ve said, or what you’re about to say, is true. So, to me, you’re swearing even when you think you’re not swearing. You may not agree with these Christians’ convictions, but you mustn’t criticize, judge, or make fun of them for refusing to take the oath. God told them, Don’t swear at all. They’re obeying God. And you mustn’t stand in judgment of them.

*Some Christians believe that Jesus wasn’t outlawing all oaths. In the context of verses 33-37, He was outlawing the kind of everyday oaths that the Jews were swearing. So these Christians don’t see anything wrong with swearing, or taking, an oath when the oath is called for.

I’m inclined to agree with the latter. Jesus doesn’t want us to swear an oath in a flippant, irreverent, profane manner like the Jews did on a daily basis. Paul used the oath several times in his epistles.

Roman 1:9, For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.

Romans 9:1, I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost.

2 Corinthians 1:23, Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth.

Galatians 1:20, Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.

What is Jesus teaching us about the oath? Remember what the oath is used for. The oath is an affirmation of the truthfulness of what you said. It’s a way of saying, Look here, I’m telling you the truth. I’m not lying! A CHRISTIAN IS TO SPEAK THE TRUTH AT ALL TIMES. A Christian is not supposed to lie. Therefore, an oath is an unnecessary thing for a Christian. A Christian doesn’t need an oath because the Christian is already duty-bound to tell the truth. If you need an oath to convince someone of the truthfulness of what you’re saying, you’re telling that person that you aren’t always truthful; that you do lie. But you’re not lying now because you swore an oath. The oath ends up being a bad witness or testimony for you. You’ve already lost your witness. People see you as a liar. And they’re not going to believe you even with an oath because if you lied once, you’re going to lie again and an oath isn’t going to stop you from lying.

The bottom line here is, SPEAK THE TRUTH AT ALL TIMES. BE HONEST AND TRUTHFUL IN YOUR CONVERSATIONS. Lying destroys your witness. It robs you of your credibility or believability. People lose their confidence and respect for you if they find out, believe, or have reason to believe, that you lied to them. WHEN YOU LIE YOU’RE MAKING IT HARDER FOR PEOPLE TO BELIEVE YOU WHEN YOU’RE SPEAKING THE TRUTH. People don’t trust liars, even when liars are speaking the truth. IF YOU WANT PEOPLE TO BELIEVE YOU, BE HONEST AT ALL TIMES AND DON’T LIE.FN [Click here for additional comments on Christians and the oath.]

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT: CHRISTIAN NON-RESISTANCE

JESUS' PROHIBITION AGAINST VENGEANCE

Matthew 5:38-42, Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: {39} But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. {40} And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. {41} And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. {42} Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Matthew 5:38-42 (NLT), "You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' (39) But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. (40) If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. (41) If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. (42) Give to those who ask, and don't turn away from those who want to borrow.
Luke 6:27-30, But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, {28} Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. {29} And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. {30} Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. Luke 6:27-30 (NLT), "But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. (28) Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. (29) If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. (30) Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don't try to get them back.

 

In the Old Testament, some crimes were punished with death. For example, if you killed someone or if you committed adultery with another man’s wife you would be put to death.

For lesser crimes, the justice system was set up in such a way that you would be punished-in-kind. For example, if you got in a brawl with someone and you injured him, let’s say, you broke his leg; your punishment would be to have your own leg broken. Hence, the NLT rendering of verse 38, You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury. WHATEVER YOU DID TO YOUR NEIGHBOR, THAT’S WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO YOU; THAT’S WHAT YOU WOULD SUFFER. In other words, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Read Exodus 21:24-25, Leviticus 24:18-20, Deuteronomy 19:15-21.

Now if you read the larger context of these civil laws you’ll see that Moses was instructing Israel’s judges or elders how they should judge the people. He was telling these magistrates what the law was and what the punishment would be, depending on what the crime was. When a person does something wrong and he goes on trial, the trial—like the law—was supposed to be fair and just. This eye-for-an-eye, punishment-in-kind law was enacted to prevent people from taking the law into their own hands.

When people are mistreated, their immediate reaction is to retaliate in kind, take the law into their hand, and become judge, jury, and executioner. But God’s law forbade this kind of private justice or lynching. THE LAW FORBADE TAKING JUSTICE OR VENGEANCE INTO YOUR OWN HANDS. Read Leviticus 19:17-18, Proverbs 20:22, 24:29.

The punishment of wrong doers was entrusted to the judges, magistrates, and elders. And the judgment they would be required to mete was, WHATEVER YOU DID TO YOUR NEIGHBOR, THAT’S WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO YOU; THAT’S WHAT YOU WOULD SUFFER. In other words, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

By Jesus’ time, God’s people took the law into their own hands and administered private justice without having to go through the court system or due legal process. What’s more, they had the audacity to use the eye-for-an-eye law as their proof text that they could do that! The law tells me I can blind you because you blinded me. An eye for an eye! The law was designed to prevent people from taking the law into their own hands, but God’s people ended up doing that very thing and they used that very law to do it! The misconduct that Jesus is dealing with here is people taking the law into their own hands, people taking upon themselves the right of retaliation and ignoring or bypassing the legal process.

As we've already seen, the Old Testament forbade God’s people from retaliating. Jesus issues that same prohibition for His people. He said in v. 39, But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right check, turn to him the other also. In Christian theology, this prohibition against retaliation, violence, and vengeance is known as THE PRINCIPLE OR DOCTRINE OF NON-RESISTANCE.

Christian pacifists use this verse of Scripture to teach that it’s wrong for a Christian to resist when he’s being beaten up, misused, abused, or mistreated; a Christian isn’t supposed to fight, bear arms, defend himself; a Christian isn’t supposed to inflict harm on his persecutors.

The principle of non-resistance is a valid Scriptural code of ethic or conduct because it’s what Jesus taught. Whether it applies in every circumstance of life is a matter of debate. If you believe that it’s always wrong for a Christian to use force or resistance whenever he’s being mistreated, that’s between you and God and I’m not going to stand in judgment of your belief or conviction.

I believe that the right of self-defense is built into human nature. It’s natural for people to defend themselves when they’re being abused or attacked. THERE’S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CRIMINAL ACTIVITY AND PERSECUTION. When a criminal is threatening you, your family, or your possession; I don’t see anything wrong with defending what is yours. Jesus said in Matthew 24:43 (NIV), But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.

Jesus isn’t condoning what the man of the house does; and He isn’t forbidding it either. All Jesus is doing is He recognizes the fact that, when someone’s breaking into your house, you’re going to fight back, defend your family and possessions, and you’re going to fend off the intruder. See Exodus 22:2. Jesus isn’t forbidding self-defense here in the sermon on the mount. What He’s forbidding is bypassing the law, taking the law into your hands, and fighting back with a vengeance.FN

Jesus is clearly talking about persecution, verse 44. He talked about persecution in verses 10-12. Then He goes on to tell us to be a good witnesses in our time of persecution by being salt and light, verses 13-16. The principle that I believe Jesus is laying down here is, WHEN YOU’RE BEING PERSECUTED, THAT’S NOT THE TIME TO RESIST OR FIGHT BACK. PUT YOUR INSTINCT FOR SELF-DEFENSE ASIDE, LET GOD DEFEND YOU, AND IN THE MEANTIME, BE A GOOD WITNESS. How?

1) Verse 39, Turn the other cheek.

(2) Verse 40, If your persecutor is suing you and wants your inner garment, let him have your outer garment also.

(3) Verse 41, If your persecutor forces you to go 1 mile, go 2 miles instead.FN And

(4) Verse 42, If your persecutors ask for something and you have it to give, then give it.

It’s all about being a good witness for Jesus when we’re being mistreated and persecuted. Instead of doing the natural thing, that is, fight back and resist; God wants His people to be generous and kind to our persecutors. To be a good witness and act this way when you’re being persecuted and mistreated is not easy. It’s not natural or normal. It can only be done with God’s grace and Spirit. It takes supernatural strength to be a good witness for Christ in time of persecution. When you’re being mistreated the easiest thing is to get in the flesh and fight back. That’s when you lose your witness. What Christ wants you to do when you’re being mistreated is get in the Spirit and start being nice to your persecutors. How can you do this? By loving them first!

 

Matthew 5:43-44, Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. {44} But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. Matthew 5:43-44 (NIV),  "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  (44)  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Luke 6:31 & 35, And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise...{35} But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Luke 6:31 & 35 (NIV),  Do to others as you would have them do to you...{35}  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

 

Before you can be an effective witness for God, before you even try to do what God’s telling you to do when you’re being beaten up or killed; you first have to look at our persecutors with a different set of eyes. It’s easy and natural to look at your persecutors through eyes of hate and resentment; it’s normal to become bitter and unforgiving because of all the hurt and misery they’ve put you through.

Christ asks you—no, strike that, God commands you—to love your enemies. It takes God’s Spirit and grace to do that. But you’re the one who has to decide to do that. God can help you love them. He’ll give you the love that you can have for them. But He won’t do that—you won’t love your enemies—until you decide that’s what you want to do. And you won’t be able to decide to love them until you first get rid of the hate and bitterness; the resentment and unforgiveness.

You’ve got to see your enemies through a different set of eyes. Through eyes of love. Jesus did it on the cross. Stephen did it while he was being stoned. See your enemies as people whom God loves and wants to save. See them as your mission field. If they decide not to become Christians that’s not your fault. They will at least see what a true Christian is when they see you loving them as God loves them.

 

Matthew 5:45-47, That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. {46} For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? {47} And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Matthew 5:45-47 (NLT), In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. (46) If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. (47) If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.
Luke 6:32-34, For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. {33} And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. {34} And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. Luke 6:32-34 (NLT), "If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! (33) And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! (34) And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.

 

God isn’t partial with His love or His kindness. He’s kind even to the wicked. And this is the kind of love that God wants us to have: love that isn’t partial. It’s natural to love only those who we love. We’re by nature prejudiced and partial. God doesn’t want us to be this way. Christians aren’t supposed to be prejudiced and partial. God loves everyone and He wants us to love everyone too no matter who they are, what they believe, what kind of life they live, what kind of sins they’re doing, what kind of church they’re going to, etc. The lost will not respond to us if we don’t love them; or if they sense we don’t love them.

Brethren, YOU CAN’T HELP OR EVANGELIZE PEOPLE IF YOU DON'T LOVE THEM. Evangelizing and helping people--being a good witness for Jesus--begins with love. Without love we'll fail miserably and shamefully in our Christ-given commission to evangelize the lost.

 

Matthew 5:48, Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:48 (CEV), But you must always act like your Father in heaven.
Luke 6:36, Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Luke 6:36 (CEV), Have pity on others, just as your Father has pity on you.

 

God wants us to be perfect. He commands us to be perfect. Unfortunately, many Christians don’t believe that we can be perfect. It's impossible, right? I happen to believe that if God said it He meant it. If He knew we couldn't be perfect He wouldn't command it. He wouldn't require us to be something we could never be or become. For Him to command and expect what's impossible for us to do is fundamentally unfair and unjust, which God could never be. I believe we can be perfect. The only thing is we’ve got to come to a correct, Scriptural understanding or definition of what it means to be perfect.

What does it mean to be perfect? Perfection doesn’t mean to be sinless. As Christians we should strive not to sin. We should not want to sin. But the fact of the matter is, we’re still mortal in bodies of flesh and we will sin at some time. Why is that? Because we’re just not sinless! 1 John 1:8-10 (ESV) tells us, If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

First and foremost, looking strictly within the context of everything that Jesus is saying about loving our enemies, to be perfect means to be merciful like God. This is, after all, what Luke records: Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:36). Being perfect is doing the unnatural thing when you're being provoked, hurt, or persecuted: it's doing the Scriptural thing--and that is, being merciful, loving, and kind instead of being retaliatory and hateful.

On a much broader note, the word ‘perfect’ comes from the Greek word teleios and it means being mature or complete; not lacking anything.

*For example, a ripe apple is mature because it’s ripe and ready to eat. An unripe apple isn’t perfect because it isn’t mature.

*A car that runs and works fine without any sort of trouble is perfect: there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s complete, it doesn’t lack anything that’s necessary for it to run smoothly.

In much the same way, a perfect Christian is mature (see Ephesians 4:13-15). He or she is not a spiritual baby. Not spiritually weak or beset with many faults. A perfect Christian is grown up and walking in God’s Spirit. He or she doesn’t lack the Christian virtues or fruit of the Spirit. A perfect Christian has it all together—in thought, word, behavior, deeds, and actions.

Just so you know and don't become discouraged, perfection is a growth. It takes time. A lifetime of trials. Temptations. Persecutions. Spiritual struggles. Failures. Divine chastenings. Doctrine. Spiritual fellowship. All of life is supposed to be a growth towards perfection. So don't be discouraged if you feel like you're a failure. We all feel that way at some time or another. If we’re not a whole lot better off today than we were a year ago, or several years ago, then we’re not growing and, yes, we’ll never be perfect at this rate. But God wants us to be perfect. So every day that goes by, every year, let's work at getting better and better. Less and less of self. Of Satan. Of the world. And more and more like Christ. With God's help we will make it!

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT: CHRISTIAN PIETY

HOW TO GIVE AND HELP OTHERS

Jesus has been talking about our conduct with respect to men. Now He speaks about our conduct with respect to Him. We have certain duties and responsibilities to God. And God is concerned that we fulfill our responsibilities and do them in the right way. THERE’S A RIGHT WAY AND A WRONG WAY TO DO A THING. YOU CAN DO A RIGHT THING, BUT DO IT FOR THE WRONG REASON OR DO IT WITH A WRONG MOTIVE. GOD WANTS US TO DO WHAT’S RIGHT AND DO IT FOR THE RIGHT REASON. So in these next few verses Jesus lets us know what our duties are and how He wants us to do them.

 

Matthew 6:1-4, Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. {2} Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. {3} But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: {4} That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. Matthew 6:1-4 (NIV),  "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.  (2)  "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  (3)  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  (4)  so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

 

Alms is the giving of money or goods to the poor. The giving of alms was a very big, big thing with the Jews and the nation did a superb job in making sure that the poor were well taken care of. They did this through voluntary contributions to the poor that were taken in the synagogues and Temple. The people themselves also made it a habit to give regularly to the support of the poor. The helping of the poor was such a great priority in Jewish life that it was pretty much the single, most important thing you could do for yourself and the nation—to help the poor.

Religiously, the people were taught that helping the poor was the best way to help yourself: you wouldn’t be damned, you would be saved, you would have eternal rewards, God would be very good to you, you would be blest, you’d live the best life ever…if you helped the poor. Almsgiving was so important that the rabbis taught that just as a sacrifice expiates sin and secures forgiveness, so almsgiving does the same. If you were bad and wanted to make up for it by doing a good deed, all you would have to do is give alms to the poor and you’d be back on good terms with God.

The rabbi’s teaching on almsgiving, while definitely helping the poor, resulted in a selfish and perverse motive for almsgiving. Instead of being altruistic and having a genuine concern for the poor, the people gave alms because of how it would benefit them personally. They would publicize their alms to show people how good or kind they were. They would give in order to get glory and attention. The Pharisees were the absolute worst at this and they came to a point where they would sound a trumpet or hire a herald to go before the people and announce that a Pharisee was about to make a big donation to the poor.

Jesus rebukes the common practice of the day and He brings almsgiving back to where it should have been all along: you give alms to help the poor and not to help yourself. When you give, don’t publicize your gift. Try not to let people know what you’re doing. Don’t even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. The rewards that you want to get for giving are the rewards that God gives. When you give in order to be rewarded and praised by men, that’s all the reward you’ll get: you'll get none from God. If you want God to reward you, give secretly. Don’t seek men’s rewards. And don't seek glory, attention, or payback for yourself.FN

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT: CHRISTIAN PIETY

HOW TO PRAY

Matthew 6:5-6, And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. {6} But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. Matthew 6:5-6 (NASB), "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. (6) "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

 

The prayers that we are accustomed to praying are from our heart. We pray according to our need and whatever burdens are on our heart. But the prayers that the Jews prayed were mostly liturgical. You memorized, then recited, the prayers. There were several such prayers, but the main one was called the Eighteen Benedictions. The Jews prayed three times a day: at 9AM, noon, and 3 PM. If you were in Jerusalem you would try and go to the Temple during the hour of prayer. But if you didn’t live in Jerusalem, you would pretty much stop what you were doing when the hour of prayer came and you would stand still on the spot and go through the prayer.FN

The Pharisees were especially notorious in praying in such a fashion as to be seen and applauded of men. When the prayer hour was coming up they would go out to the busiest streets, wherever the most people were assembled, and that’s where they would pray. They wanted to show everybody how pious or spiritual they were. And, of course, the people respected and revered them.

JESUS ISN'T CONDEMNING PUBLIC PRAYER HERE. WHAT HE'S CONDEMNING IS PRAYING OSTENTATIOUSLY, THAT IS, PRAYING IN ORDER TO BE SEEN AND HEARD OF PEOPLE. There are times when public prayer is called for: in church, before a meal, in the visitation of the sick and imprisoned, etc. But when it comes time for our private prayer, we need to keep our prayers as private as possible. That is, pray in such a way that only God sees and hears us. Remember. Prayer is talking to God. If you want to be heard by God, talk to Him. If you want to be heard by men, then prayer isn't prayer. It's a good speech, but not a prayer. IF WE PRAY IN ORDER TO BE SEEN AND HEARD OF MEN, CHANCES ARE, GOD HASN’T HEARD OUR PRAYER.

 

Matthew 6:7-8, But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. {8} Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. Matthew 6:7-8 (NLT), "When you pray, don't babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. (8) Don't be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him!

 

Jesus denounces a second type of prayer and that is repetitious prayer. The meaning in the Greek text is saying the same thing over and over again. The Jews didn’t have a whole lot of this kind of prayer, but the heathens were especially famous for their repetition. The prophets of Baal in 1 King 18:26 prayed from morning to noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. The worshippers of Diana cried out for two hours, Great is Diana of the Ephesians in Acts 19:34. The Roman Catholics have their rosaries and Ave Marias. This is the kind of repetition in prayer that Jesus forbids.

Don't get me wrong. God isn’t against you saying a lot or praying a long prayer. The much speaking that He denounces has to do with saying the same thing over and over again. If you have a lot to talk to God about, then pour out your heart to Him. Just remember that you’re not telling God anything new. He already knows what’s on your heart or mind, so you’re not telling Him anything new. Prayer is not an attempt to persuade God to hear and answer you. It’s not twisting God’s arm into being nice to you. The principle of prayer that Jesus lays down here is, SAY WHAT'S ON YOUR HEART. Speak to Him from the heart.

 

Matthew 6:9-13, After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. {10} Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. {11} Give us this day our daily bread. {12} And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. {13} And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. Matthew 6:9-13 (CEV), You should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, help us to honor your name. (10) Come and set up your kingdom, so that everyone on earth will obey you, as you are obeyed in heaven. (11) Give us our food for today. (12) Forgive us for doing wrong, as we forgive others. (13) Keep us from being tempted and protect us from evil.

 

The Jewish prayers were liturgical. They were the same old prayers that generations of Jews prayed. Jesus here teaches us how to pray from our heart.

*He starts prayer off by showing us how to properly address God: Our Father. Often times we forget that our relationship with God is a familial one. He loves us. We're His children. He wants to hear from us and be with us. There’s also a reverent recognition of His holiness: hallowed be Your name. You can be personal with God, but not to such an extent that you lose your respect or reverence for Him.FN

*We’re accustomed to praying for our needs first. But Jesus teaches us to pray the thing that really matters to God: let thy kingdom come! Let your will be done on earth as it’s done in heaven. In everything, we pray that God’s will will be done in our life and in human affairs.

*Next, we pray for our daily needs. Food is a big thing, so Jesus teaches us to pray and trust God to supply for our daily food.

*Next comes the matter of sin. God doesn’t want us living with the condemnation of sin. He wants us to ask Him for forgiveness of sin. God wants to forgive us our sin!

*The condition of our soul matters a great deal to God. If there are areas in our life where we’re very temptible and liable to falling and sinning, it’s okay to pray and ask God to not let us be tempted in these areas yet. I believe that as long as we’re working to overcome and clean up these weak areas of our life God will graciously keep us from being tempted in these particular areas for the time being. Of course, the only way you’ll really know if you’ve gotten the victory in these areas is for you to be tempted in these areas, so there’ll come a time when you’ll be tempted eventually.

*We close prayer out with the recognition of God’s greatness and power and glory. We’ve got to remind ourselves everyday that, no matter how bad things look down here, no matter how strong it seems Satan is; our God is still on the throne, He is greater than every evil we face in life, and when it’s all said and done, our God will still be reigning on the throne after death, sin, disease, and evil have been cast into the lake of fire.

 

Matthew 6:14-15, For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: {15} But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15 (CEV), If you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, your Father in heaven will forgive you. (15) But if you don't forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

 

Jesus tells us how we can be effectual in prayer and that is by forgiving others as we have been forgiven by God. God, you see, is concerned about our relationship with one another. People will sin against us. It doesn’t matter who they are. They may be in the family, in the church, at work or school. The point is, people are going to sin against us and we need to be forgiving towards them just as God has been forgiving towards us. UNFORGIVENESS LEAVES US UNFORGIVEN. IT PREVENTS GOD FROM HEARING AND ANSWERING OUR PRAYERS. Forgive, do your best to forget or not think about it, then move on.

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT: CHRISTIAN PIETY

HOW TO FAST

Matthew 6:16-18, Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. {17} But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; {18} That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. Matthew 6:16-18 (NLT), "And when you fast, don't make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. (17) But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. (18) Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

 

The Old Testament mandated only one fast during the year and that was on the Day of Atonement. On that very special day the entire nation was supposed to humble itself in penitence before God and beseech Him to be merciful and forgive the sins of the nation. There were other voluntary fasts. The Pharisees fasted twice in a week, on Mondays and Thursdays (Luke 18:12). The typical fast of the Jews lasted from sun up to sun down. They ate again after 6 PM. If the fast was to be several days in duration, most Jews would eat sparingly after 6 PM. So a fast was not really practiced as a total cessation from food or drink.

The Pharisees, who were supposed to be the religious examples for God’s people, messed up their entire practice of piety by making everything so public, noticeable, and laudable to men. As with almsgiving and prayer, they fasted for one reason—and that was to be seen and applauded of men. They wouldn’t shave or comb on fast days. They would wander about in public, and throw ashes over their head, so that their faces were literally covered and blackened with ash.

Christ doesn’t command us to fast.FN He just assumes that we would.FN And when we fast, we’re not supposed to fast the way the Pharisees did. When we fast, no one is supposed to be able to tell that we’re fasting. It’s not something we publicize. It’s not something we do to impress God or try to earn His favor. And it’s not something we do to impress people.

Fasting is a way to afflict the soul.FN That is, instead of letting your body and fleshly appetites rule you, you deny your body of food, subject your natural appetites to the higher priority of drawing nigh to God and seeking His face in some important matter. It’s a healthy thing to deny your body of food on a regular basis; and restrain or curb your natural appetites. The spiritual Christian isn’t governed by his or her natural appetites, but rather subjects them for the purpose of drawing closer to God in prayer. Merely abstaining from food is not true fasting. That’s dieting, but it’s not fasting. A TRUE FAST IS ABSTAINING FROM FOOD IN ORDER TO PRAY. If you’re not praying, you’re not fasting.

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT

LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IN THIS WORLD

CHRISTIANS, MONEY, AND WEALTH

Jesus has something to say about the way we treat people and how we practice our piety before God. But He also has something to say about what our interests and pursuits should be in this world. God is very concerned about how we live our life in this world. So the first thing He touches on is what most of us spend our whole lives doing, that is, working to accumulate wealth so that we can live the good life.

 

Matthew 6:19-21, Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: {20} But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: {21} For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:19-21 (CEV), Don't store up treasures on earth! Moths and rust can destroy them, and thieves can break in and steal them. (20) Instead, store up your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy them, and thieves cannot break in and steal them. (21) Your heart will always be where your treasure is.

 

We all have things, or treasures, that we really value in life. We spend a lot of time desiring it, pursuing it, working for it, achieving it, accumulating it, and safeguarding it. For many, treasures are wealth-related, like money or riches, winning the lottery, getting a huge inheritance, and the like. For others, treasures are the basic necessities or luxuries of life, like a nice car, a nice home, an RV, a vacation home or timeshare, and the like. For others, treasures take on a sentimental, as well as a financial value, such as a coin or stamp collection, an antique car collection, a quilt collection, an out-of-this world garden or flower bed, an art collection, and the like. The point is, all of us have something that we treasure. Something that we really value and hold dear to our heart. Our life is wrapped around the things we treasure.

EARTHLY TREASURES, IN AND OF THEMSELVES, ARE NOT WRONG, SINFUL, OR FORBIDDEN. WHAT CHRIST FORBIDS HERE IS SPENDING OR CENTERING OUR LIFE AROUND OUR TREASURES. The Greek text is very clear about Christ’s prohibition. It says, Do not treasure for yourselves treasure. The idea here is to hoard, amass, or accumulate for oneself. Picture yourself in a huge room surrounded with gold, money, precious jewels and gems, and every riches that you can imagine. You’re the only one in the room. But you know that there’s a bunch of people heading your way. They want a piece of the pie too. So you start frantically grabbing everything you can see and putting them in your humongous motorized treasure chest. You keep at it, trying to get everything you can for yourself. This is what Christ forbids. He doesn’t want you to treasure for yourself treasure.

Another picture that you can readily identify with is a hoarder or pack rat. These people are afflicted with a mental-spiritual disease that causes them to hold on to everything they get their hands on. They don’t throw anything away. Styrofoam meat containers, plastic cups from the drive thru, newspapers, magazines, junk mail, and so on. You’ve seen the pictures and the TV clips about people found dead in a house filled from floor to ceiling with every kind of unimaginable trash and filth and clutter, all because these people refuse to get rid of anything. They’re compulsive hoarders and accumulators. And Jesus speaks to us and says, Don’t hoard earthly treasures. Your treasures may be trash to the rest of the world. But they’re treasures to you.

Jesus forbids you from hoarding any of earth’s treasures. Why is that? Because treasures don’t last. They’re not safe or permanent. There’ll come a time when your treasures will eventually disappear.

*Verse 20 talks about moths. In Biblical times, one of the major indicators of wealth was clothes. Rich people accumulated money, lands, servants, and clothes. The only problem with clothes is there was an abundance of moths and, over time, the moths would eat into the clothes you packed away and ruin them.

*Verse 20 also talks about rust. We know all about rust and what it can do to steel. But the rust that Jesus talks about here is anything that eats at something, destroying it or causing it to corrode. Inflation, or hyperinflation, is a very good example of rust that eats away at a person’s wealth and diminishes it value.

*Verse 20 speaks about thieves breaking thru and stealing. In Biblical times, a lot of houses were made of mud or brick that was made of mud mixed with straw. So if you wanted to break into someone’s home you would literally have to break through, or dig a hole into the walls. See Exodus 22:2, Job 24:16, Ezekiel 12:5.

The point in all these is your treasures—no matter how valuable they are to you—will eventually perish or disappear. There’s nothing lasting about them. They’ll eventually be taken from you; or you from them. You can’t take your treasures with you when you die—that’s why you’ll never see a U-Haul truck behind a hearse. YOU CAME INTO THIS WORLD WITH NOTHING AND YOU’LL LEAVE IT WITH NOTHING. Treasures can’t keep or protect you from trials and the sufferings of life; it can’t give you happiness; it can’t save you or get you to Heaven. If anything, your treasures will keep you out of Heaven. IF YOUR HEART IS WITH YOUR TREASURES AND NOT WITH GOD OR HEAVEN, YOU’RE NOT GOING TO HEAVEN. GOD ISN’T LETTING ANYONE IN WHOSE HEART DOESN’T BELONG TO HIM OR WHOSE HEART ISN’T GIVEN TO HIM.

The question the Lord asks each and everyone of us is, WHERE IS YOUR HEART? Who has your heart? Who does your heart belong to? YOUR HEART FOLLOWS AND STAYS WITH ITS TREASURE. You’ll always know what your treasures are because that’s where your heart, your life, your time, your attention, your energies, your desires and goals, are focused. We can all say we love God more than anything else in this world. But if all we ever give God is a couple of hours on Sunday morning, if we seldom think of Him throughout the week, if we seldom talk to Him, if we’re not busy doing His will, if we’re not walking in His steps; then God isn’t our treasure.

When God becomes our treasure, when we give our heart to Him, we won’t be hoarding or accumulating earthly treasures. We’ll be busy seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness; we’ll be busy doing His work, obeying His will, that there’s very little room in our thoughts for the riches of this world. You can have all of this world’s riches, but still be poor in the sight of God. But when God becomes your treasure you’re the richest person alive. You’ll have His blessings. And God will provide for your every need. He’ll even give you the desires of your heart.

 

Matthew 6:22-23, The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. {23} But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! Matthew 6:22-23 (NLT), "Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. (23) But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!

 

The Lord is still talking about our treasures, but He shifts focus from our heart to our eyes. Now light is light. It shines and gives forth light. Whether you see it or not is beside the point. It’s out there shining. It may be night time here, but the sun is still shining and giving forth light. The lights may be on at our house 12 miles away. We don’t see the lights because we’re not at home. But the fact of the matter is, the lights at our house are on whether we see them or not.

When we see light it’s because our eyes see the light. We’re close enough to the light so see it with our own eyes. So our eyes are what enable us to see light. Because our eyes are what enables us to see light, Jesus likens our eyes to light itself, Verse 22. The light, or lamp, of the body is the eye. Think of your eyes as a light bulb. Your eyes provide light for your entire body. It shows you where to go, what to avoid or not walk into, what to grab ahold off, and what to keep your hands off.

Jesus says in verse 22, If your eye is single your whole body shall be full of light. The word single speaks of healthy. Your eyes are sound. They’re healthy. They can see clearly. If your eyes are healthy you can see clearly. You can see all the light that God’s shining on you to lead you or show you the way.

But, verse 23, if your eye is evil—if it’s not healthy, it’s got cataracts, you can’t hardly see anything out of it, you’re blind—then you’re not going to see a whole lot of light. In fact, you might not see any light at all. You’re blind. So even if God’s shining the light you nevertheless can’t see it because your eyes aren’t working. You’re blind. So you live in darkness. The light that’s shining down on you is darkness to you because you can’t see it.

So what do our eyes have to do with our treasures? Jesus is getting to that point. For now, what we need to understand is our treasures in Heaven are light: our treasures on earth are darkness. Our eyes will see whatever we want to see. If we want to see light, our eyes will become healthy and we’ll see the light clearly. But if we don’t want to see the light, if our eyes—like our heart—is focused on the treasures of this earth; then what we’re doing is we’re hurting our eyes. We’re blinding ourself. THE RICHES AND MATERIALISM OF THIS EARTH ARE ROBBING US OF OUR EYESIGHT OR VISION. WE’RE SLOWLY BECOMING BLIND. THAT’S WHAT THE TREASURES OF THIS WORLD WILL DO TO US. We’re becoming blind so that we can’t see past this life. We can’t see anything but the treasures we value. We can’t see the threat or the danger of hellfire. We can’t see the day of the Lord coming upon us. We can’t see the Lord coming in glory. We can’t see because we’re blind. If you want to see you’ve got to have good healthy eyes. IF YOU WANT TO SEE YOU’VE GOT TO HAVE GOOD HEALTHY EYES. HOW DO YOU GET GOOD HEALTHY EYES? BY GETTING YOUR EYES OFF OF EARTH’S TREASURES AND FOCUSING THEM ON GOD’S LIGHT.

 

Matthew 6:24, No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24 (NIV),  "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

 

We love to think of ourself as being in charge and in control of our life. We call the shots. We make the decisions. No one’s going to control us or tell us what to do. But the fact and reality of life is this: none of us are masters. There is one supreme master of all of life and the universes and that is God. There is another master in this world called Satan. He is God’s enemy. Master Satan doesn’t like to show himself off because he’s afraid people won’t follow and serve him if they know he’s their master and he’s going to take them down to hell. They don’t want to go to hell, so they’re not going to follow him if they know the person they’re following really is the devil himself. So the devil uses a lot of other things to masquerade himself. For example, free sex, booze, porn, drugs, temporary sexual relationships, and the like.

Jesus refers to mammon as being another one of the devil’s masters. Mammon refers to riches or wealth. If we have treasures of this earth that we give our life to, then our earthly treasures are our master. They control us. They consume us. They’ve got us locked up so that we’re not free to leave them, lose them, jeopardize them, get rid of them, etc. We hold on to them real tight because these treasures have got a tight hold on us. We’re their slaves.

We’re all slaves to something or someone. God is a master. And when it comes to our life on this earth, our earthly treasures or riches are also a master. We have a choice as to which master we’re going to serve. The choice is up to us. But the thing of it is, we can’t serve both God and our treasures. GOD ISN’T GOING TO ALLOW US TO SERVE HIM WHILE WE’RE ALSO SERVING OUR EARTHLY TREASURES MASTER. There can be only one master in our life: God or mammon. We may believe in God and pretend to follow Him and praise Him. But if our whole life is centered around our treasures, then we’re not really serving God. We think we’re serving Him. But we’re fooling ourself. We’re not serving God: we’re serving our treasures.

YOU CAN’T BE A HEAVEN-BOUND CHRISTIAN IF YOUR LIFE CENTERS AROUND THE TREASURES OF THIS WORLD. If you want to serve God and be heaven-bound, then you’re going to have to do what Christ told the rich young ruler to do in Mark 10:21-23 (NIV),  Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."  (22)  At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.  (23)  Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"

YOUR EARTHLY TREASURES WILL KEEP YOU OUT OF THE KINGDOM. 1 Timothy 6:8-10 (NIV) warns us,  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  (9)  Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  (10)  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Friends, I know you can afford a lot of things if you’ve got money. But Jesus doesn’t lie about the damning effect that the love of money and riches. The love of money is one love that you literally cannot afford! Just think of all the money and wealth that's in the world. Combine the collective wealth of the entire world--every country, every person, including the wealth that lies behind the surface of the earth and the oceans--oil, diamonds, gold, gems, and all. Suppose you own it all. Do you know what? All that wealth still wouldn't be enough to pay your way out of Hell. No matter how much you have it'll still not be enough to get out of Hell. NOTHING, NOT EVEN MONEY, IS WORTH GOING TO HELL OVER! If you want to go to Heaven, get rid of your love for money and wealth.

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT

LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IN THIS WORLD

JESUS' PROHIBITION AGAINST WORRYING

Jesus is talking about our treasures. He’s talked about our treasures and our heart. Then He talked about our treasures and our eyes. Now He talks to us about our treasures and our mind.

Matthew 6:25, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Matthew 6:25 (NLT), "That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn't life more than food, and your body more than clothing?

 

In the fragile national and international economies in which we we live, worry has become a really big thing. It's become the preoccupation of most people. For too many around the globe, the struggle to survive has become a living nightmare. God isn't blind or deaf to the times in which we live. He knows all about it. He addresses our fears and worries by telling us to take no thought. Just so you know, take no thought doesn’t mean you don’t think about your life or your future. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look to the future, plan ahead, think about your retirement, the kids’ college bills, or your health care needs. Taking no thought doesn’t mean it’s wrong for you to calculate your budget or figure out what your resources are in relation to your bills.

Take no thought means don’t be anxious about today or be worried about tomorrow. You’ve looked ahead, but things aren’t looking good. You don’t have enough financial resources to meet your needs. What you have available isn’t enough. You’re tempted to get all uptight and be anxious or worried about how you’re going to make it. This is a normal, natural human reaction. But Christ commands us not to be worried. Don’t be anxious!

The way we see it, we have two choices in life: accumulate treasures or suffer lack or want; have security or suffer insecurity and uncertainty; have plenty or not have enough. The natural human tendency is to choose treasures so that we can avoid its opposite. We don’t want to suffer lack and face the future with uncertainty. We want to know that we’ll have enough resources to see us through. So we spend our time seeking and accumulating treasures.

Jesus doesn’t want us to set our hearts on treasures. But He isn’t asking us to choose the opposite: He doesn’t want us to choose to be poor. Jesus wants us to choose Him instead of treasures. To seek Him instead of wealth. When we choose God, God will take care of our lacks or wants; He’ll take care of our insecurities and uncertainties. God will take care of our present and our future. 1 Timothy 6:6-8 (NLT) reads, Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. (7) After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can't take anything with us when we leave it. (8) So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. Hebrews 13:5 (CEV) counsels us, Don't fall in love with money. Be satisfied with what you have. The Lord has promised that he will not leave us or desert us.

We can be content with what we have right now and not be worried about tomorrow or worried about what we don’t have because we have God! He’s always with us. He won’t ever leave us or forsake us. What does that mean? It means that SINCE HE’S ALWAYS WITH US HE’LL ALWAYS TAKE CARE OF US! He’s our Father. And He’ll take care of us.

Verse 25 goes on to read, Is not the life more than food, and the body than clothes? What this means is God has given you life. He’s given you a body. You didn’t ask Him for life or body. You had absolutely no say about whether or not you wanted to be conceived or born into this world. God just decided He wanted you to be around. So He formed you and gave you life. That’s the biggest thing. Do you know how hard it is to give something that’s dead or something that doesn’t exist life? Do you realize how hard it is to make a body and make it come alive? Well, it’s impossible for us humans to do. But the point is, God did the biggest thing. He did the impossible. And if God gave you a body and life, don’t you think He’ll do the smaller thing and provide for your body and keep you alive? IF GOD CAN GIVE YOU LIFE HE CAN KEEP YOU ALIVE! Jesus is trying to reassure our hearts and let us know that He’ll take care of our life, our body, our future. He’ll provide for us. That’s why worrying and fretting is so needless and useless.

As children, we don’t worry about whether or not mom and dad will take care of us and provide for us. We just know they will and we don’t even think about worrying. As God’s children, we should be the same way with our Father and not worry about Father’s willingness or ability to provide for us. There’s no question about Father’s love and care for us. He will provide! So there ought to be no worry or anxiety. IF YOU DON’T QUESTION THE FATHER’S LOVE FOR YOU, THEN YOU OUGHT NOT QUESTION THE FATHER’S ABILITY TO PROVIDE FOR YOU!

Which is to say, if you’re worried about today and tomorrow, if you’re worried about God being willing or able to provide for you; then what your worrying is telling us is you really don’t believe that God is your Father, you don’t believe He really loves you and wants to take good care of you. That’s the bigger problem.

SO TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR WORRIES YOU FIRST HAVE TO BE SETTLED ON THE FACT THAT GOD LOVES YOU AND HE’LL TAKE CARE OF YOU. Once you grasp the fact that God really does love you and would do anything for you--He already did by sending Jesus to die for you; then all your worries are through and ended. God loves you! He will take care of you! He will provide!

 

Matthew 6:26, Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Matthew 6:26 (CEV), Look at the birds in the sky! They don't plant or harvest. They don't even store grain in barns. Yet your Father in heaven takes care of them. Aren't you worth more than birds?

 

We’re not the only ones who live on this planet. We share it with the flora and fauna. When it comes to fauna, Jesus singles out the birds. They have to get their food. They just don’t sit on a branch and wait for God to drop worms and insects into their mouth. Like people, they go out there and work and get their food. But birds don’t have the mental capacity to look for tomorrow and lay up stockpiles of food for the future. Unlike humans, they don’t build barns and don’t make pantries in their nests.

Don't miss the point here. God isn’t condemning laying up in store for tomorrow. He’s condemning our worrying about His willingness and ability to take care of us tomorrow. Jesus’ point here is the birds live from day to day. They’re not worried! Instead of spending their time worrying, what are the birds doing? They’re singing. They’re praising their Creator. We ought to be doing the same. Instead of worrying and working ourself into an early grave, let’s praise and trust God to provide. Because He will!

 

Matthew 6:27, Which of you by taking thought can add one cubitFN unto his stature?FN Matthew 6:27 (NIV),  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

 

What good can worry do you? If you don’t like your height and you want to be taller, can worrying make you taller? The point is, worrying isn't going to do you any good. You know from your own experiences that worrying doesn't make matters better: it makes things worse. It sickens you. If we can only get it through our thick skulls and down into our heart we'll be a lot healthier and happier. Don't worry! That's an order from the Father.

 

Matthew 6:28-30, And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: {29} And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. {30} Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Matthew 6:28-30 (NLT), "And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, (29) yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. (30) And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

 

Jesus talks now about the flora. The lilies of the field don’t work and worry as we know it. All they do is grow. They take in God’s sunshine and rain and nature does the rest. They grow and beautify a field with their flowers. We can work hard to buy the richest or nicest looking clothes. But even a field is more richly and nicely adorned with flowers than man can ever be with his clothing.

God makes the grass grow. Then when the grass dies, men come and cut them down and use them, in place of wood, on their stoves and ovens. That’s one way the Jews cooked their food: they used dried, dead grass. God is showing His people that He’ll take care of them: He’ll even provide them with fuel for their stoves. HOW MUCH MORE WILL GOD PROVIDE FUEL FOR OUR CARS! IF GOD CAN PROVIDE US GRASS FOR OUR COOKERS, HE CAN CERTAINLY PROVIDE US GAS FOR OUR CARS! SO DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT!

 

Matthew 6:31, Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? Matthew 6:31 (CEV), Don't worry and ask yourselves, "Will we have anything to eat? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have any clothes to wear?"

 

What's the point here? Need I tell you? Don't worry! Quit asking questions about the future and about how you're going to make it. Don't go there because it'll drag you down into a pit of discouragement and depression. Worrying will kill you. Leave the future in God's hands. You've got today. Trust Him and praise Him. He will take care of you!

 

Matthew 6:32, (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. Matthew 6:32 (CEV), Only people who don't know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these.

 

Jesus uses the Gentiles here in reference to the heathens, the lost, and the unsaved. The heathens are preoccupied with life on their earth. With their treasures. Christians are not heathens. We’re not supposed to act, live, and behave like heathens.

Worrying is so pointless because God knows everything you need. And if God knows what you need, then you can rest assured that God will provide for what you need. It’s like a grocery list. Before you go to the store you write out a grocery list of the things you need. You look in your pantry or cupboards, take an inventory of the things you’re low on or have run out of. You put them on the list. And when you go to the store you know exactly what to get because you have a list of the things you need. Brethren, God has a grocery list for us! He knows what we need. He’s looked in the cupboards and pantries of our life and sees what we need. And because He knows, because He has His list, then He knows what to get for us. He knows what to provide. GOD’S KNOWING IS OUR ASSURANCE THAT GOD’S GOING TO PROVIDE.

 

Matthew 6:33, But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33 (NLT), Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.

 

Instead of worrying, what does God want us to do? How does He want us to spend our time and energies? Instead of worrying and preoccupying ourself with the the affairs of this world, God wants us to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. What does this mean? It means that God wants us to seek only His Kingdom and righteousness. He doesn’t want our hearts to be divided between Heaven and Earth, between the treasures of Heaven and the treasures of Earth. He wants us to seek only one treasure—and that is the treasure of His Kingdom.

*Do you remember the Lord’s prayer? What’s the first petition that Jesus teaches us to pray for? Before we ask anything for ourself, God wants us to pray for what matters the most to Him and that’s His kingdom. Matthew 6:10, Thy kingdom come. Why is it so important to Jesus that we seek God’s Kingdom? Because when we seek God’s Kingdom we’re seeking a time and a place where God reigns supreme as King and where God’s will is done, in earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10). INSTEAD OF WORKING HARD TO ACCUMULATE TREASURE, GOD WANTS US TO WORK HARD AT DOING HIS WILL AND LETTING HIM HAVE HIS WAY IN OUR LIFE.

*What does seeking God’s righteousness mean? It means you desire for God to clothe you with His righteousness. He’s already justified you. That means He’s declared you righteous. He’s pronounced your righteous. He sees the blood of Jesus over you and, based on Jesus’ righteousness, He pronounces the verdict that you are righteous in Christ. Therefore to seek God’s righteousness doesn’t mean you’re not righteous or you’re not justified. What it does mean is, now that God has declared you to be righteous in Christ, He wants you to put on Christ’s righteousness and start being, start living, righteous.

God’s promise to us if this. IF WE MEET HIS CONDITION, IF WE OBEY HIS COMMAND—THAT WE SEEK ONLY HIS KINGDOM AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS—THEN YOU WON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THE THINGS YOU NEED FOR THIS LIFE. ALL YOUR NEEDS AND WANTS WILL BE PROVIDED FOR YOU BY GOD. The promise is, NO MAN OR WOMAN WHO SERVES GOD FIRST EVER NEED WORRY ABOUT HIS OR HER NEEDS. GOD WILL PROVIDE WITHOUT QUESTION, FEAR, OR DOUBT.

 

Matthew 6:34, Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Matthew 6:34 (NASB), "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

 

Jesus closes His teachings and prohibitions against worrying by commanding us not to worry about tomorrow or the future. The future has its own troubles and worries. It has its own set of trials. You’ve got enough troubles and trials to take care of today. You don’t need to take on any additional trials from tomorrow. You’ll get to those trials tomorrow. The main thing right now is to take care of today’s trials. How do you do that? By trusting God to take care of you and, instead of worrying yourself into poor health, He wants you to use your health and life today to serve Him and do His will.

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT

LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IN THIS WORLD

JESUS' PROHIBITION AGAINST JUDGING

Matthew 7:1-5, Judge not, that ye be not judged. {2} For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. {3} And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? {4} Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? {5} Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV),  "Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  (2)  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  (3)  "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  (4)  How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  (5)  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

Luke 6:37-42, Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: {38} Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

{39} And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? {40} The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.

{41} And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? {42} Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.

Luke 6:37-42 (NIV),  "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  (38)  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."  

(39)  He also told them this parable: "Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit?  (40)  The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.  

(41)  "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  (42)  How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

 

Judge not is one of the most recited verses in all of Scripture. Yet it’s one of the most misunderstood, misapplied, and abused. The verse is most-commonly evoked in cases of sin, doctrinal error, or morality. And it is thus quoted to authoritatively and unequivocally declare that Christians have no right to judge others—including other Christians—who are involved in sin or error. It is perhaps a well-intentioned plea for Christians to just shut up, leave people alone, and let God do the judging.

I am not an advocate for judgmentalism. I detest that spirit and the aura of self-righteousness that goes with it when I see it manifest in Christians.

Christ prohibits us from judging other people and I believe we all need to give heed to our Lord and quit judging people. Let God do the judging and let us do the praying. We serve the cause of Christ best by befriending people and extending a helping hand instead of cutting them down and making them feel like dirt. The Word of God that we share in kindness and love, and the Spirit of Christ that we manifest with all meekness and gentleness, will minister conviction, life, and the hope of change. Judging them will not.

What I am against, however, is the thoughtless or flagrant use of Matthew 7:1 that produces a silence about sin where there ought to be none. I lament the use of our Lord’s prohibition to foster the accommodation, tolerance, and acceptance of sin among God’s people. I’m talking about all of us professing Christians. Heathens will be heathens. I don’t expect heathens to have Christian morals and live like Christians. But when it comes to us Christians, Christ expects all of us to be like Him and to be righteous as He is righteous. Sin is so public, prevalent, legitimized, and legally accepted, even advocated, that many Christians and turned a blind eye and deaf ear to sin that grieves the heart of our Lord. Sin's killing us. And our silence has resulted in a tragic and lamentable lowering of the righteous morality that Christ wants His followers to have.

So what I hope to do in this commentary is provide a Biblical balance to Christ's prohibition by telling you what the whole counsel of Scripture says about judging others.

 

THE PROHIBITION AGAINST JUDGING ISN'T AN ABSOLUTE PROHIBITION

Jesus told us here in Matthew 7:1 not to judge others. His words are clear enough so that we’re not confused or misguided about what He means here. Don’t judge means don’t judge.

But the fact of the matter is, CHRISTIANS CAN, WILL, AND ARE EVEN COMMANDED BY CHRIST, TO JUDGE! Jesus commanded us in John 7:24, Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. This is the same Jesus telling us to judge righteous judgment who told us in Matthew 7:1 not to judge. He used the exact same word judge in both verses (Greek krino), so we know that He’s talking about the same thing. On the one hand He told us not to judge. Then on the other hand He told us to go ahead and judge, but judge righteously.

So is Jesus being contradictory here? It appears that way at first sight. But when you read the rest of Scripture and put the whole counsel of Scripture together I think you’ll see quite readily that Jesus isn’t being contradictory at all. While Matthew 7:1 is very clear about Christians not judging other people, John 7:24 is equally very clear about Christians being able to judge people, albeit judge righteously. So what we see here is THE PROHIBITION AGAINST JUDGING IS NOT AN ABSOLUTE PROHIBITION. JESUS DIDN’T MEAN THAT WE CAN’T EVER JUDGE. THERE ARE TIMES WHEN CHRISTIANS ARE SUPPOSED TO, EVEN COMMANDED TO, JUDGE. Which is to say, THERE ARE TIMES WHEN IT'S NOT WRONG FOR US TO JUDGE.

 

THE TIMES WHEN WE CAN JUDGE PEOPLE

 

(1) WE CAN JUDGE SINNING MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH. There was a professing Christian in the church at Corinth who was engaged in fornication and incest. The Corinthian believers, like many today, turned a blind eye to it, said nothing, and did nothing, about it. Paul wouldn’t stand for it. He asked them in I Corinthians 5:12 (NLT), It isn't my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.

Paul tells us that we are to judge those who are within. He’s talking about the church. We are to judge those who are a part of our church. Not our visitors, but our members. And the judgment that he has reference to has to do mostly with the judgment that precedes, or ends up in, church discipline. If one of us is messing up the church has a God-given right to judge us and, if need be, discipline or excommunicate us from the church. See verses 3 and 13 also.

 

(2) WE CAN JUDGE THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE GRIEVANCES IN THE CHURCH. Like many of our churches today, the church at Corinth had a lot of problems. There was a lot of bickering and fighting going on in the church. They were taking one another to court to try and settle their disputes, grievances, and complaints.

Here again, Paul wouldn’t stand for it. He asked them in 1 Corinthians 6:1-7a (NLT), When one of you has a dispute with another believer, how dare you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other believers! (2) Don't you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can't you decide even these little things among yourselves? (3) Don't you realize that we will judge angels? So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disputes in this life. (4) If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? (5) I am saying this to shame you. Isn't there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues? (6) But instead, one believer sues another—right in front of unbelievers! (7a) Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you.

The judgment that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 7:1 has more to do with private or personal matters. Paul speaks of judgment in cases of moral sins in 1 Corinthians 5. And here is 1 Corinthians 6 Paul speaks of judgment as it relates to civil, legal matters. These are matters that can be, and are usually, taken to a court of law.

According to Paul, CHRISTIAN SHOULDN’T BE TAKING CHRISTIANS TO COURT. If you’ve got a problem with another church member and the problem is serious enough that you could go to court over it; then, instead of going to court to get it settled, you need to bring the problem to the church and have the church settle it—not the court. Paul is laying forth the fact that THE CHURCH IS DIVINELY AUTHORIZED TO ACT, SETTLE, OR RESOLVE PROBLEMS AND CONFLICTS BETWEEN ITS MEMBERS. When there are problems in the church, it’s okay for the church to judge its own without fear of disobeying the Lord’s prohibition against judging in Matthew 7:1.

 

(3) WE CAN JUDGE PREACHERS AND RELIGIOUS LEADERS. John counsels us in 1 John 4:1 (NIV),  Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

When it comes to religious matters, especially matters of doctrine or belief, Christians are authorized and commanded to try the spirits. That means to discern, examine closely, and pass judgment on the truthfulness of the doctrine, person, and spirit who’s promoting it. So here again we see that Christians can, will, and are even commanded, to judge. Brethren, IT'S NOT ALWAYS WRONG OR SINFUL TO JUDGE.

 

DO NOT JUDGE UNFAIRLY

What, then, did Jesus mean when He told us not to judge in Matthew 7:1? He meant that we shouldn't judge unrighteously or unfairly. Look at John 7:24 with me once again. Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. Jesus plainly tells us here that THE PROHIBITION AGAINST JUDGING IS NOT A PROHIBITION AGAINST JUDGING PERIOD, BUT A PROHIBITION AGAINST JUDGING A PERSON BASED ON APPEARANCES.

Now the word appearance means what you can see outwardly, what you see with your eyes, what’s visible and seen to the naked eye. When you look at a person—based on their stature or body size, their skin color, their clothes, their looks, their tats and piercings, their facial expressions or body language; when you make conclusions about them based on what you see or observe about them, you’re making a judgment, you’re passing judgment based on appearance, and this is the kind of judgment that God forbids.

Jesus has a good reason for telling us not to judge by appearances. APPEARANCES CAN BE MISLEADING AND DECEIVING. THEY CAN FOOL YOU. The facts or the evidence, the hard cold proof, are true. They’re real. The gun in the guy’s hand, the sister walking out of the bar, the pastor seen with a hooker on Hooker Street; are all real. They’re true. BUT THE CONCLUSIONS THAT YOU DRAW BASED ON WHAT YOU SAW CAN BE MISLEADING. YOUR THINKING OR JUDGMENT BASED ON WHAT YOU SAW CAN BE FALSE AND WRONG.

*The guy with the gun in his hand picked it up after the real murderer ran past him and dropped it. And he dropped it just so that the innocent bystander will pick it up and people will think he was the murderer.

*The sister who walked out of the bar went in there to call her husband and tell him the car broke down. The choice of using the bar’s telephone to make the call can be questioned, but if it was the closest business to the car, if it was the “safest” place for her to be in and not as dangerous as on the street, then that was her call. But the fact is, yes, she was in the bar. But your conclusion and accusation that she’s a drinker, she’s a drunk, is plainly wrong. WHAT YOU SAW WAS TRUE. WHAT YOU THOUGHT OR DECIDED WASN’T. THE FACTS ARE TRUE. THE JUDGMENTS OR INTERPRETATIONS OF THE FACT ARE WHAT CAN BE WRONG.

*The same thing can be said about the pastor with the hooker. In our day and age, yes, it’s possible that the pastor was playing hooky with the hooker. But, it’s just as possible he was witnessing to her. He wasn’t out looking for sex: he was looking for lost sheep. So before you pass judgment on what you saw, you’ve got to get the facts straight and get the whole truth.

WHEN YOU’RE JUDGING BY APPEARANCES YOU’RE JUDGING WITHOUT HAVING ALL THE FACTS. You’re not hearing both sides of the story. You’re not giving the accused or the defendant the chance to speak for herself; you’re judging the brother and condemning him without giving him an opportunity to explain and defend himself.

THERE’S A REASON OR EXPLANATION FOR EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS, FOR EVERYTHING THAT A PERSON DOES. You saw what happened; you saw what she did; you heard what she said. And what you saw and heard was real and true. But what you don’t know is why she did that or said that. There are other factors, reasons, or motivations involved that you don’t know about and these are the details, facts, or necessary pieces of information that you need in order to judge righteous judgment.

APPEARANCES CAN FOOL YOU. THEY CAN LOOK RIGHT, UNMISTAKABLE, AND TRUE TO YOU. THE FACTS MAY BE TRUE, BUT IT’S YOUR CONCLUSIONS OR JUDGMENTS THAT MAY NOT BE. Judgment based on appearances is bound to be wrong and that’s why God doesn’t want you to judge like that. If you’re going to judge, then judge righteously or not at all.

How do you judge righteously? TO JUDGE RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT YOU’VE GOT TO HAVE ALL THE FACTS, NOT JUST SOME OF THE FACTS. We often make the mistake of thinking we have all the facts. We hear one side of the story and we think we know it all, we have it all. But a part of the story is just that—a part. It’s never the whole story. Unless you talk to the actual person involved, you don’t have all the facts. And NOT HAVING ALL THE FACTS IS WHAT DISQUALIFIES YOU FROM JUDGING; IT’S WHAT PREVENTS YOU FROM JUDGING RIGHTEOUSLY; and this is the kind of judgment that God forbids.

 

DO NOT JUDGE HYPOCRITICALLY OR SELF-RIGHTEOUSLY

 

Jesus askes us in Matthew 7:3-5, And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (4) Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? (5) Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

You look at a person and see a mote in their eye. A mote is a tiny splinter or speck. It's like the dust that gets in your eye when you're cutting wood or mowing the lawn. You see a tiny splinter in a person's eye, but there's a beam in yours. A beam is a humongous log that's used as the main pillar or rafter in a barn. You've seen these beams. They're like 10" to 12" square and 20' long. Now here's a paradox. You see a tiny splinter in your brother's eye, but you've got this humongous piece of lumber sticking out of your eye! It's so big that it's a marvel--no, it's a miracle--that you can even see anything, much less a tiny splinter in another person's eye.

EVERYBODY MAKES MISTAKES. NOBODY'S PERFECT. WE ALL MESS UP AT SOME TIME OR ANOTHER. No one of us is sinless. That's just the facts of life.

 

1. SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS BLINDS US. We’re so prone to see everyone’s faults or problems, but not our own. That, I believe, is the first lesson Jesus wants to teach us in relation to judging others. We’re quick to judge because we see what’s wrong with others. But the problem is we don’t see what’s wrong with us.

Note Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:3, But you don’t consider the beam that’s in your eye. To consider means to take note or notice of; being oblivious, unmindful, or forgetful; you just don’t see what’s wrong with yourself. You’re so good at noticing what’s wrong with others, but you yourself forget that there’s something wrong with you. As far as you’re concerned there’s nothing wrong with you. And that’s the problem. There is something very wrong with you, but you just don’t see it. In Jesus’ words, you don’t consider the fact that you’ve also got something in your eye.

Self-righteousness blinds you from seeing the true state of things. It blinds you from seeing things clearly or as truly as they are. You think you’re okay, you’re alright, you’re sinless, innocent, perfect, and righteous. You haven’t done anything wrong. What you don’t know is, you’re none of the above. You’re blind to your own faults. You’re not considering that you too have got a problem in your eye.

 

2. WE’VE GOT THE BIGGER, MORE SERIOUS, PROBLEM. Even though we’re not apt to see it or admit it, both we and the person we’re judging have the same problem. We both have something in our eye. Note that a splinter and a beam are made of the same material. They’re both a piece of wood. The only difference between them is size. Both you and the person you’re judging have a piece of wood in your eyes. Both of you have the same problem. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND THE PERSON YOU’RE JUDGING IS YOU’VE GOT THE BIGGER PROBLEM! Your brother has a splinter in his eye, but you’ve got a massive piece of lumber in yours! Your problem is a whole lot bigger. And the very size of your problem renders you unable to see clearly. YOU CAN’T JUDGE FAIRLY WHEN YOU CAN’T SEE CLEARLY.FN

 

3. OUR HYPOCRISY MAKES US WRONG AND UNQUALIFIED TO JUDGE. When we have something majorly massive in our eye, and yet quibble about the splinter in people’s eye, the very act of quibbling, fault-finding, criticizing, judging, and condemning makes us hypocrites. That’s what Jesus calls us in Matthew 7:5. Hypocrites. Why are we hypocrites? Because we’re judging a person who has something in his eye when we ourselves have the same thing in our eye, except much bigger. We judge a person for a sin she’s committed when we ourselves have committed the same sin. We’re guilty of doing the same thing that we condemn others for doing.

Romans 2:1-3 speaks along this same line of hypocrisy. No matter who you are, if you judge anyone, you have no excuse. When you judge another person, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. (2) We know that God's judgment is right when he condemns people for doing these things. (3) When you judge people for doing these things but then do them yourself, do you think you will escape God's judgment?

The principle is this. IF YOU’RE GUILTY, OR HAVE EVER BEEN GUILTY, OF DOING WHAT YOU’RE JUDGING OTHER PEOPLE FOR DOING, THEN YOU’RE REALLY IN NO POSITION TO JUDGE. You’re judging self-righteously and hypocritically. You’re a hypocrite. And A HYPOCRITE ISN'T A JUDGE. A HYPOCRITE IS DISQUALIFIED FROM BEING A JUDGE.

You see, both you and the person you’re judging have done the same thing. Both of you have the same piece of wood in your eye. You judge others but not yourself. You condemn others but not yourself. You publicize other people’s sins, but not your own. YOU’RE PARTIAL AND PREFERENTIAL IN YOUR JUDGMENT AND THIS IS WHAT DISQUALIFIES FROM BEING A JUDGE. A judge who’s partial is no judge.

You’re not only partial and preferential in your judgment, but YOU’RE ALSO UNJUST AND UNFAIR. You’re judging by different standards. You’ve got one standard of judgment, guilt, and death for others and another standard of innocence, forgiveness, and life for yourself. Instead of everybody getting judged by the one and the same law, there are different laws, standards, and judgments for different persons. And that’s not justice! A PARTIAL, UNFAIR, AND UNJUST JUDGE SHOULDN’T BE A JUDGE. He should be removed from the bench. That’s why we shouldn’t judge anyone. We’re partial, unfair, and unjust. We may not consider it. We may not admit it. But we are. That’s why we shouldn’t judge period.

 

DO NOT JUDGE CRITICALLY

The word judge, in and of itself, is not a bad word or a bad thing. It comes from the Greek word krino and the word means to separate or distinguish. Think of it as going to the vegetable section of your supermarket. When you’re buying bananas you look over the selection of bananas and you pick out the bunch that looks the nicest to you. You do the same thing with lettuce. You seldom just glance down and pick up the first head that your hand touches. No, you look at several heads of lettuce and you get the one that looks the nicest to you; you reject the one that’s starting to turn brown. THAT’S WHAT JUDGING IS: YOU’RE LOOKING OVER EVERYTHING AND YOU SEPARATE THE GOOD FROM THE BAD OR FROM THE NOT-AS-GOOD.

A critic and criticism are the same way. Criticism is the act of looking closely at a person, thing, or issue and evaluating its merits or faults. A critic in the true sense of the term looks for the good, as well as the bad. And when he finds bad, it’s because the thing is bad: the critic doesn’t make it bad—he just finds it and singles it out and tells people “this is bad or faulty; there’s something wrong with this one.” Consumer Report is an organization that’s dedicated to trying out all sorts of products and name brands, testing them, and seeing which one of the brands or products works best and which ones don’t work as good. So judging and criticizing are not necessarily bad or wrong in themselves. when the Bible speaks of not judging it’s not telling us to quit discerning or quit being on the lookout for something or someone that’s bad.

Unfortunately, judging and criticizing, or being discerning, have gotten a bad rap and are viewed with disdain because of the bad or wrong that they end up finding a lot of times. Because we’re all imperfect, there’ll always be something bad or wrong about each one of us. That’s just the hard fact of life and that’s the way it is.

In this sense, if we talk about a critic in the bad sense of the word, A CRITIC IS SOMEONE WHO SPENDS TIME LOOKING FOR WHAT’S WRONG WITH PEOPLE. A critic doesn’t look for what’s good in a person. A critic doesn’t encourage or commend a person for his/her good qualities or achievements. His doesn’t talk about what’s good about a person or thing. A CRITIC IS OUT TO LOOK FOR WHAT’S WRONG. WHAT’S BAD. A CRITIC IS A FAULT-FINDER: ONE WHO’S DEVOTED TO FINDING FAULT WITH PEOPLE. And when he finds it, a critic is pretty loud or vocal about what he’s found. He’s a pretty negative person because all he talks about is what’s wrong with everyone and everything.

TO BE CRITICAL IS TO LOOK WITH THE SOLE INTENT AND PURPOSE OF FINDING SOMETHING WRONG. The critic’s goal is to find the wrong in everything and everybody.

If a critic doesn’t find anything wrong at first glance, then a critic digs deeper and continues to dig until he finds what’s wrong. A CRITIC IS A DIRT DIGGER: HE’S GOOD AT DIGGING UP DIRT and making people’s lives miserable.

Remember, a critic’s goal is to find what’s wrong. When nothing is outwardly wrong at first glance, the critic doesn’t give up. He’ll spend as much time as he needs to, he’ll keep on looking, until he finds something wrong. And, unfortunately, he’ll always find it because, like I said, we’re all imperfect and that means there’ll always be something wrong with all of us.

So A CRITIC IS NOT ONLY A FAULT-FINDER AND DIRT-DIGGER, BUT HE’S ALSO A NIT-PICKER. He looks at every little thing. He looks at the small stuff that really is inconsequential and he makes a big deal out of it. He makes mountains out of molehills. Things that really aren’t a big deal, aren’t that important, he makes important. He draws our attention to the small stuff and magnifies them so that they’re really really big, when, in reality, they’re not that big of a deal.

Go to Matthew 7:3. A critic looks at a mote in a person’s eye. A mote is a small thing and a lot of us don’t notice when a person has a mote. We’re too busy looking at the person that we don’t notice a tiny mote. When we think of a mote in terms of a splinter, which is what a mote was in Jesus’ day, not too many of us can see a tiny splinter in a person’s eye if we’re standing at least an arm’s length from that person. We’d really have to be up close to the person, in his face, and sometimes with a magnifying glass, before we can see the tiny piece of grass, hair, or dust that’s in a person’s eye. The point is, we just don’t see a splinter under normal circumstances. But a critic notices it right off because he gets up close, in your face even if you don’t ask him, and he sees it. He finds it because he’s looking for it.

When a critic finds what’s wrong, the judge in him steps out and judges, or condemns, the wrong or bad. So criticism and judgmentalism go hand in hand. A CRITICAL PERSON LOOKS FOR WHAT’S WRONG. AND A JUDGMENTAL PERSON CONDEMNS THE PERSON WHO’S WRONG.

Now when Jesus commands us in Matthew 7:1, Judge not, lest ye be judged, the implication is He’s commanding us not to judge because He knows it’s a natural human tendency to judge, that is to be critical and condemning. The reason why Jesus commands us not to judge is because He knows we’re given to doing it. It’s like when you tell your kids not to play in the dirt. You tell them that because you know they’re probably going to do it and you want to stop them from doing it. Jesus is the same way about judging. He knows we’re going to look for people’s faults and be critical of them; and He wants us to stop it.

Like we said already, Jesus in John 7:24 wants us to judge. To judge righteous judgment and not judge by appearances. He wants us to judge, but not judge in a way that we’re critical. SO WHEN JESUS COMMANDS US NOT TO JUDGE HE’S TELLING US HE DOESN’T WANT US TO JUDGE WITH THE SOLE INTENT OF FINDING WHAT’S WRONG WITH PEOPLE. HE DOESN’T WANT US TO BE PREOCCUPIED AND FOCUSED WITH PEOPLE’S FAULTS.

 

DO NOT JUDGE UNMERCIFULLY

There are a lot of things wrong with a critical, judgmental person. (1) He’s hypocritical and self-righteous as we saw in the previous posts. (2) He’s partial and preferential. He’s unfair and unjust because he judges people by one standard but doesn’t judge himself by the same standard. (3) He’s critical in the sense that he’s focused solely on what’s wrong with people. And (4) a critical, judgmental person is a really harsh, unmerciful person. He’s got no mercy. No compassion. No understanding. No sympathy. No second chances. No chances to get it right. No forgiveness. No love or prayers for people who have problems.

A critic and a judge live by law: “you did this, you deserve this.” That’s all good and fine on the day of judgment or in a time of incurable hardening and unrepentance. But THE LORD DOESN’T LIVE EACH DAY IN JUDGMENT MODE. If He did, none of us would live another day. The Psalmist says it well in Psalm 130:3, If thou, O Lord, should mark iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand? The idea here is, if all the Lord ever did was make a record of our sins—gathering all the evidence needed to condemn us—who could ever live? If God lived this way there is no life after sin and judgment!

But the Psalmist goes on and gives us the hope of life: But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared, Psalm 130:4. The Judge could live every day in judgment mode if He wanted to. But He doesn’t! He made us! He loves us! Do you think He wants to kill and damn us? You’ve got God figured out wrong if you think so. Christ and Calvary are the proof of that and they are a resounding testimony of God’s love and desire to forgive and save--not record, remember, and damn. THE JUDGE LIVES EACH DAY IN FORGIVENESS MODE. He offers forgiveness and pardon so that we can live. God is not willing that any should be damned, but that all should come to repentance, forgiveness, and life (2 Peter 3:9).

This is the heart of God and it’s the very heart that’s lacking in every critic. That’s every critic without exception. A CRITICAL, JUDGMENTAL PERSON HAS A COLD, UNCARING, UNMERCIFUL, UNFORGIVING HEART. HE OR SHE IS INTERESTED IN KILLING PEOPLE INSTEAD OF MINISTERING LIFE AND HOPE TO THEM.

In Luke 6:36-37 Jesus links judgment with mercy and forgiveness. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. (37) Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. A judge is given to the punishment of wrong: he condemns the people who are guilty and ministers death to them. But Jesus doesn’t want us to be like this. He wants us to be merciful and forgiving.

Now this is very instructive and enlightening. We are an imperfect people. We’ve got problems. We’ve got things that are wrong with us. We make mistakes. Critics use our imperfections against us to condemn and contemn us; to discourage and dishearten us; to make us miserable and mad. But Jesus commands us to be merciful and forgiving! JESUS KNOWS THERE ARE THINGS WRONG WITH US. HE COULD CONDEMN AND BAD-MOUTH US. BUT INSTEAD OF MINISTERING DEATH, JESUS FORGIVES. HE’S SET THE EXAMPLE FOR US TO FOLLOW AND HE PLAINLY COMMANDS US TO BE MERCIFUL AND FORGIVING.

To me, the best example of a person who doesn’t have any heart or mercy is the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:23-35. You know the story. A servant owes his master a big sum of money. The master threatens to sell the slave’s family and possessions to recoup his loss. But the slave begs for mercy and patience. And the master ends up not following through on his threat because he’s got a merciful heart. This same slave, now forgiven, went out and found a fellow slave who owed him a tiny bit of money. The fellow slave begs for mercy and patience. But the forgiven slave refuses to show mercy and throws his fellow indebted slave into debtor’s prison. Do you get the point of the parable? Jesus was real merciful with us as sinners. He forgave us and saved us. He wants us to be like Him, follow His lead, and be forgiving and merciful with people who have wronged us. And if we’re not, we’ll end up where the unmerciful, forgiven-but-unforgiving servant ended up: tormented.

Friends, IF YOU LIVE WITHOUT MERCY YOU’LL DIE WITHOUT MERCY. IF YOU’RE HARD AND UNFORGIVING TOWARDS PEOPLE GOD WILL BE HARD AND UNFORGIVING TOWARDS YOU! For he shall have judgment without mercy that have shown no mercy, James 2:13.

A critic forgets how God has been so merciful, forgiving, patient and kind towards him. HE’S ALLOWED HATE TO FILL HIS HEART. AND HATRED ALWAYS LEADS TO DEATH. IT MINISTERS DEATH. 1 John 3:15 warns us that whosoever hates his brother is a murderer. A critic is harsh and hard on people because he’s got no heart for people. He may never admit it, but the truth is he hates the person he’s critical of. A critic will likely never admit to wanting to kill a person. She won’t take a knife or gun in hand and kill the person she’s critical about. But HAVING A CRITICAL MINDSET AND TONGUE IS ALL THE SAME AS WIELDING THE INSTRUMENTS OF MURDER AND DEATH!

God doesn’t see any difference between a critical mind and a gun, between a critical tongue and a knife, because they both produce the same result—death, if not of the body, then certainly of the spirit. The depression, discouragement, anger, feelings of resentment, rejection, unworthiness, and more; all the feelings and emotions that come with being criticized and condemned kill the soul. They sap the life out of a person. IN GOD’S EYES THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CRITIC AND A MURDERER. So are you a murderer? You sure are if you're critical.

 

DO NOT JUDGE CONDEMNINGLY

Jesus’ prohibition against judging means DO NOT JUDGE CONDEMNINGLY. A critical, judgmental person is a condemning person. He finds what’s wrong with people. He judges them. Then he condemns them. If it’s within his power, he punishes them. A CRITIC ISN’T INTERESTED IN LIFE, PARDON, FORGIVENESS, OR SECOND CHANCES. HE’S INTERESTED ONLY IN SEEING A PERSON PAY AND SUFFER FOR HIS WRONGS. He seeks to damn and exclude people from Heaven. He alienates people from God and the hope of Heaven and life by consigning them to a life and a future of punishment and damnation.

Look again at Luke 6:37, Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned. Brethren, it’s not our liberty, right, or prerogative to condemn. Look at James 4:12, There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another? It’s not our place to condemn anyone. Or to damn them.

Romans 14:4 (NLT) asks us an interesting question, Who are you to condemn someone else's servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval. When we judge one another we’re judging another man’s servant. That man’s name is God. Our brothers and sisters belong to God. God is their Master. And WE’VE GOT NO GOD-GIVEN RIGHT TO CONDEMN OUR BRETHREN BECAUSE THEY DON’T BELONG TO US. They belong to God and they answer to God, not us. God will deal with them. But, in the mean time, He’s dealing with us. And He’s saying, How dare you presume to act like Me and be the Judge when you’re no judge! Since when did I make you the judge?

When you read Romans 14 you’ll see that there was a conflict in the Roman church. There were two groups of Christians in the church. One group ate meat; the other was vegan. One group celebrated the holidays; the other didn’t. So you had two different groups with two very different, opposing, contradictory beliefs and lifestyles. And the one group would naturally think that the other group was wrong and going to hell. That’s what the judging was all about. Each group was saying to the other, you’re wrong and you’re damned. You’re going to hell because you don’t believe and practice what I believe and practice.

But look closely at the last part of Romans 14:4, Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. The person who’s wrong, the person who doesn’t believe and practice what we believe and practice, the person who a critic condemns and damns; look at what God does with this person. God holds him up and makes him stand! GOD, BRETHREN, KNOWS HOW TO DEAL WITH HIS PEOPLE AND MAKE THEM STAND!

The interesting thing about this is a critic’s solution to a problem is to get rid of the person who has the problem. You get rid of him by damning him, making him feel like dirt, making him think God doesn’t love him, forgive him, or want him. You get rid of him by alienating and ostracizing him. But God doesn’t do this! INSTEAD OF GETTING RID OF THE PERSON WITH THE PROBLEM, GOD WORKS WITH THE PERSON AND GETS RID OF THE PROBLEM INSTEAD! How cool is that?

Look at verse 13, Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. We can spend our time judging, criticizing, and condemning one another. But God doesn’t want us to do this. He doesn’t want us spending our time knocking people down and trashing them. He doesn’t want us to make our brethren stumble or fall. Yes, people are wrong. Every one of us are wrong at some time or another. We’ve all got our problems. But God isn’t damning or condemning us. He’ll do it as a last resort if we don’t get it right. But all the time that we’re wrong and missing it and messing up, God’s trying to bring us to repentance and help us get over our problems. He’s working with us because He wants to give us life and spend eternity with us. And that’s what we got to do with one another. We can’t knock each other and throw one another down. We can’t condemn and damn each other. We’ve got to have the heart of God and reach out to one another and do what we can to help and lift each other up. We need to give one another the hope of change.

God, brethren, hasn’t given us the office and duty of judging as far as damning and condemning people is concerned. The ministry He’s given us is the exact opposite. Instead of knocking people down and driving them away from God, mercy, forgiveness, Heaven, and life; God wants us to bring them closer to God, mercy, forgiveness, Heaven, and life.

Look at 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (NLT), This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (18) And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to Himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him. (19) For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. (20) So we are Christ's ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, "Come back to God!"

The world was guilty and wrong. The world deserved to be damned. But Jesus came to give all of us the hope of forgiveness and life. He came to save, not to damn. THIS MUST BE OUR MISSION AND MINDSET.

AS LONG AS WE’RE CRITICS WE CAN’T BE SERVANTS AND MINISTERS TO PEOPLE. WE CAN’T HELP THEM. We can’t draw them to Christ. The exact opposite is true: critics drive people farther away from Christ. Condemnation crushes their spirit and gives them no hope of being loved, forgiven, and wanted by Christ.

Brethren, let’s leave judgment to the only Person who’s the Judge; the only Person who’s qualified to be the Judge. Get rid of the judgmental, critical mindset and tongue. Ask God to give you a heart of love for people. Ask Him to give you a different set of eyes so that you can look at people through eyes of love. He so much wants to do this for you! He’s waiting in the operating room. Won’t you come and let Him heal you and change you? You’ll be an entirely different person when love is in your heart! God bless you!

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT

LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IN THIS WORLD

A BIT OF WITNESSING WISDOM

Matthew 7:6, Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. Matthew 7:6 (ESV), "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.

 

Jesus is dealing with our conduct towards people and how we should treat them. In the first 5 verses of chapter 7 He’s instructed us concerning judging other people. Now here in verse 6 He gives us a bit of witnessing wisdom.

That which is holy in Jesus’ day and for the Jews refers to the sacrifices that were offered on the altar to the Lord. It also refers to any of the sacred vessels, utensils, or furnishings that were in the Temple and used in any way for the worship of God. For Christians, that which is holy would apply to anything that is sacred to God. The Gospel, the Word of God, the ordinances or sacraments of the church, are all commonly viewed by Bible scholars and commentators as being that which is holy.

Pearls are something that’s precious or valuable to you. They mean a lot to you and you safeguard or protect them. You don’t throw them to the animals. Pearls in this context refer to that which is holy. They’re both synonymous and refer to the same thing: the God-things that you possess and hold dear, i.e. the truth, the Gospel, the Bible.

We Christians are an evangelistic people. We are commanded by God to go into all the world and make converts, or disciples. We’re supposed to preach the good news of the Gospel of the Kingdom to all men. We’re supposed to witness and be a witness for Christ.

In this verse Jesus puts a restriction on our witnessing and it’s really the only restriction that I’m aware of that God places on our missionary activity.Jesus first tells us that there are dogs and swine in this world.FN He’s not speaking literally here in reference to the four-legged animals that we’re all familiar with. Rather, He’s speaking figuratively of people who are unsaved. When we witness we must realize that there are people out there who the Lord sees as dogs and swine. It’s not that the Lord doesn’t love these people or He doesn’t want to see them get saved. The Lord is simply acknowledging the fact that not everyone is going to get saved and not everyone is going to be receptive to the Gospel or our witness and testimony. There are people in this world who are so vehement and hateful of Christ and Christians that will literally try to turn and rend you. That is, they’ll attack you and kill you if they can. You’ll get hurt, bruised, if not killed.

THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN, AND ALWAYS WILL BE, PEOPLE WHO ARE ADVERSE TO THE GOSPEL AND WHO SEEK TO KILL CHRISTIANS. THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN, AND ALWAYS WILL BE, PLACES WHERE THE TRUTH IS NOT WELCOME. JESUS HERE IN MATTHEW 7:6 DOESN’T WANT US TO WITNESS TO PEOPLE WHO DO NOT VALUE, APPRECIATE, OR REVERENCE THAT WHICH IS HOLY. HE DOESN’T WANT US WITNESSING TO PEOPLE WHO ARE SO HATEFUL AND MALICIOUS THAT THEY WOULD TRY TO KILL US.FN

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT

LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IN THIS WORLD

STAYING IN TOUCH WITH GOD

Matthew 7:7-11, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: {8} For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. {9} Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? {10} Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? {11} If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Matthew 7:7-11 (NLT), "Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. (8) For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. (9) "You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? (10) Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! (11) So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.

 

In this section of Scripture Jesus talks about our devotional relationship with our Heavenly Father. Any relationship—whether Heavenly or earthly—is maintained and nurtured by communion and communication. THE STRENGTH, DEPTH, OR CLOSENESS OF ANY RELATIONSHIP IS AFFECTED AND DETERMINED BY HOW MUCH TIME WE SPEND WITH A PERSON AND HOW MUCH WE TALK TO, OR WITH, THAT PERSON. So in this passage of Scripture Jesus wants us to maintain a deep, abiding relationship with our Father based on the communion and communication that we have with Him in prayer.

There are several different kinds of prayer, but the one that we’re most familiar with is the prayer of supplication. To supplicate means to ask. When we pray we generally pray because we want to ask God for something.

Now at first glance, when we read this portion of Scripture, people’s immediate response is Hallelujah! I can ask God for anything I want and He’ll give it to me! Let me hasten to say that there is a narrow sense in which this is true. What Jesus said here is perfectly true because He said it.

But as I was preparing for this lesson the Lord wanted me to remind you that you can’t say everything in one verse, one sermon, or one sitting. THIS PASSAGE IS NOT MEANT TO BE JESUS’ COMPREHENSIVE TEACHING ON PRAYER. It’s just one part or one segment in everything that Jesus taught about prayer. That is to say, there are other things about prayer that Jesus taught elsewhere in the Scripture that He did not teach here in Matthew 7:7-11. It’s so easy to take Jesus’ words here at face value and run with it, Hallelujah! I can ask God for anything I want and He’ll give it to me!, and not realize that there are other conditions that Jesus laid down elsewhere in Scripture regarding answers to prayer. So IF YOU WANT ANSWERS TO PRAYER YOU HAVE TO READ THE REST OF SCRIPTURE AND PUT THE WHOLE REVELATION OF SCRIPTURE TOGETHER. This is not our purpose here. I have a series of messages on answered prayer that’s based on the whole counsel of Scripture, but I’m not going to teach that series here. I only want to emphasize for you, as the Lord has instructed me to say, that there are other things you must do besides Matthew 7:7-11 if you want God to answer your prayer.

 

GETTING ANSWERS TO PRAYER

Since we’re here in Matthew 7:7-11, let’s look at this portion of Scripture. How do we get answers to prayer? The one condition that Jesus lays down here for getting answers to prayer is, ASK. Conveniently, ASK is also an acrostic for the three steps in getting your prayers answered:

Ask
Seek
Knock

Note that answers to prayer require us to do all 3 steps. Not one, not two, but all three. Ask, seek, and knock. So many bypass the order of the steps to try and get answers to prayer. Many ask God for something and that’s all they do. They ask, but don’t seek or knock. Others immediately seek for the answers that they want without taking the time to stop and ask God and see if it’s His will for them to have whatever it is they want. Others will ask and seek, but won't bother to knock until the door of answered door is opened to them. They give up so easily and are impatient with God. Brethren, if you want answers from God you've got to ask, seek, AND knock.

 

1. ASK

Let's begin by talking about the first step in answered prayer. We go to God in prayer and ask Him for whatever it is we need. Now the question is frequently asked, if God knows everything I’m going through and knows my every need, then why do I have to ask Him for everything I need? Why ask if He already knows?

The answer is, Even though He knows everything we want or need, we still ask Him because that’s what He wants us and told us to do. ASKING, YOU SEE, IS A RECOGNITION ON OUR PART THAT WE NEED GOD IN OUR LIFE IN A DAILY AND PRACTICAL WAY. IT’S A HUMBLE RECOGNITION, DECLARATION, OR CONFESSION THAT WE CAN’T MAKE IT THROUGH LIFE WITHOUT GOD’S HELP AND WITHOUT HIS INVOLVEMENT IN OUR LIFE.

Many of God’s people don’t ask God for a lot of things because they can get these things on their own ability or resource. And that’s generally true for a lot of us who have jobs or income: we have money—or we can save up the money—to get whatever we want. So, in this real sense, we don’t need God’s help; we don’t need to ask God to give us what we can get for ourselves on our own.

*If this is the case with us, we still need to pray and thank God that we have the resources with which to get the things we need or want. We have what we have because He gave it to us. He deserves our gratitude. But, just as importantly, we need to pray about the purchases we make. Just because we have the money to get what we want doesn't mean that it's God's will for us to have, or get, whatever it is we want to buy. Frankly speaking, and we all know this from experience, some things aren't good for us. They have a detrimental effect on us. They feed, or reinforce, bad habits. God will spare us a lot of grief if we just go to Him in prayer and ask Him for His take on the things we want to buy.

*On the other hand, if we don’t have the financial resources or physical ability to get the things we need, then what God’s doing here in Matthew 7:7-11 is He’s giving us the resource we need to get what we want or need—and that resource is, ASK. You see, you may not have the money to get something. But you’ve got something better than money: you’ve got a promise that can get you the money you need; if not the money, God will give you the thing you need without you having to pay for it with money.

Friends, you need to understand that YOUR WEALTH IN LIFE IS NOT DEPENDENT ON HOW MUCH MONEY YOU HAVE. YOUR WEALTH IS DEPENDENT ON YOU HAVING GOD IN YOUR LIFE and you having the kind of relationship with Him where you can go to Him anytime in prayer and ask Him for what you need and He’ll hear you and answer you. You may think you’re poor because you don’t have a lot of money. IF YOU HAVE FAITH IN THE PROMISE OF GOD HERE IN MATTHEW 7:7-11 YOU’RE RICH! YOUR FAITH AND GOD’S PROMISE WILL GIVE YOU EITHER THE MONEY OR THE THINGS YOU NEED. Remember. God is your Father. He will take care of you and provide. All He asks is that you go to Him in prayer and faith and ask. Depend on Him and He will show you just how good He can take care of you!

Note what it is that Jesus encourages us to ask for. He knows we need a lot of different things and He’ll give us a lot of different things. But the example that He uses here in prayer is food: bread in verse 9 and fish in verse 10. Food is so basic and indispensable to human life, health, and survival. He could have talked about the big things in life that we need: a house, a job, a means of transportation, and a lot of other big concerns of life. God will give us all these. But in focusing on food God is letting us know that He’s vitally interested and concerned about life, health, and survival. God wants to take care of us on a daily and practical basis. Just as we need food every day in order to live, God wants us to live so dependent on Him that we trust Him every day for all the things we need to live, to be healthy, and to survive.

So many people believe that God isn’t interested in the mundane things of life. He’s interested only in our soul and our salvation. But don’t you believe it for a moment! God is so interested in the practical, mundane things that go into living each day in this world that He has made provision, He has given us a promise, for every single thing we need to live our life in this world. Look at 2 Peter 1:3 (ESV), His divine power has granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness. 'Godliness' speaks of our spiritual needs. 'Life' speaks of our physical, earthly needs. GOD’S TELLING US HERE THAT HE WANTS TO PROVIDE FOR EVERYTHING WE NEED TO LIVE IN THIS WORLD ON A DAILY BASIS—DOWN TO THE MINUTEST OR SMALLEST NEED. Brethren, God wants to give you everything you need to live the Christian life in this world!

 

2. SEEK

Answered prayer, as I’ve said, is a three-step process here in Matthew 7:7-11. We’ve been looking at the first step, which is asking. Now note with me that answered prayer progresses two additional steps after we’ve asked: we ask, then we seek, then we knock. Note that each step requires more action that the previous step. Answered prayer involves three steps with an increasing amount of action required on our part with every step taken. You see, asking is just talking or speaking. It’s all talk with no additional effort involved. But when we seek that involves asking and action. We’re going beyond talking here and adding action, or searching, to our talk.

All that many people want is to talk and ask God for something without them having to do anything else to get it. They want God to do all the action. IF WE LIMIT OUR PRAYERS TO JUST ASKING OR TALKING WE WON’T GET A LOT OF OUR PRAYERS ANSWERED BECAUSE ANSWERED PRAYER REQUIRES THREE STEPS, NOT JUST ONE. IT REQUIRES ACTION, NOT JUST ASKING.

THE RESPONSIBILITY TO SEEK TELLS US IN A LOUD, BLARING, AND GLARING WAY THAT THE ANSWER TO PRAYER ISN’T ALWAYS GOING TO FALL INTO OUR LAP. God gives us the answer just like He promised. But sometimes we have to look for it if we want to find it. It’s like God’s hiding it from us and He wants us to find it. It’s like a treasure search. God’s “hiding” the answer—not to deny us the answer or to make it hard on us. But God “hides” the answer in order to teach us to take our faith or prayer beyond talking. HE’S WANTING TO TEACH US TO ADD ACTION TO OUR FAITH AND PRAYER.

James 2:14-17 (NLT) ask us, What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don't show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? (15) Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, (16) and you say, "Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well"—but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? (17) So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

So, after you pray and ask God for something, you need to get out of your prayer closet and look for the answer. God’s given you the answer already: all you need to do is find it. IF YOU'RE NOT LOOKING, CHANCES ARE YOU WON'T FIND OR GET THE ANSWER TO YOUR PRAYER. Jesus requires you to look if you want answers to prayer.

 

3. KNOCK

After we ask and seek, God wants us to knock. You know how you knock at someone’s door. Most of the time you stand there and knock more than once. A lot of times, you start off knocking once and softly. When there’s no answer what do you do? You knock more times and you knock louder. Why do you do that? Because you want whoever’s inside to hear you and come to the door to answer you. It’s the same way with God. God wants us to stand at His door and keep on knocking until He comes and opens the door. You see, KNOCKING MEANS YOU’RE GOING TO NEED TO KNOCK MORE THAN ONE TIME TO GET GOD TO ANSWER THE DOOR. THE OPENED DOOR TAKES SEVERAL KNOCKS.

Again, this knocking, like seeking, gives the impression that God doesn’t really want to answer our prayer. It makes it look as if God’s trying to ignore us or make it hard on us. But that’s not the case at all! What is God doing when we’re knocking? Why doesn’t He answer the door the first time we knock? God doesn’t answer right away because HE’S TEACHING US PERSEVERANCE IN PRAYER. Read Luke 18:1-7. PERSEVERANCE IN PRAYER TELL US IN A LOUD, BLARING, AND GLARING WAY THAT THERE ARE GOING TO BE TRIALS OR DELAYS IN OUR PRAYER. Not everything is going to be instantly, or even quickly, answered. Sometimes, maybe lots of time, it’s going to take time to get the answers to your prayer. You’re going to have to wait to get what you want or need from God. And all the time that it’s taking God to give you what you prayed for He wants you to keep on asking, seeking, and knock.

And this brings me to the tense and mood of these verses in the Greek text of the Scripture. The verbs in the Greek text are active, present, progressive, and imperative. What does that mean? It makes that asking, seeking, and knocking are not something that you do just once. You don’t just pray once. It means you keep on asking, you keep on looking, and you keep on knocking. What is God teaching us here in Matthew 7:7-11? He’s teaching us that if we want answers to prayer we’re going to have to keep on asking, keep on looking, and keep on knocking. These continued actions tell us that there are going to be trials and delays, obstacles, that make it look like God’s not going to answer our prayer. There are going to be circumstances that look like your prayer isn’t going to get answered. But that’s not the case at all! GOD THROUGH THESE DELAYS AND ADVERSE CIRCUMSTANCES IS TEACHING US TO ADD ACTION TO OUR ASKING AND HE’S TEACHING US TO ADD PERSEVERANCE AND PATIENCE TO OUR PRAYERS. He’s teaching us that answers to prayer are more than just talking: they take time, patience, perseverance, and effort.

Now we definitely don’t like the idea of having to wait to get answers to prayer. We don’t like having to get off our knees and going out there looking for the answer and standing at the door a long time, knocking hard and loud. We don’t like it. But this is God’s way. This is how we get answers to prayer. We keep on asking, we keep on looking, we keep on knocking. Why? Because we believe, we know, God will eventually come to the door and answer us. We know we’ll eventually find what we’re looking for. We know we’re eventually going to get what we asked God for.

And this brings me to the overarching promise of God here in Matthew 7:7-11. God’s promise is this. If you keep on asking, you will get what you asked for. If you keep on looking, you’ll find what you’re looking for. And if you keep on knocking, God will eventually come to the door and open the door to His storehouse of provision and supply and give you what you want or need. We can get so wrapped up in the condition of answered prayer and spend all our time focused on what we have to do to get answers to prayer. We can spend all our energies and efforts asking, seeking, and knocking. But don’t lose sight of the promise, the hope, and the confidence that we have when we keep on asking, seeking, and knocking. The promise and confidence is we’ll get what we asked God for!

It may not look good right now. It’s taking so long that it looks as if it’s never going to happen, it’s never going to come. The circumstances look so bad and dismal and impossible that you’re tempted to just give up and quit asking, looking, and knocking. But, brethren, don’t give up! Don’t quit asking, looking, and knocking! GOD GAVE YOU A PROMISE AND HE’S GOING TO MAKE GOOD ON HIS PROMISE. GOD’S NEVER GIVEN YOU, OR ANYONE, A PROMISE THAT HE DIDN’T INTEND TO KEEP! IF HE MADE YOU A PROMISE HE WILL KEEP IT—if you keep on doing what He told you you had to do to get the promise. So be encouraged! Keep believing. Keep being hopeful. Keep being positive. You will get what you asked God for if you keep on asking, keep on seeking, keeping on knock, and not give up! God bless you and give you the grace and good heart to persevere!

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT

LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IN THIS WORLD

THE GOLDEN RULE

 

Matthew 7:12, Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. Luke 6:31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. Matthew 7:12 (NLT), "Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

 

This verse summarizes everything Jesus said concerning our conduct and responsibility towards people. IF EVER YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW TO TREAT OTHERS—NO MATTER WHAT SITUATION YOU FIND YOURSELF IN AND NO MATTER WHAT PEOPLE ARE DOING TO YOU—THE RULE IS THIS: TREAT THEM THE WAY YOU’D WANT TO BE TREATED. You do not treat them the way they’re presently treating you—I’m talking about people treating you in a bad way. People may be treating you badly. The human response is to treat them the same way they’re treating you. Their bad brings out the bad in you. This is a form of retaliation or revenge. It may make us feel good, but it’s not what Jesus wants us to do. It’s not the Christian way. How does Jesus want us to treat people? He wants us to treat them the way we want to be treated.

How do you want people to treat you? You don’t have to think twice or long about the answer to this question. You know how you want to be treated. So how do you treat people or respond to them? What should you do? Brethren, it isn't rocket science. You treat people the way you want to be treated.

THE GOLDEN RULE IS AN ANTIDOTE FOR A LOT OF MALADIES THAT AFFLICT US. It keeps us healthy and good. It keeps us from sinning against people.


*The Golden Rule is a cure for theft. We’re not going to steal from others because we don't want them to steal from us.
*It's a cure for adultery. We’re not going to steal another man’s wife—her affections, her love, or her body—because we wouldn’t want any man to steal our wife away from us.
*It's a cure for lying. We hate being lied to. We don’t want people lying to us. So we’re not going to lie to them.
*It's a cure for rudeness. We don't want people to be rude, thoughtless, or inconsiderate of us. We don't like being called nasty, uncomplimentary names. We don't like having our feelings hurt. So we try not to hurt others and make sure our words don't offend people.

Do you see what I mean? The Golden Rule can definitely make this world a better, nicer place to live in.

The question is often asked, Do you have to be a Christian to live by the Golden Rule? Obviously no. There are heathens who live by this rule and, I'm ashamed to say, a lot of them put a lot of us Christians to shame by their goodness and kindness. Unregenerate people can succeed at times in being nice under tense situations. But they can’t always be nice in these situations because they don’t have Christ’s power and strength that helps them to be nice. Human power and strength eventually runs out and when it does, unregenerate human nature takes over and a heathen will act like a heathen when he’s being pushed past his limits of human kindness or decency.

THE GOLDEN RULE MAKES YOU A BETTER PERSON AND A BETTER CHRISTIAN. It helps you quit being the same old you that you’ve always been by nature; it keeps you from being the heathen that you were before you got saved. On your own, it’s so hard to be nice when people are treating you rottenly. Unregenerate human nature wants to kick in and kick butt when your butt’s being kicked. The Rusty Rule is Treat people the same way they’re treating you. But what good does that do? It only aggravates, worsens, and prolongs the hurt and pain we feel and inflict.

Christ has a better way. His way. It takes His strength and power. You can only be so good for so long in your own power. Sadly, your power is feeble and fleeting, as is all of ours. We need Christ to live successfully and consistently by the Golden Rule. This is the good thing about the Golden Rule: it keeps us focused and dependent on Christ for His grace to be nice towards people at all times, even when they’re treating us badly. Being nice to people is a choice we make. And it’s a choice that takes power and strength. Christ gives us the power to be nice and He also gives us the desire or the want-to to want to be nice when, in our flesh, we’d love to give people a piece of our mind and a piece of their own medicine. Philippians 2:13 (CEV) reads, God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey him. GOD GIVES US THE WILLINGNESS AND THE POWER TO DO WHAT’S GOOD. That's why, when you don't feel like being good or being nice, you need to get alone with God and pray. He'll help you and give you the grace to be nice.

When you decide to do things God's way and respond respectfully and admirably by God's grace the Golden Rule makes you a better witness for Christ. When you’re keeping your cool and being nice when people are treating you badly, people are going to ask you how you can be so nice and kind in the face of evil. This gives you an opportunity to tell them that it’s the love and power of Christ in you. Give God the glory and let people know that it’s not you, but Christ in you that gives you the desire and power to be nice.

Here's another cool thing about the Golden Rule. THE GOLDEN RULE HAS A TRANSFORMING EFFECT ON SOME PEOPLE. When you treat people kindly—even though they’re being nasty and unkind to you—your kindness has a convicting and transforming effect on them. It convicts them and makes them start to feel sorry that they’re treating you that way. They look at your goodness and it makes them want to be good towards you in return. GOODNESS IS CONTAGIOUS. WHEN OTHER PEOPLE SEE LOVE AND KINDNESS IN ACTION, IT MAKES OTHER PEOPLE WANT TO START BEING LOVING AND KIND. Your goodness makes some people want to be like you: it makes them want to copy your righteous example.

Let me hasten to say that not everyone is going to be nice to you no matter how nice you are to them. Some people are just inveterate haters of you. They’ll never like you, they’ll never be your friend, they’ll never be nice to you. All your goodness to them will not change them. When this happens, you just got to keep being nice to them because the Golden Rule is this: you be nice to them because you want them to be nice to you.

Just so you know, THE GOLDEN RULE DOESN’T PROMISE OR GUARANTEE THAT PEOPLE WILL TREAT YOU THE SAME WAY YOU’RE TREATING THEM. The Golden Rule doesn’t deal with how people treat you: it deals with how you treat people. How people treat you is between them and God. They'll answer to God for it. What God's concerned about right now is how you treat people. He wants you to be nice and be a good witness for Him. So regardless of how people are treating you, you treat them right because that’s how you want to be treated. That's the Christian way.

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT

THREE LIFE-SAVING THINGS WE CAN DO FOR OURSELF

1. WALK THE STRAIT AND NARROW

You can’t save yourself. The only way you can be saved is for Jesus to save you. You can do anything and everything you want to do to try and get saved. But unless Jesus saves you, you’re not going to be saved.

There are things that Jesus requires you to do in order for Him to save you, such as believe on Him, confess your sins, repent of them, and ask Him to save Him. When you do these things, Jesus will save you.

You’re saved right now if you’ve given your life to Christ. But there are all sorts of things in this world that threaten to rob you of your salvation. And if you give in to these sins and refuse to give them up, then you’ll lose your salvation. Hebrews 6:4-6 (NLT) tells us, For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, (5) who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come— (6) and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing Him to the cross once again and holding Him up to public shame.

SALVATION CAN BE LOST. Therefore, you've got to work to keep, or hold on to, to your salvation. Stay with me here and focus, lest you be confused. You do not work to be saved. Salvation is a gift of God and only He can save you (Ephesians 2:8-9). But, like anything else that you get or receive in this world, you've got to safeguard what you've got so that it doesn't get lost, stolen, or destroyed. Revelation 3:11 speaks along this line. In this verse of Scripture Jesus counsels us, Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. So while you’re saved right now, it’s important for you to stay that way and not lose your salvation.

God will keep you saved. But just as in conversion, God asks you to do certain things that will enable Him to keep you saved. Jesus closes the Sermon on the Mount with life-saving things that we can do for ourselves that will keep us saved. He mentions three things in particular. The first life-saving thing that we can do for ourselves is walk the strait and narrow.

 

Matthew 7:13-14, Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: {14} Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT), "You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. (14) But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

 

HOW YOU VIEW LIFE AFFECTS THE WAY YOU LIVE IT.

*If death ends life; if there is no after-life, no consciousness after death; if there is no God, no Judge, no Heaven or Hell; then you’ll live life to the hilt and do whatever you want to do, live anyway you want, because there are no moral or eternal consequences to suffer.

*On the other hand, if there is a God, if there is life after death, if we continue living even after our body has died, and this life of continued existence is lived either in Heaven or Hell, if God is the Judge and He has the power to save us and send us to Heaven, or else damn us and send us to Hell; then we ought to live in holy fear of God, trust Him for salvation, then live the rest of our life in obedience and service to Him. If God holds the power of life and death in His hand, as He truly does; then we ought to do everything in our power to make sure that we don't force God to damn us because of our continual sinning.

One of the things we can do to hold on to our salvation is for us to walk the strait and narrow. Matthew 7:13-14 tells us that our life here on Earth is a journey. All of us—both saved and unsaved--are on a trip. There are two roads that we can take. Each road has its own destination. Each road takes us somewhere. One road takes us to Heaven, the other, to Hell.

Which is to say, there is life after death. At the end of our life’s journey, which is physical, bodily death; we’ll find either eternal life or eternal destruction. There is life after death. We continue living after we die. Death doesn’t end it all. It’s only the doorway to a different kind of existence where we’ll never die again. We’ll live eternally and forever—either in Heaven’s bliss or in Hell’s torments.

Remember that Jesus is talking to His disciples or followers, Matthew 5:1. You can be sure that there were a lot of curious on-lookers or soul-searchers in the crowd. But the whole of the sermon is addressed to Jesus’ disciples. They’re His followers. They’re believers already. So the Sermon of the Mount is all about Jesus teaching His disciples how He wants them to live in this world. We’ve spent a lot of time studying the sermon so we know how Jesus wants us to live in this world. The point I’m trying to make and help you understand is, Jesus is talking to people who are already saved.

Now that they’re saved, Jesus is telling them what to do next. Now that they’re saved, they’ve got to enter the strait and narrow. You see, they’re already saved. But they’re not on the strait and narrow yet. He’s telling them to get on the strait and narrow because they aren’t there yet. Conversion brought them to an interchange or exit whereby it took them off the broad road that leads to destruction and it brought them to the strait gate. Conversion has brought them to the gate. But they’ve got to make the decision to go through that gate.

Some of us have already made this decision to go through the strait gate and we’ve been spending our life walking the strait and narrow. But perhaps there are some of you who’ve just gotten saved, or who haven’t been told before, that you’ve got a decision to make. There are two roads in life that you can take: one takes to Heaven, the other, to Hell. Since you received Christ, you’ve been brought to the Strait Gate. But have you entered it? Are you walking the strait and narrow? Or are you walking the broad and smooth road that leads to Hell?

Just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you’ve gone thru the Strait Gate and are walking the strait and narrow. There are all sorts of Christians in this world who are walking the broad and smooth. They’re living in sin. They’re continuing to commit the same sins that they always committed when they were unsaved. They act and live every bit like a heathen, except that they occasionally go to church on Sunday and profess to be a Christian.

Christ saves you. But He doesn’t put you on the Strait and Narrow. That’s something you’ve got to do for yourself and on your own. When Jesus said, Enter, it means that’s something you’ve got to do. Jesus doesn’t do it for you. He doesn’t lift you up out of the mire of sin and automatically set on you the strait and narrow. He brings you to the gate. He wants you to go through the gate. It’s a decision that only you can make and Jesus isn’t going to make it for you.

If you’re not walking the strait and narrow, it’s because you haven’t gone through the gate. You’re a Christian. But you’re still walking on the broad road.

WHERE YOU END UP AT THE END OF YOUR LIFE WHEN YOU DIE IS DETERMINED BY WHICH ROAD YOU’VE WALKED, WHICH ROAD YOU’RE ON.

*If you’re on the strait and narrow, you’ll go where that road takes you—to Heaven and life.

*If you’re on the broad and wide, you’ll end up where that road takes you—and that’s to Hell and eternal tortures like you’ve never imagined.

You see, you can’t be on the broad and wide road and still end up in Heaven. You may be a Christian. You may be a believer. You may go to Church. But if you’re on the broad and wide road, you’re going to go wherever that road takes you. It’s like taking a road trip. If you’re in Warsaw Indiana and you take 15 South you’ll end up in Silver Lake. There’s no way you’re going to end up in Goshen because Goshen is North. You’re not heading North. You’re heading South. So when you go South you’re going to whatever’s South of Warsaw.

It’s the same way spiritually. You’ve got two roads to choose. One road heads north to Heaven. The other, south to Hell. When you choose to go south, you’re going to end up south in Hell because that’s where that road takes you. There’s not a snowball’s chance in Hell that you’re going to end up in Heaven when you’ve spent your entire road trip taking the southerly route. You may be a Christian. You may be a believer. You may go to Church. You might even be the church bus driver, deacon, or pastor. But if you’re on the road south, you’re going to end up where the south road takes you.

Your eternal destiny is not determined by what you were when you came to the Strait Gate. You may have been saved when you came to the Gate. But if you go decide you don’t want to go that route and you decide to continue on the broad and wide road that you’ve always been on; then you’re going to lose your salvation. NO ONE WHO’S ON THE BROAD AND WIDE IS GOING TO GET SAVED. NO ONE WHO’S ON THE BROAD AND WIDE IS GOING TO HEAVEN. Your conversion, or your decision to give your life to Jesus, brought you to the gate. It pointed you in the right direction. But if you don’t go through that gate and take the northerly route, you’re going to Hell screaming you’re a Christian and you’ll be a joining a myriad of Christians in Hell who swear they believe in Christ, but never walked the strait and narrow.

There’s a marked contrast between salvation (or conversion) and discipleship. Conversion is easy. It’s way too easy. All you have to do to be saved is believe in Christ, repent of your sins, and ask Jesus to be the Lord and Savior of your life. That is ridiculously easy. That’s how God wants it to be—so that it won’t be hard at all for anyone to get saved. Everybody can do this. Everybody can be saved. It’s just that easy.

But after conversion comes discipleship. Discipleship, in a nutshell, is following Jesus wherever He goes. Matthew 16:24, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Where do you think Jesus is going? What road do you think He’s on? Jesus isn’t taking you on the broad and wide that will take you to Hell. He’s not on the broad and wide. You won’t find Him there. Jesus is on the strait and narrow. If you aren’t following Jesus, then you’re not going to end up where Jesus is going.

There’s a marked contrast between conversion and discipleship. Conversion is ridiculously easy. But discipleship is tough. It’s really tough. The word 'strait' in Matthew 7:13-14 means narrow or constricted. It’s so narrow that it’s going to be difficult to get through it. Luke puts it this way in Luke 13:24, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. Many want to go to Heaven. But they’re not willing to pay the price to go through the narrow gate. They’ve got too much excess baggage of sin, the world, and the flesh that they’re just too fat to go through. They don’t want to lose the weight of sin. If you want to get in at the strait gate you’re going to have to work real hard to get in.

Then once you get in, the strait and narrow road is paved with trials and tribulations. Jesus lets us know that right from the start: He tells us what we’d be getting into. The road is filled with troubles that it’s really a tough road to travel on.

Don’t get me wrong. The Christian life isn’t nothing but trials and trouble. It’s rough and tough, yes, but it’s not always that way. There are times of refreshing. There are times when we’re aren’t going through any trials at the moment, we’re enjoying abundance, our health is good, we’ve got money to buy whatever we want, God’s answering our prayers, we’re feeling pretty close to God. It’s a wonderful life!

But the Christian life on the strait and narrow is paved with trials and suffering. Acts 14:22 reads, we must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God. The road is truly difficult and painful and that’s why not many people want to walk the strait and narrow.

Why does the Lord want us to walk the strait and narrow? Why does He make the road to Heaven so hard? Because the hardness of the way keeps us dependent on God to get us home. We want so much to make it to Heaven. But it seems as if everything is dead set against us, trying to stop us from getting there. The only way we’re going to get home is if God keeps us alive, gives us His grace and power to walk the walk and bring us safely to the promised land. In conversion you’re depending entirely on God to save you. In discipleship you’re depending entirely on God to keep you saved.

Here's a question for you. What have life’s trials done to you? We all hate trials. We don’t like them. We hate them. We’re scared of them. We don’t want them. We’ll run from them. But as we go through them with God’s help we find that the trials of the strait and narrow are good for us. They keep us trusting in God. They keep us praying. They keep us hopeful of God’s miracles. They keep us clinging to God because we know that without God we’ll never make it through this trial. We’ll never make it through life without God’s help. God can get us through the trials. He can bring us home. Are you depending on Him to do that? Or have you let life's trials turn you away from God? Have the rigors of the strait and narrow made you travel on the smooth and broad road that leads to Hell?

The kind of life that you're living right now is a pretty good indicator of where you're going to end up when you die. So, take it from me and the Lord. Do not be surprised or uncertain about where you're going when you die. You've chosen the course. You've taken the road. The road will take you to wherever it takes you. Just don't expect to live with God if you've lived and died without Him. Living with Him forever means living with Him now on the strait and narrow.

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT

THREE LIFE-SAVING THINGS WE CAN DO FOR OURSELF

2. WATCH WHO WE FOLLOW AND LISTEN TO

 

Matthew 7:15-20, Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. {16} Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? {17} Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. {18} A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. {19} Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. {20} Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Luke 6:43-45, For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. {44} For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. {45} A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. Matthew 7:15-20 (CEV), Watch out for false prophets! They dress up like sheep, but inside they are wolves who have come to attack you. (16) You can tell what they are by what they do. No one picks grapes or figs from thornbushes. (17) A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. (18) A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. (19) Every tree that produces bad fruit will be chopped down and burned. (20) You can tell who the false prophets are by their deeds.

 

Jesus closes His sermon on the mount by giving us three life-saving things that we can do for ourself. We've looked at the first one already. Now we want to look at the second thing we can do to keep ourself saved and that is beware of false prophets.

First off, Jesus' admonition here for us to beware of the people or leaders that we listen to plainly tells us that BELIEFS ARE IMPORTANT. THEY SHAPE OR DETERMINE OUR CONDUCT, BEHAVIOR, AND LIFESTYLE. We do what we do because of what we believe. Beliefs determine action. For example, if we believe that we can’t ever be damned once we get saved, then some of us will continue to sin and persist in sinful habits or addictions because we believe God will always forgive us and He’ll never damn us because we’re saved. You see, our conduct, behavior, and lifestyle of continuing to engage in sinful behaviors is a direct result of our mindset or belief. BELIEFS DETERMINE ACTION. That’s why what we believe is so important. YOU’RE NOT GOING TO CHANGE YOUR ACTION, BEHAVIOR, OR LIFESTYLE UNTIL YOU FIRST CHANGE THE BELIEF/S THAT’S GIVING RISE TO IT.

Because beliefs determine action, then FALSE BELIEFS OR WRONG DOCTRINES HAVE A HARMFUL EFFECT ON US. In the most severest of cases, wrong beliefs have a damnable effect on us: they will damn us and send us to hell. In the example I just cited, so many Christians use the the Once-Saved-Always-Saved doctrine as a justification or impetus to continue sinning. And when we continue sinning we’ll get damned, not saved (Matthew 7:23).

Now let me hasten to say that I’m talking about the most severest of cases. JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE WRONG ABOUT SOMETHING THAT YOU BELIEVE DOESN’T AUTOMATICALLY MEAN YOU’RE GOING TO HELL. All of us have, at one time or another, believed things that were wrong. This is due to our ignorance or, in some cases, we were just plain deceived. But JUST BECAUSE WE’RE WRONG DOESN’T MEAN WE’RE DAMNED. The wrong doctrine that we believe has to be substantial enough to seriously and adversely affect the way we live or the things we do.

When we’re wrong about something God’s first course of action is not to damn us. The first thing He does is He tries to correct us and enlighten us to the truth. That’s part of the reason why He’s given us the Holy Spirit. In John 16:13 Jesus promised that the Spirit would guide us into all truth. That means that everything we presently believe is not necessarily the truth. There are some things that we believe right now that aren’t true. So the Spirit of God goes right to work and opens our eyes, our mind, and heart, to see the truth so that we’ll embrace it and get rid of the wrong doctrine that we once believed was true.

Getting back to the point, wrong doctrines have a harmful effect on us. And in the most severest of cases, wrong doctrines can get us damned. So one of the life-saving things that Jesus would have us do is be on the lookout for false spiritual leaders that would lead us astray with false doctrines.

Jesus talks about false prophets in Matthew 7:15. A prophet in Old Testament times was a seer. That is, he was especially gifted by God to see into, or know, the future. The prophet would warn God’s people about what was going to happen and this, in turn, was supposed to motivate God’s people to repent and do everything in their power to avert future calamity.

A prophet is not just a seer, but more generally speaking, in language that we would understand, a prophet is a preacher who proclaims the word of the Lord. He is a minister, teacher, pastor, or public speaker who tells people what God’s Word says. This is the kind of prophet that Jesus is talking about here in Matthew 7. He’s not talking about seers necessarily. He’s talking about anyone who has the people’s ears.

 

WHAT MAKES A FALSE PROPHET OR PREACHER FALSE

Though he claims to speak for God, a false prophet doesn’t really speak for God. God isn’t speaking to him. No matter what he says to the contrary, the guy isn’t hearing from God. He says things like, “Thus saith the Lord,” or “The Lord showed me,” or “God told me.” But the truth of the matter is, God hasn’t told him to say what he’s saying to the people. GOD DOESN’T INSPIRE OR ANOINT HIS SERVANTS TO PREACH WRONG DOCTRINE AND LEAD GOD’S PEOPLE ASTRAY FROM THE TRUTH.

A false prophet doesn’t walk with God. That is, he’s not walking in the Spirit. He doesn’t have the intimate relationship with God that every true child of God is supposed to have. Instead of being in the Spirit, a false prophet is in the flesh. He’s being motivated by his fleshly spirit, not God’s Spirit.

A false prophet is motivated by a fleshly, unholy, ungodly spirit.

(a) A lot of times a false prophet is motivated by popularity. He wants to establish a cultic following. He wants to gather a lot of people around himself and become their supreme leader.

(b) A false prophet is out to control people’s mind and behavior. He wants to dictate every thing they believe and do. He’s on a power trip.

(c) A false prophet is motivated by money. He wants to become rich by getting all his followers to give him their wealth. He impoverishes them in order to support his lavish lifestyle.

(d) A false prophet is deceived and oppressed by a demonic spirit. The devil’s using him to spread lies and wrong doctrines. So a false prophet is not a minister of God, but rather, a minister of Satan. That’s why Jesus refers to him as a ravening wolf in Matthew 7:15. A ravening wolf is a mad, vicious, hungry animal. He’ll literally eat you up. He’s not your friend. He isn’t there to help you. He’s close to you because he wants to eat you up and profit or gorge himself on you.

 

HOW A FALSE MINISTER DECEIVES AND LEADS PEOPLE ASTRAY

A false preacher works and succeeds by subtlety or deception. He fools you into thinking he’s okay, he’s one of you, he’s just like you. He tries and fool the sheep by dressing and looking like a sheep. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 (NLT) warns us, These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. (14) But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. (15) So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve. A false prophet isn’t going to show you his real self or his true colors. He hides his true motives and intents because he wants to first of all gain your trust, your ear, your acceptance, your affection, your confidence, your loyalty, your following. Once he has your ear and mind and heart, he has you. That’s when his true colors begin to show.

A false prophet creates doubt or confusion. He gets you to question what you believe and tries to convince you that what you believe isn’t true, it isn’t biblical, it isn’t right. Remember how the serpent started off his temptation of Eve? His first very words to Eve in Genesis 3:1 were, Yea, hath God said? He gets Eve to question God’s Word. Once Eve starts to question God’s Word, Satan comes outright and denies God’s Word: Ye shall not surely die, Genesis 3:4. He makes God look like He’s wrong, unreasonable, or unfair: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

A false prophet fools you into thinking that he’s right, he’s got something really good to offer you, you’ll be a lot better off if you follow him. In Genesis 3:6, Eve looked at the forbidden fruit and the more she looked at it the more she saw how good it would be for her to eat it. She’d have a whole lot to gain if she ate it.

 

HOW TO RECOGNIZE FALSE SPIRITUAL LEADERS

Before I get too far along, you have to understand that NOT EVERY SPIRITUAL LEADER IS A TRUE, GOD-SENT, GOD-ANOINTED SPIRITUAL LEADER. He may be a good and gifted leader. He may even be a professing Christian. But just because he’s a minister of God doesn’t mean he’s a true minister of God. DON’T BLINDLY, GULLIBLY BELIEVE AND FOLLOW EVERY TOM, DICK, AND HARRY OF A SPIRITUAL LEADER THAT COMES YOUR WAY. NOT EVERYONE WHO LOOKS LIKE A SHEEP IS REALLY A SHEEP. THERE ARE SOME SHEEPISH-LOOKING CHRISTIANS WHO ARE NOT SHEEP!

QUESTION THE PEOPLE OR THE MINISTERS YOU LISTEN TO AND FOLLOW. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to question them. That is your right! God commends you for being discerning and questioning, or testing, everything you’re being told. Acts 17:11 tells us about the people of Berea, These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. GOD WANTS YOU TO QUESTION EVEN A TRUE MINISTER OF GOD! He commended the Bereans for putting the apostle Paul to the test! His commendation plainly tells me that He's not going to chide or chastise you for questioning a true minister of God. You need to question and discern everyone you listen to, including me. Don’t swallow everything I tell you without examining it and judging it by God’s Word. People—even well-meaning ministers like myself—can be wrong. But God’s Word is never wrong. That’s why you need to stay with God’s Word and judge everything you hear by that Word. Whenever a preacher tells you you’re wrong to question or challenge him, whenever a minister makes you feel bad for questioning him, that preacher’s wrong.

JUST BECAUSE YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOU BELIEVE DOESN’T MEAN YOU’RE RIGHT. YOUR BELIEFS DON’T MAKE YOU RIGHT. JUST BECAUSE A MINISTER SAYS IT OR TEACHES IT DOESN’T MEAN HE’S RIGHT. HIS MESSAGE DOESN’T MAKE HIM RIGHT. WHO HE IS—HIS NAME, HIS TITLE, HIS OFFICE OR ANOINTING—DOESN’T MAKE HIM RIGHT. A person is right only when what he believes and teaches lines up with God’s Word. You may be a Christian. A minister may be a true minister of God. But if we believe something that contradicts God’s Word, then we’re wrong at that point. Isaiah 8:20 tells us, To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

The only way you can really be sure if you’re right, or if a minister is right, is if you know God’s Word. YOUR IGNORANCE OF GOD’S WORD, YOUR LAZINESS OR DISINTEREST IN READING AND STUDYING GOD’S WORD, WILL GET YOU DECEIVED. You’ll be wrong a lot of times because you don’t know any better. IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT’S RIGHT, YOU WON’T KNOW WHAT’S WRONG. IF YOU DON’T KNOW GOD’S WORD YOU WON’T KNOW WHO’S RIGHT AND WHO’S WRONG. So, really, the life-saving thing that Jesus wants you to do for yourself is get into God’s Word, know your Bible, and know the God of the Bible. If you do that, you won’t be deceived by anyone—true or false.

Don’t just look at a preacher’s doctrine: look at his fruit. The results of his message and ministry, his personal life, his home life, the lives of the people who follow him; are all telltale signs of his true nature. Jesus said we would know them by their fruit. IF THE FRUIT IS BAD, THE GUY’S BAD. So what are some of the things that would be considered bad fruit?

*The guy engages in sinful, immoral, unethical, or criminal actions; i.e. he is a pedophile, an adulterer, he's physically abusive towards his wife, children, and others; he's got anger issues; he’s a tax evader or tax cheat; etc.

*The guy is all about money; he’s always asking for money, he fleeces the flock and uses them to finance his lavish lifestyle or grandiose dreams; he spends more time talking about money than teaching the Word of God; he charges people for ministries that should be free, like praying for them, healing them, etc.

*The guy uses mind control, intimidation, and enticement to control people and amass a cultic following; he’s making disciples for himself, not God; he points people to himself, not God; he speaks freely of his visions and teachings more than God’s Word; he threatens his followers with dire consequences if they question, resist, or abandon him; he entices his followers with promises that he cannot possibly fulfill.

*The guy teaches things that God doesn’t teach; i.e. he sets an exact date and time for Jesus’ return; he's anti-semite; he promotes racial bigotry; he teaches that sexual sin isn't sinful, wrong, or damnable; and the like.

Pray and ask God for wisdom to discern and know who’s right and who’s wrong. Ask God to keep you from being gullible and deceived. If you go to God and listen to Him, HE WILL NEVER LEAD YOU ASTRAY. HE’LL SHOW YOU WHO, OR WHAT, TO AVOID. But He can’t show you if you aren’t listening. PRAYER, OR YOUR DEPENDENCE ON GOD, WILL PRESERVE YOU FROM ERROR AND FALSE PREACHERS.

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT

THREE LIFE-SAVING THINGS WE CAN DO FOR OURSELF

3. OBEY GOD

Jesus concludes His lengthy Sermon on the Mount by giving us three life-saving things that we can do for ourself: (1) walk the strait and narrow; (2) watch out for false religious leaders and ministers; (3) and now, in the third place, if we want to go to Heaven when we die we need to be doing God’s will.

 

Matthew 7:21-23, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. {22} Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? {23} And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Luke 6:46, And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Matthew 7:21-23 (NASB), "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. (22) "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' (23) "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'

 

These three verses, in my opinion, are the scariest verses for a Christian because they tell us in no uncertain terms that MANY PROFESSING CHRISTIANS WHO BELIEVE THEY’LL GO TO HEAVEN WHEN THEY DIE WILL HAVE A RUDE AWAKENING AND THE SHOCK OF THEIR LIFE WHEN OUR LORD SENDS THEM TO HELL INSTEAD.

Why will the Lord send these Christians to hell? (1) Because they’ve not done the will of God. They lived their lives in disobedience to God and neglected to do His will; and (2) they worked iniquity, that is, they continued to live a life of sin, continued living like the heathen. Instead of quitting sinning, they persisted in sin. FRIENDS, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO EXPECT GOD TO OPEN HEAVEN’S GATES TO YOU IF YOU LIVE IN DISOBEDIENCE TO GOD AND CONTINUE TO SIN AND DO THOSE THINGS THAT DISHONOR AND DISPLEASE OUR LORD.

Two things shock and frighten me about the Christians who God will send to hell. First, these unwary, unsuspecting hell-bound Christians called and considered Jesus their Lord; they worked for the Lord, engaged in Christian ministry or leadership; they prophesied and preached the word of the Lord; they cast out devils; and they did many wonderful works—not just a few or a handful, but many—they performed lots of signs and wonders; they did miracles of healing, deliverance, and who knows what else.

Notice Jesus didn’t deny that they did these things. So what these Christians said and did were true. They did all these things that they said they did. So they were very effective and successful in Christian ministry and many people were saved, healed, and delivered through them.

Most frightening perhaps is the fact that these people did way more for God than anyone of us has done to date. They did many things that most of us have not done even once as far as healing or casting out demons are concerned. These hell-bound Christians put us to shame by how much they did and how successful they were in their witness and ministry.

Yet, in spite of all they accomplished, they find themselves barred from Heaven because they lived a double life. They worked for the Lord and continued to sin on the side. They professed to be Christians, yet continued to live and act like heathens.


The second thing that really frightens me about these hell-bound Christians is the fact that they are not a handful or an insignificant minority. They are not a few among many. They are not the oddballs or the exceptions to the rule. Jesus said many shall say unto Me. Brethren, there are many among us—I’m talking about the world-wide church; I’m talking about all of us Christians who are in every nation in the world; there are many among us who will not step on streets of gold, who will not live in heavenly mansions, who will not spend eternity in Heaven. And if there are many among us, then we must ask ourselves, “Am I one of the many Christians who will end up in hell?” That is truly a scary thought and it ought to motivate us to do everything in our power to make sure we are not one of the many who will be barred from Heaven, but one of the few who find, and walk, the strait and narrow. Jesus said in Matthew 7:14, Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth to life; and FEW there be can find it.

 

SOME OF GOD'S CONDITIONS TO BE SAVED

THE FACT THAT GOD SENDS THESE DISOBEDIENT CHRISTIANS TO HELL TELLS US THAT NOT EVERYONE WHO PROFESSES TO BE A CHRISTIAN, OR WHO’S HAD A CONVERSION EXPERIENCE, WILL GO TO HEAVEN. This stands in stark contrast to the only condition that many Christians believe is the only thing you need to do to be saved and go to Heaven, and that is, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved (Acts 16:31); whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13); and whosoever believeth on Jesus shall not perish but shall have life everlasting (John 3:16).

But God couldn’t say everything at one time or in one verse. He laid out a lot of conditions for salvation in other verses of Scripture and these verses that we just read in Matthew 7 are a perfect illustration of the fact that, while you need to believe in Christ to be saved, that nevertheless is not the only thing you need to do to be saved. There are other things you need to do to be saved. Like what?

*Do the will of God. Matthew 7:21, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

*Abstain from sin and iniquity. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (NLT), Don't you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, (10) or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.

*Walk the strait and narrow. Matthew 7:13-14, Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: (14) Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

*Don’t believe wrong doctrine. 1 Timothy 4:1 (NIV), The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.

*Live a holy life. Hebrews 12:14, Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

*Confess the Lord before men and not deny Him. Matthew 10:32-33, Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. (33) But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

*Live the crucified life. Luke 14:27, And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. Galatians 6:7-8 (NLT), Don't be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. (8) Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.

*Persevere or endure to the very end. Matthew 10:22, He that endureth to the end shall be saved.

The point is many people limit salvation to believing on Christ. And since that’s all they need to do to be saved, then there’s nothing else they need to do to be saved. They’re saved already. They’re going to Heaven. So now they can relax, breathe a sigh of relief that they’ve escaped the fires of hell, then go back to living the heathen lifestyle that they’ve always lived.

Jesus is here correcting this mistaken notion of salvation and He’s telling us as clearly as He can say that, yes, salvation and Heaven begin with believing. But it doesn’t stop there. Believing isn’t the only thing you need to do to be saved. You need to mix actions with your faith. You need to act like you believe. You need to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. You need to live your life in obedience to God and do His will.

 

THE PERIL AND DANGER OF DISOBEDIENCE

In case you didn't already know it, or if no one has ever told you, let me tell you that A LIFESTYLE OF DISOBEDIENCE IS DAMNABLE. Don't let me frighten you unnecessarily and don't be confused. One act of disobedience may not necessarily be damnable. Just because you sinned once doesn’t mean you’re going to hell. Repentance and forgiveness are God’s provision to save you from hell and avert the hellish consequences of sin and disobedience.

But one continuing act of disobedience—if you spend the rest of your life disobeying God; then that life of disobedience is certainly damnable.

The only thing that will save you from hell—the only life-saving thing you can do for yourself—is give that sin up, turn away from it, then spend the rest of your life in obedience and holiness unto God. IF YOU PERSIST IN SIN, THAT SIN WILL KILL YOU. And the fact that you’ve had a conversion experience, the fact that you’re a minister, or a successful Christian worker or an effective witness or evangelist; the fact that you call Jesus your Lord and consider yourself a Christian; that fact that you fully expect to go to Heaven when you die; will not save you from hell. Sin will send you to hell and the only way it won’t is if you give it up, quit doing it, and start obeying God.

Being a Christian is two things: (1) it’s a personal relationship with Jesus whereby you give your life to Christ and walk and commune with Him; you follow Him; you have an intimate relationship with Him; and (2) it’s a life. It’s not a one-time act called conversion, but rather, it’s a way of life; a Christian lifestyle; a life devoted to obeying, serving, and pleasing God—not Self. Here’s an analogy that Jesus gave us to help us understand the importance of living a life of obedience of God.

 

Matthew 7:24-27, Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: {25} And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. {26} And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: {27} And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. Luke 6:47-49, Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like: {48} He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. {49} But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great. Matthew 7:24-27 (CEV), Anyone who hears and obeys these teachings of mine is like a wise person who built a house on solid rock. (25) Rain poured down, rivers flooded, and winds beat against that house. But it did not fall, because it was built on solid rock. (26) Anyone who hears my teachings and doesn't obey them is like a foolish person who built a house on sand. (27) The rain poured down, the rivers flooded, and the winds blew and beat against that house. Finally, it fell with a crash.

 

All throughout your life you’re building a house. Your house may be nice, it may be built well and furnished with the finest furnishings that money can buy, it may have the greatest surroundings or scenery; yours may be the nicest, richest, fanciest house in the neighborhood. You can spend your life building yourself a nice house. But it’s the foundation that you build on that determines whether your house will last or not.

You can build on only one of two foundations: you can build on rock or you can build on sand. A house built on rock will survive the storms and trials of life. A house built on sand will crumble when the trials come. Brethren, storms will come. You can’t stop them or get away from them. Storms will come and threaten your house. No matter how nice and how rich your house may be, the only thing that determines whether your house stands or crumbles is the foundation you build on.

How do you build a storm-proof house? How do you build a house that will stand and not crumble when the tornado of trials come along? You build on rock. How do you do that? You obey God. If you’re obeying God you’re building your house on the rock. If you’re not obeying God you’re building your house on sand.

The difference between salvation and damnation, Heaven and hell, standing and crumbling; is obedience to the will of God. Are you obeying God? Or are you holding on to a cherished sin? Are you loving it and refusing to give it up? Then consider yourself warned by the Lord. CONTINUING DISOBEDIENCE IS DAMNABLE. The sin you love and persist in will damn you. And nothing—not your conversion, not your good works, not your Christian profession—will save you from hell. Do you want to go to Heaven when you die? Then give the sin up and dedicate your life to obeying the Lord.

No one of us is guaranteed tomorrow. Today is the day of salvation. If you die today, where will God send you? To Heaven or hell? We all know where you want to go, where you hope and expect to go. But there’s one way you can know for sure where you’re going when you die and that is, are you doing the will of God? If so, you’re going to Heaven. But if you’re disobeying God and persisting in sin, even though you’re working hard for the Lord and “living for Him,” then you need of be reminded once again that when you sin, the pay you get is death (Romans 6:23 NIrV).

Don’t fool yourself. You're certainly not fooling God. Galatians 6:7-8 (NLT) tells us, Don't be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. (8) Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.

Friends, TAKE JESUS SERIOUSLY. YOUR LIFE REALLY DOES DEPEND ON IT! Live for God. It's the best possible life you can life and it's a life you will not regret.

 

JESUS' SERMON ON THE MOUNT

THE PEOPLE'S RESPONSE TO JESUS' SERMON

Matthew 7:28-29, And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: {29} For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Matthew 7:28-29 (ESV), 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.

 

Jesus’ teaching astonished the people. It was unlike any teaching that they had ever heard. He taught with authority. The scribes didn’t teach like this at all. They were constantly quoting the rabbis and a lot of times, the rabbis had different or conflicting opinions on a certain matter. It made people confused as to who was right and who was wrong. Jesus didn’t quote the rabbis. He quoted the Scriptures, then He expounded the very heart of what the Scriptures said. He brought out the true intents of the Law. Jesus' authoritativeness is what set Him apart from all the teachers of His day.

In our day, authoritativeness is something that a lot of people hate and disdain. It's gotten a bad rap because it makes it look like we Bible-believing Christians are bigoted and hateful. Perhaps now you can better understand why a lot of people hated Jesus. He was just too intolerant for them! I'm not one for intolerance or hatred. But you can't help people when you withhold the truth from them. People need to know, they need to be told, that there is no other name given among men whereby men can be saved (Acts 4:12). There is only one way to God and that is through Jesus (John 14:6). There is only one true God, one true religion, one Truth. That might seem bigoted to you, but that's what God says, so you've got to deal with God about it.

In the pluralistic, anti-christian age in which we live, it's such a temptation to water down the truth and make it palatable, agreeable, and as politically-correct as possible. Jesus and the Jews lived in a world where Rome tried to outlaw Judaism with its monotheistic worldview and replace it with a pluralism that accommodated every imaginable god and belief system. Jesus understood that the truth was not something you tampered with: you don't bend it to suit every person's fancy. He taught the truth without compromising or watering it down. And He taught it authoritatively. Brethren, don't be afraid to speak the truth. Be loving, Christlike, and humble. But proclaim the truth authoritatively and let the world be amazed again.

 

JESUS HEALS A ROMAN CENTURION'S SERVANTFN

 

Luke 7:1-10, Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. {2} And a certain centurion’sFN servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.FN {3} And when he heard of Jesus,FN he sent unto him the elders of the Jews,FN beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. {4} And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: {5} For he loveth our nation,FN and he hath built us a synagogue.FN {6} Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself:FN for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: {7} Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee:AN but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. {8} For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. {9} When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him,FN and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. {10} And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.FN

Luke 7:1-10 (NIV),  When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum.  (2)  There a centurion's servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die.  (3)  The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.  (4)  When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this,  (5)  because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue."  (6)  So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.  (7)  That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.  (8)  For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."  (9)  When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, "I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel."  (10)  Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

Matthew 8:5-13 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, (6) And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. (7) And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. (8) The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. (9) For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. (10) When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. (11) And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. (12) But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (13) And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour. Matthew 8:5-13 (NASB), And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, (6) and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented." (7) Jesus *said to him, "I will come and heal him." (8) But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. (9) "For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it." (10) Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, "Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. (11) "I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; (12) but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (13) And Jesus said to the centurion, "Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed that very moment.

 

Having finished His discourse on the mount, Jesus went back into Capernaum. Now a centurion had a slave whom he loved dearlyFN who was at the point of death. Hearing about Jesus and regarding himself unworthy to speak with Jesus, he sent some of the local Jewish rulers to petition Jesus on his behalf. Jesus consented and while they were on their way to the house, they were met by another company from the centurion. The man considered himself unworthy to have Jesus enter his house, so he asked Jesus to just speak a word right where He was and his servant would be healed. Jesus marveled at the greatness of this man’s faith. Brethren, Jesus found no greater faith in Israel!FN

Some of us are content to have a small amount of faith. We want only enough faith to get the job done. Others of us long to have great faith. How we would love to hear our Lord commend us for the greatness of our faith! If you aspire to great faith, here are some pointers to get you going in the right direction. Be forewarned, however, that, as in any area of greatness—be it in entertainment, sports, education, or science; greatness takes work. You work at it. And the more you work at it, the more you find faith comes easily.

 

GREAT FAITH: DEPENDING SOLELY ON JESUS' WORD

What made the Roman centurion's faith so great? Well, the greatness of his faith laid in the fact that he was content for Jesus to speak the word of healing. He didn’t need Jesus at the servant’s bedside, nor did he need to see Jesus do anything. He didn’t need a touch. He didn’t even need to hear Jesus speak a word. All he wanted or needed was for Jesus to speak a word and his servant would be healed. Great faith, I'm saying, is depending on Jesus to speak a word. That's all He need do. That's all that's needed for a miracle.

Brethren, IF YOU WANT TO HAVE GREAT FAITH, BE CONTENT WITH A SPOKEN WORD AND LET THE WORD BE SUFFICIENT. WHEN ALL YOU WANT FROM JESUS IS A WORD, THAT, MY FRIENDS, IS GREAT FAITH.

Brethren, you don’t need to have a good feeling, an anointing, improved circumstances, or an outward sign in order to believe. These things are nice to have. But faith isn’t dependent on them. Their absence doesn’t mean faith can’t be exercised, nor does it mean a miracle can’t happen. All you need to believe and see, or receive, an answer to prayer is God’s Word.

Many are waiting to hear from God before they will believe or ask God concerning a need. They want to hear an audible voice or receive an inward witness before they ask. Brethren, the centurion didn’t need to hear Jesus speak the word. Whether he heard Jesus speak the word or not was entirely beside the point. His servant would be healed because Jesus spoke the word—not because the centurion himself heard Jesus speak it. Do you see what I mean? The centurion didn’t hear what Jesus said. The sick servant himself didn’t hear what Jesus said. But the servant was healed nonetheless, without ever hearing the spoken word, because it was what Jesus said—not what the centurion or servant heard—that wrought the healing. Do you see what I mean? It’s the word that Jesus speaks, not the word you hear, that gets you healed. Brethren, if you want to have great faith like the centurion, rest confidently in the fact that Jesus will speak the word: you don’t need to hear Him speak it. Just because you don’t hear it doesn’t mean He hasn’t spoken it!

Like I said, many are looking for a rhema from Heaven, that is, an audible voice or a clear indication from God that He wants to answer their prayer and do whatever they need Him to do. Friends, God has already spoken His Word! His rhema has already been given to you! It’s the written Word, the Bible. The Bible is God’s revelation of His will to you. God’s audible voice or His inward witness to your spirit today isn’t going to contradict what He’s said in His Word (2 Timothy 2:13). God doesn’t contradict His Word! If God said, Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13), then He’s not going to tell you today that He doesn’t want to save you. If He said, The prayer of faith shall heal the sick (James 5:15), then He’s not going to tell you today that He doesn’t want to heal you even if you do have faith. Do you see what I mean? GOD’S WILL FOR YOU TODAY IS THE SAME WILL THAT HE’S ALREADY REVEALED TO YOU IN THE BIBLE. If you want to know what God’s will is in a matter, instead of waiting for a rhema, read the Bible and stay with what the Bible says. What the Bible says is God’s will. It’s God’s answer to your question or need. God has already spoken the word!

Lastly, please note that space and distance don’t prevent Jesus from working a miracle. Jesus wasn’t at the centurion’s home. He wasn’t at the servant’s bedside. But the servant was nonetheless healed because Jesus didn’t need to be there to heal him. All Jesus needed to do to heal the servant was speak a word and no matter how close or how far away Jesus was from the sick servant, the servant would nonetheless be healed. Jesus’ word would travel the distance and do what Jesus sent His word to do.

Brethren, THE FACT THAT JESUS ISN’T HERE ON EARTH TODAY IN BODILY FORM, OR THE FACT THAT YOU DON’T FEEL HIS PRESENCE BY YOUR BEDSIDE, DOESN’T MEAN A MIRACLE CAN’T HAPPEN TO YOU. HIS ABSENCE DOESN’T MEAN HIS REFUSAL OR INABILITY TO HEAL YOU! MY FRIENDS, DISTANCE DOESN’T HAMPER JESUS’ ABILITY OR WILLINGNESS TO HEAL! No matter how far away Jesus may seem to you, His word will go the distance and heal you. All you’ve got to do is believe.

 

GREAT FAITH: RECOGNIZING JESUS' AUTHORITY

As a military commander, the Roman centurion knew that all he needed to do to get something done was speak a word and the soldiers under his command would obey. They had to because that’s what being under authority is all about—it’s about obeying the orders of a higher authority.

Now if this was what happened in the natural realm, why would it be any different in the spiritual realm? As far as the centurion was concerned, there wasn’t any difference. What works in the military works in the spiritual. Authority is authority and the bottom line is, things get done when authority speaks.

You see, the centurion knew Jesus was a Man of authority. Sicknesses and demons had to obey His word because they were all under His authority. No sickness—even if it was life threatening—could withstand, resist, or defy Jesus’ authority. The centurion, I am saying, had great faith in Jesus’ spoken word because he recognized who Jesus was. And in acknowledging Jesus’ authority he understood that sicknesses had to go when Jesus told them to go.

My friends, YOU’LL QUIT ENTERTAINING THOUGHTS OF DOUBT OR FEAR A WHOLE LOT SOONER WHEN YOU, LIKE THE CENTURION, RECOGNIZE THE AUTHORITY JESUS HAS OVER ALL SICKNESSES.

You know, the centurion really loved his servant, he was concerned about him. But he wasn’t worried about how the sickness would end because he recognized that even when it came to severe paralysis and the threat of death, nothing can kill when Jesus has spoken words of healing and life. Brethren, it just doesn’t matter what kind of sickness it is—even if it’s life threatening or life long—you won’t get worried or scared when you understand that all sicknesses are under Jesus authority and power to heal. Sicknesses cannot remain in or on your body against Jesus’ word. They cannot stay when Jesus has told them to go. Brethren, SICKNESSES DON’T HAVE THE FINAL WORD CONCERNING YOUR BODY AND HEALTH. JESUS DOES AND THEY MUST OBEY HIM. BUT, LIKE THE CENTURION, IT TAKES FAITH TO SEE IT HAPPEN.

I think we’ve made believing unnecessarily difficult and challenging. We’re too busy looking at the difficult, if not impossible, nature of the circumstances we’re faced it. With the difficult comes the doubt and fear. No wonder why it’s so difficult for many of us to believe!

Faith doesn’t have to be difficult. At heart, it’s really simple and easy. It boils down to this one thing. Do you know who Jesus is? Do you acknowledge His authority over everyone and everything? Great faith is when you realize that Jesus wields authority over all and nothing, but nothing—not even the worst of your impossible circumstances—can withstand or defy Jesus’ authority. Even the impossible must bow in obedience and obey Jesus’ Word.

Many of us Christians mentally assent to the truths of Bible and Christianity. We know that Jesus is God. He’s Lord over all. He’s omnipotent. But there’s a disconnect between the things we say we know and the reality we live in. For too many of us, Jesus is as dumbfounded and powerless as the doctors to heal. He’s busy trying to find a cure for whatever it is that ails us. That’s the Jesus many of us have and it’s no wonder why we have a hard time believing for a miracle.

Friends, when we enthrone Jesus on the throne of His authority and recognize the sufficiency of Jesus’ Word, the sufficiency of His authority—when we know the real Jesus and accept Him as He really is—faith won’t ever be hard again. We won’t have problems with fear and doubt. All we need is Jesus. And with Jesus around, we know by faith that everything will be alright. Everything will turn out right.

 

GREAT FAITH: RESTING IN THE KNOWLEDGE THAT NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE

We're looking at the greatness of the centurion's faith. We've seen that his faith was rooted in his recognition of Jesus' authority. Now I'd like for us to take a close look at the guy’s faith because he puts so many of us educated, learned, established believers to shame.

What’s he believing? He’s believing that Jesus can heal paralysis. How do you heal paralysis? It’s so difficult to heal paralysis in our day. But in Jesus’ day, it was impossible. You just don’t think about being healed of paralysis. You don’t dream about it. You don’t go there. Because it’s not going to happen. Paralysis is something you live with for the rest of your life. You just quit dreaming, get over it, and learn to live with it.

But not this centurion! HE BELIEVES JESUS CAN HEAL SOMETHING THAT’S MEDICALLY INCURABLE!

What’s incurable to you? Better yet, what’s incurable to God? What can’t God heal or cure? Nothing, you say. That’s why, FOR A BELIEVER, THERE OUGHT TO BE NOTHING INCURABLE TO YOU. Call the disease by whatever name you want. Cancer. AIDS. Heart disease. Arthritis. Diabetes. We’re all frightened by the name of the disease. The incurable, terminal nature of a disease is what keeps so many of us from believing for healing. IF YOU BELIEVE SOMETHING IS INCURABLE, IT WILL BE INCURABLE TO YOU. Even though the centurion’s servant was dying and on the verge of death, the centurion still believed that Jesus could heal him. With a faith like this, Jesus marveled and healed the guy’s servant. And in doing so, Jesus showed him and all of us that NOTHING IS INCURABLE TO GOD. NOTHING IS INCURABLE TO FAITH. IF YOU BELIEVE, NOTHING IS INCURABLE TO YOU!

The fact that this Gentile centurion believes Jesus can heal something that’s incurable is admirable enough. But what’s even more astounding yet is the fact that he believes Jesus can heal his servant even though his servant is getting ready to die! Look at Luke 7:2 with me. And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. When we’re staring death in the face most of us pretty much give up believing. We quit praying for healing or a miracle because it’s just a matter of time before the dying person dies.

The Roman centurion refused to accept death. He refused to do nothing. He saw in Jesus the hope of healing even though death was imminent. Wow! What an example of faith to us! We look at pending death and say it isn’t God’s will to heal him. God wants to take her home. That may well be. But the incident here shows us that NOT ALL LIFE-AND-DEATH SICKNESSES ARE PROOF OF GOD’S WILL TO TAKE HIS DYING CHILDREN HOME. God sometimes lets His children go down to death’s doors in order to work a tremendous miracle of His love and healing power.

It’s up to each one of us to search our heart. And more importantly, to seek God’s face in the face of pending death and ask Him if it’s His will to heal or kill. If you ask God for wisdom I believe God will show you in some way what His will is.

IF GOD GIVES YOU THIS INKLING OF HOPE THAT IT’S HIS WILL TO HEAL EVEN IN THE FACE OF PENDING DEATH, THEN BELIEVE FOR HEALING AND DON’T LET THE PROBABILITY OF DEATH STOP YOU FROM PRAYING AND BELIEVING FOR A MIRACULOUS HEALING.

Brethren, we serve a great God. His greatness ought to inspire greatness in our faith. To have great faith, you’ve got to look beyond the name and prognosis of the disease. Get your eyes off the circumstances. And get your eyes on God the Healer. HE CAN HEAL ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING! NOTHING IS TOO HARD FOR HIM TO DO! Brethren, WHEN YOU TAKE ALL THE LIMITS OFF GOD, YOU TAKE ALL THE LIMITS OFF YOUR YOURSELF AND YOUR FAITH. NOTHING WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE TO YOU BECAUSE NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE TO GOD. In the end, great faith is great because it rests solely and entirely on God to do what He said He would do. It really is just that simple and easy. God makes it that way so that anyone of us can believe.FN

 

JEWISH FUNERAL CUSTOMS

Before looking at the raising of the widow’s son, I’d like to tell you a little bit about Jewish funeral customs. When a person died, one of the first things the family members did as an expression of their grief was rend their garments.FN The body was washed, then anointed with a mixture of various spices (John 19:39).FN It would then be clothed, either in the deceased’s ordinary, everyday clothing, or else, in a linen shroud. In the case of Lazarus and our Lord, the body was wrapped or wound with linen; a separate cloth, like a towel or handkerchief, would be used to wrap the face and head (John 11:44, 19:40, 20:5,7).FN

During this particular period of time, closed caskets were not used. The body was placed in a long, open-faced, wicker-work basket and carried to the cemetery on a stretcher-like frame called a bier.FN The Jews did not embalm or cremate their dead, hence, burial generally took place right away, on the same day the person died or else, the following day.FN

Cemeteries were always located at the outskirts of town because burials weren’t allowed within the town’s limits. Thus, a funeral procession would walk from the house of the deceased to the cemetery. People would take turns carrying the bier. This was a matter of respect to the deceased and it was also considered a good work among the Jews.

In most instances, except wherever a stranger or utterly destitute family was involved, professional mourners would be hired to publicly lament the death of the individual and pay public tribute to the deceased. These mourners were generally women. The Bible calls them ‘singing women’ or ‘mourning women’ (2 Chronicles 35:25, Jeremiah 9:17). Musicians would also be hired to play various songs of lamentation.

*In Judea, the hired mourners and musicians would lead the funeral procession, followed by the women, then the bier, then the rest of the town’s inhabitants.

*In Galilee, the order was somewhat reversed: first came the women, then the bier, followed by the mourners and musicians, and finally, the townsfolk.

In every instance, however, women always preceded by bier. Why? Because the Jews felt that since death came into the world because of the sin of a woman, so they ought to lead the way in burying the dead.

The rabbis taught their people to have high respect for the dead. Thus, whenever a funeral procession was walking by, everyone would stand and, wherever possible, they were expected to join in the procession. As the procession made its way to the burial site, it would stop several times along the way in order to give people an opportunity to voice their lament and say a good word on behalf of the deceased.

Strangers and the poor were buried in graves dug in the soil. Families of sufficient means or wealth would purchase, or already have, burial property and they would bury their dead in tombs or caves dug into limestone rock and covered over by a huge rock (Matthew 27:60, John 11:38). These tombs would be huge enough to bury several family members. When space ran out, the remains of various family members would be placed in a stone box called an ossuary, thereby making room for additional burials.FN

 

JESUS RAISES A DEAD BOY BACK TO LIFEFN

 

Luke 7:11-17, And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. {12} Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. {13} And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. {14} And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. {15} And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. {16} And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people. {17} And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about. Luke 7:11-17 (NIV),  Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him.  (12)  As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.  (13)  When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry."  (14)  Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!"  (15)  The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.  (16)  They were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people."  (17)  This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

 

The day after He healed the centurion’s servant, Jesus led His disciples and a multitude of followers to the city of Nain. Just outside the gates of the city, they were met by a funeral procession. The only son of a widow was being carried outside the city for burial. Gone from her was the promise of a future supported by the craft and work of her only son. Gone also was the hope of perpetuating her husband’s family line. The widow grieved once at the loss of her husband. And now she must grieve again. Life has not been easy for her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her and said something never heard at funerals. You see, a common phrase spoken at funerals was, “Weep with them, all ye that are bitter of heart!” It was a plea and invitation for people to partake in the grief of bereaved family members. But instead of saying what everyone else said, Jesus told the woman to stop weeping. It was a command. He touched the bier, spoke a word, and instantly, the dead boy was raised back to life.

Fear and amazement fell on everyone that day for God, through the Great Prophet Jesus, had visited His people once again. God is working in Israel again! The praise is noteworthy because this is the first time in nine hundred years that a dead Israelite has been raised from the dead. To this point in time, there have only been three resurrections in history: the widow of Sarepta’s son (1 Kings 17), the Shunammite woman’s son (2 Kings 4), and an unnamed man whose dead body was thrust atop Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13). Now, after nine hundred years, God once again visited His people and had mercy upon a widow and her son. Only God could perform such a miracle and the fact that Jesus performed it proved to the people that day that He, like Elijah and Elisha, was truly a Great Prophet.

The raising of the widow’s son is the first miracle of raising that Jesus performed during His Earthly ministry. As far as we know, at least as it’s recorded in Scripture, Jesus raised three people back to life: (1) the man in our present Scripture text; (2) Jairus’ daughter, Luke 8; and (3) Lazarus, John 11. Because many of Jesus’ sermons and miracles were simply not recorded (John 20:30, 21:25), it’s possible that Jesus performed other raisings.

When we come to Jairus’ daughter in our studies, I’ll like to talk to you about the place of faith in believing for the raising of the dead. For the present time, however, I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of things.

First and foremost, we see in this passage of Scripture the great compassion of our Lord. My friends, our Lord cares! We know He cares for His own. But I’d like to talk specifically to the widows just now. What we say to the widows we say as well to the single mothers and to those bereft of their husbands by divorce or separation. SISTERS, JESUS CARES FOR YOU. Life hasn’t been easy for you, and in some respects, it hasn’t been fair. Despite the trials you face, the heart of our God is touched by your sufferings and needs. He knows what you’re going through and He careth for you (1 Peter 5:7). Bereft though you be, you aren’t bereft of God! You haven’t lost Him! He hasn’t died! He hasn’t forsaken you! He who called you and saved you is with you! He’ll never leave nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Sisters, you’re not alone!

A second thing that I’d like you to note is this. Friends, OUR LORD WILL GO OUT OF HIS WAY TO HELP YOU! Let me tell you what I mean. Nain was about twenty-five miles away from Capernaum. That was a long walk. It went over hilly terrain. It would have taken a good day to get there. Pretty exhausting. Now the thing about this trip is this. Aside from this incident with the widow’s son, there was really no reason for Jesus to go to Nain at all. Nain wasn’t part of a tour of Galilee. In fact, right after this incident, we find Jesus back in Capernaum. He was in Capernaum, He went to Nain, then He came back to Capernaum. Do you see what I’m driving at? Jesus came to Nain for this one widow! He was drawn by His compassion for her. And He literally went out of His way to help her.

Sisters, HE WHO COMMANDS THE CHURCH TO ATTEND TO THE WIDOWS AND FATHERLESS IN THEIR AFFLICTIONS HIMSELF DOES THE SAME (JAMES 1:27). HE WHO MADE PROVISION FOR THE CARE OF HIS WIDOWED MOTHER MAKES PROVISION FOR YOU AS WELL (JOHN 19:27). HE HASN’T FORGOTTEN YOU! HE’LL TAKE CARE OF YOU! AND HE’LL GO OUT OF HIS WAY TO HELP YOU! You think your needs and concerns are too much of a bother for the Lord? You think you’d be asking too much of the Lord? Think again, friends. Despite Jesus’ busy schedules and ministry, He makes room for you! He takes the time to come and help! Why? Because He cares for you!FN

 

JOHN THE BAPTIZER'S DOUBTS CONCERNING JESUS

 

Luke 7:18-20, And the disciples of John showed him of all these things. {19} And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?FN {20} When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? Matthew 11:2-3, Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, (3) And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Luke 7:18-20 (NLT), The disciples of John the Baptist told John about everything Jesus was doing. So John called for two of his disciples, (19) and he sent them to the Lord to ask Him, "Are You the Messiah we've been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?" (20) John's two disciples found Jesus and said to Him, "John the Baptist sent us to ask, 'Are You the Messiah we've been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?'"

 

No matter where Jesus was or went, a lot of people followed and surrounded Him. Included in the crowd were some of John the Baptist’s disciples and they, in turn, told John about the teachings and miracles of Jesus.

Now if you recall from our earlier studies, John the Baptist spoke out against Herod Antipas’ marriage to Herodias and because of it, Herod had John arrested and imprisoned (Mark 6:17-18, See Imprisonment of John the Baptist).FN

By the time this incident in Luke 7 occurred, the Baptist had been imprisoned for six to nine months. Judging from the question that he asked, John now had doubts as to whether or not Jesus was really the Messiah.FN During his public ministry, John proclaimed Jesus as Messiah and more, namely, the Son of God and Lamb who taketh away the sins of the world.FN But now that he was shut up in prison he began to wonder if maybe he was wrong in his assessment and identification of Jesus as the Messiah of Israel. Wasn’t it one of Messiah’s works to open prison doors and proclaim liberty to the captives (Isaiah 61:1)? “Jesus, if you’re the Messiah, why am I still here in prison? Aren’t you going to set me free? Are you really the Messiah?” John, I’m saying, had his questions and doubts—based on the hard fact of (1) his imprisonment, (2) his understanding of Messiah’s mission of deliverance, and (3) Jesus’ apparent delay, or refusal, to set him free from Herod’s prison.

JOHN'S DOUBTS ARE A GRAPHIC PICTURE OF WHAT OUR SUFFERINGS AND TRIALS CAN DO TO US: THEY CAN MAKE US DOUBT THINGS THAT WE NEVER DREAMED OR IMAGINED WE WOULD EVER DOUBT. How could John doubt what God told him? How could he doubt what he saw in the River after he baptized Jesus? We think there’s no way he or any of us can doubt what God said and what we saw. But, alas, unbeknownst to us, THE SUFFERINGS, TRIALS, AND MISFORTUNES OF LIFE HAVE A WAY OF GETTINIG US TO DOUBT!

Ask many an apostate or backslider, a former Christian who’s forsaken the Lord, the Bible, and the church. Ask a Christian who’s currently disillusioned and angry with God. Ask a Christian who’s depressed in the time of troubles and trials. And they’ll all tell you what happened to John: they were once strong believers, but the trials of life turned them away from the Lord because things didn’t turn out the way they thought they would, the way they prayed, the way they believed, the way God promised they would.

Like John we’re staring at the cold hard facts of reality. We’re in prison. Our life is falling apart. Our body and health are falling apart. Our family’s falling apart. My job’s on the line. I can’t make my mortgage. God’s made all sorts of Utopian-like promises to me and none of it is happening right now. In fact, the exact opposite is happening. How could God be so wrong? How can the Bible be so wrong? Many a former saint of God have turned away from God for the very reason, like John, that life didn’t pan out the way God said it would. It was like God made all sosrts of fairy-tale promises; we were hooked on empty promises. And now that life’s come to pass, the troubles of life have awakened us to the fact that God and the Bible were wrong.FN We were fools to believe in a God and a Heaven when the cold hard facts of Hell are staring us in the face. Am I speaking to anyone today? Has the Lord seen the anger and anguish of your broken heart?

The sufferings of life, I’m saying, can be an occasion for doubt. It’s human to doubt when the going gets tough. I wouldn’t encourage or justify doubt for one moment. The sufferings of life don’t have to make us doubt! But, brethren, if you should find yourself doubting in the midst of troubles, you’re not alone. You’re not the only one who’s ever doubted Jesus or doubted one’s core beliefs. Friends, don’t be so quick to give up on yourself! Don’t think that God won’t help you now that you’re doubting. Jesus didn’t disown and forsake John just because he doubted. Brethren, HE WOULDN’T DISOWN OR FORSAKE YOU! JESUS HELPED JOHN WITH HIS DOUBT AND HE WANTS TO DO THE SAME FOR YOU. LIKE JOHN, THE IMPORTANT THING FOR YOU TO DO IS TO DEAL WITH YOUR DOUBT AND GET RID OF IT.

What did John do with his doubt? He, through his disciples, went directly to Jesus and he asked Him about it. You see, his question had to do with Jesus and instead of conferring with his disciples, with the priests, with his family, or with anyone else; John went directly to Jesus Himself.

Brethren, IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT JESUS OR HIS WORD, GO TO JESUS AND HIS WORD FOR THE ANSWER! LET JESUS ANSWER THE QUESTION FOR HIMSELF! It’s a ready tendency for us to go to one another with our questions. There’s a place for this, inasmuch as we’re supposed to help, encourage, instruct, and edify one another. I don’t want to minimize body ministry and the responsibility we have to help one another. But unless we’re all unified in the same mind and doctrine, you can get different answers from different people. It’s confusing.

Besides that, YOU’RE NEVER AS SURE OF THE ANSWER AS WHEN YOU LET JESUS SPEAK FOR HIMSELF. If you don’t like the answers we give you, you can debate with us and say we’re only giving you our opinion. But when you see what God says in the Word, that settles the question. You see, God’s Word is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). In other words, if you have questions about doctrine, behavior, or conduct, God’s Word will answer those questions—it’s designed to do that. So you’re wondering if maybe you’re believing the wrong things or doing the wrong things. Brethren, go to Jesus and ask Him. He promised to answer your questions! He said in James 1:5, If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. QUESTIONS, MY FRIENDS, REMAIN QUESTIONS UNTIL YOU SEEK OUT THE ANSWER FROM GOD AND HIS WORD.

 

Luke 7:21-23, And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. {22} Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. {23} And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. Matthew 11:4-6, Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: (5) The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. (6) And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. Luke 7:21-23 (NLT), At that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and He restored sight to many who were blind. (22) Then He told John's disciples, "Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. (23) And tell him, 'God blesses those who do not turn away because of Me. '"

 

How did Jesus answer John’s question? He first turned His attention to the multitudes around Him and He began to heal them. Then He told John’s disciples to go back to John and tell him all the things they had seen and heard. Jesus answered John’s question, but instead of coming right out with a “Yes, I am the Coming One,” He let His works answer the question.

You see, one of the things the prophets prophesied concerning Messiah was He would do things that weren’t done very often during Israel’s history. Miracles would be commonplace. Isaiah spoke about this in Isaiah 35:3-6 (NIV),  Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way;  (4)  say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you."  (5)  Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.  (6)  Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.

The prophet went on to prophesy in Isaiah 61:1-2 (BBE), The spirit of the Lord is on me, because I am marked out by him to give good news to the poor; he has sent me to make the broken-hearted well, to say that the prisoners will be made free, and that those in chains will see the light again; (2) To give knowledge that the year of the Lord's good pleasure has come, and the day of punishment from our God; to give comfort to all who are sad.

In other words, what Jesus was doing was a fulfillment of Messianic prophecy. His works confirmed His Messianic identity.FN

Brethren, if you have a question, Jesus will answer it. And do you know what? THE ANSWER IS RIGHT THERE IN THE WORD! THE ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION, MY FRIEND, IS IN THE WORD.

I’d like for you to take a closer look at Jesus’ answer and His works. He healed the sick, delivered the oppressed, raised the dead, and preached the Gospel. He didn’t do anything different than what He had been doing all along. He did all the things that Messiah was expected to do—except march to Machaerus and open John’s cell door. With this one exception aside, based on all the other things Jesus did and was continuing to do, Jesus expected John to believe what he’d believed all along—that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah.

Friends, JESUS WANTS US TO BELIEVE IN HIM IN SPITE OF WHAT HE CHOOSES NOT TO DO FOR US—WHETHER NOW OR IF EVER AT ALL. John, most likely, wanted out. He wanted Jesus to open his prison door and set him free. It’s not an unreasonable, unscriptural request. John had every right to want, or believe, this of Jesus because—if Jesus was really the Messiah, then the Scriptures promised that Messiah would open prison doors and set the captives free. John had Scriptures on his side! But Jesus chose not to do that for John! Unbeknownst to John, Jesus had other plans for him. In His wisdom, God decreed that John’s deliverance from prison would come by death. Don’t ask me why. That’s just the way God chose.

Friends, YOU’VE GOT A WHOLE LOT OF PROMISES FROM GOD AND SCRIPTURE AND YOU’VE GOT EVERY RIGHT TO BELIEVE, AND EXPECT, THOSE PROMISES TO COME TO PASS IN YOUR LIFE. BUT IF, FOR WHATEVER REASON, GOD CHOOSES NOT TO ANSWER YOUR PRAYER JUST NOW, OR IF EVER AT ALL; GOD NONETHELESS WANTS YOU TO KEEP ON BELIEVING WHAT YOU’VE ALWAYS BELIEVED ABOUT HIM. BRETHREN, YOU’VE GOT TO BELIEVE THE SCRIPTURES AND THE TRUTH NO MATTER WHAT GOD CHOOSES TO DO OR NOT DO!

His failure or refusal to do what you’d like for Him to do is not proof of His unfaithfulness to His promise. Like John, it’s proof that He’s got other plans for you. And, like John, you’ve got to reconcile yourself to that fact and accept God’s wisdom and goodness in His dealings with you. Let God do what He will—just you keep on believing on Him. Don’t get offended or fall. Believe. And you will be blessed!

Lastly from this portion of Scripture, I’d like for you to note what were most likely Jesus’ last words to John: Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. That word offended means to stumble or fall. It refers to whatever causes a person to stumble and fall. In the context of John’s question, the stumblingblock has to do with John’s doubts about Jesus being the promised Messiah. John’s doubt caused him to stumble. Jesus helped John get back up on his feet and John went to the grave believing steadfastly in Jesus—despite the fact that Jesus never opened his prison door for him.

The thing that I’d like for you to note here is JESUS RECOGNIZES THE FACT THAT ARE THINGS IN THIS LIFE—OUR SUFFERINGS, OUR TRIALS, EVEN HIS APPARENT UNWILLINGNESS TO ANSWER OUR PRAYER OR HIS SEEMING UNFAITHFULNESS TO HIS PROMISES; THAT CAUSE US TO STUMBLE, DOUBT, AND EVEN DISBELIEVE HIM. God, my friends, knows that there are all sorts of things that can get us to quit believing some things about Him. BUT EVEN IN THE MIDST OF ALL THESE STUMBLINGBLOCKS AND HINDRANCES TO OUR FAITH—THESE VERY THINGS THAT “DISPROVE” THE TRUTH AND CHALLENGE OUR CORE BELIEFS ABOUT GOD; GOD NEVERTHELESS WANTS US TO BELIEVE WHAT WE’VE BELIEVED ALL ALONG and He says we’re blessed to not let these doubts, setbacks, and unanswered prayers cause us to stumble and disbelieve, or reject, Him.

Brethren, IT’S POSSIBLE FOR US TO KEEP ON BELIEVING THE TRUTH ABOUT JESUS—IN SPITE OF THE THINGS THAT GO WRONG OR IN SPITE OF THE THINGS THAT DIDN’T GO AS WE HAD HOPED, BELIEVED, AND PLANNED. No matter what happens, no matter what God does with our desires and prayers, He wants us to believe. And when we do, we’re blessed to have done so.

Friends, do you want God’s blessings on your life? Then don’t turn your back on Him and give Him your lip when He doesn’t do what you want Him to do. Be faithful. Believe Him. Love Him. Serve Him. Obey Him. Worship and praise Him. Though He slay you. Be faithful still. And God will bless you for it!FN

 

JESUS PAYS TRIBUTE TO JOHN THE BAPTIZER

 

Matthew 11:7-15, And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John,FN What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?FN {8} But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. {9} But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. {10} For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. {11} Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.FN {12} And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.FN {13} For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.FN {14} And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.FN {15} He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Matthew 11:7-15 (ESV), As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? (8) What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. (9) What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. (10) This is he of whom it is written, "'Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.' (11) Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (12) From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (13) For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, (14) and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. (15) He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Luke 7:24-28, And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind? (25) But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings' courts. (26) But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. (27) This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. (28) For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

 

John the Baptist was held in high esteem by the people. In fact, the reason why Herod Antipas hadn’t yet killed John was because he feared the execution would spark a massive, popular revolt against him. John, to them, was a great prophet.

Now lest the people should think differently or less of John because of his doubt, Jesus paid high tribute to him. As far as Jesus was concerned, people needed to continue to hold John in high esteem. Among men there was none greater than John the Baptist. His doubt in a moment of weakness didn’t diminish the greatness of the prophet. It didn’t damage his integrity, honor, or character.

My friends, A MAN OUGHT NOT TO BE JUDGED ON THE BASIS OF A MOMENT OF WEAKNESS. HIS VALUE OR WORTH OR MINISTRY OUGHT NOT TO BE JUDGED IN LIGHT OF HIS DARKEST HOUR. I’m not talking about unrepentant sinners and deceivers in the pulpit. I’m talking about good, faithful men of God who had their moment of weakness. I wouldn’t for one moment justify or defend their error, faithlessness, or sin. But I advocate mercy and compassion, especially when the problem has been taken care of. John didn’t live with his doubt! He died faithful!

Brethren, BEFORE YOU CUT A MAN DOWN AND DRAG HIM THROUGH THE MUD, YOU’D BETTER CHECK WITH JESUS FIRST AND SEE WHAT HE SAYS. YOU MIGHT EXPECT JESUS TO BURST INTO A TIRADE AGAINST THE MAN. BUT WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT—HE PAYS TRIBUTE TO HIM INSTEAD!

 

Luke 7:29-35, And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.FN {30} But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him. {31} And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like? {32} They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept. {33} For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. {34} The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! {35} But wisdom is justified of all her children. Luke 7:29-35 (NLT), When they heard this, all the people—even the tax collectors—agreed that God's way was right, for they had been baptized by John. (30) But the Pharisees and experts in religious law rejected God's plan for them, for they had refused John's baptism. (31) "To what can I compare the people of this generation?" Jesus asked. "How can I describe them? (32) They are like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, 'We played wedding songs, and you didn't dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn't weep.' (33) For John the Baptist didn't spend his time eating bread or drinking wine, and you say, 'He's possessed by a demon.' (34) The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, 'He's a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!' (35) But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it. "
Matthew 11:16-19, But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, (17) And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. (18) For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. (19) The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.

 

Jesus closes His tribute to John by addressing the criticism leveled against him by the religious leaders. He speaks a parable and likens these leaders to little children playing games. Some would play a game of fun and merriment, but the others wouldn’t join in. They would then play another game—this time, pretending that a death had just occurred. But still, the other children wouldn’t join in. Some just couldn’t be pleased. No matter what game the others would come up with and play, some just wouldn’t participate.

John the Baptist came to the Pharisees living an austere life, but they said he had a demon. Jesus came unlike the Baptist, eating and drinking, but they said He was a glutton. No matter who God sent to them, these religious leaders just couldn’t be pleased! They always had something critical to say of those who tried to reach out to them. It's so sad.

Learn a lesson here, my friends. We all have reasons why we refuse to listen to, and reject, certain people who try to talk to us about things that we don't think are not open to discussion. The readiest tendency is to dismiss these people and convince ourselves they're not from God. They're critics. They're deceivers. They don't love us. But the Pharisee's rejection of John (and Jesus as well) is dramatic proof of the fact that WE, LIKE THE UNBELIEVING JEWS, CAN END UP REJECTING THE VERY PEOPLE GOD'S SENDING TO US. THE PEOPLE WE THINK AREN'T HEARING FROM GOD OR WHO AREN'T SPEAKING ON HIS BEHALF MAY WELL END UP BEING THE EXACT OPPOSITE! THEY MAY BE THE VOICE OF GOD TO US!

Brethren, DON'T BE QUICK TO WRITE PEOPLE OFF WHO LOVE YOU AND WHO ARE ONLY TRYING TO HELP YOU. Listen to them. Consider what they're saying. Pray about it. Be humble. Be open. Be teachable.

IF YOU CONTINUALLY REJECT THE PEOPLE GOD SENDS TO YOU, YOU MAY END UP BEING REJECTED BY GOD TOO. WHEN GOD DOESN'T HAVE ANY NICE THINGS TO SAY ABOUT YOU, YOU ARE IN A MISERABLE SHAPE!

 

JESUS UPBRAIDS THREE UNREPENTANT CITIES

 

Matthew 11:20-24, Then began he to upbraidFN the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: {21} Woe unto thee, Chorazin!FN woe unto thee, Bethsaida!FN for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. {22} But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. {23} And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. {24} But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. Matthew 11:20-24 (ESV), Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. (21) "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (22) But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. (23) And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. (24) But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you."
Luke 10:13-15, Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. (14) But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. (15) And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.

 

Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were three Jewish cities of Galilee where Jesus performed a lot of miracles. Yet, in spite of these miraculous displays of God’s power, the God-believing people in these cities, by and large, remained unrepentant.

Now the fact that they were unrepentant after seeing and receiving many of Jesus’ mighty works suggests to me that they were unrepentant before they saw or received Jesus’ miracles. In other words, these people were unrepentant to begin with, they came to Jesus for healing or deliverance, Jesus healed and delivered them, but then, they went away unrepentant as before. They were changed physically in that they were healed or delivered. But spiritually or morally, they were the same old backsliding, lukewarm, carnal, self-centered people that they were before Jesus healed them. You see, these people sought Jesus for His miracles. They listened to what He had to say. But the bottom line was, they didn’t commit themselves to Him or His message. They sought and followed Him. But they didn’t become followers or disciples. They didn’t put His message into practice. They wanted Jesus to heal and deliver them. But they didn’t let Him change the way they lived. They remained pretty much unchanged or unaffected by Jesus’ message.

Now Jesus’ rebuke of the inhabitants of these three cities tells us that God expects more than just a “Thank you” or a song of praise from us after He does something miraculous for us. He expects us to repent of our sins and start following Him.

You see, Jesus wouldn’t have rebuked the inhabitants of these cities if He didn’t expect them to repent. The fact of the rebuke, brethren, tells us that Jesus’ miracles aren’t meant to be ends in themselves. Jesus doesn’t do them for the sole purpose of doing something good for you. WHEN GOD PERFORMS A MIRACLE FOR YOU HE EXPECTS THAT MIRACLE TO INSPIRE, MOTIVATE, LEAD TO, OR RESULT IN, A CHANGE IN YOUR LIFE, LIFFESTYLE, OR BEHAVIOR. Once healed or delivered, you don’t go back to living the same old way you used to live before you got sick or oppressed. YOUR LIFE OUGHT TO REFLECT THE CHANGE GOD HAS DONE IN YOUR BODY. HEALING SHOULD LEAD YOU TO HOLINESS. DELIVERANCE SHOULD INSPIRE YOU TO DEVOTION. WHEN YOU EXPERIENCE GOD’S MIRACULOUS POWER YOU SHOULD HENCEFORTH LIVE AS A LOYAL, COMMITTED CHRISTIAN.

Now if you’re tempted to think otherwise and insist on wanting a miracle without having to change your present, sinful, carnal way of life; then you need to read the text of Scripture again and see that Jesus upbraids or reproaches you, He speaks unfavorably of you (Matthew 11:20). In fact, He talks to you the same way He talks to the scribes and Pharisees: Woe unto you (Matthew 23). Brethren, when Jesus pronounces woe on you, you don’t have anything good to look forward to. You’re in pretty bad shape. I know God is love. But you shouldn’t shelter your sinful life in His love and use it as an insurance policy against Hell. As you see in this text, the God of love speaks in an “unkind, unloving” way to those who are unrepentant and inattentive to His Word. Like the Jews of Capernaum, no matter how privileged you are or have been with the Gospel of Christ and His miracles, the unrepentant go to Hell.

Jesus not only upbraids you, but He also warns you about your unrepentance. He tells you what can, or what will, happen to you if you refuse to repent: you’ll be a lot worse off on the day of judgment than the inhabitants of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom.

*Now the people of Sodom were a very wicked people. They were homosexuals and God ended up destroying them with fire and brimstone from Heaven (Genesis 19:5,24).

*The Tyrians and Sidonians also didn’t fare well. For their sins they were destroyed and their habitations laid waste (Isaiah 23 and Ezekiel 26-28).

The point is, these heathen peoples didn’t fare well because of their sins and God judged them. Had they witnessed the works and miracles that were done in Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, they would have repented of their sins! The miracles would have brought them to repentance!

The people in these three cities of Jesus’ day, however, didn’t repent even after having so many miracles done in their midst. They didn’t do what even the worst of heathens would have done! Consequently, they would be judged more severely in the day of judgment than the heathens of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom.

It's at this point where we glean a very important tidbit about God's judgment. Professing believers in God and Christ will be judged more harshly than unbelievers if they don't repent and quit sinning. Make no mistake. The heathens will be judged on the Day of Judgment. They won't be going to Heaven. As unbelieving sinners they will not escape judgment or Hell. But their punishment will not be as severe as the punishment that the God-believing Jews of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, are going to get. AS A SINNING, UNREPENTANT, PROFESSING BELIEVER OF CHRIST, YOUR PUNISHMENT WILL BE WORSE THAN THAT OF UNBELIEVING HEATHENS.

Said another way, THERE ARE DEGREES OF PUNISHMENT IN HELL AND THE SEVEREST OF PUNISHMENTS IS RESERVED FOR THOSE WHO KNOW GOD, WHO'VE HEARD HIS MESSAGE, WHO'S EXPERIENCED GOD'S MIRACLES, MERCIES, AND ANSWERED PRAYERS; AND STILL DON'T GIVE THEIR LIVES TO HIM AND SERVE HIM. Do you think there aren’t any Christians in Hell? You’d better rethink your theology because Jesus very clearly and unmistakably says here that it will be more tolerable for Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And the you that Jesus is talking to here are Jews, God-believers, familiar with Torah and the demands of God, recipients of Christ’s miracles, but they insisted in living for sin and self, instead of living for God.

Can I give you a bit of advice? IF YOU DON’T HAVE ANY PLANS OR DESIRES TO GIVE YOUR LIFE TO GOD AND SERVE HIM AND TURN AWAY FROM YOUR SINS; THEN DON’T ASK GOD FOR A MIRACLE BECAUSE, IN HIS LOVE AND MERCY, HE’LL GIVE YOU YOUR MIRACLE; HE’LL ANSWER YOUR PRAYER; AND HE’LL EXPECT YOU TO GIVE YOUR LIFE TO HIM IN RETURN. AND WHEN YOU DON’T, YOU’VE GOT WOE WRITTEN ALL OVER YOU AND YOU’LL END UP IN HELL.

Brethren, God expects more out of you when Jesus comes to you and speaks to you and does good things for you. Your level of accountability is higher or greater when you come into contact with Jesus. You’re worse off than those who have never heard or known of Jesus. You might like Jesus’ miracles and need them badly. But IF YOU’RE NOT INTENT ON GIVING YOUR LIFE TO HIM AND LIVING THE WAY HE WANTS YOU TO LIVE, YOU’RE BETTER OFF WITHOUT THE MIRACLE. If you want to live your life without Christ, don’t come to Him asking for a miracle or a favor because WHEN GOD DOES A MIRACLE FOR YOU, HE EXPECTS YOU TO GIVE HIM YOUR LIFE. And when you fail to do that and choose instead to live a life of sin and self, then you may as well forget about going to Heaven. IF YOU LIVE LIKE THE HEATHENS YOU’LL BE JUDGED AND DAMNED LIKE THE HEATHENS.

 

A PERSONAL INVITATION FROM JESUSFN

Matthew 11:28-30, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. {29} Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. {30} For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT), Then Jesus said, "Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (29) Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (30) For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light."

 

In view of the unrepentance of the religious leaders who refused the baptism of John (Luke 7:30), as well as the unrepentance of the three Galilean cities (Luke 10:13-15), Jesus issues to the people an invitation for them to come to Him for rest. The idea is that of having a sweet repose and being refreshed after a hard day’s work. My friends, your soul is revived when you come in faith to the Lord and ask Him to be the Savior and Lord of your life.

Sin might be fun and pleasurable. But after a while, you realize how much of a bondage it is. It’s a heavy load on your back. The only real rest and lasting peace and joy that you’ll ever find and have in this life is found in Jesus: ye shall find rest unto your souls. As long as you’re running from God and staying in sin you’re robbing yourself of the rest that you want, that you’re looking for, and trying to find in sin. SIN DOESN’T GIVE YOU REST. IT ROBS YOU OF REST. No matter what you do to try and bring peace or rest to your soul, THERE’S ONLY ONE THING YOU CAN DO TO GET RID OF THE BURDEN OF SIN AND THAT IS, YOU NEED TO COME TO JESUS AND GET SAVED. THERE’S NO OTHER WAY TO GET RID OF THE BURDEN!

Now the really wonderful thing about Jesus is He invites you to come to Him and get saved. He wants to save you! You might be tempted to think that God doesn’t want you at all because of the things you’ve done and the way you’ve lived your life. I’d like for you to look again at verse 28 because NO ONE IS EXCLUDED FROM COMING TO JESUS. Jesus said Come, all ye that labour and are heavy laden. The invitation is given to you, irrespective of your sins, your past, or your present. Make no mistake, your sins don’t make God happy. But God’s love and forgiveness wipe all those sins away, He cleans you up, and literally gives you a new life. He makes you a new person. And it all starts by you coming to Jesus. Won’t you come today? The Bible says, now is the accepted time, today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Now when you come to Jesus He wants you to take on His yoke and learn from Him. You see, there’s more to Christianity than just getting saved. There are things God wants you to learn. He has things He wants to teach you. And He has a yoke for you to carry.

Now when we think of a yoke we think about an implement that’s goes around the neck of a pair of oxen. When yoked together, the oxen can work to pull a plow or wagon. You see, as long as the oxen are under the yoke, they’re controlled by the farmer and they do what the farmer wants them to do. They have a job to do and the farmer uses the yoke to help them do the job. The reference is rather clear. God wants you to serve Him. He wants you to be under His control.

Now there’s another meaning of the word yoke that’s worthy of our note. The rabbis used the yoke to refer to the sum-total of a person’s obligations to God. When they spoke of the yoke of the Torah, or the yoke of the commandments, or the yoke of the kingdom of Heaven; they were talking about all those Scripture precepts and rabbinic regulations that a person had to keep as part of his or her loyalty to God.

In light of this understanding, then, Jesus’ yoke refers to His teachings—everything He taught about the kingdom and Christian life or responsibility. When Jesus says learn of Me, the learning comes from listening to, and embracing, His teachings. Brethren, YOU DON’T LEARN FROM JESUS BY KEEPING YOUR BIBLE CLOSED. YOU DON’T LEARN FROM JESUS IF YOU DON’T LISTEN TO HIM. Friends, YOUR SOUL IS MOST AT REST WHEN YOU LIVE WITH JESUS' YOKE--THAT IS, WHEN YOU'RE LIVING YOUR LIFE IN ACCORDANCE WITH JESUS' TEACHINGS.

A lot of Christians today are not at rest because they don’t know the Word. They don’t read their Bible. They may read it, but they don’t take the time to try and understand it and get it into their heart. Like the parable of the soils teaches us in Matthew 13, if the word doesn’t land in your heart, you’ll lose it; the Word won’t do anything good for you if you don’t understand it and put it in your heart.

There are a lot of temptations in this world, things and activities that we indulge it, that we find fun and pleasure in, that end up keeping us away from God’s Word. Life is really busy. Our schedules are full up. And a lot of people don’t have the time to come to church or read their Bible.

YOU’VE GOT TO MAKE TIME FOR GOD AND BIBLE STUDY! If you’re waiting for time to suddenly show up and become available, you’re not going to find it. It’s not going to happen. There’ll always be other things to do beside have quiet time with God. IF YOU WANT TIME WITH GOD YOU’VE GOT TO MAKE TIME FOR GOD. And making time for God means cutting out some things that rob you of your time with God. Making choices. Making sacrifices. Choosing to turn the TV off, getting off the internet, choosing to stay home this evening instead of going to a movie, choosing to wake up a half-hour earlier so that you can spend time with God, and the like. Do whatever you’ve got to do to come, take Jesus’ yoke, and learn of Him.

If you’re not at rest today God’s telling you why you’re not. He’s telling you how you can find and get the rest: come to God in prayer, open your Bible, and start learning. God will speak to you thru the Word and His Spirit, the light will come on, you’ll know what to do, and you’ll find the peace and rest that comes from knowing and doing God’s will. If you’re not interested in knowing or doing God’s will, then that’s the reason why you don’t have peace and rest in your soul. YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO BE AT REST UNTIL YOU’RE DOING GOD’S WILL. AND YOU CAN’T DO GOD’S WILL UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT GOD’S WILL IS. AND YOU CAN’T KNOW WHAT GOD’S WILL IS IF YOU’RE NOT PRAYING AND READING YOUR BIBLE. The rest begins here: by you coming to Jesus’ feet, opening your Bible, and letting Him teach you His Word.

Now when Jesus spoke of His yoke as being easy, He may well have been contrasting it with the yoke of rabbinic Judaism. He alludes to the yoke of the Pharisees and scribes in Matthew 23:4 (NIV), They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

Unlike the heavy burden of all their man-made rules and regulations, the yoke of Jesus’ teachings is easy. In 1 John 5:3, He says His commandments are not grievous, or heavy. Despite how hard or heavy we think Jesus’ teachings or commandments may be, Jesus Himself says they’re not heavy, they’re light, they’re something we can carry and live with.

JESUS’ DEMANDS ON OUR LIFE, BRETHREN, ARE NOT UNREASONABLE. HE DOESN’T ASK US TO DO SOMETHING WE CAN’T DO. HE DOESN’T EXPECT US TO CARRY SOMETHING WE CAN’T CARRY. HE DOESN’T CALL US LIVE A LIFE WE CAN’T LIVE. 2 Corinthians 9:8 reads, And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work. Philippians 4:13 goes on to say, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Brethren, the next time you’re tempted to complain about God’s will for your life, meditate on these portions of Scripture and remember that God’s grace is always sufficient for every task.

 

A WOMAN ANOINTS JESUS' FEET IN THE HOUSE OF A PHARISEEFN

PARABLE OF THE TWO DEBTORS

 

Luke 7:36-50, And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. {37} And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, broughtFN an alabaster box of ointment,FN {38} And stood at his feet behind him weeping,FN and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head,FN and kissed his feet,FN and anointed them with the ointment. {39} Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.FN

{40} And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master,FN say on. {41} There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence,FN and the other fifty. {42} And when they had nothing to pay, he franklyFN forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? {43} Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

{44} And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house,FN thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. {45} Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. {46} My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. {47} Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.

{48} And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.FN {49} And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? {50} And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

Luke 7:36-50 (NLT), One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. (37) When a certain immoral woman from that city heard He was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. (38) Then she knelt behind Him at His feet, weeping. Her tears fell on His feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing His feet and putting perfume on them. (39) When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, He would know what kind of woman is touching Him. She's a sinner!"

(40) Then Jesus answered his thoughts. "Simon," He said to the Pharisee, "I have something to say to you." "Go ahead, Teacher," Simon replied. (41) Then Jesus told him this story: "A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. (42) But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?" (43) Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt." "That's right," Jesus said.

(44) Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn't offer Me water to wash the dust from My feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. (45) You didn't greet Me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing My feet. (46) You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint My head, but she has anointed My feet with rare perfume. (47) "I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown Me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love."

(48) Then Jesus said to the woman, "Your sins are forgiven." (49) The men at the table said among themselves, "Who is this man, that He goes around forgiving sins?" (50) And Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

 

Many of the religious leaders had made their minds up about Jesus, but there were still those who hadn’t yet come to a firm conclusion about His real identity. Simon, apparently, was one of these. He wasn’t sure if Jesus was really the prophet that many people made Him out to be (see verse 39 in light of Luke 7:16). Having Jesus over for dinner was perhaps one way for Simon to formulate his opinion of Jesus.

As the evening meal progressed, something very unusual happened. A woman who had been a notorious sinner showed up and, crying profusely, washed Jesus’ feet with her tears. She dried them with her hair, then proceeded to anoint His feet with perfumed oil.

More than any conversation with Jesus—any teaching or miracle—this act proved to Simon that Jesus couldn’t have been a prophet. If Jesus were a prophet He would have known what kind of woman was touching Him and He would never have allowed her to touch Him. You see, in those days, rabbis and prophets wouldn’t touch, or allow themselves to be touched by, a sinner because this would have automatically rendered them defiled and unclean. The thought of being defiled was simply abhorrent to any devout man of God. As far as Simon was concerned, then, Jesus couldn’t have been a prophet.FN

But unbeknownst to the Pharisee, Jesus knew everything about this woman. He knew things that Simon himself didn't know about her!

He not only knew about the woman’s sins and past, but He also knew Simon’s thoughts. It wasn’t Jesus who was ignorant: it was Simon himself! Simon failed to perceive that the woman had repented of her sins, she had been forgiven, and she had now come to anoint her Savior’s feet out of love for what the Savior had done for her. He freed her from the bondage of her sins and gave her the rest He had so recently spoken about (Matthew 11:28-30). Only God could do that (verse 49). To anyone who could put the pieces together, Jesus was not only a Prophet: He was God incarnate.

In this way, the woman knew what Simon didn’t know: she knew who Jesus was. How did she know? Through the forgiveness of sins that she experienced.

I would like to look at the three figures in this incident because all of them have something very important and relevant to say to us. First, let’s look at the woman.

 

THE WOMAN: THE COMFORT OF GOD'S FORGIVENESS

1. YOU ARE FORGIVEN!

As we have every reason to believe, this woman was a notorious sinner. Her sins and sinful way of life were known throughout town. But one day she heard Jesus teach, she believed what Jesus said, and she got saved. The load of sin was lifted, her sins were forgiven, and she became a child of God.

Now when Jesus said, Thy sins have been forgiven (verse 48), His words were, first of all, the calm assurance that God had forgiven her of her sins. No matter what the sins were and no matter how long she continued in those sins, the Lord had forgiven her. There wasn’t a sin she wasn’t forgiven of. THERE WASN'T A SIN GOD REFUSED TO FORGIVE!

Brethren, God is no respecter of persons. What He did for this woman He will do for you: He’ll forgive every sin you’ve ever committed. He’ll forgive every sin you confess and repent of.FN YOUR SINFUL PAST—NO MATTER HOW IMMORAL OR DEPRAVED, NO MATTER HOW LONG-STANDING OR DAMNABLE—IS NOT BEYOND GOD’S ABILITY OR WILLINGNESS TO FORGIVE! My friends, no matter what the sin is or how many the sins are, God will forgive!

Are you afraid God won’t forgive you? Here’s a promise God makes you: If we confess our sins. Let me stop here momentarily and point out that there are no exceptions or exclusions here: we, my friends, includes you. Your name is written and included in the we of Scripture. The promise of forgiveness applies to you. Friends, God loves you! He wants to save you, forgive you, and make you a part of His family.

Romans 5:8 (NLT) tells us, But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. You see, YOUR SINFUL PAST DOESN’T PREVENT OR HINDER GOD’S DESIRE TO SAVE YOU AND FORGIVE YOU. You may have committed some really bad things. You may have lived in sin for a great number of years. You may have been the worst of sinners in your eyes. But it’s God’s will still to save and forgive you. He loved you while you were a sinner and He still loves you now even while you’re still a sinner. YOUR SINS DON’T MAKE GOD QUIT LOVING YOU!

Let’s continue with the verse: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). In other words, God promised to forgive you and His nature of being faithful to His promise means He will forgive you if you confess your sins. God is not only faithful: He’s also just. His justice demands that He forgives. FOR GOD NOT TO FORGIVE YOU HE WOULD HAVE TO QUIT BEING JUST—and that, my friends, just can’t, and won’t, happen! God will never cease to be just!

That’s why it’s utterly inconceivable and impossible for God not to forgive you for every sin you've committed. God will forgive! IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD NOT TO FORGIVE YOU OF A CERTAIN SIN! Instead of looking at your sins, look at God. Look at how faithful and just He is because THOSE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES ARE THE GUARANTEE AND ASSURANCE THAT GOD WILL FORGIVE YOU.

Look at Jesus who hung and died on the cross to forgive your sins and save you. Brethren, He wouldn’t have gone through the trouble and pain if He weren’t intent on forgiving you of your sins. CALVARY, MY FRIENDS, IS GOD’S YES! TO ALL WHO ASK AND SEEK HIS FORGIVENESS. Come to Jesus, ye sin-sick, sin-weary soul, and He will give you rest (Matthew 11:28-30).

 

2. YOU ARE STILL FORGIVEN!

Now Jesus’ words in Luke 7:48 were not only the calm assurance that she had been forgiven of her past, sinful way of life, but they were also the calm assurance that she was presently forgiven. She was still forgiven!

You see, my friends, no matter what sins you’ve committed in the past and no matter what kind of life you’ve lived, when you believed on Jesus and confessed and repented of those sins, Jesus forgave you and you are still forgiven today! The sins that Christ forgave yesterday are still forgiven today. Now that you’re a Christian, or now that you’ve made things right with the Lord, the Lord doesn’t recall those sins and hold them against you. He doesn’t put the remembrance, the guilt, and the condemnation of those sins upon you! ONCE FORGIVEN, PRESENTLY AND FOREVER FORGIVEN! Hallelujah!

Brethren, you don’t need to wallow in the mires of condemnation. You don’t need to remember, dredge up, or live in the sins of the past. That has all been forgiven and put under the blood of Jesus. You’ve been cleansed and forgiven of those sins. God has pardoned you and you are no longer counted guilty or condemned for those sins. God, my friends, doesn’t hold those sins against you! From the Courtroom of God’s Heaven comes the resounding verdict, Not guilty! Forgiven by the blood of the Lamb!

You see, you need to understand what God does with your sins when you repent of them and you need to accept that work of grace and receive it as God’s gift to you without you having to work to free yourself from the guilt of past sins. Forgiveness, my friends, is not something you work for or earn. True, there are conditions to receive forgiveness, such as confession and repentance from sin (1 John 1:9, 2 Chronicles 7:14). But when God forgives you the only thing you can do with it is believe and accept it.

Now what does God do with your sins when you repent? He removes your transgressions from you, He takes them away, He buries them in the depths of the sea, and perhaps most importantly and comfortingly, He remembers them no more!FN Hallelujah! SINS ONCE FORGIVEN ARE NO MORE REMEMBERED! My friends, God doesn’t remember those past sins! He doesn’t remember how you used to live. He doesn’t recall all those things you did and all those times you missed it! By an act of His will and sovereign grace, He chooses to forget!

Brethren, YOU OUGHT NOT REMEMBER WHAT GOD FORGETS. Leave what’s under the blood, under the blood. It’s not God who’s recalling and reciting past sins to you: it’s the Devil who’s doing that and it’s nothing more than your rank, putrid unbelief that keeps you from burying the past and accepting the gift of God’s forgiveness. Forgive yourself!

But despite your inability or refusal to do just that—that is, forgive yourself—you must understand that YOU FORGIVING YOURSELF IS NOT A CONDITION FOR GOD FORGIVING YOU! GOD FORGIVES YOU WHEN YOU CONFESS AND REPENT OF YOUR SINS: HE DOESN’T WAIT FOR YOU TO FORGIVE YOURSELF BEFORE HE FORGIVES YOU. Whether or not you forgive yourself, God has forgiven you and that’s how He sees you today. Right now, you’re forgiven and you’re still forgiven.

Friends, you must forget the past. Leave the books closed and refuse to dredge up, meditate on, and remember the sins of the past. Learn from Jesus and this woman: once forgiven, presently and forever forgiven! Praise the Lord!

3. ABOUT THAT BAD REPUTATION OF YOURS.

Before we leave this woman, I’d like to instruct and encourage you concerning a bad reputation that comes from a life or an act of sin. We know in hindsight that this woman in Simon’s house was saved. She had just recently gotten saved. She came to the house as a blood-washed, redeemed, child of God.

But how did Simon see her? In Simon’s eyes, she was still the same old sinner that she always was! As far as he was concerned, she hadn't changed. She wasn't different.

Brethren, I'll not lie to you or kid you. A bad reputation is not easily or quickly removed. You can get saved, bury the past, and live a new or different kind of life. But some people’s opinion of you don’t change as quickly as you might like for it to change. As far as they’re concerned, you’re still the vile sinner you’ve always been. They’re not too quick to accept your conversion. They find it difficult to accept the fact that you’ve repented of your sins and have been forgiven by God. They're not very forgiving or kind. They’re suspicious or skeptical of you. As you no doubt have experienced by now, the unmercifulness, distrust, and criticisms of people can go a long way in discouraging and disheartening you.

May I encourage you to leave people to their own opinions of you? Leave them alone. Pay no attention to them. Live the Christian life. Let your light shine. And go about the business of worshipping and serving the Lord.

You see, when this woman came to Simon’s house, she laid all her apprehensions aside as to what Simon or anyone else might think about her and about what she was intending to do. If she was governed by fear of adverse public opinion she would never have visited Jesus that night. She would have stayed home. But do you know what? She came to Jesus because she had only one thing on her mind and that was to anoint Jesus’ feet as a public show of her love and appreciation for what Jesus had done for her. Nothing else mattered! She was so grateful for her forgiveness, she was so relieved from the burden and guilt of her sins, that the only thing on her mind was to do something good for Jesus.

Friends, don’t get discouraged or disheartened if people don’t accept you as a blood-washed, forgiven, child of God. A bad reputation is not easily or quickly gotten rid of. Don’t center your Christianity around that. The important thing is for you to get to Simon’s house and show Jesus you love Him. When this is all that matters to you, then like this woman, you’ll find the boldness and holy disregard to do the things you’ll likely get criticized for doing. Forget what people say or think. Brethren, press on!

Philippians 3:13 is an inspiration to us, encouraging us to forget what lies behind us, and press forward to what lies before us. Peter and Paul lived with the haunting reality of their shameful past, but they went on to live exemplary lives of undying devotion to Christ and untiring work for Him. They show us that IT’S POSSIBLE TO RISE ABOUT THE TERRIBLE GUILT AND SHAME OF THE PAST AND LIVE FAITHFULLY TO THE LORD TO THE END OF DAYS.

Here's something that I find to be so totally awesome. While this woman had given herself a notorious reputation for being a sinner, note how she is remembered in history: she is not remembered as a sinner, but rather, remembered for her act of worship and gratitude for Jesus. The Lord and the Scriptures do not record her sins: they record her public boldness and worship of Jesus. She did something that—till that point in time—nobody had ever done to Jesus or for Jesus. SHE WAS REMEMBERED FOR DOING SOMETHING GOOD!

So what does this tell you? It tells you that THE SHAMEFUL, HURTFUL LEGACY OF YOUR PAST CAN BE OVERCOME BY A LEGACY OF GOODNESS. Instead of living your life remembering the awful things you did, leave it buried in the past and spend your time, spend the rest of your life, doing something good for people and the Lord. THE LATTER END OF YOUR GOODNESS WILL BE THE LEGACY YOU LEAVE BEHIND—THAT’S HOW PEOPLE WILL REMEMBER YOU. So start right now and give people something good to remember you by.

 

THE PHARISEE: YOU REALLY NEED TO BE LOVING AND FORGIVING

(A) SIMON AND THE LORD

Turning our attention next to Simon, I’d like to look at him in relation to the Lord and in relation to the woman. In relation to the Lord, Simon’s love stands in sharp contrast to that of the woman. He who is forgiven little, Jesus said, loves little.

In other words, OUR LOVE FOR THE LORD IS PROPORTIONATE TO THE FORGIVENESS WE RECEIVE FROM THE LORD. The more we’re forgiven, the more we love. And the less we’re forgiven, the less we love.FN Love grows out of forgiveness. It’s a result of forgiveness in the sense that this is how we humans respond to the Lord when we’ve been forgiven by Him—we love Him all the more.

Now one of the things Jesus teaches Simon and us about love in this incident with the woman is this. Love is demonstrable in ways that can be seen.FN

*The woman’s love for the Lord was demonstrated in her washing, anointing, and kissing Jesus’ feet. You could tell she loved the Lord by the things she did.

*In Simon’s case, his neglect of common custom and courtesy in hosting his Guest revealed the absence of any real love for Jesus. He didn’t really love the Lord and it showed in the things he failed to do when he met Jesus at the front door. Simon’s lack of love, I’m saying, was obvious.

Friends, Jesus knows whether or not you really love Him. He knows when you really mean it and when you’re only paying Him lip service. Like Simon, IT’S THE THINGS YOU DO OR DON’T DO—NOT NECESSARILY THE THINGS YOU SAY—THAT SHOW WHETHER OR NOT YOU REALLY LOVE THE LORD. YOUR ACTIONS GIVE YOU AWAY.

Simon’s lack of real love for the Lord was a reflection of the measure of his forgiveness. He who is forgiven little loves little. Jesus’ statement here can be taken in one of two ways.

*First, Simon was truly a righteous man who didn’t sin much, hence, he didn’t need to be forgiven of much. In this sense, he was forgiven little because he sinned little—that’s why he didn’t really love the Lord all that much. Now if, like Simon, you think you’re not indebted to the Lord a whole lot, you’re not going to love Him a whole lot. Why? Because your love is proportionate to your forgiveness.FN When we look at Simon’s thoughts and attitude toward the woman, however, and compare them to Jesus’ denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23, the view that Simon was truly a righteous man is not, in my opinion, a very plausible one.

*The second way in which Jesus’ statement in Luke 7:47 can be taken is, Simon was forgiven little—not because he sinned little, but because he repented little. In his eyes, he didn’t have much of anything to repent about.

Brethren, WE OUGHT TO BE, OR STRIVE TO BE, AT A POINT IN OUR CHRISTIAN LIFE WHERE WE TRULY WALK RIGHTEOUSLY BEFORE THE LORD AND DON’T HAVE MUCH OF ANYTHING TO REPENT ABOUT. This is everywhere commendable and commanded in Scripture. But, like Simon, are there areas in our life that we think we’re perfect in, but really we’re not? Are there things in our life that we don’t think we need to repent of and change, but really we need to?

You see, Simon thought he was a pretty good guy. He wasn’t a sinner like this woman prostrated at Jesus’ feet. But what he didn’t know was, in his self-righteous attitude towards Jesus and the woman, he was every bit in need of repentance and God’s forgiveness as this woman was! He wasn’t any better than the woman he was critical of! But because he wasn’t cognizant or repentant of that fact, he therefore wasn’t forgiven and thus, he didn’t love.

Brethren, we’ve got to recognize and admit our own faults, weaknesses, or shortcomings. When we do this, we realize how much we need the Lord to help us, change us, and mature us. Yea, moreover, we realize that we need the Lord as badly as any new-born Christian. In the end, IT’S THIS RECOGNITION OF NEED THAT WILL PRESERVE AND DELIVER US FROM A HAUGHTY, ARROGANT, SELF-RIGHTEOUS ATTITUDE TOWARDS NEW-BORN, IMMATURE BELIEVERS.

 

(B) SIMON AND THE WOMAN

Let’s look at Simon now in relation to the woman. In his sight, the woman is still a sinner.FN And like a true Pharisee, or Separated one, he has alienated himself from her and every other sinner. He’s not in a position to minister life to her because he has shut her off, he has no compassion for her, he’s critical of her. Brethren, these things ought not so to be! We ought not be like Simon. And the proof of this is Jesus, in a mild mannered way, reproved Simon. The way Jesus saw it, Simon was in the wrong.

Brethren, we cannot be mature Christians if we insist on being just like Simon. To be a Christian after God's own heart we must be like Christ. WE MUST LEARN TO LOOK AT A PERSON—NOT THROUGH HIS OR HER OWN SINFUL PAST, BUT THROUGH THEIR OWN REPENTANT OR PENITENT PRESENT.

Obviously, let me say right at the start that I’m not talking about people whose repentance is feigned or fake. I’m not talking about those who supposedly repent, but continue to do the things they supposedly repented of. This is another sermon for another time.

I’m talking about people who have a genuine conversion experience like this woman in Scripture. I’m talking about believers who genuinely repent for a sin they committed. Brethren, we cannot look at each other in light of what we were before Christ or in light of our past mistakes. Why?

*For one thing, because THAT’S NOT HOW GOD SEES US! He’s forgiven and cleansed us. He remembers our sins no more.

*And for another thing, we shouldn’t look at one another in light of our sinful worst because IT’S DIFFICULT FOR US TO MINISTER LIFE TO OTHERS WHEN OUR ATTITUDE, BEHAVIOR, AND RESPONSE TO THEM ARE BASED ON THE SINS OF THE PAST. When we’re focused on a person’s past sins or mistakes we become critical, judgmental, condemnatory, skeptical, suspicious, and distrustful of them. We treat them with contempt. We reject them. And we separate or alienate ourselves from them. Brethren, there’s no life in this approach towards people!

God didn’t tell us to begrudge forgiveness or acceptance to those who’ve repented. To the contrary, He tells us to forgive and receive them. He said in 2 Corinthians 2:5-8 (NIV), If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. (6) The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. (7) Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. (8) I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.

Now Paul was speaking here of a fornicator in the church who was disciplined out of the church, but who later came to repentance. What did Paul want the church to do? He wanted the church to forgive, comfort, and confirm, or affirm, their love for this man.

You see, GOD WANTS US TO GRIEVE FOR OUR SINS, BUT THERE IS A POINT WHERE TOO MUCH GRIEF OR SORROW FOR SIN HAS AN ADVERSE AFFECT ON US. IT’S DETRIMENTAL TO OUR SPIRITUAL, EMOTIONAL, MENTAL, AND PHYSICAL WELL-BEING AND RECOVERY.

The love, forgiveness, and acceptance of the saints helps us not to be overtaken and paralyzed by an excessive sorrow or condemnation for sin. And when we withhold these things from those who repent and grieve, we’re only helping them to remain paralyzed and condemned for their sins.

Paul goes on to exhort us in Galatians 6:1 (NLT), Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.

In other words, we’re supposed to receive, or accept, the penitent: we’re not supposed to shun or despise them.

 

SOME IMPORTANT THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND

I’m talking about the need to look at people in light of their penitent present. Here are some admonitions that the Lord wanted me to share with you.

1. First, WE NEED TO RECOGNIZE AND ACCEPT THE FACT THAT A PERSON IS CAPABLE OF REPENTING AND GETTING SAVED—NO MATTER HOW GRIEVOUS THE SIN WAS, HOW IMMORAL OR DEPRAVED THE PERSON WAS, OR HOW LONG THE PERSON PERSISTED IN SIN. What I say with respect to sinners I say with respect to believers too. In spite of the light or maturity of the Christian involved, we’ve got to love, forgive, and receive.

Brethren, it’s nothing more than unbelief to think that a sinner or saint cannot possibly be serious about repenting and getting things right with the Lord. We’ve got the problem, not them! Like Simon, we can’t minister to penitent saints if we refuse to accept the genuineness of their repentance.

 

2. Second, we’ve got to do what is possibly one of the hardest things to do, and that is, forgive, forget, and accept those who’ve sinned and missed it. True, they may not have an excuse for sin. They may have had the light. But these facts do not dismiss or absolve us from the exhortations of 2 Corinthians 2:6-8 and Galatians 6:1, cited above. If God forgives, forgets, and accepts, then brethren, who are we to do otherwise or less? TRUE CHRISTIANS ARE NOT UNLOVING OR UNFORGIVING. They struggle with hatred, bitterness, and unforgiveness like everyone else. But they don’t remain that way. They rise above what’s natural to human nature and they learn to love and forgive.

 

3. Third, we need to guard against being harsh and unforgiving. Brethren, there’s no life in unforgiveness. If God didn’t forgive us we wouldn’t have a life to speak of.

WHEN WE’RE UNFORGIVING TOWARDS OTHERS WE CAN’T MINISTER LIFE TO THEM. They derive no good or ministry from us. WE END UP ALIENATING AND KILLING THE VERY PEOPLE GOD WANTS US TO LOVE AND MINISTER TO. Beloved, there’s a hard heart inside us that God wants us to get rid of. Why? Because WITHOUT LOVE WE HAVE NO MINISTRY. WE ARE NO GOOD TO GOD AND PEOPLE IF WE’RE CRITICAL, CONDEMNING, AND UNLOVING. Like Simon, we can’t be used. The softening of the heart, my friends, is preparatory to the ministry God has called each and everyone of us to. In a word, WE AREN’T GOING ANYWHERE TO DO ANYTHING FOR THE LORD WITHOUT LOVE AND A PASSION FOR SOULS.

4. Lastly by way of admonition, we need to learn how to receive a babe in Christ. I’m referring to the woman in our Scripture text who had just gotten saved. Newborn babies don’t grow on their own. They need a lot of care, nourishment, and attention from their mothers and families. Without it, they perish. If mothers and families ignored them and left them to fend for themselves just like grown-ups, they die. Why? Because as newborn babes, they can’t make it on their own.

Beloved, the analogy holds true in the spiritual realm. Recent converts to Christ are newborn babes who need a lot of spiritual care and Scriptural nourishment from the family of believers called the local church. THEY WON’T GROW OR MATURE WITHOUT THE MINISTRY OF BELIEVERS. I know there are exceptions to this. But I’m not talking about the exceptions right now. I’m talking about the rule. And the rule is, babies require nurture from grown-ups.

Now as grown-ups we can prove derelict in our duty to nurture spiritual babies. We can start out condemning them. Or we can start out with a lot of rules. Or we can overwhelm them with so much meat and doctrine and bypass milk altogether (see 1 Peter 2:2). I’m not sure how many universal guidelines we can lay down and prescribe for every one of us to observe in ministering to new believers.

As we look at the life of Christ, Jesus ministered to different people in different ways—I believe because He knew PEOPLE ARE NOT ALL THE SAME, THEREFORE, MINISTRY MUST BE TAILORED TO THE SPECIFIC NEEDS OF EACH INDIVIDUAL.

*For example, in John 8 with the woman caught in adultery, Jesus told her right from the start, Go and sin no more (John 8:11), but He doesn’t say the same thing with respect to this woman in Luke 7 or with the adulteress of Samaria in John 4.

*Nicodemus was interested in knowledge or doctrine and Jesus gave him a theological discourse on the new birth (John 3). The rich young ruler, on the other hand, was interested in conduct or action and Jesus told him to do something very practical (Matthew 19).

*When the Gadarene demoniac was delivered, he wanted to follow Jesus everywhere He went, but Jesus sent him home instead (Luke 8). Another man wanted to go home first and bury his father before he came and followed Jesus, but Jesus told him to go and preach the gospel instead (Luke 9).

Are you beginning to see the point that I’m trying to make? The point is, JESUS MINISTERED TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE IN DIFFERENT WAYS. While He had a lot of things He could tell each one, He was nevertheless mindful of each one’s needs and He gave them exactly what they needed to hear at the time.

Isaiah 50:4 (Webster) reads, The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth my ear to hear as the learned.

Brethren, IF YOU WANT TO MINISTER LIFE TO A NEWBORN CHRISTIAN, THEN, LIKE JESUS, BE SENSITIVE TO THE SPIRIT. Instead of picking and choosing what you want to say to him or her, ask the Lord to show you what he or she needs to hear at a given, specific time. You might know a lot of doctrine. But unless you know the need at hand, you can’t minister to that need. Brethren, YOU NEED THE SPIRIT’S WISDOM AND GUIDANCE TO BE AN EFFECTIVE MINISTER.

What I say to you as a minister, I say to you as a bystander. KNOW THE NEED BEFORE YOU START CRITICIZING THE MINISTRY EFFORTS OF OTHERS.FN You see, as a bystander looking at how other Christians are ministering to sinners and babes, it’s easy for you to stand in judgment and criticize the way they’re doing it: “Why aren’t they telling them this? Why aren’t they teaching them that? If I were in their shoes, this is what I would say and this is what I would do.”

Friends, until you’re actually in that position, you really don’t know what you should say or do. Until the Lord reveals the need to you and unless you sense the Spirit’s guidance, you really don’t know what should be said or done. Unless you know the need at hand, your criticism of the ministry efforts of others only betrays your ignorance. Brethren, IF, AS A BYSTANDER, YOU WANT TO HELP SINNERS GET SAVED AND CONVERTS GET INSTRUCTED, THE BEST THING YOU CAN DO IS PRAY FOR THOSE WHO ARE DOING THE MINISTERING. Believe me, they could use your prayers.

 

THE LORD: GETTING TO KNOW JESUS MORE

Looking lastly now at Jesus, I’d like to point out three things about our Lord.

1. First, THE LORD CORRECTS YOU WHEN YOU NEED IT. You see, Simon was in the wrong. He was being critical of the woman and the Lord. He needed correction and, at the risk of offending His host, Jesus gave it to him. It’s easy to take offense when someone corrects you. Nobody likes being reproved.

One of the hardest things to receive is a rebuke and correction—especially when you think you’re right! The easiest thing to do is start defending and justifying yourself.

Jesus’ rebuke of Simon shows us quite plainly that Simon was wrong even though he really didn’t think he was wrong. As far as he was concerned, he was right in his attitude towards the woman and right in his assessment of Jesus not being a prophet.

Now there are times when you know you’re wrong and there are times when you think you’re not. Like Simon, you can’t see where you’re wrong. At such a time as this, it takes the love, grace and wisdom of God to make you see where you’re missing it. It also takes a lot of humility on your part—a softened heart—to admit your mistake. In the end, it’s pride and a stubborn will or heart that causes you to despise the Lord’s reproof and correction.

Sometimes God corrects you through people (Romans 15:14, 2 Timothy 4:2). At other times, He corrects you through His Spirit and His Word. But no matter how He chooses to do it at any given time, He does it because He loves you and wants to turn you from the error of your ways.

You know, parents diligently instruct, admonish, and discipline their children because they love them; they’re interested in how their children turn out as adults.

My friends, GOD IS INTERESTED IN HOW YOU TURN OUT. He loves you and that’s why He reproves you when you’re wrong. Proverbs 3:12 reads, For whom the Lord loveth, he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth (see also Hebrews 12:5,6).

Now like children being admonished and disciplined, THE THING LEAST OFTEN SEEN IN A REPROOF OR REBUKE IS LOVE. When someone corrects you, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? How do you respond? Do you say things like, “You’re critical of me, you’re unloving, you don’t understand, you’ve got a hard heart.” It’s easy to see this “negative” side of reproof or correction and the last thing you see, if you see it at all, is love. Your parents, your pastor, your brethren, your friends, just like the Lord, love you and it’s their concern for your well-being that prompts them to correct you.

Just as children turn out to be good adults by, among other things, listening to their parents’ instructions and reproofs, so likewise, RECEIVING CORRECTION IS A VITAL PART OF MATURING AS A CHRISTIAN. WRONGS IN YOUR LIFE WILL NOT BE CORRECTED UNTIL YOU HUMBLE YOURSELF, RECEIVE CORRECTION, AND MAKE THINGS RIGHT. LEARN TO RECEIVE CORRECTION, MY FRIENDS, BECAUSE YOU WON’T MATURE, YOU WON’T BE RIGHT, WITHOUT IT.

 

2. A second thing about Christ that I’d like for you to see is, He didn’t isolate Himself from the religious leaders. He didn’t spend much time ministering to them because His ministry was directed primarily towards ordinary people.FN Whenever He got to talking with the religious leaders, most of the time He ended up getting in trouble with them and offending them. Or making them mad.

But here was a Pharisee who invited Jesus to his house and Jesus didn’t turn the invitation down.FN Like any of us, Jesus could have come up with all sorts of reasons not to reach out to a man who was part of a group of people who opposed and persecuted Him. Instead of cutting the man off, Jesus took him up on his invitation. He didn’t isolate Himself from him. The Pharisees weren’t His primary objects of ministry, but when the occasion presented itself—when He received an invitation or a visit from them, as in the case of Nicodemus—He reached out to them.

Now in the Bible we are commanded to stay away from some people, for example, those who are divisive, disorderly, and deceivers (Romans 16:17, 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 1 Timothy 6:3-5, 2 Timothy 3:5, 2 John 10). In addition to these, there are likely some people who we wouldn’t ordinarily fellowship with or minister to—perhaps a Baptist, an Amish, a minister, or a leader in a big denominational church. Like Jesus, they’re not our primary objects of ministry.

But THE FACT THAT THEY’RE NOT OUR PRIMARY OBJECTS OF MINISTRY DOESN’T MEAN IT’S ALRIGHT FOR US TO ISOLATE OURSELVES FROM THEM AND NOT REACH OUT TO THEM AT ALL. I’m not asking you to violate the commands of Scripture cited above. I’m every bit an advocate of watching the company you keep (1 Corinthians 15:33). But the question is, Does the command of Scripture forbid us from talking to, or ministering to, the Simons of our day? Simon was a critic. Before any of this took place, Jesus knew how that evening meal would turn out. He knew Simon’s heart from the start. He knew Simon was going to be critical as soon as the woman showed up at His feet. Jesus knew these things. But what did He do when Simon came calling? Jesus paid attention to him. He spent time with him and ministered to him.

Do you see what I’m saying? GOD HASN’T CALLED US TO FELLOWSHIP OR HANG AROUND WITH CRITICS AND ENEMIES OF THE TRUTH. BUT WHEN THEY COME CALLING OR ASKING, WON’T YOU PLEASE CONSIDER DOING WHAT JESUS DID? Consider reaching out a hand and ministering. Be led of the Lord and when the opportunity presents itself—when they see you, call you, ask you or invite you—take them up and reach out to them. We’re being prepared to minister. We’re here to minister. And just like Simon with respect to this woman, WE CAN’T MINISTER TO PEOPLE IF WE ISOLATE OURSELVES FROM THEM.

 

3. The third and final thing about our Lord that I'd like to bring to your attention is Jesus' boldness and fearlessness. Jesus has a lot of guts to publicly assure this woman that her sins are forgiven; and He has a lot of guts to do that out loud. This is a very risky thing for Jesus to do because only God can forgive sins. So when Jesus says these words out loud, He knows He’s going to get in a lot of trouble for it because only God can forgive sins AND Jesus, being a man, is making Himself equal to God.

The truth many times is offensive to people and we who to dare to speak it will get in trouble for saying it. The fear of the consequences of saying something in public is what keeps many of God’s people from saying the things that need to be said. If you knew you’d catch flack for saying something, would you say it? After all, the Bible commands us to be peaceable (Romans 14:19). So, for the sake of peace, would you keep your mouth shut?

What Jesus is teaching us here by example is this: THERE’S A TIME TO SPEAK UP AND A TIME TO SHUT UP. You have to follow the Spirit’s leading and let God tell you if, and when, you should say something. BUT THE FACT THAT YOU’LL CATCH FLACK FOR SAYING SOMETHING, OR FOR TAKING A STAND, OUGHT NOT KEEP YOU FROM SAYING THE THINGS THAT NEED TO BE SAID.

Another way of saying it is, if you’re following the Lord and obeying His leading, JUST BECAUSE YOU GOT IN TROUBLE FOR SAYING SOMETHING DOESN’T AUTOMATICALLY MEAN YOU WERE WRONG. IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU WERE OUT OF GOD’S WILL. GOD’S WILL WILL SOMETIMES GET YOU IN TROUBLE WITH PEOPLE. So don’t let the fact that people are down on you get your down and doubtful as to whether you heard from the Lord and did the right thing. If it’s any comfort to you, know this. SOMETIMES, MAYBE A LOT OF TIMES, DOING THE RIGHT THING WILL GET YOU IN TROUBLE WITH MEN. BUT NOT WITH GOD.

 

JESUS GOES ON A SECOND EVANGELISTIC TOUR OF GALILEE

Luke 8:1, And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him. Luke 8:1 (ESV), Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him,

 

Out of all the Gospel writers, Luke alone records this second missionary tour of Galilee. Like his record of the first, he summarizes Jesus’ message and works without actually recording any specific incidents that occurred during that tour (compare 8:1 with 4:42-44). The twelve apostles accompanied Jesus on this tour and it undoubtedly gave them a good idea of what ministry was like.

 

Luke 8:2-3, And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, {3} And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance. Luke 8:2-3 (ESV), and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, (3) and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.

 

In addition to the twelve, there were many women who accompanied Jesus on this missionary tour.FN Among them were:

*Mary Magdalene whose name appears quite often in the Passion narratives. Along with a handful of other women, she watched the crucifixion of our Lord (Matthew 27:56), she saw where His body was laid (Matthew 27:61), she went out early on resurrection morn to anoint Jesus’ body (Matthew 28:1), she told the disciples of the empty tomb (John 20:18), and she was the first person to see, and talk with, the risen Christ (John 20:1-18).

*Joanna, the wife of Chuza, is mentioned only in this Gospel account (Luke 8:3 and 24:10). She was with Mary Magdalene when they discovered the empty tomb. Her husband was Herod’s steward. He was the one who managed Antipas’ household staff. Here, then, we find the only indication in the Gospel accounts that Jesus’ message and ministry penetrated the echelons of power and won at least one individual who commanded influence in the court of the Tetrarch. Brethren, don’t shut government officials, politicians, and rulers out of Christianity because the Gospel of our Lord penetrates even in places of power.

*Susanna is nowhere else mentioned by name and nothing else is known of her.

Between the women and the disciples, there was a sizeable group of people who followed Jesus on this second evangelistic tour of Galilee. Lodging, food, and other personal expenses were, in some measure, financed by the women who followed our Lord. Apparently, they were women of means who gladly sacrificed their wealth or financial resources to help support the Lord and the work of the ministry. The appearance of these women in the Passion narratives gives every indication that they were loyal followers of the Lord and remained such at a time when their faith in Him was sorely tested by His death on Calvary.

 

JESUS' FRIENDS TRY TO WREST HIM AWAY FROM THE CROWDS

Mark 3:20-21, And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. {21} And when his friendsFN heard of it, they went out to lay holdFN on him: for they said, He is beside himself.FN Mark 3:20-21 (ESV), Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. (21) And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, "He is out of his mind."

 

Returning from His second tour of Galilee, a crowd once again gathered around Jesus, making it difficult for Him and His disciples to even eat a meal in peace. Although the Pharisees’ opposition was beginning to mount and intensify, Jesus nevertheless continued to enjoy widespread popularity in the midst of persecution. When others of our Lord’s disciples heard of it, they sought to remove Him to a place of refuge and rest. In their estimation, Jesus’ untiring ministry to the multitudes was causing Him to lose His mind.FN Unlike His enemies who thought the same thing (John 10:20), these friends of Jesus acted on what they felt were Jesus’ best interests, namely, He needed to get away from the multitudes for a while and get some rest!

 

JESUS HEALS A BLIND AND MUTE DEMONIAC

Matthew 12:22-23, Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb:FN and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. {23} And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? Matthew 12:22-23 (NIV),  Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.  (23)  All the people were astonished and said, "Could this be the Son of David?"

 

The healing of the blind and mute demoniac, miraculous in itself, is significant in that the people who bore witness to this miracle publicly ask for the first time if Jesus was indeed the Son of David. Now this phrase, Son of David, is synonymous with Messiah (Matthew 21:9,15, 22:41-45). In other words, these people in Galilee—like many others in Judea—were beginning to wonder if Jesus was really the Messiah. His miraculous power caused the people to take a good, hard look at Jesus and come to grips with the question of His identity. Is Jesus just a mere man or is He unlike ordinary men? Those in the village of Nain proclaimed Jesus a Great Prophet after He raised the widow’s son back to life (Luke 7:16). Could it be Jesus was more than just a Prophet? Could He be the Messiah?

Now the popular conception of Messiah was that of King or Ruler. But Messiah was more than that. He was also Spiritual Deliverer, Savior, Healer, and Preacher (Isaiah 61:1-4). People tended to forget this aspect of Messiah. But Jesus’ miracles—especially this one where a blind and mute man was made to see and talk—awakened them to the fact that Messiah was also a Miracle Worker. The miracles pointed to the Messiah. And so, then, this healing of the blind and mute demoniac is significant in that it marked for the first time the people’s recognition of Jesus as the Messiah based on His miraculous power and works, not on His political power or ambition.

 

Matthew 12:24, But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.FN Mark 3:22, And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. Matthew 12:24 (NIV),  But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons."

 

The healing of the blind and mute demoniac caused the people to come to grips with the question of Jesus’ identity. Many toyed with the idea that Jesus might just possibly be the promised Messiah.

The Pharisees, however, dismissed the idea and sought to discredit Jesus by accusing Him of delivering demoniacs through the power of Beelzebub. Certain Scribes who were visiting from Jerusalem accused Him of being possessed by Beelzebub himself!FN And who is Beelzebub? He’s the prince of devils, namely, Satan Himself. In other words, “Jesus is not the Messiah! This supposed Messiah is a demoniac!” Thus, while many of the people called Jesus the Son of God, Messiah, and Great Prophet, the Jewish religious leaders themselves proclaimed Him to be the Devil incarnate.FN

By accusing Him thusly, the Pharisees sought to quench the people’s excitement and turn them away from following or exalting Jesus as the promised Messiah of Israel.

 

Matthew 12:25-26, And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them,FN Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: {26} And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? Mark 3:23-26, And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? {24} And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. {25} And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. {26} And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. Matthew 12:25-26 (NIV),  Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.  (26)  If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?

 

The charge of the Pharisees and Scribes is utterly incongruous or incompatible with reason. Satan doesn’t cast out Satan. If he did he would be working against himself, his kingdom would be divided and fall.FN While Satan has a lot of tricks and magic up his sleeves, he doesn't do deliverance or exorcism. Satan will not cast demons out of people! Only God and Christians can do that!

 

Matthew 12:27, And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. Matthew 12:27 (ESV), And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.

 

Jesus and His disciples weren't the only ones performing exorcism. The Pharisees had their own disciples and these Pharisaic followers were also involved in exorcism. So what makes Jesus' exorcism demonic and that of the Pharisees' disciples Godly? There's no difference at all! Satan doesn't do exorcism. So if demons are coming out of people then whoever's casting demons out is a servant of God, not of Satan. The Pharisees have got it all wrong and their very own disciples would tell them they're wrong!

 

Matthew 12:28-29, But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. {29} Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. Mark 3:27, No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house. Matthew 12:28-29 (NIV),  But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  (29)  "Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.

 

Jesus' talk about the strongman confuses a lot of people. For simplicity's sake, Jesus is telling us that what's true in the physical realm is also true in the spiritual realm. If you were going to break into a guy’s house you’d better tie up the guy first so that he doesn’t stop you from robbing him. This only makes sense.

So what is Jesus saying here? The only way someone can cast demons out of people is for them to bind up the demonic strong man first. Why? Because the strong man isn’t going to let you cast these demons out of people. He’s their boss. He’s the top dog in charge of these demons. So, in order to cast demons out of people you’ve first got to take out their leader.

Now comes the genuis of Jesus' wisdom. Since Jesus is casting demons out of people—this is a fact that even the Pharisees and Scribes could not deny—then that in itself is the proof that Jesus has “tied up” or taken out their leader, their strongman, who is Beelzebub himself! Instead of Jesus being in league with the devil and working through the devil’s power, Jesus is working against the devil, He’s “tied up” the devil and plundered his house. And in doing so, Jesus is proving that He’s got the greater power over the devil!

In a nutshell, Jesus is not who the Scribes and Pharisees claimed Him to be:FN He's not Beelzebub or possessed! To the contrary, He's a true Servant of God working against the devil and triumphing over him.

 

Matthew 12:30, He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. Matthew 12:30 (NIV),  "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

 

Jesus very clearly sets forth the principle that if you’re not with Him or for Him, then you’re against Him. There’s no middle ground. There are no neutralities with God. You’re either for Him or else you’re against Him.

Jesus sets Himself apart from Beelzebub. Since Jesus is casting demons out, then He is the enemy of Beelzebub. He is not in league with Beelzebub as the Pharisees and Scribes claimed, but rather He is the enemy of Beelzebub.

Here again we see the genius of Jesus' wisdom. In setting Himself apart from Beelzebub, Jesus tells the Pharisees and Scribes that they’re either for Jesus or against Him. They’re either for Jesus or for Beelzebub. Since they are against Jesus, then it is clear that they are for Beelzebub!

In this way, Jesus has turned the tables on His enemies. They claimed that Jesus was the agent of Beelzebub. But JESUS, THROUGH THE ACT OF DELIVERANCE AND COMMON LOGIC SHOWS HIS ENEMIES THAT THEY ARE THE AGENTS OF BEELZEBUB, THEY’RE IN LEAGUE WITH HIM, BECAUSE THEY ARE AGAINST JESUS. IT’S THEM—NOT JESUS—WHO ARE THE AGENTS OF BEELZEBUB!

So you think you're an agent of truth doing God's work? In resisting Jesus and the Bible don't be surprised to find yourself the complete opposite of what you claim to be. YOU'RE NOT RIGHT WHEN YOU CONTRADICT AND WORK AGAINST JESUS AND THE BIBLE. You're wrong and, sadly, in league with the devil who opposes God's truth.

 

THE UNPARDONABLE SIN OR BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT

 

Matthew 12:31-32, Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. {32} And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. Matthew 12:31-32 (NIV),  And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.  (32)  Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Mark 3:28-30, Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: {29} But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: {30} Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.

 

There is one, and only one, sin that can never be forgiven and that is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. To knowingly commit it even once is to be damned for a lifetime and eternity. It is an unpardonable, unforgivable sin.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion about what the unpardonable sin is. Not surprisingly, the devil takes advantage of the confusion and spreads big-time mischief among God's people. He tells the weak and vulnerable among God’s people that they’ve committed the unpardonable sin, God will never forgive them, they’re damned for all eternity without any hope of salvation or Heaven.

Tragically, some of God’s people believe these lies of the devil and they end up living very confused, miserable, and tormented lives. It’s really no way to live.

My heart goes out to all of you who believe you've committed the unpardonable sin. By God's grace I hope to help you out of the morass of misery that you find yourself in. Let me park on these verses of our Lord and trust Him to lead you convincingly to the knowledge and assurance of His love, forgiveness, acceptance, and salvation.

 

A BRIEF DEFINITION OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BLASPHEME THE HOLY SPIRIT

What, then, is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Well, the word 'blasphemy' in the ancient Greek text of Scripture means to revile or reproach, to calumniate or make false and malicious statements so as to slander or defame someone’s character or reputation. To commit the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, then, is to disgrace or dishonor the Holy Spirit by saying false things about or against Him.

 

THE PEOPLE WHO COMMIT THE UNPARDONABLE SIN

I'd like to delve a little deeper into the definition of blasphemy by looking at four constituent elements of the unpardonable sin. First, let's look at the people who commit the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Look once again at Matthew 12:24 and Mark 3:22. Who committed the blasphemy? The Scribes and Pharisees. They weren't believers or followers of our Lord. They were His critics and enemies. They didn't love Jesus. They were out to oppose, bad-mouth, destroy, and kill Him.

It's important for you to understand this because when you do, you'll understand that a true Christian, believer, and lover of our Lord will not blaspheme the Holy Spirit. They just won't because they love the Lord and aren't going to knowingly, intentionally discredit Him and make Him look bad. Christians aren't out to make the Lord a devil or a demoniac.

THE PEOPLE WHO COMMIT THE UNPARDONABLE SIN ARE UNBELIEVERS WHO HATE AND OPPOSE OUR LORD. If that isn't you, then you haven't committed the unpardonable sin.

 

THE PERSON WHO THE BLASPHEMER ACCUSES OF BEING POSSESSED

We've looked at who commits the unpardonable sin. Now let's look at the person who's being accused of being possessed or demonically-inspired.

Look once again at Matthew 12:24, But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow. There are two things that you should be aware of here. First, when the religious leaders committed blasphemy they were talking to the people about Jesus. They weren’t talking to Jesus, nor were they talking to the invisible Personage called the Holy Spirit. Their object and intent was not to blaspheme the Spirit! They didn’t start out their conversation with Jesus by saying, “O.K. guys, let’s blaspheme the Holy Spirit.” You see, from their point of view, they were out to discredit Jesus as the Messiah because of what the people around them were saying and wondering about Jesus being the possible Messiah.

So what’s the point? A BLASPHEMER CAN BLASPHEME THE HOLY SPIRIT EVEN WHEN HE ISN’T TALKING DIRECTLY OR PERSONALLY TO HIM. A BLASPHEMER CAN BLASPHEME THE SPIRIT WITHOUT EVEN HAVING HIM IN MIND.

These religious leaders didn’t like Jesus, nor did they agree with Him. But, and this is my second point, the fact of the matter remains the same: Jesus was a Man of God and the Spirit of God was working through Him. It’s important for you to understand this truth—that Jesus was a true Man of God—because when you understand that, you’ll understand that the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit applies primarily to an accusation that's made against a true minister of God. I believe it applies as well to those who operate in the gifts of the Spirit, particularly the gifts of revelation, utterance, or miracles.

In effect, THE BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT IS COMMITTED WHEN FALSE ACCUSATION OF DEMONIC POSSESSION OR ACTIVITY IS MADE AGAINST ANY BELIEVER WHO’S FUNCTIONING OR MINISTERING UNDER THE SPIRIT’S INSPIRATION, ANOINTING, OR POWER.FN

You see, it isn’t blasphemous to accuse a false prophet, deceiver, or minister of Satan of speaking or working by demonic power. It’s true. Satan’s ministers work under his demonic power. Brethren, it isn’t blasphemous to say it.

The unpardonable sin applies only when false accusation of demonic possession or activity is made against a true minister or servant of God. If the person you accused of being possessed or of working by demonic power isn't a true servant of God, then you haven't committed the unpardonable sin.

 

THE BLASPHEMER'S ACTUAL ACCUSATION ITSELF

Now we come to the actual accusation itself. What does the person who's blasphemed the Holy Spirit actually say? This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils (Matthew 12:24).

Remember what blasphemy means. It means to say something that’s untrue in order to slander a person’s character or reputation. Jesus was working or ministering by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Scribes and Pharisees said He wasn’t. They accused Him of ministering by demonic power.

A BLASPHEMER BLASPHEMES THE HOLY SPIRIT WHEN HE CHARGES AND ATTRIBUTES THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT TO BE THE WORK OF A DEMONIC SPIRIT. This is the unpardonable sin and it's constitutes blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. When the unpardonable sin is committed the blasphemer is denying that it’s the Holy Spirit who's working or speaking through an individual: he's accusing a true Christian of being possessed and of working and/or speaking by demonic power.

Remember the motive for the accusation at this point. Why did the Scribes and Pharisees make this accusation against Jesus? Because they were out to slander, defame, or make our Lord look bad. They wanted to convince the people that Jesus wasn't a Man of God, but rather, an agent or tool of Satan. When a blasphemer makes this kind of accusation against a true minister or servant of God his intent is to make a true servant of God look bad. But, in doing so, the blasphemer has actually blasphemed the Holy Spirit: he's disgraced the Holy Spirit by accusing the Holy Spirit of being a demonic spirit instead.

 

THE FALSENESS OF THE BLASPHEMER'S ACCUSATION

Lastly, the unpardonable sin involves an accusation that isn’t true. Look at Matthew 12:26-27 with me, And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? {27} And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges.

The Pharisees had disciples and these disciples were casting demons out of people. Apparently, the Pharisees didn’t have any problem with them doing that. But when it came to Jesus doing the same thing, they treated Him differently. They accused Him of being a tool of the Devil.

In a situation like this, only one of three possibilities is true: (1) all exorcism is by the power of God; or (2) all exorcism is by the power of Satan; or (3) some exorcism is by the power of God and some is by the power of Satan. Since the disciples of the Pharisees were involved in exorcism, it is clear the Pharisees didn’t believe that all deliverance is by the power of Satan. Simple enough. Let’s scratch out (2).

That done, we’re faced with two possibilities: (1) either all exorcism is by the power of God, or else (2) some of it is by God’s power and some by the devil’s power. You see, the Pharisees were faced with these two possibilities. Since they didn’t like or agree with Jesus and were envious of Him for amassing such a huge following among the people,FN they could not bring themselves to admit that God could work through Jesus. The only choice they had left was, God casts demons out when He does it through our disciples, but when someone else does it Satan is behind it.

But their charge against Jesus was wrong on two counts. First, Satan doesn’t cast demons out of people. And second, the disciples of the Pharisees would testify against them and object to the notion that the devil was the power behind deliverance. They, Jesus said, shall be your judges (Matthew 12:27).

The accusation that Jesus was casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub was not true. The Scribes and Pharisees either fabricated this untruth, or else they really believed it in their hearts. Whatever the case might be, the accusation simply was not true.

Brethren, DON’T EVER MAKE FALSE ACCUSATIONS AGAINST A TRUE CHRISTIAN BASED ON ENVY, HATRED, OR WRONG THEOLOGY BECAUSE IT CAN GET YOU IN A LOT OF TROUBLE. You may not like a Christian or a minister. Don't say stuff that just isn't true. Don't accuse the Spirit's work to be the devil's work. Don't try and make a servant of God look bad. Zip that lip and you won't ever commit the unpardonable sin.

 

IF YOU THINK YOU'VE COMMITTED THE UNPARDONABLE SIN, READ THIS

A lot of Christians live believing, and being tormented by the belief, that they’ve committed the unpardonable sin. They think their sin is too great that God will never forgive them. They want to be forgiven and go to Heaven. But they think God will never forgive them because they’ve committed the unpardonable sin.

Look at Matthew 12:31 once again dear friends, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. All sins, after you’ve committed them and feel sorry for them, are lamentable and regrettable. But all sins are forgivable except the unpardonable sin. IF YOU HAVEN’T BLASPHEMED THE HOLY SPIRIT YOU HAVEN’T COMMITTED THE UNPARDONABLE SIN. No matter what sin you committed, no matter how great, serious, despicable, debased, or longstanding; your sins are forgivable. IF YOU’VE CONFESSED YOUR SIN AND REPENTED TO GOD FOR DOING IT, THEN YOU’RE FORGIVEN and you ought not believe the devil’s lie and think that God won’t forgive you.

Remember that to blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to accuse a person of working by a demonic spirit instead of the Holy Spirit. If you think you have blasphemed the Holy Spirit, answer four questions.

 

(1) Was the person you accused a true servant of God? It isn’t blasphemous to say that a demonically-oppressed person is oppressed by a demon. When a demon is genuinely manifesting through a person it isn’t blasphemous to say that a demon is manifesting.

(2) Was the person working a miracle or speaking under an anointing? If the person isn’t a Christian, if the person is a false minister, if the person wasn’t working a miracle or speaking under an anointing; then you haven’t blasphemed the Holy Spirit. BLASPHEMING THE HOLY SPIRIT OCCURS ONLY IN THE CONTEXT OF THE SPIRIT WORKING A MIRACLE OR SPEAKING A DIVINE WORD. If no miracle was performed, or if the person was just speaking without an anointing or utterance gift of the Spirit, then there’s no blasphemy involved.

(3) What exactly did you say that makes you think you blasphemed the Holy Spirit? Did you accuse the person of having, and working by, a demonic spirit? If not, you haven’t committed the unpardonable sin. You may have said a lot of bad or mean things about that person. That’s lamentable. But it isn’t unpardonable! Remember, the unpardonable sin is when you accuse someone who’s ministering by the Spirit of ministering by a demonic spirit. No such accusation, no such sin. IF YOU DON’T REMEMBER MAKING SUCH ACCUSATION, CHANCES ARE, YOU HAVEN’T BLASPHEMED THE HOLY SPIRIT.

You see, generally speaking, when you commit a sin you know what the sin is. You know what you did. For example, when you steal money you know what you stole and you know that you’ve stolen. If you didn’t steal money do you accuse yourself of having stolen money? Of course not! You don’t accuse yourself of doing things you never did. Suppose the Devil tells you you stole money. Do you believe his accusation? Of course not! You didn’t steal it, his accusation is a lie, so you don’t pay him any mind. Now suppose somebody accuses you of stealing money. Do you believe that person’s accusation? Of course not! You didn’t steal a thing. The accusation is false and a lie.

So what’s the point? The point is, you don’t believe an accusation made against you when you didn’t do it. The accusation is a lie. And just because someone’s accusing you of doing something doesn’t mean you did it.

To be sure, as the years pass you don’t always remember details. You don’t remember everything you said or did in connection with a certain event. But if you’ve ever battled condemnation for past sins you know that when it comes to sin, the Devil doesn’t let you forget. The gory details are as fresh in your mind today as they were the day you committed the sin.

The point is, when it comes to sin, the Devil and your human mind are very good at remembering details! Brethren, IF YOU BELIEVE YOU’VE COMMITTED THE UNPARDONABLE SIN BUT CAN’T REMEMBER EVER COMMITTING IT, YOU HAVEN’T COMMITTED THE SIN! YOU WOULD REMEMBER IT IF YOU DID! People and the Devil may tell you you’ve committed the unpardonable sin. But if you don’t remember ever committing it, the accusation—like stealing money—is a lie.

Remember that the devil does speak and work miracles through people, so IT ISN’T BLASPHEMOUS TO ACCUSE A PERSON OF WORKING THROUGH DEMONIC POWER. The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit occurs when you accuse a true servant of God who’s really and truly working by the Spirit’s power and anointing and you accuse that man or woman of God of working through demonic power.

(4) Now if you indeed accused a true, anointed servant of God of ministering by a demonic spirit, did you know what you were doing when you made the accusation? You see, it’s possible to say and do the wrong things sincerely out of ignorance.

Here's a personal conviction of mine that I hope will become your conviction as well. SINS COMMITTED IN IGNORANCE AND UNBELIEF—BUT WHICH LATER ON ARE CONFESSED AND REPENTED OF AFTER KNOWING AND BELIEVING THE TRUTH—ARE FORGIVABLE.

Look at 1 Timothy 1:12-13 (NLT), I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, (13) even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief.

IF YOU DIDN’T KNOW WHAT YOU WERE DOING—YOU THOUGHT YOU DID, YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW YOU WERE RIGHT ABOUT THAT PERSON YOU ACCUSED; BUT HAVE SINCE COME TO KNOW THAT THEY WERE INDEED TRULY SAVED AND TRULY WORKING BY THE SPIRIT; THEN YOUR BLASPHEMY IS FORGIVABLE BECAUSE IT WAS SAID IN IGNORANCE AND UNBELIEF.FN You need to repent for this blasphemy, then believe and receive God’s forgiveness. Quit believing that you’re unforgiven!FN

 

THE CONDITION AND MOTIVE OF YOUR HEART HAS A LOT TO DO WITH WHETHER OR NOT YOU ACTUALLY COMMITTED THE UNPARDONABLE SIN.

In their unbelief and opposition to Jesus, the Scribes and Pharisees were hardened to Him. They didn’t have the least bit of regret or conviction for the things they said about Him or the things they did to Him.

How do you feel about what you did or said about this Christian? Are you sorry and apologetic? Are you remorseful? Do you wish you hadn’t said what you said about that person? 1 John 1:9 assures us that when we confess our sin, when we repent for what we did or what we said, God is faithful and just, He’ll forgive us our sin, and cleanse us from all our unrighteousness. When the devil smacks you with Matthew 12:31, smack him right back with 1 John 1:9. REPENTANCE IS YOUR ASSURANCE OF GOD'S FORGIVENESS.

The Scribes and Pharisees weren't remorseful about what they said about Jesus. They didn't come to Him with an apology. They weren't sorry at all for everything they said. THEY’RE UNFORGIVEN BECAUSE THEY’RE UNREPENTANT AND UNREMORSEFUL. Those who commit the unpardonable sin don't turn to the Lord for forgiveness. They're not sorry. They don't think about the things they've said.

Brethren, IF YOU STILL HAVE A HEART FOR JESUS AND WANT TO FOLLOW JESUS YOU HAVEN’T COMMITTED THE UNPARDONABLE SIN. Seek the Lord in prayer because there may well be a deceiving spirit of condemnation, torment, or unbelief that’s trying to cut you off from the Lord. Come against the spirit by name, command it in Jesus’ Name not to speak to you anymore about this false charge of blasphemy. Settle it in your heart that you haven’t committed the unpardonable sin, refuse to entertain the thought again, then continue your walk with the Lord.

 

ADVICE TO HELP YOU NOT COMMIT THE UNPARDONABLE SIN

Like the Scribes and Pharisees, it’s possible and easy to be mistaken in your judgments or accusations against a person. Remember from our Scripture text that even though you’re not out to blaspheme the Holy Spirit you can end up doing just that when you make a false accusation of demonic oppression and activity against someone you don’t like or agree with. Here's some advice to help you not commit the unpardonable sin.

 

1. MAINTAIN A CHRISTLIKE SPIRIT AS YOU CONTEND EARNESTLY FOR THE FAITH AND THE TRUTH.

To their credit, the Jewish religious leaders were interested in preserving Judaism from false messiahs. While they may have been envious of Jesus’ following amongst the multitudes or jealous of His power and miracles, they also wanted to spare the multitudes from following someone they thought was a false messiah. They were against Jesus and they stooped pretty low when they accused Him of being possessed by Beelzebub himself. Their opposition to Jesus in the name of Judaism was tainted and corrupted by false accusation and a bad heart.

Brethren, IN YOUR EFFORT TO MAINTAIN AND PRESERVE THE PURITY OF THE GOSPEL AND THE FAITH, DON’T ALLOW YOURSELF TO HAVE BAD THOUGHTS AND ATTITUDES ABOUT PEOPLE WHO YOU THINK ARE WRONG. It’s easy to start hating someone you don’t agree with. It doesn’t take any effort at all to be malicious and vindictive towards someone you perceive as an enemy. Contend for the truth, my friends, but keep your emotions and tongue under strict control.

Remember that the primary intent of blasphemy is to slander or defame someone’s character or reputation. A blasphemer says bad, wrong things about a person because he’s out to ruin or disgrace him. Brethren, WHEN YOU’RE OUT TO SLANDER, RUIN, OR HURT SOMEONE, WATCH OUT BECAUSE LIES AND BLASPHEMY ARE CLOSE AT HAND. Always remember this simple truth: WHEN YOU’RE IN THE FLESH, YOUR MOUTH WILL ALWAYS GET YOU IN TROUBLE. So, if you’re not in the Spirit, zip it and go off somewhere by yourself and cool off.

 

2. DON’T BE QUICK TO CHARGE PEOPLE WITH BEING OPPRESSED AND WORKING UNDER DEMONIC POWER. THINK THINGS THROUGH BEFORE YOU MAKE SUCH AN ACCUSATION.

There are oppressed people in this world. There are false prophets and deceivers working under demonic power. Some of them go to churches and are a part of a local church. WHEN IT COMES TO A PROFESSED FOLLOWER OF JESUS YOU’D BETTER HAVE ALL THE FACTS BEFORE YOU START MAKING ACCUSATION OF OPPRESSION AND DEMONIC POWER OR INFLUENCE. DON’T FABRICATE CHARGES against those who you deem to be enemies of the church and the truth.

The Scribes and Pharisees didn’t like Jesus. They didn’t agree with Jesus. But the fact that they didn’t like Jesus or agree with Him didn’t automatically mean He was demon-oppressed!

Friends, JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T LIKE SOMEONE OR DON’T AGREE WITH HIM DOESN’T AUTOMATICALLY MEAN HE’S A TOOL OF SATAN. HE MAY WELL BE WRONG. BUT HIS BEING WRONG DOESN’T AUTOMATICALLY MAKE HIM OPPRESSED.

DON’T DEMONIFY A BELIEVER OR MINISTER UNLESS YOU KNOW BY THE SPIRIT THAT THERE’S DEMONS INVOLVED.FN

Spiritual things are spiritually discerned (see 1 Corinthians 2:14). Like the religious leaders, when you’re motivated by jealousy, animosity, resentment, pride, or a host of other emotions of the flesh; your ability to discern spiritual things is hampered and you don’t think very well. A BAD HEART MAKES FOR BAD VISION, spiritually speaking. Keep your mouth shut and your accusations to yourself until you can think and see clearly again.

 

3. GET YOUR THEOLOGY RIGHT ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE BEFORE YOU ACCUSE A PERSON OF WORKING UNDER THE INSPIRATION AND POWER OF SATAN.

The Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub. But they were wrong. Their theology was wrong. Satan doesn’t cast out Satan. Their accusation against Jesus was made on wrong or errant theology.

To avoid making the mistake of the Scribes and Pharisees you need to do some thinking and studying before you make accusation against a servant of God. If you were one of these religious leaders, you should have asked yourself if the devil is capable of casting demons out of demon-oppressed people. Does the devil do that sort of thing? Is the devil involved in deliverance?

You see, to discern if a person is ministering by the Spirit of God or by a demonic spirit, you’ve first got to know what the Spirit of God can say and do and what He can’t; and you’ve got to know what the devil can say and do and what he can’t.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. Two professing ministers of God are saying the exact same thing—let’s say they’re both teaching the Biblical message of faith. Two professing ministers of God are doing the exact same thing—let’s say they’re both casting demons out of the oppressed.

You look at both of them and you decide one of them works by the Spirit of God and the other, by a demonic spirit. The question is, How did you arrive at that conclusion or judgment? What reasons, evidence, or criteria did you use to make that judgment? What grounds did you base your discernment on?

Go back to our Scripture text. The disciples of the Pharisees cast demons out of people and Jesus did too. The Pharisees had to decide if Jesus was casting demons out by the Spirit of God or by the power of Beelzebub. Do you know what they based their judgment and accusation on? Well, it wasn’t based on right theology because Satan cannot cast out Satan. Their judgment and accusation was based on the fact that they didn’t like Him, they didn’t agree with Him, He wasn’t a part of their religious clique, He didn’t observe their man-made laws and traditions, He didn’t do things their way, He was cozy with publicans and sinners, He wasn’t separate from the common people, and a host of other reasons. You see, brethren, the things that these religious leaders based their judgment and accusation on weren’t adequate or sufficient to support this kind of judgment or accusation. All their reasons centered around Jesus, but what they failed to see was that these many, varied reasons for accusing Jesus of working by the power of Beelzebub centered around their jealousy, envy, hatred, and pride.

Friends, WHEN YOUR JUDGMENTS OR DISCERNMENT ARE BASED ON VILE EMOTIONS OF THE FLESH, YOU DON’T HAVE A LEG TO STAND ON. What I’m saying is, before you accuse somebody of working by demonic power, you’d better be sure that the Devil is capable of saying the things this person is saying and capable of doing the things this person is doing. If, as in deliverance, the Devil doesn’t say and do certain things, then don’t ascribe the words and works of the Spirit to a demonic spirit because that’s blasphemous.

HAVING A RIGHT HEART AND THEOLOGY WILL KEEP YOU FROM FALSELY ACCUSING A TRUE SERVANT OF GOD OF DEMONIC OPPRESSION AND ACTIVITY.

 

Matthew 12:33-37, Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. {34} O generation of vipers,FN how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. {35} A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. {36} But I say unto you, That every idleFN word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. {37} For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.FN Matthew 12:33-37 (NLT), "A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. (34) You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. (35) A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. (36) And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. (37) The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you."

 

A tree is what it is by nature. What Jesus is referring to here is the fruit of the tree. A good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree produces bad fruit. THE NATURE OF THE TREE DETERMINES THE NATURE OF THE FRUIT. If we want good fruit we’ve got to get it from a good tree. A bad tree will not give us good fruit, so there’s no use looking for good fruit on a bad tree.

Once Jesus makes the connection between the fruit and the nature of the tree, He helps us understand the nature of the Scribes’ and Pharisees’ tree. They’ve just committed blasphemy against the Spirit—this is the bad fruit. And Jesus shows us where this bad fruit comes from: it comes from a bad-natured tree.

In other words, the Scribes and Pharisees are, by nature, bad just like a bad tree. Jesus says they’re evil. And because they’re bad by nature they’re incapable of producing good fruit. A bad-natured person will speak bad things, in this case, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. THE UNPARDONABLE SIN IS COMMITTED BY BAD, EVIL, UNSAVED PEOPLE. Like the Scribes and Pharisees, they may be religious. Extremely religious and devout. But they’re still unsaved.

Now when you look at the Scribes and Pharisees you don’t necessarily see evil, ungodly men. The Scribes were engaged in the noblest of professions: they accurately copied the Scriptures and thus kept the Scriptures in existence and circulation; people could trust that the Scriptures they had were trustworthy and not corrupted or copied wrongly. The Pharisees were devout to the Jewish religion and lived their lives striving to obey God’s law down to the very jot and tittle. So, in looking at them, you automatically think they’re the good guys.

But in opposing, rejecting, disbelieving, and blaspheming Jesus, these “good” men showed their true colors or true nature: they were bad-natured trees and that’s why they spoke bad-natured blasphemies against Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Brethren, there are a lot of “good” people out there who put us Christians to shame by their loyalty to their church and religion, their good works, and the amount of time they give to a study of their scriptures. BUT WHEN PEOPLE, LIKE THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES, TAKE A STANCE AGAINST JESUS, THEY ARE NOT GOOD-NATURED TREES!

How can you tell if a person's good or bad? Look at their fruit, their works, the things they do. Listen to what they say. They may look like perfectly good people to us. But if they're against Jesus they're not good people. In fact, Jesus takes it one step farther and says they're evil.

 

SOME SCRIBES AND PHARISEES ASK JESUS FOR A SIGNFN

THE SIGN OF JONAH

 

Matthew 12:38, Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master,FN we would see a sign from thee.FN Matthew 12:38 (NIV),  Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from you."

 

Semeion, translated ‘sign’, means a wonder or token. The word can refer to miracles and supernatural wonders or works (Matthew 16:1, 24:24). Or it can refer to anything ordinary that’s meant to convince or persuade; something said, done, or given as proof, indication, or evidence of something (Luke 2:12, Matthew 26:48). In other words, these religious leaders wanted Jesus to do something that would convince them that He was a true servant of God and not a servant of Beelzebub. They wanted Jesus to disprove the allegation of demonic oppression and power that their colleagues had just made against Him.

Now Jesus had just cured a blind and dumb demoniac. But apparently, this miracle was not enough to prove to them that Jesus really was a Man of God. You’d have to wonder if these Scribes and Pharisees had never seen Jesus do any miracle. It’s hard to imagine that they hadn’t. And if they had already seen Jesus do miracles before, why would they ask Him to do one now? It’s like they want to be entertained. Or, more likely, they’re itching to pick another fight with Jesus: they're eager to use another one of Jesus’ miracles to show the people that Jesus can’t possibly be a Man of God and certainly not the promised Messiah.

 

Matthew 12:39-40, But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: {40} For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly;FN so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12:39-40 (NIV),  He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  (40)  For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

 

The Scribes and Pharisees wanted a sign. From our point of view, this was Jesus’ golden opportunity to prove them wrong in their accusation against Him. This was His chance to set the record straight and prove to them who He really was! This was His chance to win them! BUT JESUS WOULDN'T NOT DO IT!FN In fact, whenever the religious leaders asked Him for a sign, He never gave them one as far as a miracle was concerned.

The only sign He gave them was the sign of Jonah which was a sign of His coming death and resurrection.FN Just as Jonah was the in the belly of the fish for three days and nights, so Jesus would be three days and nights in the grave—after which He would rise from the dead. His death and resurrection, in essence, would be the fulfillment of Old Testament Messianic prophecy.FN It would confirm what the people here were proclaiming, namely, that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

 

Matthew 12:41-42, The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. {42} The queen of the southFN shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. Matthew 12:41-42 (NLT), "The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent. (42) The queen of Sheba will also stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Solomon is here—but you refuse to listen.

 

Jesus compares Himself to Jonah, except He’s greater than Jonah. When Jonah preached in Nineveh, the heathen Ninevites believed him, repented of their sins, and called on God to forgive them and spare them from the calamity that Jonah prophesied was coming upon them in three days. The point is, the heathens believed the prophet. But a Greater Prophet, Jesus, is here and the unbelieving Jews themselves—with their religious leaders at the helm—would not believe Him.

The same thing is said about the Queen of the south. She came from a long ways off to hear the wisdom of Solomon (1 Kings 10). Jesus is greater than Solomon and the Jews didn’t have to travel far to hear Him. But even upon hearing Him, they disbelieved and rejected Him. So, on judgment day, the Queen will be called as witness and she too, like the Ninevites, will witness against the unbelieving Jews and call for their condemnation.

So what was the problem with these unbelieving Jews and their religious leaders? These religious leaders failed to see Jesus as being someone greater than the prophet Jonah or the wise King Solomon. Their unrepentance toward Jesus laid in the fact that there was no greatness to Him in their eyes. They failed to perceive or recognize His true identity and, as a result, they refused to accept what He said or did.

In like manner, friends, YOU WON’T RECEIVE JESUS’ WORD AS AUTHORITATIVE AND AS SOMETHING TO BE BELIEVED AND OBEYED UNLESS YOU FIRST RECOGNIZE JESUS FOR WHO HE REALLY IS.

And by the same measure, IT’S HARD FOR YOU TO RECEIVE WHAT ANY MAN, WOMAN, OR SERVANT OF GOD HAS TO SAY TO YOU IF YOU DON’T REGARD THEM AS BEING TRULY SENT AND USED OF THE LORD.

HOW YOU VIEW A PERSON HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH WHETHER OR NOT YOU’LL TAKE THAT PERSON SERIOUSLY AND RECEIVE WHAT HE OR SHE HAS TO SAY.FN

 

DEMONS AFOOTFN

 

Matthew 12:43-45, When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places,FN seeking rest,FN and findeth none. {44} Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.FN {45} Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself,FN and they enter inFN and dwell there:FN and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.FN Matthew 12:43-45 (NLT), "When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. (44) Then it says, 'I will return to the person I came from.' So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. (45) Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation."

 

Jesus informs us here what happens when a demon has been exorcised from an oppressed individual. The demon wanders through barren, desert places looking for rest, but is unable to find it. Rest is found in people! A demon is at rest when it inhabits and oppresses an individual. And so, it returns to the individual out of whom it was cast.

ONCE YOU’VE BEEN DELIVERED YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO KEEP CLEAN AND DELIVERED. You do this by resisting the works and temptations of Satan. You die out to Self and crucify the lusts of your flesh. You walk uprightly and live the Christian life.

Once exorcised, the oppressing demon will seek to oppress you once again. Be prepared for spiritual battles with the same demon that oppressed you. The battles will at times be severe because they’ll be seven additional demons trying to oppress you. The greater the battle, the greater must be your resistance. The more intent the Devil is to oppress you, the more intent you must be to resist him.

Now lest you fear Satan’s power, you need to know that NO DEMON CAN OPPRESS YOU AGAINST YOUR WILL. If you resist the demons that are trying to oppress you, every last one of them must flee from you (James 4:7). YOU CAN’T BE OPPRESSED AS LONG AS YOU’RE RESISTING AND FIGHTING THE DEVIL!

The only way you can be oppressed is when you quit resisting him. Friends, if you think staying free is not worth the fight you’d better think twice! There’s no freedom in slavery! The Devil doesn’t treat you very nicely. After a while, your sustained resistance to Satan will pay off and he’ll quit trying as hard to oppress you. Take courage and comfort, my brethren, the battle will ease up, even cease altogether in that area, as you persevere in resistance. Remember the Lord’s promise to you, contingent on your resistance: the devil will flee from you. He’ll eventually go and leave you alone. Not willing, but against his will. He’ll go, but you’ve got to make him go. Continue to resist him steadfastly and he’ll go.

If you give in to the Devil, you’ll get oppressed again and you’ll be worse off than you were before because you’ll be oppressed by more demons than before. Friends, WHEN YOU GIVE IN TO SATAN AND DECIDE TO LIVE IN THE LUSTS OF YOUR FLESH, YOU’LL ONLY GO FROM BAD TO WORSE! YOU DON’T BECOME A BETTER, HAPPIER PERSON! WHEN YOU TURN YOUR BACK ON JESUS YOU’RE NEVER BETTER OFF WITHOUT HIM. YOU’LL ALWAYS BE WORSE OFF WITHOUT HIM!

Brethren, don’t let these truths scare you into staying oppressed and avoiding confrontations with the Devil. The object is not for you to stay oppressed. It’s God’s will for you to be delivered and to stay delivered. Get delivered, then, and commit yourself to staying delivered. The Devil ought not have any place in your life!

 

JESUS' MOTHER AND BROTHERS SEEK HIM

 

Matthew 12:46-50, While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. {47} Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. {48} But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? {49} And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! {50} For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. Matthew 12:46-50 (NIV),  While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.  (47)  Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you."  (48)  He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?"  (49)  Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers.  (50)  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."
Mark 3:31-35, There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. (32) And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. (33) And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? (34) And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! (35) For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother. Luke 8:19-21, Then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press. (20) And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee. (21) And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.

 

Jesus was speaking in a house one day, talking to a lot of people. His mother and brothers showed up, but couldn’t get into the house because it was full. So they stood outside the house and sent word that they would like to have a word with Him. Instead of rushing out to see his family,FN Jesus stretched out His hand to His disciples and taught us all that there is a kinship among all God’s people who obey Him. Kinship in God’s family is not just a kinship of faith or profession; it’s not just a matter of a conversion experience. Rather, kinship involves obedience. Jesus regards as His family those who obey God.FN

No matter the profession or confession, LIVING IN DISOBEDIENCE TO GOD’S WILL EVENTUALLY EXCLUDES ONE FROM THE FAMILY AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD (Matthew 7:21-23). Friends, Jesus’ will and expectation for your life doesn’t stop with you getting saved and becoming a Christian. He wants you to obey Him and live the Christian life the way He told you to live it in Scripture. I don’t know how to make it any clearer to you than this. IF YOU’RE NOT DOING GOD’S WILL YOU’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT TO HEAVEN.

This isn’t to say that if you mess up once or twice or here and there that you’re not going to Heaven. We all are human and imperfect. We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to mess up sometimes. That’s a part of learning and growing. But just because we mess up doesn’t mean we’ve lost our salvation and we’re going to Hell.

Jesus here is talking about a pattern, a habit, a lifestyle, a way of living where you’re doing your will on a regular basis and not God’s will. IF YOU’RE NOT SEEKING GOD’S WILL, IF YOU’RE NOT PRAYING ABOUT IT AND ASKING GOD ABOUT WHAT HE THINKS, THEN CHANCES ARE YOU’RE NOT DOING GOD’S WILL. Make that a life’s habit and you’re guaranteeing yourself a horrible surprise when you die.

 

KINGDOM PARABLES

CAPERNAUM BY THE SEA OF GALILEE

 

Mark 4:1-2, And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land. (2) And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine. Mark 4:1-2 (CEV), The next time Jesus taught beside Lake Galilee, a big crowd gathered. It was so large that he had to sit in a boat out on the lake, while the people stood on the shore. (2) He used stories to teach them many things, and this is part of what he taught:
Matthew 13:1-3a, The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. {2} And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. {3} And he spake many things unto them in parables. Luke 8:4 And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable.

 

Jesus was teaching in a house one day when His mother and brothers came to see Him, but couldn’t, because there were so many people in the house that they couldn’t get in, Matthew 12:46-50.

Jesus left the house and went for a stroll by the Sea of Galilee. Again, so many people followed Him.FN Evidently, they wanted to hear Jesus teach. So Jesus got into a boat and He taught the people.

This is a somewhat significant portion of Scripture in that it marks the beginning of Jesus teaching the people by using parables. Up to this time, He preached sermons. Now He preaches parables.FN

What is a parable? A parable is a story that’s used to teach a spiritual truth or lesson.FN The story itself is readily and easily understood because it’s about the common, ordinary events or experiences of life. But the spiritual lesson that the story teaches is not readily seen or understood. For a parable to be properly understood it must be explained or interpreted by the parable giver. He must tell us what the spiritual lesson is. If the spiritual lesson is not explained, the parable remains somewhat of a mystery because we’re left wondering why the parable giver told us the story.

In this way, a parable serves a two-fold purpose: to conceal spiritual truth from some and to reveal it to others. (See our following commentary on Matthew 13:10-17.)

On this particular day by the seaside of Galilee, Jesus taught several parables relating to the kingdom of Heaven, hence, they’re called kingdom parables. [CHART OF JESUS’ PARABLES.]

 

THE PARABLE OF THE SOWERFN

 

Matthew 13:3-4, And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; {4} And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up. Matthew 13:3-4 (NIV),  Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed.  (4)  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
Mark 4:3-4, Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: (4) And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. Luke 8:5, A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.

 

The parable of the sower is also known as the parable of the soils. That’s because the seeds are sown in four different types of soils, and EACH TYPE OF SOIL AFFECTS THE HARVEST.

The first type of soil is the way side. As in our day, fields would sometimes be situated along a road. But a different feature of Israeli fields is there would oftentimes be a pathway through the field itself. You’ve heard of the saying, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. That’s what these pathways through a field were—they were the shortest and quickest way to get from one point to another. When seeds were sown on the hard, compacted pathway, birds were apt to descend on them and eat them. They were free pickings because they lay atop the bare surface of the pathway and the birds didn’t have to work hard at all in getting to the exposed seed. SEEDS PLANTED IN THIS SOIL, HAVING BEEN EATEN BY THE BIRDS, WOULD HAVE NO HARVEST.

 

Matthew 13:5-6, Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: (6) And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Matthew 13:5-6 (NIV),  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  (6)  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.
Mark 4:5-6, And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: (6) But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. Luke 8:6, And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture.

 

The second type of soil is stony ground. Much of Palestine was rocky with only a thin layer of soil on top. Seeds planted on rocky ground sprouted quickly because there wasn’t a whole lot of soil on top of them to pierce through. But, laying on top of rock, the roots didn’t grow downward, but outwards and upwards. Consequently, when the sun came up and warmed the soil and the rocks, the roots withered because there wasn’t enough dirt and moisture in the surface soil to shield the roots from the heat and dryness of the hot Palestinian sun. As in the case of the wayside soil, SEEDS PLANTED IN THIS SOIL WOULD NOT COME TO HARVEST.

 

Matthew 13:7, And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them. Matthew 13:7 (NIV),  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.
Mark 4:7, And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. Luke 8:7, And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it.

 

The third type of soil is one that’s infested with thorns or briers. We’re very familiar with weeds here in the American Midwest. They spring up everywhere, uninvited, unplanted, and unwanted. Unless you weed them out, they’ll overtake your flower bed or garden.

Palestine was similar in that there were many thorn bushes and shrubs everywhere. In fact, according to Smith’s Bible Dictionary, travelers to the Holy Land called it a land of thorns. They were literally all over the place. The only way to effectively get rid of them is to pull them up by the roots. You can cut them down so that the field looks clear or free of thorns. But the roots continue to grow and, before long, you’ll see thorns all over again. Seeds planted amidst thorns, though unseen, don’t stand much of a chance of a good harvest because they’re crowded out and—like our flower beds and gardens left unweeded—nothing is really productive when weeds take over the garden or bed. SEEDS PLANTED IN THIS SOIL WOULD SURVIVE, BUT GROW TO BE STUNTED AND, NOT HAVING ENOUGH SPACE AND NUTRIENTS, THEY WOULDN'T BEAR ANY FRUIT.

 

Matthew 13:8-9, But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. (9) Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. Matthew 13:8-9 (NIV),  Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.  (9)  Whoever has ears, let them hear."
Mark 4:8-9, And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. (9) And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Luke 8:8, And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

 

The fourth type of soil is good, fertile ground. THIS IS THE ONLY KIND OF SOIL WHERE THE PLANTED SEEDS TAKE ROOT, GROW TO MATURITY, AND BRING FORTH AN ABUNDANT HARVEST.

The seeds are all the same, but each brings forth different results as far as the yield goes. Some bring forth thirty-fold, some sixty-fold, and some an hundred-fold. Literally, one grain will produce thirty grains; another grain will produce sixty grains; and still another will produce a hundred grains. It’s the same seed and the same soil. But there are different degrees of yield. The smallest of the harvest, thirty-fold, is still a good harvest. According to different Bible scholars who are familiar with agriculture in Palestine, the typical harvest ranges from ten to twenty-fold. In the Jordan Valley with its fertile fields, harvest would typically be between 60 and a 100 fold. [Click here to find out what Jesus was trying to teach us through this parable.]

 

THE PARABLE OF THE WHEAT AND TARES

 

Matthew 13:24-30, Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: {25} But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. {26} But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.FN {27} So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? {28} He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? {29} But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. {30} Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. Matthew 13:24-30 (NIV),  Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  (25)  But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.  (26)  When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.  (27)  "The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'  (28)  "'An enemy did this,' he replied. "The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'  (29)  "'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.  (30)  Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'"

 

Tares are an obnoxious weed. They are a type of rye grass that looks very much like wheat in its early stage of growth and development: they're practically indistinguishable from wheat when they’re both young. The only thing about tares is their seeds have a poison that, when eaten, causes dizziness, vomiting, and, in extreme cases, death. This is a really big deal because bread ground from wheat was a staple of everyday life. When tares are mixed in with the wheat and not sifted or separated out, you’ll have poisoned bread and a lot of sick people afterwards.


With tares sowed amongst the wheat, the natural inclination would be to get rid of the tares just the same way we’d get rid of the weeds that grow in our gardens and flower beds. But the danger of weeding the tares out when they’re growing right alongside the wheat is you run the danger of uprooting the wheat as well. It’s a dastardly thing that the enemy has done here and the farmer is left with no choice but to leave the tares alone so that the wheat can come to harvest. It'll be a headache and a trial to harvest the wheat, but at least he'd still have a harvest. [Click here to understand what Jesus was trying to teach us through this parable.]FN

 

THE PARABLE OF THE LAMP

 

Mark 4:21-23, And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick? (22) For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad. (23) If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. Luke 8:16-17,  No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light.  (17)  For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. Mark 4:21-23  He said to them, "Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand?  (22)  For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.  (23)  If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear."

A lighted lamp is not meant to be hidden, but to be set out in the open where it can give light to those around. In much the same way, the Word that God speaks to His people is not meant to be concealed from them, but rather, to give them light.

From a minister's standpoint, the Word of God gives God's people the light and knowledge of God's will. But it does that only if we in ministry proclaim and teach God's Word. If we fail to preach God's Word, then we're hiding God's light under a bushel and we're not doing anybody any good by being silent.

From our own personal perspective, God's Word gives us light only to the extent we hear it and labor to understand, believe, and obey it. Shutting our eyes and heart to God's Word is like us putting God's Word under a bushel basket. We rob ourselves of the life-giving light that God so wants to give us. We may think we're smarter and better off without God's Word. But to our unawares, we're really dumber and in the dark.

Brethren, if you labor to understand God's Word God will give you understanding. And He’ll keep giving you more insight into His Word! Understanding and insight are a gift from God. But they’re also an indication of the spiritual hunger you have and the effort you exert to satisfy that hunger with God's Word.

 

THE PARABLE OF THE SEED SOWN

 

Mark 4:26-29, And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; {27} And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. {28} For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. {29} But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. Mark 4:26-29 (NIV),  He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.  (27)  Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.  (28)  All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.  (29)  As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come."

 

Once a seed is planted in the ground the forces or laws of nature take over and cause the seed to germinate and grow into a plant. It does this without the farmer knowing how it’s able to do it.

Similarly, once you sow the Word of God in the fertile soil of people’s hearts, spiritual forces and laws take over and the Word you shared—without you knowing how—grows and produces fruit in the lives of your listeners.

You may not see visible fruit at first. But be encouraged! The fruit will come! You see, germination begins in the ground. Then once the seed sprouts and pierces the ground, maturity begins until it culminates in the bearing of fruit. Like seed buried in the ground, you don’t see what’s going on in the hearts of people you've witnessed or ministered to. Growth, maturity, and fruit, my friends, takes time. It begins in the heart. And once it begins in the heart it can’t help but produce outward, visible results.

 

THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED

 

Mark 4:30-32, And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? (31) It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: (32) But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it. Mark 4:30-32 (CEV), Finally, Jesus said: What is God's kingdom like? What story can I use to explain it? (31) It is like what happens when a mustard seed is planted in the ground. It is the smallest seed in all the world. (32) But once it is planted, it grows larger than any garden plant. It even puts out branches that are big enough for birds to nest in its shade.
Matthew 13:31-32, Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: {32} Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. Luke 13:18-19, Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? (19) It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.

 

Like the parable of the sown seed, this parable teaches the growth of the Kingdom of God. Like a tiny mustard seed, God's Kingdom starts with small beginnings and eventually grows to produce big results. Brethren, don’t despise the day of small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10). What starts out small doesn’t remain small. What starts out small turns out strong and tall. When God’s in charge of the germination and growth, blessings and fruit can’t help but result!

 

THE PARABLE OF THE LEAVEN

 

Matthew 13:33, Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal,FN till the whole was leavened. Luke 13:20-21, And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? (21) It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. Matthew 13:33 (NIV), He told them still another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough."

 

Jesus likens the Kingdom of Heaven to leaven. Three measures, or three-fourths of a bushel, of flour is a lot of flour to leaven. But it all gets leavened! The leavening power of the Kingdom of God is strong indeed and it’s sufficient to leaven, or positively affect, all those who are a part of the Kingdom.

You think your loved ones in the Lord or those who you’re believing for unto salvation will never change? Think again, my friends, and be encouraged in the Lord. No matter how much flour your loved ones may consist of, no matter how much flour needs leavened, they all get leavened.

WHEN THE LEAVEN OF GOD COMES INTO CONTACT WITH A PERSON NO ONE IS LEFT UNLEAVENED OR UNCHANGED. ALL WHO MEET CHRIST ARE CHANGED FOR THE BETTER. DON'T EVER FORGET IT. AND DON'T DESPAIR. GOD KNOWS HOW TO SAVE AND CHANGE YOUR LOVED ONES!

 

TEACHING IN PARABLE AS THE FULFILLMENT OF PROPHECY

 

Matthew 13:34-35, All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: {35} That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. Matthew 13:34-35 (NIV),  Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.  (35)  So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: "I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world."
Mark 4:33-34, And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. {34} But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.

 

Jesus is surrounded by a multitude of people who are clamoring to hear Him teach. For the first time in recorded history, Jesus doesn't preach a sermon to them. Instead, He preaches nothing by parables. Why did Jesus preach to the people in parables? One reason was to fulfill the prophecy of Scripture cited in Psalm 78:2, I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old.FN

 

JESUS' REASON FOR TEACHING THE PEOPLE IN PARABLES

 

Matthew 13:10-11, And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? (11) He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. Matthew 13:10-11 (ESV), Then the disciples came and said to him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" (11) And he answered them, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
Mark 4:10-11, And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. (11) And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables. Luke 8:9-10a, And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? (10) And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables.

 

After Jesus was done teaching the people He sent them on their way. This was rather perplexing to His disciples because Jesus didn't bother to explain to the people what all these parables meant. As I said earlier, parables are a really effective learning tool only if they're explained or interpreted. Without an explanation a parable is nothing but a riddle or a mystery that leaves you hanging, wondering what the parable means. With the multitudes gone, Jesus spent some alone-time with His disciples. It was during this private time with Jesus that the disciples asked Him why He taught the people in parables.

In answer, Jesus told them that the kingdom of God has mysteries.FN In our English language, a mystery is something that is not fully known or understood; it’s something that makes you ask questions and look for answers. In the Greek language and the Jewish world of Jesus’ day, a mystery pretty much meant the same thing. The word comes from a word that means ‘to close or shut’. Picture a room with all the doors shut. This closed room is what a mystery is. It's shut up so that no one on the outside can see, or know, what's going on inside the closed room.

The Greeks and Eastern religions had what is called mystery religions. These were essentially secret societies. We have many such secret societies today. The more familiar of these societies include the Skulls and Bones, Klu Klux Klans, Freemasons, Rosicrucians, Knights Templar, Illuminati & their pyramid symbol that’s on the back of our one dollar bills, the Bilderberg Group, and Opus Dei that figured prominently in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. The mystery is a special knowledge that’s given and known only by the members of the secret society. The members are bound by strict secrecy and, outside of the society, no one knows exactly what goes on behind these closed doors: you don’t know what they believe, what their agenda is, and lots of times, you don’t even know who the members of these societies are.

Like these secret societies, the Kingdom of Heaven has mysteries. There are secrets that only the members of the Society—the Kingdom of Heaven—know. If you’re not a member of the Kingdom, if you're not a Christian, then the Kingdom, like the room with closed doors, is shut to you and you don’t know what’s going on inside the Kingdom.

Look at Matthew 13:11 again, It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. The knowledge or understanding of the secrets of the Kingdom is given.

In the parable of the sower in verse 19, Jesus talks about not understanding the Word, the secrets, so the devil snatches the Word away from you. One of the things that Jesus is teaching us here in the parable is, when you hear the Word—when you get the secrets of the Kingdom—you have to make an attempt to understand the secrets. When you’re a member of the Society or the Kingdom, and you try to study and learn what the secret is, or what it means; then God helps you understand and He tells you what the lesson is; you understand what the secret is.

UNDERSTANDING IS SOMETHING YOU SEEK. AND WHEN YOU SEEK IT, UNDERSTANDING IS SOMETHING THAT'S GIVEN TO YOU BY GOD. You don’t discover or learn the secrets on your own: you learn it because God shows it to you. This is where prayer and meditation come in.

If you’re not with God, if He isn’t in your mind, God can’t show you because you’re absent. You’re gone. You’ve got to be with God for God to show you and teach you the things you need to learn. If you’re not interested in learning or in being taught, then you’re not gonna learn the secrets. GOD DOESN'T REVEAL HIS SECRETS TO THOSE WHO HAVE NO CARE OR INTEREST IN THEM.

Gathering more insight from Matthew 13:11, THE KNOWLEDGE OR SECRETS OF GOD'S MYSTERIES ARE GIVEN ONLY TO CERTAIN PEOPLE: they are given only to the people who have joined the Society of the saved. Those who haven’t joined the Society of the saved aren’t given knowledge of the Kingdom, hence, they don’t know or understand the Kingdom. In the parallel account in Mark 4:11, Jesus tells the disciples, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables. Paul confirms this truth in 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV) where he speaks of an unsaved person’s inability to know or understand the spiritual truths of the Society or the Kingdom: The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Friend, no matter how smart you are, if you aren't a believer you don't know one thing about God, Christianity, or the Bible. Oh, you may know some facts contained in the Scriptures. But the truth eludes you and you can't comprehend it because you're rejecting the Truth, who is Jesus Himself (John 14:6). Conversion, or getting saved, is the first step that grants you admission into the Kingdom and the gaining of knowledge and understanding of the truth.

Here's something that will probably blow your mind. First, look once again at Mark 4:11, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables. Jesus talks about the knowledge of the Kingdom’s mysteries not being given to them that are without.

Get the picture here. Jesus was surrounded by gobs and gobs of people who were following Him, clamoring after Him, wanting to hear Him teach. I’m naïve enough to believe that if you aren’t interested in Jesus, if you don’t want Him, you don’t believe Him, you don’t care for Him, you're too busy with other things, pursuits, and loves; then you’re not gonna mess with Jesus. You’re not gonna take time out of your busy day to go and hear Him preach; you’re not gonna have the time to come to church because you’re not interested in what the church has to give you or offer you. On this particular day, Jesus was surrounded by so many people that He had to get in a boat and teach the people who were crowding Him along the shoreline (Matthew 13:1-2). So get this. There are gobs of people there who wanted to hear Jesus, who were following Him.

But Jesus saw them as ‘them that are without’! This phrase literally means those outside our circle. When you look at all the other places in the New Testament where this phrase ‘those who are without’ are used, especially in the Epistles, ‘those who are without’ are synonymous with unbelievers or non-Christians.FN In other words, even though all these people were crowding around Jesus, following Him, and wanting to hear His teaching; Jesus nevertheless didn’t consider these people His followers! They were outsiders. They weren’t members of the Society.

This is really instructive and revolutionary because when you apply this same situation to the church, you have lots of people coming to church, seeking the Lord, wanting to hear the Lord. They’ve spent years of their time following and listening to the Lord. They consider themselves Christians. But Jesus doesn’t consider some, if not many, of these His! That’s a hard one to take because they’re in church, they want Him, they’re seeking Him, they’re even serving Him.

It’s at this point where we learn that NOT EVERYONE WHO FOLLOWS THE LORD IS AN INSIDER. A TRUE CHRISTIAN. A MEMBER OF THE SOCIETY OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.

So how do we know, how do we tell, who among all these people who are clamoring after Jesus and following Him is a true follower and insider? Read on.

 

Matthew 13:12, For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Matthew 13:12 (NIV),  Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.

 

Insiders—true Christians—are going to know some things. They have some knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom. Outsiders—unbelievers and Christian followers who aren’t really Christian—don’t have much of any knowledge of the Kingdom’s secrets. They don’t know anything, or hardly anything. They don’t know much about God, Jesus, the Bible, God’s will for their life; they don’t know what the Christian life is about and where life and history is going in terms of the future. They understand very little about God, the Bible, and the Christian life. As the years pass, they learn even less; they know less. It’s like, every year, they lose what little they know. They’re knowing less and less the longer they follow Christ.

LOTS OF PEOPLE WHO FOLLOW THE LORD, A LOT OF CHRISTIANS, HAVE NEVER HAD A SAVING ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS CHRIST. They grew up in Church. Or they had a religious experience at the altar. They repeated the words of the preacher. But it was like Christ was not around. They weren’t talking to Christ. They didn’t meet Him. Their religion or their relationship with Jesus was never personal to begin with. That’s why if you’re not talking to the Lord very much, if you’re not thinking much about him, if He isn’t in your life a whole lot, if your life doesn’t center around Him, if God isn’t in your life, in your week, and the only time you have with God is in church; then, chances are, you’re an outsider to the Lord. IF YOU DON'T HAVE A PERSONAL WALK WITH THE LORD, THEN CHANCES ARE YOU HAVEN'T HAD A PERSONAL ENCOUNTER WITH THE LORD.

If this is you, then you’re one of two things: you're either an outsider (you're not saved) or you're a backslider (you're saved, but you're living in disobedience to God). Don’t despair if you're either one of these because there’s something you can do about it right now. If you're an outsider, you can get saved right now and give your life to the Lord. If you're a backslider, repent of your sins, come back to God, and start doing His will. It's worth everything to be in God's Kingdom. NOTHING IS WORTH GOING TO HELL FOR. I sincerely hope you don't wait till you're dead to learn this unalterable truth.

 

Matthew 13:13-15, Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. {14} And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: {15} For this people’s heart is waxed gross,FN and their ears are dull of hearing,FN and their eyes they have closed;FN lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.FN Matthew 13:13-15 (ESV), This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. (14) Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: "'"You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive." (15) For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.'

 

The disciples asked Jesus why He taught the people in parables (Matthew 13:10) and Jesus here answers their question. He taught them in parables because even though they see, that is, they’re not blind; they nevertheless don’t see the spiritual dimension or reality. Yes, they’ve heard what Jesus said—they’re not deaf; but they just don’t get what Jesus is trying to say to them.

Theirs is a case of spiritual blindness and deafness that Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 6:9-10, And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. (10) Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

Let's stop here and ponder what Jesus is saying. Why can’t see people see, hear, or understand what Jesus is saying to them? The first thing that comes to most people’s mind is, people can’t understand what Jesus is saying because He's telling them stuff that’s too hard to understand. They can’t get it because Jesus is giving them stuff that’s going way over their heads. It’s beyond their level of comprehension. People tend to blame the Lord when they can’t understand what the Lord’s saying. Does that sound familiar? Have you blamed God for telling you things that are just too hard to be understood? That may be how we see it. But that's not how the Lord sees it.

The reason why people can't understand what God's saying is because they've closed their eyes, they've shut their ears, to seeing and hearing what God's saying to them. In a nutshell, THEY DON'T UNDERSTAND BECAUSE THEY DON'T WANT TO UNDERSTAND. THEY DON'T SEE BECAUSE THEY DON'T WANT TO SEE. THEY DON'T HEAR BECAUSE THEY DON'T WANT TO HEAR. They don't want anything to do with God. THEY'VE REJECTED HIM AND THAT, QUITE SIMPLY, IS THE REASON WHY THEY CAN'T UNDERSTAND GOD.

 

Matthew 13:16-17, But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. {17} For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. Matthew 13:16-17 (NIV),  But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.  (17)  For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

 

Jesus speaks about the ancients who longed to see and hear what these disciples were now seeing and hearing. God's people in Old Testament times knew Scripture and prophecy. How they wished Messiah could have come in their day so that they could see Him and hear Him teach. But they missed out on Messiah because it just wasn’t Messiah’s time to come. So out of all the generations of humanity—past and future—these disciples of our Lord were truly blessed.

Jesus is no longer in our midst as far as His bodily presence is concerned. But we've got His Spirit to be an ever-abiding presence in our lives. In a very real way, Jesus is still with us today--walking in our midst--through His Holy Spirit. So we are very, very blest! His gift of salvation and forgiveness, His peace, joy, and comfort--along with all God's manifold blessings--have so enriched our lives that we oughtto be thankful and never forget just how truly blest we are. Truly, God is worthy of all our praise!

 

JESUS EXPLAINS THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER

 

Matthew 13:18-19, Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. (19) When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. Matthew 13:18-19 (NIV),  "Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:  (19)  When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.
Mark 4:13-15, And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? (14) The sower soweth the word. (15) And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. Luke 8:11-12, Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. (12) Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.

 

It was the first time that Jesus taught the people in parables. The disciples, like all the other people there, didn't understand what these parables meant. So they asked Jesus about it.FN Jesus then proceeds to explain to them what a couple of these parables meant.

The seed that fell on the pathway through the field was snatched up by the birds and thus never bore fruit. This is what happens in the spiritual realm when a person hears the Word of God and doesn’t understand it. That would be all of us at some time or another. We read the Word, or we hear it preached, but we just don’t understand it. It’s like God’s telling us something that goes way over our heads. We can blame God for telling us stuff that’s beyond our comprehension. But guess whose fault that is. If we don’t understand the Word it’s up to us to try and find out what it means. And if we don’t do that—if we just walk away, go home, or go on our way without trying to understand it; then we’re inviting—we’re asking—the devil to come and steal the Word away.

Brethren, my heart aches and laments for the many times we've all let the devil rob us of the Word that could have helped us out immensely if only we had taken the time to understand it. In the end, it doesn't matter how much we've read or heard: God's Word doesn't profit us if we don't make an effort to understand it.

 

Matthew 13:20-21, But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; (21) Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. Matthew 13:20-21 (NLT), The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. (21) But since they don't have deep roots, they don't last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God's word.
Mark 4:16-17, And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; (17) And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended. Luke 8:13, They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.

 

Much of Palestine is rocky ground with only a thin layer of soil on top. Some of the seeds were sown into this kind of soil and they started germinating and growing. That’s good news! The seeds here did better than those that fell on the wayside. But the growth was only temporary because the roots couldn’t go deep and penetrate through the stone. When the sun came up the soil and stone got hot. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know what happened next: the heat killed the roots and the plants. So these seeds, like the first, never came to fruition or harvest.

This is what happens to many believers—especially to new converts or young believers. They get saved and are so excited about God, the Bible, and church. They’re on fire! They can’t keep their mouths shut! They go everywhere telling everybody what’s happened to them. They live on excitement. Happiness. Emotion. Zeal. They don’t take the time to sit down, learn more, and sink their roots deeper. Then when trials and persecutions come—like hitting rock bottom—they die spiritually. They forsake the Lord and the church. They quit being Christians because they can’t take the sufferings of the Christian life.

Fellow Christians, there’s a lot of excitement and happiness in the Christian life! But there are a lot of trials, persecutions, troubles, hardships, and sufferings too! Acts 14:22 tells us that it’s through much tribulation that we enter into the kingdom of God. In other words, the road to Heaven is paved with troubles, tears, and pains. It’s a hard life.

You can compare it with the life that heathens live. From everything I've seen (ah, the advantage of being older and wiser) I wouldn’t say that the Christian life is any harder. It’s not like the heathens live a better life, or have a better life, than Christians. They don’t. Heathens have troubles too! Many of them run away from their troubles. It’s called suicide, drugs, and alcohol. But these things only create more troubles and pains. Friends, it doesn't matter who you are. Everybody--both Christians and non--are going to have troubles their whole lives through.

Suffering Christians are taught by God to face it and endure it. In the vernacular, suck it up. Not run from it. But go through the pain and suffering. The Lord tells us in 2 Timothy 2:3 to endure hardness, hardships, or sufferings. So, yes, a good God does allow "bad" things to happen to His people. But to our unbeknownst, He allows sufferings for our own good (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28).

Through this parable God’s telling us, He’s warning us, that sufferings are coming down the road for us and we’d better get ready for them. If you can’t handle sufferings you won’t make it as a Christian. Make it a habit and a way-of-life and, chances are, you won’t make it to Heaven. You’ll wither and die spiritually like the seeds that sprouted on stony ground.

Brethren, you may find it hard to believe. But all of God's people who've weathered the storms of life will tell you this: YOU CAN HANDLE WHATEVER GOD BRINGS YOUR WAY! You just have to believe that and endure it. IF YOU COULDN'T HANDLE IT, GOD WOULDN'T HAVE LET IT HAPPEN TO YOU (1 Corinthians 10:13). It's not easy. It's not fun. But it's bearable and you can get through it if you're willing to entrust yourself to God's plan and lean fully on His grace. God knows what He's doing! And always, but always, even in the midst of our incredulousness and complaint, He does things with our good in mind.

 

Mark 4:18-19, And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, (19) And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. Mark 4:18-19 (NIV),  Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word;  (19)  but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
Matthew 13:22, He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. Luke 8:14, And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.

 

The seeds that fell on thorns-infested soil, like the seeds that fell on the other two kinds of soil, never made it to harvest. They germinated and grew alright, but the thorns grew faster than them and got most of the nourishment and water in the soil; they got most of the sunlight. The thorns stunted their growth and prevented them from bearing fruit.

Jesus likens some Christians to these seeds. They get saved. They walk with Christ for a while. But, by and by, the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches take them away from the Lord. They get involved in work and the world. They chase riches and prosperity. They fall back in love with the world and spend all their time grabbing what this world has to offer. Not surprisingly, they leave the church. They lose interest in spiritual matters. And God just doesn't play much of a role in their lives.

In our economically-minded day, so much fear, worry, and insecurity abounds because of jobs, wages, and the dramatic rise in the cost of living. Perhaps more than at any time in our lifetime, it’s vitally necessary to have a good, stable job and/or a huge, secure supply of money.

But whether you have both or not, there’s one thing you need more than anything else and that is you need the Lord. You may not know that right now. You may not want to admit it. But, believe me, life doesn't amount to much with the Lord in it. As scary as it may be, the Lord will provide for you in time of famine or drought (Psalm 1:3, 37:25). But you’ve got to be following Him and place Him first in your life. THIS WORLD WITH ITS RICHES AND ENTICEMENTS WILL LEAD YOU TO HELL (1 John 2:15-17).

This soil was, from all outward appearances, cleared of thorn bushes. There weren’t any thorny bushes to be seen or found. But underneath the soil, the thorny bushes’ roots were still there. They weren’t pulled out. And as long as the roots are in the ground there’s still life in those roots and it’s only a matter of time before these roots shoot up a sprout through the soil. Pretty soon you'll have lots of thorny bushes growing everywhere.

You see, in all of us, there are underground roots that not many people see. These are the hidden loves, affections, lusts, and desires that we secretly long after and privately indulge in. If we don’t deal with these roots, if we don’t get them out of our heart, they’ll end up killing us spiritually. Brethren, THE SECRET LOVES THAT WE ALLOW TO REMAIN IN OUR HEART WILL KILL US SOMEDAY. It’s only a matter of time.

So what’s the solution? You’ve got to clear the soil of the thorny bushes’ roots. You’ve got to pull and dig them out of the ground.

It’s the same way with these roots that you’ve hidden in your heart. You’ve got to get them out of there before they kill you. If you don’t deal with your love for this world, your love for wealth and the world will kill you. TO GROW UP SPIRITUALLY HEALTHY AS A CHRISTIAN AND BEAR GOOD FRUIT YOU’VE GOT TO GET RID OF THE ROOTS THAT THIS WORLD HAS PLANTED DEEP INSIDE YOUR HEART.

 

Matthew 13:23, But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Matthew 13:23 (NIV),  But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."
Mark 4:20, And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred. Luke 8:15, But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

 

The seed of God's Word grows in one, and only one, type of soil: fertile soil. How can you tell if you've got fertile soil? Well, if you're fruitful in the Christian life then that is indication you've got good dirt.

Good dirt is a heart that zealously receives, strives to understand, and guards God's Word from being snatched away by the devil. It's a heart that willlingly endures life's trials. It trusts God and lets the troubles of life work for good even when the good cannot presently be seen, known, or understood. Fertile soil is a heart where God alone is enthroned with no rivals, no other loves, no other desires.

Is your heart good dirt? Don't be disheartened if there are yet rocks and thorns that hamper and beset you. It doesn't mean you're not a good Christian. It means you've got more work to do. Like a farmer and his field, there's always work to be done in making the field more fertile. More rocks are removed each season. Weeds and pests are killed during the growing season. Fertilizer and water are abundantly applied to the crops. For all his work, at season's end the farmer's got a bumper harvest. Fruitfulness in the Christian life takes good dirt and hard work. Keep at it and you'll bear more and more good fruit for the Lord.

Notice that the same seed in the same good dirt produces different amounts of yield. Some bring forth thirty- fold, some sixty- fold, and others a hundred-fold. Not everyone in the church or the Kingdom is going to be as fruitful or productive as others. That’s the way it is.

*Those that are more fruitful than others can despise, belittle and make fun of those who aren’t as productive as them. They can mount a crusade to get rid of these underachievers and replace them with people who can do a better job and get better results.

*Those that are less fruitful than others can become jealous, bitter, and resentful towards those who are more fruitful than them. They can mount a crusade to get rid of these overachievers so that they can take their place and make themselves look good because nobody’s around who’s being more fruitful than them.

The differing yields among us can divide and ruin us if we let them. We can fight with one another. That’s what happens a lot of times. There's a lot of jealousy, pride, comparison, competition and arguing amongst God's people. But notice in this parable that there’s no fighting going on. The seeds concentrate on growing and bringing forth their fruits and they’re satisfied with however much or "little" they produce.

Even more instructive, notice that the Lord doesn’t go bonkers on those who produce a hundred-fold. He doesn’t make fun of those who produce sixty-fold. And He doesn’t scold, or get rid of, those who produce thirty-fold. GOD DOESN’T REJECT ANYONE WHO’S BROUGHT FORTH FRUIT, NO MATTER HOW LITTLE OR HOW MUCH! This is the lesson that we’ve got to learn.

Brethren, be thankful for what everyone brings forth. Don't despise, belittle, or be envious of however little or much another Christian may produce. Be good dirt. Get the Word down in your dirt. And let the Word do the good work and bring forth the good fruit in you. Leave it at that and don't hassle the brethren or the Lord with your jealousy or pride.

 

JESUS EXPLAINS THE PARABLE OF THE WHEAT AND TARES

 

Matthew 13:36, Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. Matthew 13:36 (NIV),  Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field."

 

The multitudes have left and Jesus is now alone with His disciples in a house. They asked Him what the parable of the sower meant. Then, after Jesus explained it to them, they asked Him what the parable of the wheat and tares meant. Brethren, when you don't understand what God's saying in His Word the Bible do what the disciples did and ask Him. God speaks to you for a reason. That's why He wants you to understand His Word (James 1:5). So don't be ashamed or afraid to ask!

 

Matthew 13:37-39, He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; (38) The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; (39) The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. Matthew 13:37-39 (NIV),  He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.  (38)  The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one,  (39)  and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

 

As long as we are in this world we live among tares. Tares, Jesus says, are children of the wicked one. If you know how to spot the devil you'll know how to spot his children: they'll behave just like their father (John 8:44). Some tares are plainly, obviously wicked that we have no problem spotting them. But some, like literal tares of Biblical days, are practically indistinguishable from Christians.

Brethren, there are a lot of look-alike Christians amongst us who are not truly Christian or saved. A lot of people who make this kind of statement are judgmental and pseudo God, damning people as if it was up to them to decide who goes to Heaven and who goes to hell. Brethren, don't be like them!

Instead of being judgmental and damning people, pray for the tares who are among you. Show them the love of Christ. Patiently and gracefully share the Word with them. Who knows, maybe some of them will come to the Lord and be saved. Remember you were once a tare yourself. You were a sinner bound for hell. But someone introduced you to Christ and that's how you're a Heaven-bound Christian today. Pay it forward. Do everything you can to bring the lost to Christ while there's still time! Judgment is coming and God is not willing that any one should perish (2 Peter 3:9).

 

Matthew 13:40-43, As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. (41) The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend,FN and them which do iniquity;FN (42) And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (43) Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.FN Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. Matthew 13:40-43 (CEV), Weeds are gathered and burned. That's how it will be at the end of time. (41) The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will gather from his kingdom everyone who does wrong or causes others to sin. (42) Then he will throw them into a flaming furnace, where people will cry and grit their teeth in pain. (43) But everyone who has done right will shine like the sun in their Father's kingdom. If you have ears, pay attention!

 

We know that there are tares alongside Christians in the world. But verse 40 is pretty scary and instructive. It tells us that there are also tares in the kingdom. There are false, look-alike Christians living alongside true Christians in the Kingdom of God on this earth. It's the truth because Jesus said so. And we all, at some time or another, have seen "Christians" living like heathens and denying the sinfulness of their actions or lifestyle. Look inside the church today and you have Christians-so-called living unashamedly in fornication, adultery, and sin. Abortion is rampant. Divorce and remarriage for every cause is rampant and uncontrolled. Many Christians imbibe alcohol like drunkards in a bar and have lost any sense of moderation or self-control. We have Christians believing and promoting ideas that are just not Biblical. They're occultic in beliefs and even in some of the things they practice, like yoga and transcendentalism. The church today is in a really sad shape. It's really heartbreaking, especially to God. But He knew all along that it would be this way (1 Timothy 4:1-3, 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 4:1-4, Revelation 2:12-15, 18-23).

The point of the parable is there's a judgment day coming when the good will be separated from the bad, the wheat from the tares, the saved from the damned. As I'm fond of saying, if you live like the devil you'll be damned with the devil. You can't live like the devil on earth and expect to live with God in Heaven.

Take it seriously, friends. Giving sin up may seem like such a big deal or hard thing to do. Try seeing it in terms of giving hell up, walking away from perdition, and you'll see that GOD'S DEMANDS ON YOUR LIFE AREN'T MEANT TO STIFLE YOU, BUT TO TO SAVE YOU. God sees what's ahead and He loves you too much to let you go without warning you and trying to turn you back from your sins.

On the flip side, talking to Christians who really have a heart for the Lord, it's easy to grow fearful or be disheartened by all the adverse effects and influences that surrounds you, even in church. Many worry about their future and whether they'll go to Heaven or not. God's got a word of encouragement for you. Tares may grow beside the wheat, but THEY DON'T PREVENT THE WHEAT FROM BEING WHEAT AND THEY DON'T STOP THE WHEAT FROM BEARING SOME HARVEST FOR THE LORD. Wheat will continue to bear wheat even though it’s surrounded by tares. We may be surrounded by lots of Christians who preach a different gospel, who stand for an ungodly cause, who promote an unchristian lifestyle. But they don’t have to corrupt us or prevent us from being true Christians. We can be true Christians even though we’re surrounded by false, corrupting Christians! We can still bear good fruit! We don’t have to let the false drag us down and turn us back into heathens!

How do we do that? Like wheat, we continue growing! Don’t listen to the tares. Don’t copy them. Don’t believe them. Stick close to the Lord. Let the Bible be your guide. You’re a true Christian. You have God’s Spirit and Word in you. Let God feed you. Feast on His presence, His Word, His Spirit. Hang out with like-minded Christians who have a heart for the Lord and His Word. You can encourage, pray, and strengthen each other. Don't mind people who don't share your zeal for the Lord or who don't agree with your Biblical beliefs. Just walk with the Lord on a daily, moment-by-moment basis and you’ll grow just fine. Wheat produces wheat and I know you'll produce good wheat and bread with the Lord in your life.

Let me add an addendum here for those of you who are parents. As good Christian parents we look at our world today and our precious children and we’re tempted to fear ourselves to pieces because this world just isn’t gonna be kind or nice to our kids. This world will take our kids to Hell if we don’t do anything to stop that. The point is, we can get real worried for our kids. Worry is built-in to parenting. If we use worry and let it drive us to God in prayer for our kids; if we use worry to do everything we can to be a godly parent and influence and teacher to our children; our children will turn out just fine. Do you know why I know that? Because OUR CHILDREN ARE GOD'S CHILDREN FIRST AND FOREMOST. GOD ISN'T GONNA STAND IDLY BY AND LET THE DEVIL ROB HIM OF HIS KIDS. God’s gonna protect His kids and preserve them unto the day of salvation. Believe that and don’t let fear or worry rob you of your peace of mind. Pray for your kids. God will take care of them.

 

THE PARABLE OF THE HIDDEN TREASUREFN

 

Matthew 13:44, Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field;FN the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Matthew 13:44 (NIV),  "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

 

A parable is meant to teach a single, simple lesson. People, both learned and otherwise, make the mistake of looking too closely at the details of the story and end up in some far-fetched understanding that our Lord never meant or intended. For example, why was the man digging in another's man's field? Why didn't he just outright carry the treasure away for himself? Naturally, that wouldn't exactly be the most ethical thing to do. But, if we're going on insist on the ethicality of the matter, the honest thing for the treasure finder to do in such a case is report his find to the guy who owned the land and, by property rights, owned the buried treasure. Isn't the finder being a bit dishonest or disingenuous in hiding the land's secret and buying it for himself? Is Jesus teaching us to be disingenuous? Is salvation, like buried treasure, something that we can buy? Can we buy our way into Heaven? Do you see what I mean? We can get bogged down in details and miss the entire, singular, simple point of the parable.

The point of the parable is simply this. The Kingdom of Heaven is like buried treasure. You'll pay whatever price you have to pay to get it and own it. You want the Kingdom so badly that you'll give whatever you have to give to get it.

Let me put it this way to help you understand the parable a little better. Sometimes people don't recognize the true value or worth of something they have or stumble across, like in a garage sale or flea market. A dusty old painting is just that to them and they will sell it for a mere pittance, not realizing that it was a Rembrandt or Van Gogh worth a cool two million dollars. Had they known the true value of what they had they would have kept it for themselves instead of selling it for a pittance. Yes, they could sell it for lots of money. That's another scenario. In the scenario at hand, instead of getting rid of something and making a buck or two off of it, people who know better will keep a prized possession for themselves because they know how much it's worth. They want it for themselves. There's no way they're going to part with it.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like this prized and valued possession. You know how much it's worth and you'll gladly make every sacrifice, pay any price, to have it and keep it for yourself. You want it that badly! And once you've got it there's not a snowball's chance in hell that you're going to part with it and let it go.

Friend, do you realize the value of what you've got? If God, Heaven, and the Bible just aren't worth a lot to you-; if they don't mean that much to you; if your life and loves center around non-spiritual, non-Christian, sort of things; then, like unknowing people selling a Rembrandt for a pittance, you may not have the Kingdom.YOU'LL KNOW IF YOU HAVE THE KINGDOM BY HOW MUCH IT'S WORTH TO YOU AND HOW MUCH YOU PAID TO HAVE IT. More on the price in just a moment.

 

THE PARABLE OF THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE

 

Matthew 13:45-46, Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantFN man, seeking goodlyFN pearls: (46) Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. Matthew 13:45-46 (NIV),  "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.  (46)  When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

 

Like the parable before it, the singular point of the parable is not that we can buy salvation or buy our way into Heaven. God can't be bought.

Imagine yourself to be a jeweller. You've got a vast collection of pearls. But you know there's a pearl out there that's even more big, beautiful, and priceless than your entire collection. You search for it. And one day you find it. So you sell your entire collection so you can buy this one magnificent pearl. Why do you do that? Because you realize the pearl's great and singular value. Because you want it more than anything else. And you'll do anything you have to do to get it.

That's the way it is with the Kingdom of Heaven. If you're not really interested in Heaven or looking for it; you're not looking to be a part of it; then you're not going to find it or get it. No one accidentally stumbles disinterestedly into Heaven. HEAVEN IS HAD BY THOSE WHO WANT IT AND SEEK IT. It's found and possessed by those who are willing to do whatever it takes to be there.FN If God is your singular and all-consuming passion, you'll find your pearl. God Himself will see to that (Deuteronomy 4:29, James 4:8).

 

THE PARABLE OF THE DRAG NETFN

 

Matthew 13:47-50, Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: (48) Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. (49) So shall it be at the end of the world: the angelsFN shall come forth, and severFN the wicked from among the just, (50) And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.FN Matthew 13:47-50 (CEV), The kingdom of heaven is like what happens when a net is thrown into a lake and catches all kinds of fish. (48) When the net is full, it is dragged to the shore, and the fishermen sit down to separate the fish. They keep the good ones, but throw the bad ones away. (49) That's how it will be at the end of time. Angels will come and separate the evil people from the ones who have done right. (50) Then those evil people will be thrown into a flaming furnace, where they will cry and grit their teeth in pain.

 

This parable is similar to the parable of the wheat and tares, except that its setting is on the sea and not on farmland. It's so tempting to read so many things into the details of the parable. We've got to resist such temptations and stick with the basic truth that Jesus intended for us to have.

If you were trying to portray the Kingdom of Heaven in earthly terms, the Kingdom is like a fishing net. (Remember that a good handful of Jesus' disciples were fishermen.) This earth had a beginning and it'll have an end. When the end comes, God's going to send forth His angels with a drag net, in a manner of speaking, and, like fishermen, they'll gather all of mankind into their net. There'll be some good people in there, but, I suspect, most will be bad. There'll be an end-time separation of the good from the bad: the good will be ushered into their eternal reward and the bad will be cast into an eternal furnace of fire. Friends, this is how time, history, earth, and mankind, will end. Jesus said so.

The end-time judgment of the wicked is so fearful. It's beyond anyone's power of imagination. Skeptics, unbelievers, and even some professing Christians, pooh pooh the idea of judgment: How could a supposedly good God even want to inflict such a horrible punishment on the people He supposedly created? I don't have any easy answers.

But I look at all the centuries of time that have passed since creation. I look at our present day and world. And I marvel that God hasn't ended the sickening madness going on in our nation and our world. If I were God, and I'm soooo glad I'm not, I would have ended this wickedness a long, long time ago. Time's still going on and people's morals are sinking to new, unimaginable, lows.

Do you know what I think? I wonder why God just doesn't end it all right now. Then God reminds me. He's giving people time to change. Time to get it right. Time to repent and get saved. The New Living Translation translates 2 Peter 3:15 this way, And remember, our Lord's patience gives people time to be saved.

A lot of people question God's goodness, yet I see His goodness every single day that judgment is withheld from the earth. I see His love reflected His patience. Judgment, to me, isn't about questioning God's goodness. It's about what's each one of us is willing to do to take advantage of God's goodness and escape the coming judgment. This time, after all, is God giving us the time to get right with Him and be saved. Judgment, in truth, isn't God's fault, but rather, our own.

 

THE PARABLE OF THE INSTRUCTED SCRIBE

 

Matthew 13:51-53, Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things?FN They say unto him, Yea, Lord.FN (52) Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old. (53) And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence. Matthew 13:51-53 (NLT), Do you understand all these things?" "Yes," they said, "we do." (52) Then He added, "Every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old." (53) When Jesus had finished telling these stories and illustrations, He left that part of the country.

 

Jesus closes out this segment of His parabolic teachings by speaking about a householder having treasures old and new alike.

A scribe was a member of a Jewish fraternity of teachers. Their job was to teach the Jewish law. Hence, they were experts in the law. Jewish scribes of the day were well versed not just in the Old Testament Law, but also in the commentaries of that law made by various Jewish scholars throughout the centuries. So they were adept in both God's Law and many men's interpretations of that Law.

Jesus' scribes, that is, His disciples, have just been instructed in the kingdom of Heaven. This was new revelation. Combined with the teachings of Old Testament Law, Jesus' scribes have treasures that are both old and new.

Friends, do you realize that the knowledge of God's Word, including Jesus' teachings, is a treasure? It's valuable. And when you have that kind of treasure, Jesus expects you to take it out of hiding or storage and share it with the world. THE KNOWLEDGE THAT GOD'S GIVEN YOU HE MEANS FOR YOU TO SHARE WITH OTHERS. Once taught, now teach. Paul puts it this way in 2 Timothy 2:2 (NASB), The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

 

 

JESUS CALMS A STORM AT SEAFN

ON THE SEA OF GALILEE

 

Mark 4:35-41, And the same day, when the even was come,FN he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. FN (36) And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship.FN And there were also with him other little ships. (37) And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. (38) And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow:FN and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? (39) And he arose, and rebuked the wind,FN and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.FN (40) And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? (41) And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?FN Mark 4:35-41 (CEV), That evening, Jesus said to his disciples, "Let's cross to the east side." (36) So they left the crowd, and his disciples started across the lake with him in the boat. Some other boats followed along. (37) Suddenly a windstorm struck the lake. Waves started splashing into the boat, and it was about to sink. (38) Jesus was in the back of the boat with his head on a pillow, and he was asleep. His disciples woke him and said, "Teacher, don't you care that we're about to drown?" (39) Jesus got up and ordered the wind and the waves to be quiet. The wind stopped, and everything was calm. (40) Jesus asked his disciples, "Why were you afraid? Don't you have any faith?" (41) Now they were more afraid than ever and said to each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"
Matthew 8:23-27, And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. (24) And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. (25) And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. (26) And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. (27) But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him! Luke 8:22-25, Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. (23) But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy.FN (24) And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. (25) And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.

 

It was about a seven-mile trip across the Sea of Galilee when a sudden wind storm arose, making the trip quite turbulent and hazardous. Battered mercilessly by the winds and waves, it was a real struggle to keep the ship afloat and not have a man swept overboard. In Matthew’s account, the ship was covered by the waves. That is, the waves were so tall that water was rapidly pouring in over the sides of the ship. The disciples couldn’t work fast enough to bail the water out. By all accounts, the ship was rapidly filling with water that the threat of sinking and death was very much real. In Luke’s words, they were in jeopardy. There was no immediately-foreseeable end to the storm. The outcome of the trial seemed inescapable. Fear and panic set in. The disciples did the only thing there was left to do: they woke Jesus up.

Now in the Gospel accounts Jesus responded to people’s fear in one of two ways: (1) He spoke a word of comfort to them and told them not to be afraid ( Matthew 14:27, Luke 8:50); (2) or else He rebuked them. This latter is what Jesus did here. He rebuked the storm, and then after that, He rebuked the disciples.

Now I’d like for you to notice that Jesus didn’t rebuke the disciples for coming to Him for help, nor did He rebuke them for bothering Him and waking Him up from a perfectly good, sound sleep. He rebuked them because they were fearful and faithless: Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?

 

JESUS' REBUKE AND WHAT IT TEACHES US

Let’s look at Jesus’ rebuke for a moment. In what way were the disciples fearful and faithless? What did they do, or didn’t do, that merited a rebuke from the Master? Well, in looking at the Scripture text we see that their fear and faithlessness centered around two things.

(1) First, they were fearful about the eventual outcome of this terrifying situation. They thought they were going to sink, drown, and die. They didn’t have the faith to believe that things were going to turn out alright, they weren’t going to get hurt and die.

(2) And second, they were faithless about Jesus’ care for them. You see, their doubt about Jesus’ care was manifested in what they said: Master, carest thou not that we perish? Don’t you care about what’s happening to us? We’re going to die! Don’t you care? The way they saw it, their lives were in real jeopardy and what was Jesus doing about it? Absolutely nothing! He was sleeping in the back of the boat! How can anyone sleep through all the noise and turbulence and water pouring in? It seemed to the disciples that Jesus didn’t care about what was happening to them. The least He could do was help them bail the water out or give them some life-saving instructions. But Jesus slept! When the disciples came to Jesus, they came to Him not so much for help, rather, they came to criticize Him and find fault with Him:FN Why don’t you care?!FN Their faithlessness, I’m saying, centered on the fact that they didn’t believe Jesus cared enough about them.

There are a couple of things about Jesus’ rebuke as it relates to the disciples’ fear that I want to bring to you by way of admonition. Before we get to them, let me say once again that the threat of death was very real. Place yourself in the disciples’ shoes and you’ll understand that the disciples had very good reason to be afraid.

Now for the admonition. My friends, we all have valid reasons to fear. There are bad things happening to us that give us good cause to be afraid. But the point of Jesus’ rebuke is, NO MATTER HOW BAD IT LOOKS AND NO MATTER WHAT GOOD REASON WE HAVE TO BE AFRAID, JESUS DOESN'T WANT US TO BE AFRAID! HE WANTS US TO BELIEVE--EVEN WHEN BELIEVING IS A VERY DIFFICULT THING TO DO. HE WANTS US TO BELIEVE EVEN IN THE MIDST OF THE THREAT OF DEATH.

You see, there were at least four disciples on that ship who were experienced fishermen. They went through storms at sea before and they knew what their prospects for survival were like. Some of you, like the disciples, have medical knowledge that gives you good reason to fear in the midst of a trial. Some of you have gone through similar trials before and it has never been easy or pleasant for you. Now that you’re going through the same thing again, fear is close at hand. Do you see what I’m saying? We all have good reasons to fear.

But even though we have good reasons to fear, Jesus doesn’t want us to fear. THE THREAT OF DEATH DOESN'T JUSTIFY OR LEGITIMIZE OUR FEAR. No matter how real the circumstances, symptoms, or threat, Jesus doesn’t want us to be afraid. He wants us to believe.

Now Jesus’ rebuke sounds so unsympathetic. The disciples were in a serious trial. Death was looming on the near horizon. They had good reason to be afraid. And yet for all this, Jesus rebuked them! He could have calmed them down and provided moral encouragement to them: Don’t be afraid, men, we’re not going to sink! It’s going to be alright! No one’s going to die! Instead of doing that, He rebuked them! To our human understanding, Jesus was so unsympathetic!

But how wrong we are and how wrong the disciples were! Jesus does care! He calmed the storm and saved them. The fact is, Jesus does care.

And this brings me to the second point about Jesus’ rebuke. Jesus cared for His disciples, but He didn’t condone their fear or doubt! He didn’t say it was alright to be afraid. He didn’t say He understood they had good reason to be afraid. Brethren, you have good reason to fear. Jesus cares for you. But He rebukes you because He doesn’t condone your fear.

Jesus’ rebuke, I am saying, ought not to be understood as His lack of care or compassion. And in much the same way, the fact that God’s people rebuke you for your fear and lack of faith ought not make you think that they don’t love you or care for you. Their words of disapproval ought not to be understood by you as their lack of love or compassion.FN

Unfortunately, there will always be those who are critical, harsh, and unloving.

But for the most part, your brethren as a whole aren’t that way. They love you. And it’s because they love you that they rebuke you concerning your fear and lack of faith. Like Jesus, they don’t want you to be fearful or faithless. WITH A GOD LIKE JESUS, YOU HAVE NO REASON TO BE AFRAID! Everything will turn out alright. In all this, we see that LOVE WILL, AT TIMES, REBUKE AND CORRECT.

 

SOME THINGS TO BELIEVE IN TIME OF TRIAL

We’ve been looking at Jesus’ rebuke. Let’s look now at some of the things God wants you to believe in the midst of serious trial and the threat of death.

1. BELIEVE IN GOD’S LOVE AND CARE FOR YOU. First and foremost, God wants you to believe in His continuing, steadfast love for you. No matter what’s happening to you, no matter what God allows, He still cares! His compassions fail not (Lamentations 3:22).

Now it’s one of the hardest things for humans to comprehend the love of God when evil or trials abound. Like the disciples, it’s easy to be critical of God when bad things are happening to you.

But the thing you must understand is this: God’s love for you does not mean absence or immunity from trials. It doesn’t mean you won’t ever go through trials. Trials are a promised part of life.

Jesus knew what was going to happen at sea before He gave the command to set sail. But He went on ahead and sent His disciples into a trial! Why? (1) Because He was going to deal with their fear and doubt. (2) He was going to show them who He was. (3) And He was going to teach them that no matter how bad things are, there’s no reason or need to fear.

GOOD THINGS, I'M SAYING, CAN COME OUT OF OUR TRAILS. Brethren, believe in God’s love and don’t raise finger or tongue against Him.

 

2. BELIEVE IN GOD’S POWER TO WORK A MIRACLE FOR YOU. Second, believe in God’s power to change what looks to you like hopelessly unchangeable, irreversible circumstances. GOD'S POWER IS GREATER THAN ANYTHING THAT THREATENS YOU! He can turn things around. Brethren, GOD'S POWER ELIMINATES HOPELESSNESS AND RESIGNATION FROM OUR CHRISTIAN VOCABULARY, THINKING, AND EXPERIENCE. Hallelujah!

 

3. BELIEVE THAT GOD’S IN CONTROL AND HE’S GREATER THAN THE DEVIL. Third, because of God’s power and promises, you must believe that you’re not at the mercy of the Devil or his works against you. The trials that God allows aren’t meant to kill you, but to mature you (James 1:2-4). God’s given you the authority over Satan (Matthew 10:1, Luke 10:17,19, James 4:7). Like Jesus, speak the Word against Satan and command his obedience. The Devil must obey you!

 

4. BELIEVE THAT THERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT JUST CAN’T HAPPEN TO YOU. And fourth, when the ship of your life is beginning to sink with the waters of trial and death, YOU MUST BELIEVE THAT THERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT JUST CAN'T HAPPEN TO YOU, NAMELY, YOU CANNOT, YOU WILL NOT, DIE--NOT AS LONG AS GOD HAS GIVEN YOU THE PROMISE OF LIFE.

You see, the reason why Jesus didn’t want His disciples to be afraid is because they weren’t going to die. He wasn’t going to let that ship sink and kill them. He didn’t send them across to sea to die in the sea! THEIR FEAR OF DEATH WAS GROUNDLESS--EVEN THOUGH DEATH ITSELF SEEMED INEVITABLE AND INESCAPABLE--BECAUSE JESUS WASN'T ABOUT TO LET DEATH TAKE THEM.

You see, if the disciples only took into account what Jesus said at the outset of the trip, His words would have stayed their fear. He said, Let us pass over unto the other side (Mark 4:35). Do you know what this means, brethren? It means Jesus wants to get to the other side of the Sea. He’s going to get to the other side. And nothing’s going to keep Him from getting there. Friends, that ship can’t sink as long as Jesus is on it! The storm can’t keep Jesus from going to the other side.

In much the same way with respect to you, brethren, God’s promise was for healing, not terminal disease. For preservation from destruction, not destruction. For life itself, not death.FN Brethren, when you’re in a trial, call to mind what God said, hold fast to what He promised, believe for life, and take courage in the fact that there are some things that just can’t, and won’t, happen to you: God won’t let them happen because He’s faithful and He’ll keep His Word.

*If He said the prayer of faith shall heal the sick and the Lord shall raise him up (James 5:15), then this physical trial that’s threatening your life isn’t going to kill you—not as long as you’re believing.

*If He said, He redeemeth thy life from destruction (Psalm 103:3), then that car skidding on ice can’t kill you—not as long as you’re believing.

*If He said, the plague shall not come nigh thy dwelling (Psalm 91:10), then don’t receive the terminal illness that the Devil is trying to put on you.

Brethren, THERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT CAN'T HAPPEN TO YOU AS LONG AS YOU'RE BELIEVING. TRIALS, YES. DEATH, NO. Friends, learn from our Lord’s rebuke of His disciples. Jesus rebukes you when you think you’re going to die. Don’t be so fearful and faithless! AS LONG AS YOU'VE GOT JESUS' WORD AND FAITH, YOU WON'T DIE! Take courage in the midst of the storm, brethren, and believe!

 

 

JESUS CASTS LEGION OUT OF THE GERGESENE DEMONIACSFN

IN THE VICINITY OF GERGESA

 

Luke 8:26-33, And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee.FN {27} And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. {28} When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high?FN I beseech thee, torment me not.FN {29} (For he had commanded the unclean spiritFN to come out of the man.FN For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.)FN {30} And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him.FN {31} And they besoughtFN him that he would not command them to go out into the deep.FN {32} And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them.FN {33} Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.FN Luke 8:26-33 (NLT), So they arrived in the region of the Gerasenes, across the lake from Galilee. (27) As Jesus was climbing out of the boat, a man who was possessed by demons came out to meet Him. For a long time he had been homeless and naked, living in a cemetery outside the town. (28) As soon as he saw Jesus, he shrieked and fell down in front of Him. Then he screamed, "Why are You interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Please, I beg You, don't torture me!" (29) For Jesus had already commanded the evil spirit to come out of him. This spirit had often taken control of the man. Even when he was placed under guard and put in chains and shackles, he simply broke them and rushed out into the wilderness, completely under the demon's power. (30) Jesus demanded, "What is your name?" "Legion," he replied, for he was filled with many demons. (31) The demons kept begging Jesus not to send them into the bottomless pit. (32) There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby, and the demons begged Him to let them enter into the pigs. So Jesus gave them permission. (33) Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned.
Mark 5:1-13, And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. (2) And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, (3) Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: (4) Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. (5) And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. (6) But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, (7) And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. (8) For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. (9) And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. (10) And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. (11) Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. (12) And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. (13) And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.
Matthew 8:28-32, And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. (29) And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? (30) And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. (31) So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. (32) And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.

 

THE DEMONIACS

In these demoniacs we see the adverse effects of demonic oppression. We find here two reasons why we shouldn’t give ourselves to the Devil and become possessed or oppressed by him.FN

First, we see the destructive nature of oppression. Jesus said in John 10:10 that the thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. In Mark’s account, this Gergesene demoniac was crying and cutting himself with stones (Mark 5:5). He was hurting himself. Brethren, no one in his right mind hurts himself. It’s the human tendency to avoid pain: it’s demonic oppression to inflict pain. An oppressed individual not only hurts himself: he also hurts others.FN He does things to himself and others that people in their right mind would abhor doing. A demoniac does the unthinkable.

And second, we see the social implications of oppression. Just as these demoniacs were isolated from society, oppression severs relationships with family and society.

*Hard core, acid rock-n-rollers are anti-establishment.
*Adulterers end up divorced from spouse and children.
*A lot of drunkards end up jobless and homeless in the streets.
*Drugs make you a menace to society.
*And the bad things that the Devil makes you do lands you in prison.

Just as these demoniacs were worthless to society, there comes a point in time when you’re so oppressed that you live in a continuous, or near-continuous, state of demonic manifestation. That is, your whole life centers around doing what the demon in you makes you do. When you get to this point, you’re no good to society. You not only harm yourself: you harm society as well.

Friends, the outcome and consequences of demonic oppression are not pretty. Serving the devil is neither fun or good. If you want to avoid where oppression takes you and what the devil does to you, then don't go there. Don't start on the path that leads you to oppression. Serve God instead and He'll bless you with the best life possible.

 

JESUS

1. JESUS’ LOVE. In looking at Jesus, I see first His love for these demoniacs. He sought them out. He crossed the sea just for them. When He was done delivering them He sailed back to Capernaum. He endured the storm at sea and the rejection of the town’s folk for the sake of two men who were in absolutely no position to help themselves. They lived in the tombs and the desert. They hadn’t heard of Jesus. They were too violent that no one—either friend or relative—would bring them to Jesus. They were in a state of continuous demonic manifestation that they would never have sought Jesus out. The only way these men were going to get delivered was for Jesus to come to them. And that’s exactly what He did! Why? Because He loved them and cared enough to go out of His way to help them.

Brethren, JUST BECAUSE A PERSON'S OPPRESSED DOESN'T MEAN THAT GOD DOESN'T LOVE HIM. IT DOESN'T MEAN GOD CAN'T, OR WON'T, HELP HIM. God is the Help of the helpless. Do you know someone who’s terribly oppressed and can’t, or won’t, look to the Lord for help? Brethren, call the Gergesene demoniacs to mind and ask the Lord to cross the Sea once again and deliver the oppressed.

 

2. JESUS’ COURAGE. Second, I see Jesus’ courage. He wasn’t afraid of these demoniacs. Had His disciples heard or read their case histories beforehand, had they talked to the town’s folk first and gotten the scoop on these men; they probably would not have ventured anywhere near this site and they likely would have tried to stop Jesus from going there. These demoniacs were too violent. For safety’s sake, you stay as far away from them as possible. Jesus knew all about it. But He still came! You see, He wasn’t afraid of men or demons.

Brethren, YOU CAN'T HELP DEMONIACS IF YOU'RE AFRAID OF DEMONS OR AFRAID OF WHAT DEMONIACS CAN DO TO YOU. If you’re afraid for your life and property you’ll stay away. But when you know you’ve got the authority over them and command their subjection to you in Jesus’ Name, you’ll do what God’s sent you to do—you’ll deliver the oppressed.

 

3. JESUS’ WISDOM AND POWER. And third, I see Jesus’ wisdom and power in dealing with these demons and demoniacs. When He met them, He immediately began commanding these demons to come out of the demoniacs. You see, when Jesus and these demoniacs met, the demoniacs were in a state of demonic manifestation. They weren’t their ordinary, human selves. They weren’t in control of themselves. They were operating under the dictates of legion. Jesus didn’t ask these men if they wanted to be delivered. He took the initiative and went on ahead and delivered them.

Brethren, when a person’s manifesting demons, that’s not the time for you to ask him or her if they want to be delivered. When a demon’s manifesting, the demon’s in charge and the demon will always answer you, No! You don’t ask permission when demons are manifesting! You go right on ahead and deliver the oppressed.

 

Luke 8:34-37b, When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. {35} Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus,FN clothed,FN and in his right mind:FN and they were afraid. {36} They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed.FN {37} Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear. Luke 8:34-37B (NLT), When the herdsmen saw it, they fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. (35) People rushed out to see what had happened. A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been freed from the demons. He was sitting at Jesus' feet, fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. (36) Then those who had seen what happened told the others how the demon-possessed man had been healed. (37) And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept over them.
Mark 5:14-17, And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. (15) And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. (16) And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine. (17) And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.
Matthew 8:33-34, And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils. (34) And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.

 

When the town’s people saw what happened they were filled with fear and asked Jesus to leave their territory. Remember that in all likelihood, these people were heathen Gentiles. Anyone who exercised power over demons was a person of power. Power is either worshipped or feared. In this instance, it was feared.FN Strikingly enough, nothing is said about the people’s joy over the demoniacs’ healing or their thankfulness to Jesus for ridding their country of this demonic nuisance and threat.

 

Luke 8:37c-39, And he went up into the ship, and returned back again.FN {38} Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, {39} Return to thine own house, and show how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.FN Luke 8:37c-39 (NLT), So Jesus returned to the boat and left, crossing back to the other side of the lake. (38) The man who had been freed from the demons begged to go with Him. But Jesus sent him home, saying, (39) "No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you." So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him.
Mark 5:18-20, And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. (19) Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. (20) And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.

 

The man wanted to follow Jesus back to Capernaum and stay in His company as one of His disciples. But Jesus sent him home to testify of what Jesus had done for him. Although the man was willing, Jesus was not! He had something else, something better, for this man to do.

Friends, not everyone of us who’s willing to follow and serve the Lord in the five-fold, ministerial sense of the term is enlisted by our Lord into His service. Ministry isn’t just a matter of our willingness to serve: it’s a matter of God’s calling. And God’s calling isn’t always to one of His five-fold ministry offices. For some, His calling is to serve within the framework of ordinary human life and vocation. Some of us, brethren, are of more use to the Lord by returning home, or staying at home, and telling the people who once knew us what the Lord has done for us. Our testimony of a changed life is one way Jesus draws people unto Himself. That’s a service for the Lord that you ought not belittle, minimize, or disdain.

 

 

JESUS RAISES JAIRUS' DAUGHTER UP FROM THE DEAD

CAPERNAUM

 

Mark 5:21-24, And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto him: and he was nigh unto the sea. {22} And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name;FN and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, {23} And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.FN {24} And Jesus went with him;FN and much people followed him, and thronged him.FN Mark 5:21-24 (NLT), Jesus got into the boat again and went back to the other side of the lake, where a large crowd gathered around Him on the shore. (22) Then a leader of the local synagogue, whose name was Jairus, arrived. When he saw Jesus, he fell at His feet, (23) pleading fervently with Him. "My little daughter is dying," he said. "Please come and lay Your hands on her; heal her so she can live." (24) Jesus went with him, and all the people followed, crowding around Him.
Matthew 9:18-19, While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. (19) And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples. Luke 8:40-42, And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him. (41) And, behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus' feet, and besought him that he would come into his house: (42) For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as he went the people thronged him.

 

When Jesus returned from His trip to Gergesa a crowd of people was waiting for Him at Capernaum’s shore. Stepping out from among the crowd, a synagogue ruler by the name of Jairus asked Jesus if He would come to his house and heal his dying daughter. She was twelve years old (Mark 5:42) and, according to Luke 8:42, she was Jairus’ only daughter.FN Jesus consented, thus a procession was formed, heading towards Jairus’ house. They were followed by the disciples and a whole bunch of people.

Note Jairus’ faith. His daughter is dying. But he refuses to do nothing, sit still, and watch her die. Up to now he has not been able to do anything for her that would save her life. So he seeks out the Master who, in good probability, he has heard teach and seen work miracles.FN For Jairus, even though death is on its way, Jesus can do something! No sickness is too bad that Jesus can’t heal!

Brethren, anyone can believe the Lord to heal the colds or flu. But there’s something about human nature that gives up believing when the sickness is too severe and death is so imminent.

In this instance with Jairus, we see that IT'S STILL POSSIBLE TO BELIEVE THE LORD FOR HEALING EVEN WHEN SERIOUS, LIFE-AND-DEATH SICKNESSES ARE INVOLVED. THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE TRIAL NEED NOT TAKE AWAY OUR DESIRE OR ABILITY TO BELIEVE JESUS FOR HEALING AND HOLD OUT FOR THE PROMISE OF LIFE.

Brethren, no matter how bad it looks and how emotionally and mentally devastating the trial may be, don’t give up believing! Like Jairus, you can still believe the Lord for healing.

But in order to do that, you’re first going to have to get rid of hopelessness, despair, and resignation. Jairus believed because he refused to resign himself to the inevitable. Resignation, I am saying, spells the end of faith and believing. It robs you of the promises and the miracles. In order to believe you must refuse to sit still and watch the inevitable happen. Up, O child of God, and to the Lord in faith. God can do something! {Click here to continue with the story of Jairus’ daughter.}

 

 

A WOMAN TOUCHES JESUS' ROBE AND IS HEALED

CAPERNAUM

 

Mark 5:25-29, And a certain woman, which had an issue of bloodFN twelve years, {26} And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,FN {27} When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.FN {28} For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. {29} And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.FN Mark 5:25-29 (NLT), A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. (26) She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. (27) She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind Him through the crowd and touched His robe. (28) For she thought to herself, "If I can just touch His robe, I will be healed." (29) Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.
Matthew 9:20-21, And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: (21) For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. Luke 8:43-44, And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, (44) Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.

 

On the way to Jairus’ house a woman with a long-standing, apparently incurable, bleeding condition, pushed her way through the crowd and inconspicuously touched the tassels of Jesus’ cloak.FN I’d like to look at what she believed and what she did. First, let’s look at her faith.

 

WHAT THE WOMAN BELIEVED

What did this woman believe? She believed Jesus would heal her.FN She heard about Jesus’ miracles and the many healings He performed and this, in turn, gave rise to faith in her heart that He could do the same thing for her. Let’s take a closer look at her faith because there’s so much light and comfort to be derived from it.

 

FAITH BELIEVES BECAUSE IT KNOWS WHAT GOD’S WILL IS. Note in the first place that the woman didn’t ask Jesus if He would heal her.FN She didn’t ask Him if it was His will to heal her. She didn’t get His opinion or revelation on the matter. Without asking Him or anyone else, she just knew or believed that it was His will to heal her and that He would do it. She didn’t see herself as an exception to Jesus’ power or willingness to heal. She believed that what Jesus did for others He would do for her.

Friends, unlike this woman, you’re perhaps wondering or asking God if it’s His will to heal you. Stop asking the question! The point of this incident is, when it comes to Jesus’ promise to heal or His work of healing, there are some questions that don’t need to be asked, namely two.

(1) You don’t have to ask if it’s God will to heal you because it is! He healed many others and He’ll heal you because He’s no respecter of persons. What He does for one in terms of healing He’ll do for you. You’re not an exception!

(2) You don’t have to ask if God can heal a serious, incurable, or terminal illness. You see, this woman suffered from what was medically an incurable disease or ailment.FN The doctors couldn’t do anything for her. What made her think Jesus would? You see, even though she had been faced with failure for many years at the hands of many different doctors, this woman nevertheless believed that Jesus would be an exception. He would heal her when all others had failed. She believed Jesus’ healing power went far beyond that of the doctors. He had power to heal that not even the doctors themselves had. Nothing was incurable to Him!

Brethren, when you know what God promised to do for you, when you hear what He’s done for others just like yourself, then there are just some questions you don’t need to ask—all you need to do is believe and go to Him for the healing. You see, faith is all about believing that you’re not an exception to who, or what, God will heal.

 

FAITH KNOWS HOW THE TRIAL WILL END. And in the second place, note that in believing the Lord would heal her, this woman knew in advance what the outcome would be: she would be healed, she’d go home healed!

You see, brethren, FAITH KNOWS IN ADVANCE WHAT THE ANSWER AND OUTCOME WILL BE. It knows how the trial will end and what the answer to prayer will be.

Friends, THERE ARE NO DOUBTS OR MAYBE'S ABOUT FAITH. If you’re not sure about what’s going to happen after you pray, or if you’re not sure about whether or not God’s going to answer your prayer; then it isn’t faith and you’re not believing.

YOU'LL ALWAYS KNOW WHEN YOU'RE GENUINELY BELIEVING BECAUSE YOU'LL KNOW HOW THE PRAYER OR THE TRIAL WILL END: YOU'LL GET WHAT YOU ASKED GOD FOR (Matthew 7:7-11).

WHAT THE WOMAN DID

Let’s look now at what this woman did. She believed Jesus would heal her and she acted on that faith by making her way to Him and touching the tassels of His robe.FN You see, she didn’t just stand there and believe Jesus would heal her: she did something about what she believed. The way she saw it, if Jesus was going to heal her she had to get to Him—and that’s exactly what she did. Pressing her way through the crowd and touching His garment was her way of acting on her faith.

Brethren, faith without works is dead. YOU HAVE TO PRODUCE OR DO WORKS OF FAITH IF FAITH IS TO AVAIL YOU (James 2:14-26).

Had this woman not made her way through the crowd that day, she would not have been healed! Her faith alone, without works, wouldn’t have been enough. It wouldn’t have gotten her healed. You see, her faith healed her because she acted on that faith.

Now it should be noted that NO ONE TOLD THIS LADY TO DO WHAT SHE DID. She had no historical precedent to copy or imitate as far as people touching a great Man’s robe and getting healed. What this lady did was unprecedented: it had never before been done in history by anyone. She wasn’t imitating what someone else did. Nobody told her to touch Jesus’ clothes. Even Jesus Himself didn’t tell her to do it!

Where, then, did she get the idea to touch Jesus’ clothes? Wholly within herself. She did what she did on her own volition. It was strictly her own idea. Why did she do it? Because she believed she would be healed if she did it.FN

So what’s the point? The point is, acts of faith aren’t something you copy from someone else. They’re not something you do because you’ve seen other people do it and it’s worked for them. Acts of faith are something you do on your own. The idea to do this or that as an act of your faith is strictly yours.

To be sure, there are times when Jesus tells you what to do. He tells you to do something that He Himself comes up with; the idea is His. For example,

*He told the paralytic to stand up and walk (Mark 2:11-12);
*the lepers, to go show themselves to the priest (Luke 17:11-14);
*the blind man, to go wash in the Pool of Siloam (John 9:1-7).

In like manner, there will be times when a servant of the Lord, ministering by the anointing of the Spirit, will tell you to do something. For example, when Peter and John went up to the Temple to pray, they told the lame beggar to rise up and walk (Acts 3:1-8). The act of faith—the rising and walking—was the apostles’ idea.

In either case—whether it’s Jesus telling you to do something or an anointed servant of the Lord—your act of obedience to their word heals you when you do it in faith. If you don’t believe, you won’t obey or act. And if you act but really don’t believe, you won’t get healed because it’s faith that heals you, thy faith has made thee whole. NO FAITH, NO ACT, NO HEALING.

But these two commanded acts of faith aside, there are the vast majority of times when we, like this woman and like what James 2:14-26 says, will have to act on our faith because genuine, effectual faith will act; it’ll produce works of faith.

Like this woman who acted solely on her own initiative, acts of faith, for the most part, are something you do without you being told what to do, when to do it, or how to do it.

Brethren, you act on your own faith on your own volition because it’s something you feel, you believe, you know, you have to do in order to get healed or in order to get the manifestation of the answer to prayer. It’s something you do even when Jesus or anyone else isn’t telling you to do it. You do it just because you believe it’ll result in the manifestation of what you’re believing the Lord for. In the words of Scripture, she came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole (Mark 5:27-28).

 

Mark 5:30-34, And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtueFN had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?FN {31} And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? {32} And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.FN {33} But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. {34} And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague. Mark 5:30-34 (NLT), Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from Him, so He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched My robe?" (31) His disciples said to Him, "Look at this crowd pressing around You. How can You ask, 'Who touched Me?'" (32) But He kept on looking around to see who had done it. (33) Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of Him and told Him what she had done. (34) And He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over."
Luke 8:45-48  And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?  (46)  And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.  (47)  And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.  (48)  And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.
Matthew 9:22, But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.

 

When the woman touched Jesus’ garment and was healed, Jesus felt the healing power that was in Himself leave Him. He knew something had happened. He knew someone got healed. I’d like for you to notice carefully what Jesus said to the woman. He said, Thy faith has made thee whole.

 

TO BE HEALED YOU MUST BELIEVE YOU'LL BE HEALED

There are three things I’d like to say about this woman’s faith. First, Jesus attributed her healing to her faith: it was her faith that got her healed.

Now technically speaking, we know that it was Jesus who healed her. That is, Jesus’ healing power flowed out of His body into hers through the tassels of His robe and it was this power that healed her. But what made the power flow out of Him and into her was the woman’s faith.

Here’s an analogy to help you understand this better. You’re thirsty. Jesus gives you a glass of water. You drink the water. Your thirst is satisfied. What satisfied your thirst? The water. But in order for the water to satisfy your thirst you had to drink it. If you didn’t drink it the water wouldn’t have done you any good and you would have remained thirsty still.

Do you see the point now? Like thirst-satisfying water, it was Jesus’ healing power that healed the woman, but it could only do that if the woman first believed. Believing that she would be healed when she touched Jesus clothes was, like drinking water, what enabled the healing power to flow into this woman’s body. Without faith, the touch or the power wouldn’t have done her any good—that’s why Jesus said it was her faith that got her healed.

 

ACTING ON FAITH IS NECESSARY, BUT ACTING ALONE WON'T GET YOU HEALED

Second, it was the woman’s faith that got her healed and not just the act of touching Jesus’ clothes. Jesus said your faith, not your act, has made you whole.

Now faith, James says, needs to act on what it believes. Faith produces corresponding works of faith (James 2:14-26). Faith without works is dead; it doesn’t do anybody any good. FOR FAITH TO WORK IT HAS TO WORK. That is, faith will receive answers to prayer when it first acts on what it believes.

In this incident with the woman, the woman believed Jesus would heal her and she acted on this faith by pressing her way through the crowd and touching the tassels of Jesus’ garment. Her faith acting, or touching, was what got her healed. Her faith believing, but not acting or touching, wouldn’t have gotten her healed that day. You see, the faith that got her healed was her faith believing and acting.

Two things wouldn’t have healed her that day: (1) faith alone without the act of touching Jesus’ tassels (James 2:14-26); and (2) the act of touching alone without faith.

With respect to this latter point, notice again what Jesus didn’t say: He didn’t say, Thy act has made thee whole. It was the woman’s faith—believing and acting—that healed her, not the mere touch of Jesus’ garments.

You see, there were a bunch of people pressing in upon Jesus that day, some of whom I would like to think were in need of a healing from the Lord. But none of them who touched or brushed His garments were healed. You see, coming into contact with Jesus clothes, in and of itself, didn’t get a person healed. It was the fact that she touched Jesus’ clothes in faith, believing that she would be healed if she touch them, that made her whole. It was her faith acting or touching Jesus’ clothes that got her healed—not the act or the touch itself.

What made the touch effectual was the fact that it was done in faith. Just as the faith without the act wouldn’t have healed her, so in like manner, the act without the faith wouldn’t have healed her too. Jesus said, thy faith has made thee whole. The act had to be done in faith, or with faith, in order for it to do her any good.

The point I’m trying to make is, people will at times do things as a supposed act of faith—do things to get healed—but they do them without really having faith in the first place. They do them because they’re copying what someone else did to get healed; or because someone told them to do such and such—this is obedience without faith; or they do them because they know what James 2 says, they’ve got to do something—this is duty without faith.

Friends, we can do all sorts of things, we can touch Jesus’ tassels all we want, but without faith in our hearts it’s to no avail. we won’t get healed as long as we’re not believing. Hooray we’re acting! But the acting doesn’t do us any good if we aren’t believing. Brethren, BELIEVE FIRST, THEN ACT ON WHAT YOU BELIEVE. No one who comes to Jesus and touches His tassels in faith goes home sick! Thy faith has made thee whole!

 

YOUR FAITH MUST BE IN JESUS

And a third thing about the woman’s faith was, it was centered on Jesus. It was Jesus she was believing who would heal her.

It’s important for you to understand this basic truth because FAITH ITSELF, OR FAITH NOT CENTERED ON JESUS, DOESN'T DO ANYBODY ANY GOOD. You see, this woman had been to many different doctors, looking for healing. If she was like any one of us, I’d like to think she went to these doctors in faith, believing they could do something for her—after all, why would she go to them if she didn’t believe they could help her? Why would she have spent and wasted her money if she didn’t think she could be healed by them? You see, this woman had faith all along, but it was faith in the doctors and that faith just wasn’t sufficient to get her healed. As it turned out, the faith that she needed to have in order to be healed was faith in Jesus—not the doctors.

Going back to our analogy, she was putting the glass to her mouth but the glass was empty. There wasn’t any healing power in the glass because it was the doctors’ glass—not Jesus’ glass. And it was empty because the doctors just didn’t have the power to heal this infirmity.

You see, ALL MEN HAVE THE CAPACITY TO BELIEVE. ALL MEN HAVE FAITH TO SOME DEGREE OR EXTENT. Some believe in reincarnation, some believe in Buddha, some believe there’s life on the moon. Regardless of what they believe or who, all men have some degree of faith.

But the faith itself doesn’t get them saved or, in this instance with the woman, it doesn’t get them healed; because IT ISN'T FAITH ALONE THAT GETS THEM HEALED: IT'S FAITH IN JESUS THAT GETS THEM HEALED. If faith alone heals, the woman would have been healed the first time she went to the doctor because she believed from the very first day of her infirmity that she could be healed. But she wasn’t because faith alone doesn’t heal: healing faith, like saving faith, has to be centered on Jesus. THE FAITH THAT HEALS IS THE FAITH THAT LOOKS TO JESUS AND BELIEVES THAT JESUS WILL HEAL.

BRETHREN, IT'S WHO YOU BELIEVE IN--WHO YOU'RE TRUSTING TO HEAL YOU--THAT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD WHETHER OR NOT YOU'LL GET HEALED.FN

 

 

BACK TO JAIRUS AND HIS DYING DAUGHTER

CAPERNAUM

 

Mark 5:35-36, While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? {36} As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. Luke 8:49-50, While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master. (50) But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole. Mark 5:35-36 (NLT), While He was still speaking to her, messengers arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. They told him, "Your daughter is dead. There's no use troubling the Teacher now." (36) But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, "Don't be afraid. Just have faith."

 

While Jesus and the crowd were making their way to Jairus' house, several members of Jairus' household came with the sad news: the little girl was dead, there was no use taking up any more of Jesus' time. As far as they saw it, since death had come, it was too late for anyone to try and help, or save, the little girl's life. There was nothing Jesus could do.

WHEN YOU’RE IN A TRIAL YOU NEED TO DEAL WITH YOUR FEAR

For us, death ends it all. It’s not only the end of life, but also the end of believing: it’s time to give up what you were believing the Lord for.

But notice our Lord’s words to Jairus. First, He said, Fear not. You see, our Lord knows that the human tendency or response in the face of death is to become afraid. We fear death because it’s not what we wanted, it’s not what we were believing the Lord for.

But the first thing Jesus does is He allays Jairus’ fear. Why? I suspect it’s because He knows a person can’t exercise faith when he’s given himself over to fear. Fear keeps a person from believing. IN ORDER TO BELIEVE, FRIENDS, YOU'VE GOT TO DEAL WITH THE THINGS THAT MAKE YOU AFRAID.

Now too many people view fear as a Goliath that they can’t resist or do anything about. As far as they see it, Goliath will always have it his way and win because he’s bigger and stronger than them. So when the Goliath of fear comes knocking on the heels of bad circumstances and news, people automatically open the door of their hearts to him and let him in. They don’t even think of resisting him because, in their mind, fear is a foe you don’t fight against and win.

But I’d like for you to look again at Jesus’ words to Jairus because His words, Don’t fear, presupposes Jairus’ power or ability to do just that and not allow himself to become afraid. You see, JESUS DOESN'T TELL YOU TO DO SOMETHING YOU CAN'T DO. The very fact that He tells you to do something means you can do it—you’ve got the power to do it. But the power doesn’t help if you don’t have the will or desire to do it. Resisting fear, my friends, is not a matter of power because you’ve got the power (Luke 10:17,19). It’s a matter of the will: you’ve got to exercise your will and choose not to be afraid. In other words, IT'S YOU--NOT THE DEVIL--WHO DECIDES WHETHER OR NOT YOU'LL BECOME AFRAID.

Going back to the analogy, all the Devil can do is knock on your door and tempt you to fear. He can’t open the door from outside, barge in, and force you to fear! He doesn’t have that right or power! The door can be opened only from within and it’s you who decides whether you’ll open the door, or else leave it closed.

Fear, like faith, is a choice you make: you decide what’s going to happen to you as far as how you’re going to respond to the circumstances and temptations you’re faced with.

The point of the incident is, like Jairus, IT'S POSSIBLE TO BE FACED WITH BAD CIRCUMSTANCES AND NEWS AND NOT BE AFRAID. You may be tempted to be afraid and may have every reason to be afraid. But you don’t have to be afraid. And that, brethren, is a choice you make.

 

WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR FAITH WHEN DEATH COMES

When you’re believing the Lord to heal your loved one, and you really believe they’re going to be healed, what do you do if they end up dying? Do you quit believing and praying for healing? Or do you hold fast to your faith and trust the Lord to raise your loved one from the dead?

A lot of us, if not all of us, will give up faith and quit believing for healing when death comes. Death, too, is promised (Hebrews 9:27). And when it comes, we resign ourselves to the apparent fact that it was God’s will, it was God’s time, for our loved one to die.

A handful of us will not accept the death of a loved one. We’ll pray that God will raise our loved one from the dead and we’ll hold fast to the faith that God will heal our loved one and cause him or her to live healthy once again.

Allow me to share with you a morsel of wisdom that I’ve learned from Scriptures and experience. If you are praying and believing the Lord to heal a loved one, and they end up dying, the first thing you need to do is go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him what you should do. Does God want you to quit praying and believing for healing and life? Or does He want you to keep on praying and believing even though your loved one is dead? Despite our personal desires, our faith must always be in accordance with God's will, not against it. So ask God what He wants you to do, then do it.

Like I said, a lot of us will quit praying and believing for healing when death occurs. Some will continue praying and believing. What does God say? What does He want us to do? I really believe in my heart that God will show us what He wants us to do if we’re quiet and still before Him and wait for Him to show us His will.

In many instances, God will let us know that He wants to take our loved one home and it’s time to give up believing for a miracle. God has His reasons and, while those reasons may be disagreeable to us, we nevertheless acknowledge God’s right to do what He pleases. So reluctantly, with heavy, tearful hearts, we relinquish our loved one to the care and presence of our Lord.

Every once in a great while, as in Jairus’ case, God still wants to heal even when death has occurred. Death doesn’t stop Him from healing: it doesn’t change His mind or will about healing. If that’s the case, God will tell you to keep on praying and believing for life.

Let me show you how this works. It was God’s will to heal Jairus’ daughter and death didn’t change God’s mind about healing her. After He calmed Jairus’ fear, Jesus said to him, Only believe. These two words, brethren, were a revelation of God’s will. Jairus, it’s still My will to heal your daughter. I want you to keep on believing for healing, even though she’s dead, because I’m going to raise her from the dead and heal her.

Many give up believing for healing and life when death comes. But we shouldn’t be so quick to accept death because, as we see here with Jairus and others, God still wants to heal even when death occurs. If He should say to you, Only believe, I want you to keep on believing, then don’t quit believing just because your loved one has died.

JESUS, BRETHREN, DOESN'T ENCOURAGE US TO GIVE UP WHAT WE WERE BELIEVING HIM FOR.FN HE DOESN'T ENCOURAGE US TO ACCEPT WHAT HAS HAPPENED, NOR DOES HE ENCOURAGE US TO ACCEPT WHAT WE WEREN'T BELIEVING HIM FOR OR ACCEPT WHAT WE WERE PRAYING AND BELIEVING AGAINST. IF GOD HASN’T CHANGED HIS MIND ABOUT HEALING YOUR LOVED ONE, IF HE TELLS YOU TO KEEP ON BELIEVING EVEN AFTER YOUR LOVED ONE HAS DIED, THEN, BRETHREN, YOU NEED TO KEEP ON BELIEVING--EVEN IN THE FACE OF DEATH.

Why? Because God’s power overcomes death. God has the power over death. He holds life and death in His hands. And IT'S HE--NOT THE DEVIL, NOT THE CIRCUMSTANCES OR TRIAL--WHO DETERMINES WHO LIVES AND WHO DIES AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT IN TIME. NO ONE DIES, OR REMAINS DEAD FOR LONG, WHOM THE LORD DOESN'T WANT TO DIE.

GOD HAS EVERY INTENTION OF KEEPING HIS WORD AND HONORING OUR FAITH. GOD GAVE US A PROMISE, WE BELIEVED IT, AND GOD’S DETERMINED TO ANSWER OUR PRAYER AND DO WHAT WE ASKED HIM TO DO! As long as we’re believing, nothing and no one—not even death itself—can stop God from doing what we asked Him to do! Brethren, Jesus is going to do what you asked Him to do. Don’t give up believing! It’s not too late!

You see, healing and life aren’t just a matter of God’s will alone, but they’re also a matter of our faith. FAITH CAN OVERCOME DEATH AND SECURE THE HEALING WE INITIALLY SOUGHT THE LORD FOR.

Notice what our Lord said in the parallel account in Luke: Believe only, and she shall be made whole (Luke 8:50). Even though death had come, it was still possible for the little girl to live again and be healed. But for that to take place, Jesus required Jairus to hold fast to what he was originally and initially believing the Lord for.

You see, it was God’s will for this little girl to be healed and it was His power that was going to get her healed. But He didn’t talk of her healing in terms of His will or power. He didn’t say, I’m going to heal or raise her because it’s My will.

What He said was, Only believe, and she shall be healed. You see, Jesus talked of the little girl’s healing in terms of Jairus’ faith: if only Jairus would keep on believing, she would be healed. While the little girl’s healing was a matter of God’s will, He wasn’t going to do it unless Jairus believed; she wasn’t going to get healed without Jairus’ faith.

Jesus laid the burden of responsibility for the child’s welfare squarely on Jairus’ shoulders. Now that’s a pretty heavy responsibility. He could have made it easier on Jairus and said, Only believe because she shall be made whole. In other words, Jesus knew how this trial was going to end, He knew the little girl would be healed, and He could have told Jairus that. In other words, Jairus, your little girl is going to be healed, that’s how this story is going to end. So chin up, child, and believe! How much easier it is to believe when we know how the trial is going to end!

But that’s not what Jesus said. He said, Only believe, and she shall be made whole. In other words, Jairus, how this story ends depends on you. If you keep on believing she’ll be healed. If you don’t, she won’t. Jesus, I’m saying, placed the responsibility for the girl’s welfare in her father’s hands.

Now it makes us really nervous to know that the trial’s outcome depends on us. It can be frightening. But I want you to note what Jesus did after He spoke these words to Jairus: He kept on walking to Jairus’ house! You see, Jesus wasn’t standing there, waiting for Jairus’ reply. He kept on walking to Jairus’ house and that, my friends, can only mean it’s still Jesus’ will to heal, He still intends to heal, and death isn’t going to stop Him from healing! You see, brethren, when Jesus kept on walking to Jairus’ house, that was an encouragement for Jairus to believe! Jesus gave Jairus reason or motivation to keep on believing. He placed the burden of responsibility on Jairus’ shoulders, but He helped him believe.

Not only that, He gave Jairus prior reason to believe. A woman suffered from an incurable bleeding condition for twelve long years, but when she touched Jesus clothes she was instantly healed! Jesus healed an incurable disease. There was nothing too hard for Him to heal! There wasn’t a sickness He couldn’t heal! You see, brethren, when Jesus healed this infirmed woman, that healing was an encouragement to Jairus’ faith: what Jesus did for the woman He could do for Jairus’ little girl.

People, I’m saying, don’t relish the thought of being responsible for how the trial ends. But Jesus gives all sorts of encouragement for us to keep on believing.FN Sometimes circumstances improve just a little bit, enough to get our faith going. Sometimes a person says just the thing we need to hear to cheer us up and get us going again. Sometimes Jesus speaks to our heart and reminds us of His Word or promise. Sometimes He reminds us of the miraculous things He’s done for us and others in the past. Sometimes He keeps on walking to the site of our trial. Brethren, be encouraged. If God wants you to believe He’ll encourage you to do just that. Do what God tells you to do. Don't let death stop you from believing when God wants you to believe. {Click here to read more on believing in the midst of death.}

 

Mark 5:37-43, And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.FN {38} And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. {39} And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.FN {40} And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out,FN he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. {41} And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi;FN which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. {42} And straightway the damsel arose, and walked;FN for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment. {43} And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat. Mark 5:37-43 (NLT), Then Jesus stopped the crowd and wouldn't let anyone go with Him except Peter, James, and John (the brother of James). (38) When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw much commotion and weeping and wailing. (39) He went inside and asked, "Why all this commotion and weeping? The child isn't dead; she's only asleep." (40) The crowd laughed at Him. But He made them all leave, and He took the girl's father and mother and His three disciples into the room where the girl was lying. (41) Holding her hand, He said to her, "Talitha koum," which means "Little girl, get up!" (42) And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally amazed. (43) Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone what had happened, and then He told them to give her something to eat.
Luke 8:51-56, And when he came into the house, he suffered no man to go in, save Peter, and James, and John, and the father and the mother of the maiden. (52) And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth. (53) And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead. (54) And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. (55) And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat. (56) And her parents were astonished: but he charged them that they should tell no man what was done.
Matthew 9:23-26, And when Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, (24) He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. (25) But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. (26) And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.

 

When Jesus and His disciples came to the house, funerary custom and rituals were already being observed. The girl had been dead for only a few minutes, but already the mourning women were present, going through their familiar wails and lamentations. Their sorrow and cries were more ritualistic than sincere, which explains how they could be wailing at one moment, then laughing derisively and scornfully at our Lord the next.

Jesus put them out of the house and, taking the girl by the hand, spoke a word and commanded life to return unto her. Now brethren, a dead person can’t hear. But their spirit can. When Jesus spoke those words, the little girl’s spirit heard those words and gave heed. In Luke’s words, her spirit came again (Luke 8:55).FN She was raised back to life—not as the sick girl she was before she died, but as one totally healed and delivered from her affliction.FN Physically, she needed food.FN But the point is, she wasn’t sick anymore.

Friends, don't lose sight of the tremendous encouragement here because it's a gigantic faith booster: Jairus got what he wanted and asked for. Jesus honored his faith and answered his cry for help. Jairus believed and Jesus proved Himself faithful to do what is humanly impossible and heal what is humanly terminal or fatal.

Brethren, DON'T LOOK AT THE TERMINAL NATURE OF THE SICKNESS BECAUSE THAT DOESN'T INSPIRE FAITH: IT INSPIRES FEAR AND HOPELESSNESS. LOOK AT THE LORD AND REALIZE THAT WITH GOD NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE. NOTHING IS INCURABLE OR TERMINAL TO HIM.

Faith, brethren, is all about believing God can do something when, humanly speaking, nothing else can be done. It’s your faith that brings it to pass (Mark 5:34, Luke 8:50). Brethren, DON'T EVER UNDERESTIMATE YOUR FAITH. Sure, it’s a big or heavy responsibility that Jesus has placed on you. But look at what your faith can do. It can bring the dead back to life! YOUR FAITH, BRETHREN, IS AS POWERFUL AND EFFECTUAL AS GOD'S POWER BECAUSE IT IS, IN ACTUALITY, GOD DOING WHAT HUMANLY SPEAKING CAN'T BE DONE FOR ALL THOSE WHO CHOOSE TO LOOK TO HIM IN FAITH AND BELIEVE.FN

 

 

JESUS HEALS TWO BLIND MENFN

CAPERNAUM

 

Matthew 9:27-31, And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou son of David,FN have mercy on us.FN {28} And when he was come into the house,FN the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. {29} Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. {30} And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them,FN saying, See that no man know it. {31} But they, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame in all that country.FN Matthew 9:27-31 (NLT), After Jesus left the girl's home, two blind men followed along behind Him, shouting, "Son of David, have mercy on us!" (28) They went right into the house where He was staying, and Jesus asked them, "Do you believe I can make you see?" "Yes, Lord," they told Him, "we do." (29) Then He touched their eyes and said, "Because of your faith, it will happen." (30) Then their eyes were opened, and they could see! Jesus sternly warned them, "Don't tell anyone about this." (31) But instead, they went out and spread His fame all over the region.

 

DON'T LIMIT GOD. DON'T UNDERESTIMATE YOUR FAITH.

Leaving Jairus’ house, Jesus and His three disciples were followed by, among others, two blind men who wanted Jesus to cure them of their blindness.

Take note of two things in particular from this Scripture passage. In the first place, I’d like for you to take note of what Jesus said to them. He knew exactly what they wanted and He asked them, Do you believe that I am able to do this? You see, brethren, the question isn’t, Is it God’s will to heal blind eyes?, or Can God heal blind eyes? The question isn’t about God’s willingness or ability to heal: it’s about your willingness or ability to believe. Obviously, it was Jesus’ will to heal these blind men, otherwise He wouldn’t have done it. But the thing of note here is, He didn’t do it until they first acknowledged their faith in His ability to heal them. HE REQUIRED THEM TO BELIEVE BEFORE HE WOULD HEAL THEM.

Don’t you see, friends, that God requires faith of us before He answers our prayers? He said in Matthew 21:22, And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. Assuming of course that we’re praying in accordance with God’s will, WHAT JESUS DOES AND HOW HE ANSWERS OUR PRAYER IS LARGELY DETERMINED BY US. NO BELIEVING, NO RECEIVING. NO FAITH, NO HEALING. IT'S UP TO US WHAT GOD DOES FOR US OR WHAT HAPPENS TO US.

You see, it’s God will to heal us. It’s Messiah’s mission to open blind eyes. Why, then, didn’t Jesus automatically heal these men without their asking and without His inquiring about their faith? Because WHILE IT'S GOD'S WILL TO HEAL, IT'S ALSO HIS WILL FOR US TO ASK AND BELIEVE. When we do His will, God does His will. When we believe, God heals.

To be sure, as we pointed out on previous occasions, there are times when God sovereignly heals or performs miracles on His own accord without a person asking. The blind man in John 9 is an example of this truth.

But when we put the whole counsel of Scripture together, we see that when we take the initiative and come to God in prayer to ask Him concerning a need, He requires us to ask believingly. In essence, if we’re going to ask, God wants us to ask in faith. No faith, no answer. We see here, then, the importance or necessity of believing. Before God answers our prayer He requires us to believe in His power to do whatever we’re asking Him to do.

But not only that. We also see in this passage the power of faith. We see what faith can do for us or bring to us. Jesus said in verse 29, According to your faith, be it done unto you.

GOD, BRETHREN, WILL DO FOR US WHAT WE'RE BELIEVING HIM TO DO--EVEN IF IT'S HUMANLY IMPOSSIBLE, SCIENTIFICALLY IRRATIONAL, OR MEDICALLY INCURABLE. Blindness is a lifelong, medically incurable condition. Blind eyes do not heal on their own accord. BUT THE FACT THAT NO ONE CAN DO ANYTHING FOR US DOESN'T MEAN WE CAN'T, OR SHOULDN'T, BELIEVE FOR HEALING. To the contrary, we can and should believe. Why? Because despite what the experts and books say, God will do what we’re believing Him to do! This is His will. He does what’s impossible. And He does it for those who believe.

Friends, don’t underestimate the power of faith! It’ll do what God Himself can do because it’s God Himself doing it in response to our prayer of faith.

Overall, the point of this incident is, no matter what you’ve got, you can have the healing you want if you first look to the Lord in faith and believe Him to heal you. It doesn’t matter what men or medical science say! Don’t listen when people say you can’t be healed of this or that. Look to God and realize that NO MATTER WHAT'S AILING YOUR BODY, YOU'VE GOT IN YOUR HEART RIGHT NOW--THIS VERY MOMENT--THE POWER THAT BRINGS ALL THINGS, EVEN IMPOSSIBLE THINGS, TO PASS, and it’s your faith: If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth (Mark 9:23). God, my friends, will do for you what you’re believing Him to do. In His words, According to your faith, be it done unto you.FN WHAT'S DONE IS WHAT'S BELIEVED. Believe, my friends, and let it be done unto you.

 

NOT GETTING AN ANSWER? DON'T GIVE UP!

In the second and final place, I’d like for you to take note of how Jesus responded to these men or how He dealt with them. As He and His disciples walked away from Jairus’ house, these two blind men followed them, crying and saying, Son of David, have mercy on us (Matthew 9:27). Do you know what Jesus did? He kept on walking without paying any attention to them! You see, these verbs crying and saying are in the present participle tense; it’s the tense of present, continuing action. In other words, these blind men didn’t just voice their request once: they kept on crying and asking. Why? Because Jesus ignored them. He kept on walking to the house without answering or acknowledging them.

Do you know when He answered their cry and healed them? When He got to the house. Read the text again and take note of when exactly Jesus healed them: And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him (Matthew 9:28). So what exactly went on here? Jesus ignored these men while He was walking along the street, but the blind men didn’t give up, they didn’t turn around and go home. They continued following Jesus, they kept on crying and asking. When Jesus finally got to His destination and went into the house, the blind men had to ask for permission to enter the house as well, they went in, and it was here in the house when Jesus finally paid attention to their request and healed them.

So what’s the point? The point, my friends, is there are times when we’re going to have to persevere in faith and prayer and not give up. THERE ARE TIMES WHEN ANSWERS TO PRAYER COME AFTER, AND ONLY AFTER, A SUSTAINED PERSEVERANCE IN FAITH.FN Hebrews 11:6 alludes to this fact when the apostle wrote, But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.FN Why diligently? Because like these blind men, THERE ARE TIMES WHEN OUR LORD DOESN'T ACKNOWLEDGE US RIGHT AWAY. The way we see it, there’s a Heavenly silence or deafness to our cry.

God hears, my friends, just like Jesus heard these men along the road going home. But He doesn’t respond or say anything back to us right away. Why? Is it because it’s not God’s will to answer our prayer? Is it because God doesn’t want to hear from us and keep His promise? A thousand times, No! Why then did Jesus ignore these men along the road? It was a test of their faith! He was teaching them a lesson in faith. Jesus ignored these men so as to give them an opportunity to be persistent in their faith. He was teaching them the need to be persistent about what you believe.

If you believe Jesus can, or will, heal you, then ask Him to heal you and be persistent in asking until He does. You see, friends, WHEN HEAVEN GROWS DEAF AND IT LOOKS LIKE THERE'S NO ANSWER TO OUR CRY, THAT'S JESUS TESTING OUR FAITH AND THAT'S THE TIME FOR US TO PERSEVERE. We must insist that we get what we need or want. We must persist that God do exactly what He promised to do for us.

You see, brethren, resignation and giving up faith doesn’t get anyone healed. Had these blind men given up and turned back home, they wouldn’t have been healed. Had they gotten critical of Jesus and concluded that it wasn’t Jesus’ will to heal them, that they were exceptions to who God would heal or what God would heal; they wouldn’t have been healed that day. They were healed because they believed and persisted in believing, following, crying, and asking.

God’s silence, my friends, does not mean His denial or No to your prayer of faith. His ignoring you, or not answering your prayer, does not mean it’s not His will for you to be healed. Heaven’s silence, my friends, is simply a trial. It’s God dealing with you and showing you the need to persevere when it looks like the answer will be No. You wonder why you aren’t manifestly healed yet? You wonder why you haven’t gotten a reply or response from God yet? Brethren, it’s God teaching you to persevere in faith and you must persevere in the knowledge and calm assurance that God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

 

WHAT PERSISTENCE IS AND LOOKS LIKE.

Looking at these two blind men, we see a little of what persistence or perseverance involves.

PERSISTENCE IS THE REFUSAL TO TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER. Persistence, in the first place, is the courage to face what looks like God’s apparent No or denial of your request and the refusal to doubt what God promised. It’s the refusal to be shaken concerning God’s will to heal and answer your prayer; the refusal to accept a No from God. Persistence, my friends, is the refusal to give up believing. IT'S THE DETERMINATION AND RESOLVE THAT YOU'RE NOT GOING TO GIVE UP BELIEVING AND ASKING until you get what you want and get what God’s promised you.

Why did these men keep on following Jesus and crying out for mercy when Jesus wasn’t paying attention to them? Brethren, they kept on following and crying because they believed in their hearts they would eventually prevail, Jesus would eventually heal them, and it was this faith that kept them persevering until they got what they wanted. If you were one of these two blind men on the road that day, would you have given up and turned back home? FAITH WITHOUT PERSEVERANCE, MY FRIENDS, GETS YOU NOTHING.

 

PERSISTENCE IS THE WILLINGNESS TO BE HUMILIATED IF NEED BE, KNOWING THAT YOU WILL ULTIMATELY GET WHAT YOU ASKED GOD FOR. Undoubtedly, there was some humiliation involved when these men kept on crying and Jesus didn’t answer them. Were people telling them to go away or shut up? Did they have to ask friends or bystanders to help them keep track of where Jesus was going? How do you think they felt when they knocked on the door and asked for Jesus? Brethren, these men went through a certain amount of humiliation or humbling just to get to Jesus and have a private or personal audience with Him. But they went through it because they really wanted to be healed; they wanted to see bad enough.

 

PERSISTENCE, IN THE SECOND PLACE, IS THE WILLINGNESS TO SUFFER TEMPORARY HUMILIATION, KNOWING FULL WELL THAT, IN THE END, JESUS WILL ANSWER AND HEAL.

Brethren, does the apparent delay in healing cause you humiliation from scoffing, unbelieving family and friends? No one likes being humiliated or ridiculed. But faith perseveres in the face of humiliation because faith always has the last word: According to your faith, be it done unto you. A lot of people give up believing because they don’t want to go through humiliation. Your pride may be intact, but friends, pride doesn’t heal blind eyes.

 

PERSISTENCE IS BOLD, COURAGEOUS, AND UNDAUNTED IN THE FACE OF DISCOURAGING CIRCUMSTANCES. In the last place, persistence is the boldness and courage to keep on following Jesus to the house, to keep on asking, pestering, and bugging Him until He pays attention to you and gives you what you want.

Persistence is not presumption. It’s not forcing God to do something for you that He’s very hesitant or unwilling to do. If it was, if these blind men were being presumptuous, I doubt very much if Jesus would have healed them. He healed them—not because they were presumptuous, but rather, because they were believing. Perseverance, brethren, is not presumption. IT'S NOT PRESUMPTUOUS TO ASK FOR WHAT GOD SAID YOU COULD ASK FOR. God said to come boldly unto the throne of grace. And it’s in so coming that we obtain mercy and find grace to help to time in need (Hebrews 4:16).

Brethren, don’t give up following, crying, or believing. Jesus is waiting for you in the house and He’s going to make good on His Messianic mission and promise. He will heal!

 

 

JESUS HEALS A MUTE DEMONIAC

CAPERNAUM

 

Matthew 9:32-34, As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil. {33} And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marvelled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel. {34} But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils. Matthew 9:32-34 (NLT), When they left, a demon-possessed man who couldn't speak was brought to Jesus. (33) So Jesus cast out the demon, and then the man began to speak. The crowds were amazed. "Nothing like this has ever happened in Israel!" they exclaimed. (34) But the Pharisees said, "He can cast out demons because He is empowered by the prince of demons."

 

Leaving the house once again, Jesus and His disciples were confronted by a multitude of people who brought to Him a man who was oppressed and couldn’t talk. When the demon was cast out the man was able to talk.

This passage can be understood in one of two ways.

*First, the man was mute and happened to be oppressed at the same time; Jesus rebuked the Devil and He healed the man’s vocal apparatus at the same time.

*The second, which is truer to the text, is that this man was oppressed by a demonic spirit which had control of his vocal apparatus and prevented it from speaking.FN In effect, he was mute becauseh e was oppressed. His inability to speak was a direct result of oppression. Friends, there is such a thing as a mute spirit whose chief work is to take charge of a person’s vocal chords and keep it from working.

In any case, WHAT WE SEE HERE IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SICKNESS OR DISEASE AND DEMONIC OPPRESSION, NAMELY, THE DEVIL INFLICTS SICKNESS OR DISEASE.FN WHEN THE DEMON GOES, THE SICKNESS GOES. WHEN THE PERSON IS DELIVERED, HE'S ALSO HEALED AT THE SAME TIME.

Now we find this relationship between sickness and oppression many times in the healing ministry of our Lord. For example,

*Jesus healed a blind and mute man by rebuking a spirit (Matthew 12:22).
*A mute and deaf boy was healed when Jesus cast out a mute and deaf spirit (Mark 9:25).
*A man was mute and Jesus rebuked a mute spirit (Luke 11:14).
*Peter’s mother-in-law was healed of fever by the rebuke of a spirit of fever (Luke 4:38-39).
*A woman with a spinal cord condition was healed by the rebuke of a spirit of infirmity (Luke 13:11).
*And the insane Gadarene demoniac was restored to sanity when Legion was cast out of him (Luke 8:26-35).

Many physical illnesses or abnormalities, I am saying, are the result or manifestation of demonic possession.FN

We also see in this passage the continuing rejection of Jesus by the Jewish religious leaders and the Pharisees in particular. They accused Jesus one time before of casting out demons through the power of Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24) and they repeated that charge once again in this incident. In other words, they didn’t change their mind about Jesus: they still saw Him as oppressed by Satan and as an agent of Satan, doing Satan’s works. It’s important for you to understand this fact because their charge pertains directly to the unpardonable sin or blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32).

In this passage we see an important characteristic of those who commit the unpardonable sin, namely, THOSE WHO COMMIT THE UNPARDONABLE SIN DO NOT CHANGE THEIR MIND ABOUT THEIR ACCUSATION OR VIEW CONCERNING A TRUE MINISTER OF GOD; THEY'RE APT TO COMMIT THE SIN AGAIN, AND THEY DO SO WITHOUT ANY CONSCIENCE, GUILT, OR CONVICTION ABOUT IT. Friends, review what we said earlier about the unpardonable sin. {Click here for that review}. If you’re wondering if you’ve committed the unpardonable sin you’ll know it for sure by whether or not you have second thoughts, doubts, or guilt about what you said against the minister or person involved. If you blasphemed the Holy Spirit once before in the past you’ll likely, if you haven’t already, blaspheme the Spirit again and you’ll do it without feeling guilty or having second thoughts about it.

And lastly from this passage, we see that even though Jesus knew He would get criticized by the religious leaders for healing the mute demoniac, He nonetheless went ahead and healed him. The fact or threat of criticism didn’t stop Him from casting the mute spirit out.

Brethren, NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO OR DON'T DO, YOU'LL HAVE YOUR CRITICS WHO'LL OPPOSE AND CRITICIZE YOU. THE FACT THAT YOU'RE PROBABLY GOING TO GET CRITICIZED FOR DOING SOMETHING OUGHT NOT BE THE ULTIMATE FACTOR IN DETERMINING WHETHER OR NOT YOU DO IT. THE FEAR OR LIKELIHOOD OF PERSECUTION OR OPPOSITION SHOULDN'T STOP YOU FROM DOING THE RIGHT THING. You need to do what God wants you to do.

As we see here, THERE'LL BE TIMES WHEN YOU'LL GET CRITICIZED FOR OBEYING GOD AND DOING WHAT'S GOOD OR RIGHT. IN OTHER WORDS, GOD WILL AT TIMES LEAD YOU TO DO SOMETHING THAT YOU'LL EVENTUALLY GET CRITICIZED FOR DOING.

Brethren, don’t let criticism stop you from doing what you need, or ought, to do. Critics will criticize you no matter what you do. In that case, it’s better to be criticized for doing God’s will than criticized for not doing it.

 

 

JESUS IS REJECTED ONCE AGAIN IN HIS HOMETOWN

NAZARETH

 

Mark 6:1-6a, And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him. {2} And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? {3} Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.FN {4} But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. {5} And he could there do no mighty work,FN save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. {6a} And he marvelled because of their unbelief.FN Mark 6:1-6a (NLT), Jesus left that part of the country and returned with His disciples to Nazareth, His hometown. (2) The next Sabbath He began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were amazed. They asked, "Where did He get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?" (3) Then they scoffed, "He's just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And His sisters live right here among us." They were deeply offended and refused to believe in Him. (4) Then Jesus told them, "A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family." (5) And because of their unbelief, He couldn't do any miracles among them except to place His hands on a few sick people and heal them. (6a) And He was amazed at their unbelief.
Matthew 13:53-58, And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence. (54) And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? (55) Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? (56) And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? (57) And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. (58) And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

 

Leaving Capernaum, Jesus went to His hometown of Nazareth. If you will remember, the last time Jesus was in Nazareth things didn’t go too well for Him. He taught in the synagogue, the Nazarenes didn’t like what He had to say, so they promptly took Him outside the city to be killed! But, somehow, He escaped out of their hands (Luke 4:16-30).

Well, over a year had passed and Jesus returned once again to His hometown.FN Surprisingly, He was invited to teach in the synagogue. Their reaction to Jesus wasn’t violent as at the first, but they still didn’t receive Him—at least, not as a prophet. You see, the problem here was one of perception. The Nazarenes didn’t see Jesus as a Man of God or Prophet. In their eyes, He was a carpenter and nothing more, that’s what He did for thirty years, and He was still a carpenter.FN

 

IS YOUR VIEW OF JESUS CORRECT?

Friends, your idea of Jesus has everything to do with how you respond to Him or what you do with Him. If Jesus is just a man like everyone else, you won’t take His words seriously because they’re not Divinely authoritative; they’re not inerrant or infallible.

*If Jesus isn’t the only way to get to Heaven, then you’ll bypass Him and seek salvation in New Age, Hinduism or Islam.

*If He isn’t the Truth—the only One who has all the truth—you’ll go to Buddha or Mohammed to find your truth.

Do you see what I mean? Just like these Nazarenes, WHAT YOU DO WITH JESUS OR HOW YOU RESPOND TO HIM IS LARGELY DETERMINED BY HOW YOU SEE HIM AND WHAT HE IS IN YOUR EYES.

Now we all like to think we’re right about our opinions or views of Jesus and religion. But what we see here with the Nazarenes is, they were wrong in their opinion and view of Jesus! Yes, Jesus was a carpenter! But not anymore. Not now! He’s a Prophet, He’s a Man of God, and His words and works prove it—if you’ll only listen and put your preconceived ideas of Jesus aside. You see, brethren, these Nazarenes had a view of Jesus that wasn’t right.

I’m wondering today if your view of Jesus is wholly accurate or right.

*For some, Jesus isn’t interested in prostitutes and gays.

*For others, He’s written Ichabod over the denominational and Charismatic churches, He’s only moving in the One True Faith Church.

*Some think Jesus is so unforgiving when it comes to the sins, weaknesses, and failures of Christians who know better.

*Others think He’s so loving He wouldn’t rebuke, chastise, or withhold a blessing or an answer to prayer from them.

On and on we can go. There are so many Jesus’s around!

IS YOUR VIEW OF JESUS CORRECT? I know you think you’re right. But how do you know you’re right? Just because you say you are? Like these Nazarenes, IT’S POSSIBLE TO THINK YOU’RE ABSOLUTELY, UNDOUBTEDLY RIGHT AND, TO YOUR UNAWARES, BE AS WRONG AS WRONG CAN BE. YOU CAN BE WRONG AND NOT KNOW, OR THINK, YOU’RE WRONG.

Friends, read what Jesus said in the Bible, look at all the miracles He did, look at the way He dealt with people, then compare these things that you see in the Bible with your concept of Jesus. If they don’t match, then your Jesus isn’t the Jesus of the Bible. You’ve got a carpenter, but not a Prophet.

 

YOUR VIEW OF JESUS AFFECTS HOW YOU LIVE.

YOUR IDEA OF JESUS NOT ONLY AFFECTS YOUR RESPONSE TO HIM, BUT IT ALSO AFFECTS YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE. You see, the Nazarenes were in unbelief about Jesus. They didn’t believe He was a Prophet or Man of God. They knew He had wisdom and power, but they didn’t look to Him for wisdom or miracles. In the text of Scripture, He could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them (Mark 6:5). While Jesus healed a few of the town’s people, the vast majority of them weren’t healed. They didn’t look to Him or trust Him for healing. They remained sick and oppressed because of their unbelief.

Your unbelief and perception of Jesus, I’m saying, affects your quality of life.

*If, in your eyes, Jesus isn’t Healer today you won’t go to Him and trust Him for healing; you’ll live with what you’ve got that medical science cannot cure.

*If Jesus isn’t concerned about how you live your life, you’ll live however you want to live and you won’t let anyone tell you otherwise; you’ll be inattentive to the call to live a godly, holy life.

*If Jesus is so loving that He’s incapable of sending anyone to Hell, you’ll live like the Devil and think you’ll still make it to Heaven because you believe in Jesus.

Do you see what I mean? YOUR VIEW OF JESUS HAS A LOT TO DO WITH THE WAY YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE. IT AFFECTS WHAT KIND OF LIFE YOU LIVE.

Now while most of the Nazarenes were in unbelief about Jesus, a few people did manage to believe Him and be healed of their infirmities. The point is, brethren, you may be surrounded by unbelief and, admittedly, that makes it pretty difficult for you to believe. IT'S HARD TO BELIEVE WHEN THERE'S SO MUCH UNBELIEF AROUND. BUT THE TRUTH IS, IT CAN STILL BE DONE IF YOU WANT TO BELIEVE BAD ENOUGH. Brethren, don't let people's unbelief stop you from believing!

You see, these Nazarenes who believed were surrounded by a whole town full of unbelief. Yet they managed to believe. The fact that you’re surrounded by unbelief, my friends, doesn’t mean you can’t have faith. It doesn’t mean you should give up believing. To the contrary, brethren, the comfort of this Scripture text is, IT'S STILL POSSIBLE TO BELIEVE WHEN NO ONE ELSE AROUND YOU IS BELIEVING.

How do you do that? Brethren, you’ve got to quit listening to what all the other Nazarenes around you are saying about Jesus. Get rid of your carpenter notions about Jesus. Forget what skeptics say! Get your eyes on Jesus and believe! Receive Him for who He is in truth—Prophet, Healer, Savior, Deliverer, Protector, and more. Jesus is looking for people who believe Him. When He comes to town He’ll be looking for you and you’ll be blest by all the things He says to you and does for you. Wow! How blest you can be!

 

 

JESUS' MAKES A THIRD EVANGELISTIC TOUR OF GALILEE

THROUGHOUT THE GALILEAN PROVINCE

 

Mark 6:6b, And he went round about the villages, teaching.
Matthew 9:35-38, And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. {36} But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. {37} Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; {38} Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. Matthew 9:35-38 (NLT), Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And He healed every kind of disease and illness. (36) When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (37) He said to His disciples, "The harvest is great, but the workers are few. (38) So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more workers into His fields."

 

Leaving Nazareth, Jesus made a third and final tour of the cities of Galilee. Accompanied by His disciples, He taught and healed the people. We don't know exactly how long it took for Him to make this tour, but we are relatively certain it took several weeks to traverse the Galilean province.

While the Jews were not without religious leadership and instruction, Jesus nevertheless saw them as people without a shepherd. Which is to say, while religious leaders abounded in the land, in God’s sight, these leaders weren’t shepherds at all! The people fainted because they were weak with not being fed the true Word of God. They were scattered abroad because they had no spiritual direction without the Word. The traditions and teachings of the Jewish rabbis just weren’t sufficient to keep them spiritually fed and on track! Like Jesus, a true shepherd is compassionate towards the people, he bemoans their sad state, and he does something about it.

Brethren, if you lament the sad state of Christendom and Christianity today, start praying for laborers. Notice that Jesus didn’t say to pray for the shepherds or the rabbis! He said to pray for new, different kind of laborers. Brethren, IT JUST MIGHT BE THAT THE SHEPHERDS WE HAVE TODAY, AT LEAST MANY OF THEM, IF NOT MOST, ARE NOT THE ONES WE'RE SUPPOSED TO LOOK TO FOR A SPIRITUAL REVIVAL AND HARVEST IN THE LAND. God is sending others into the harvest. They’re not rabbis, they’re not professionally-trained seminary graduates. Who, then, are they? Don’t be surprised, friends, but the ones whom God is sending forth are commoners—fishermen, tax collectors and zealots—who’ve spent time with the Lord; they have His message, they have His power, and it’s they who are going to gather the sheep now scattered by professionally-trained rabbis. But it begins with you praying!

 

JESUS' LATER GALILEAN MINISTRY

JESUS SENDS HIS TWELVE APOSTLES ON AN EVANGELISTIC MISSION

SOMEWHERE IN THE GALILEAN PROVINCE

 

Matthew 10:1-5a, And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. {2} Now the names of the twelve apostles are these;FN The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; {3} Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; {4} Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.FN {5a} These twelve Jesus sent forth. Matthew 10:1-5a (ESV), And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. (2) The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; (3) Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; (4) Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (5a) These twelve Jesus sent out.
Mark 6:7, And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two;FN and gave them power over unclean spirits. Luke 9:1-2, Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. {2} And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.

With the sending forth of the twelve we have the beginning of Jesus’ final Galilean ministry. It’s the last time He’s going to minister in Galilee. After this He journeys to Judea, Perea, and then back to Jerusalem where He consummates His redemptive ministry on the cross at Calvary.

If you recall at the end of our previous study, Jesus left His hometown of Nazareth and began His third and final missionary tour of Galilee (Mark 6:6). On that tour, when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. {37} Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; {38} Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest (Matthew 9:36-38).

Seeing the great need, Jesus responded by sending forth the twelve apostles on an evangelistic mission. On the basis of Matthew 11:1, it appears that the twelve were sent forth during Jesus’ third missionary tour of Galilee: And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. After Jesus sent them forth, He Himself went forth and resumed His final tour of Galilee. He did what He sent His apostles out to do.

Why were the twelve apostles sent forth? Well, it must be remembered that at this time there was basically only one way to communicate and spread a message and that was through word of mouth. There were no such things as newspapers, radios, televisions, and the internet that make mass, worldwide communication possible today. Standing where we are, through radio, satellite, and computer technology, we can be seen and heard instantly in every corner of the globe. No longer do we have to travel in person to communicate a message.

The people of Jesus’ day, however, didn’t have these benefits of modern technology. They could have spread the Gospel through letters, carried and delivered by couriers. But a scroll big enough to contain the Gospel of Matthew or Luke would have been too bulky to transport and would have cost hundreds of dollars to produce! Practically speaking, the Gospel could be communicated only one way and that was through God’s people going forth in person, on beast or foot, to tell others the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus could not do the work all by Himself. He chose not to. His time on Earth was limited. His incarnation in a physical, human body made it impossible for Him to be omnipresent. He could not be everywhere at one time, preaching, healing, and delivering the people. Jesus needed helpers to labor in the vineyard and this was what the twelve apostles were all about: they were chosen by our Lord to go forth and do what Jesus Himself had been doing all along, namely, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom and ministering salvation, healing, and deliverance.FN

 

THE EMPOWERMENT

Matthew 10:1, And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Matthew 10:1 (ESV), And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.
Mark 6:7, And He called His twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits. Luke 9:1, Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.

 

As Jesus prepared to send His disciples forth, He first empowered them. That is, He gave them the power and the authority to do what He was sending them forth to do. Clearly, Jesus wasn’t going to send them on a mission or ministry without giving them the power and authority to do it: the job couldn’t be done without it! Brethren, WHEN JESUS SENDS YOU FORTH TO DO SOMETHING FOR HIM HE GIVES YOU THE TOOLS YOU NEED TO GET THE JOB DONE.

Luke makes mention of the fact that Jesus gave them power and authority. These are two different words in the Greek.

*Dunamis literally means power: it’s the ability to do something.

*Exousia, on the other hand, means the authority or right to do something.

Here’s an analogy to help you understand the difference between the two. The American military has the power to fight a war against foreign enemies: they have the bombs, planes, ships, and soldiers necessary to wage a war and win. But unless authorized by the President and the Congress, the military cannot wage a war whenever it wants to: it has to be authorized to fight by the Commander-in-Chief of the military who happens to be the President. You see, the military has the power to fight. But without the authority to fight, it cannot fight. It can fight only if the President gives it the authority or permission to fight.

As Christians, Jesus has not only given us the power to evangelize: He’s also given us the authority, right, or permission to do it. We can fight Satan for the souls and bodies of men because we have the power to do it and because we have the right to do it. Brethren, without the power and authority, we cannot succeed in evangelism!

The thing that I want you to see our text is this. Jesus gave His disciples power and authority, which means that prior to this time they didn’t have it! They had it only when Jesus gave it to them and He didn’t give it to them until He sent them forth to preach and heal.FN You see, these men were with Jesus for close to two years now, being prepared for ministry. But up until this empowerment and sending forth, the twelve didn’t have the power and authority to minister. They had learning and knowledge, they knew how to minister, but they didn’t have the power and authority to do it.

Going back to our analogy, before the military gets the power and authority to fight a war, it must first be taught to fight—that’s what boot camp and military school are all about. Soldiers must first be taught to fight before they are equipped, empowered, and authorized to fight.

In much the same way spiritually speaking, DISCIPLES ARE TAUGHT, TRAINED, OR PREPARED BEFORE THEY ARE EMPOWERED AND AUTHORIZED. You see, brethren, it’s one thing to know how to minister: it’s another thing entirely to have the power and authority to do it. You get the learning from God: it’s He who teaches you and it’s He who must empower and authorize you. Brethren, learning or schooling alone isn’t sufficient reason to go out and minister. Wait for the empowerment. Wait for God to send you.

 

THE COMMISSION

Matthew 10:5-8a, These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: {6} But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.FN {7} And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.FN {8} Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils.FN Matthew 10:5-8a (ESV), These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, "Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, (6) but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (7) And proclaim as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' (8a) Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.

 

During their preparation for ministry, and as part of their preparation, Jesus gave His disciples an opportunity to minister on a limited basis. They were to minister to Jews only. And after they finished their labors in the appointed cities or towns they would meet up with Jesus again and continue to travel with Him as an apostolic company (Mark 6:30, Luke 9:10). In other words, their preparation for ministry was not complete yet. So even though these apostles had more training that they needed to go through, Jesus nevertheless gave them a chance to minister while they were being prepared for apostolic ministry.

You see, brethren, OUR PREPARATION FOR MINISTRY DOESN'T EXEMPT OR EXCUSE US FROM MINISTERING; it doesn’t mean we’re supposed to spend the rest of our lives doing only one thing, namely, preparing.FN

Yes, we’re supposed to be preparing. But what are we preparing ourselves for? Friends, the Lord’s preparing us for ministry. When He called us He told us He had a job for us to do: Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). He’s teaching us to do it. His eyes are on the field, white and ready to harvest (John 4:35). His last words on Earth were, Go ye therefore and teach all nations (Matthew 28:19).

God’s care, compassion, and labors didn’t cease when we got saved: He didn’t quit working and being concerned about the lost when we got saved. Brethren, God cares for a whole lot of other people and He wants to save them too! How? Through us. He wants to use us to reach them.

Preparation, my friends, is not a goal or an end in itself: it’s a means to an end. The goal is ministering the Gospel to others. Our preparation today is for tomorrow’s ministry. Prepare, prepare, and keep on preparing. But prepare with the knowledge that you’ll be ministering some ay. Prepare with the knowledge that one of these days you’ll be coming into contact with a lot of people who need salvation, healing, deliverance, Biblical knowledge, and more. Your job, then, will not be to shun them, but to go to them and help them as Christ would Himself.

This first evangelistic ministry of the twelve was to be confined to the Jews. They weren’t supposed to go to the Gentiles, which meant they couldn’t go westward to Phoenicia, northward to Syria, or eastward to the Decapolis: these were all Gentile communities. Nor could the disciples go southward to the cities of Samaria. In essence and effect, the disciples were to stay within the Galilean province.

Now the question is raised, Why didn’t Jesus want His disciples to minister among the Gentiles and Samaritans? Clearly, the Gospel was for all men—Gentiles and Samaritans too—and there was a time coming when the Lord would send His disciples to minister to these peoples (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8).

But on this first apostolic tour, Jesus limited the scope or sphere of their ministry to the Jews of Galilee. Why? Because as God’s chosen people, the Jews had to have the first opportunity to hear and receive the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Salvation, Jesus said, is of the Jews (John 4:22). It could not, or would not, be offered to the Gentiles until it was first offered to the Jews. Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. See also Acts 13:44-47, Romans 11:11-15).FN

 

THE INSTRUCTION

Matthew 10:8b-10, Freely ye have received, freely give. {9} Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses,FN {10} Nor scripFN for your journey, neither two coats,FN neither shoes, nor yet staves:FN for the workman is worthy of his meat.FN Matthew 10:8b-10 (NLT), Give as freely as you have received! (9) "Don't take any money in your money belts—no gold, silver, or even copper coins. (10) Don't carry a traveler's bag with a change of clothes and sandals or even a walking stick. Don't hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve to be fed.
Mark 6:8-9, And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: (9) But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats. Luke 9:3, And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.

 

Prior to sending His disciples forth, Jesus empowered them, commissioned them, then instructed them. He told them some of the things He wanted them to do, as well as not do.

First, they were not to charge anyone for their work. Like Jesus, they would preach and work miracles free of charge. Why? Because the Gospel and the benefits of the Gospel—namely, salvation, healing, and deliverance from demonic oppression—are free. There’s no money involved in receiving these blessings of the Kingdom.FN

Second, the disciples were to travel and minister without bringing along added provisions. They were to take no food, money, or extra clothes along. In essence, they were to travel with nothing more than the clothes on their back.

Why these restrictions or prohibitions? Because Jesus was teaching them to minister the same way He ministered: by faith, without charge, baggage, or thought.

That might seem like such a hard or unfair thing for us to do, but I’d like for you to notice that with the prohibition came the encouragement or assurance: Don’t take any money or provisions along: your needs will be taken care of and supplied, the workman is worthy of his meat. In other words, JESUS REQUIRES HIS APOSTLES TO MINISTER BY FAITH, BUT HE ALSO ENCOURAGES THEM IN THE FACT THAT THEY'LL BE TAKEN CARE OF.

Brethren, Jesus encourages your faith. He requires you to trust Him, but He assures you that your needs will be met. Learn to trust Him because when the Lord sends you forth to minister He’ll expect you to minister by faith: He won’t let you ask for money or pass the plate. IF YOU'RE NOT READY OR WILLING TO TRUST THE LORD FOR YOUR FINANCES OR PROVISIONS, THEN, MY FRIEND, YOU AREN'T READY TO GO ON THE ROAD AND MINISTER.

 

Matthew 10:11-15, And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy;FN and there abide till ye go thence.FN {12} And when ye come into an house, salute it.FN {13} And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.FN {14} And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.FN {15} Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.FN Matthew 10:11-15 (ESV), And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. (12) As you enter the house, greet it. (13) And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. (14) And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. (15) Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

 

The ministering disciples weren’t allowed to ask for money, but they were permitted to ask for lodging among the town’s respectable or pious inhabitants. Whoever hosted their stay in town was to be blest with the disciples’ peace. And whoever refused to receive or hear them was held accountable and liable for their rejection of the Gospel.

 

THE WARNING

Matthew 10:16-23, Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.FN {17} But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils,FN and they will scourge you in their synagogues; {18} And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. {19} But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. {20} For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. {21} And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. {22} And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.FN {23} But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another:FN for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.FN Matthew 10:16-23 (NIV),  "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.  (17)  Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues.  (18)  On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.  (19)  But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say,  (20)  for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.  (21)  "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.  (22)  You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.  (23)  When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

 

Before Jesus sent His disciples out to do the work He taught and prepared them to do, He warned them about what to expect. In the course of doing their work for Jesus, the disciples would be persecuted. They would be arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and killed. He told them where to expect it: their persecutions would come from the government, the synagogue, and even the family.

Obviously, this wasn’t very good news—not if you were one of the apostles looking forward to doing miracles for the very first time. The news could have frightened the disciples, discouraged them, and turned them away from the Lord and the ministry.

So why did the Lord say anything about it? Why couldn’t He have kept silent and let them find out for themselves? Because, brethren, the Lord doesn’t send His laborers unprepared. He lets them know what they’re getting themselves into so that when the persecution starts they wouldn’t be surprised: they’ll be ready and they’ll know what to do. The fact that the disciples stayed with Jesus and went out to evangelize is a testimony of their love and loyalty, for which they are to be commended.

Brethren, YOU'LL KNOW IF YOU'RE READY TO MINISTER FOR THE LORD BY WHETHER OR NOT YOU'RE READY TO SUFFER HUMILIATION, REJECTION, PAIN, AND DEATH, AT THE HANDS OF THE PEOPLE WHO REALLY HATE YOU--INCLUDING YOUR FAMILY. IF YOU'RE NOT READY TO SUFFER, YOU'RE NOT READY TO MINISTER.FN

 

THE REASON

Matthew 10:24-25, The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. {25} It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Matthew 10:24-25 (CEV), Disciples are not better than their teacher, and slaves are not better than their master. (25) It is enough for disciples to be like their teacher and for slaves to be like their master. If people call the head of the family Satan, what will they say about the rest of the family?

 

Why are the disciples going to be persecuted? Because of their affiliation or identification with Jesus. Just as there were people who hated and persecuted Jesus, so they would also hate and persecute those who followed or identified themselves with Him.

The disciple, Jesus says, is not above his master. That is, he’s not unlike his master; he’s not going to be different from his master.FN What the Master went through, the disciples would too. What befell the Teacher would likewise befall the student.

Brethren, don’t take your persecutors or your persecutions personally. It’s not as if there’s something wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with you. They’re persecuting you because of who you follow and believe.FN

 

THE ENCOURAGEMENT

Matthew 10:26-31, Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.FN {27} What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.FN {28} And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul:FN but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. {29} Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?FN and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. {30} But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. {31} Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:26-3a (NIV),  "So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.  (27)  What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.  (28)  Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  (29)  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care.  (30)  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  (31)  So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

 

A. PEOPLE CAN’T TAKE YOUR SOUL AWAY. The disciples were going to be persecuted and killed by men, but Jesus encouraged them not to be afraid.FN Why? Because, in the first place, while men can kill the body, they can’t kill the soul. They can take your life away from you, but they can’t rob you of eternal life.

Friends, THERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT MEN CAN'T TAKE AWAY FROM YOU and the most valuable thing that you possess—your soul and its eternal security in the Lord—is one of these things.

Men are so preoccupied and concerned about losing their life. But the Lord shows us here the greater concern that we should have—that we not lose our soul also. Friends, THERE'S SOMETHING WORSE THAN BEING KILLED, AND THAT IS, BEING DAMNED TO AN ETERNITY IN HELL'S UNQUENCHABLE FIRES.

Men are so fearful of men and of what men can do to them. God tells us to fear Him because He has the power to do what men can’t do, and that is, damn the soul. Brethren, whenever you start to fear men, think about God and fear Him. THE FEAR OF GOD WILL CURE YOU OF THE FEAR OF MEN.

 

B. GOD’S WATCHING OVER YOU. And in the second place, Jesus encouraged His disciples with the calm assurance that God was watching over them. Their welfare was in His hands. God knows what’s happening to every creature He’s made. He cares about each one and each one is valuable in His sight.

But as much as He cares for His creation, God cares more for His followers! They mean a lot to Him. You think God doesn’t know what men are doing to you? You think God doesn’t care? You couldn’t be more wrong! God does care: Ye are of more value than many sparrows. He who knows the exact number of hair on your head knows how much you can take or endure (1 Corinthians 10:13). He’ll take care of you!

 

THE ADMONITION

Matthew 10:32-39, Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. {33} But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.FN {34} Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. {35} For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. {36} And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.FN {37} He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. {38} And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. {39} He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 10:32-39 (CEV), If you tell others that you belong to me, I will tell my Father in heaven that you are my followers. (33) But if you reject me, I will tell my Father in heaven that you don't belong to me. (34) Don't think that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came to bring trouble, not peace. (35) I came to turn sons against their fathers, daughters against their mothers, and daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law. (36) Your worst enemies will be in your own family. (37) If you love your father or mother or even your sons and daughters more than me, you are not fit to be my disciples. (38) And unless you are willing to take up your cross and come with me, you are not fit to be my disciples. (39) If you try to save your life, you will lose it. But if you give it up for me, you will surely find it.

 

HOW WE RESPOND TO PERSECUTION AND WHAT WE DO IN TIME OF PERSECUTION HAS A WHOLE LOT TO DO WITH WHAT GOD DOES WITH US WHEN WE STAND BEFORE HIM IN THE JUDGMENT. If we confess Him, He confesses us. If we deny Him, He denies us.

Now it’s a natural tendency for us to preserve our life at all costs, to do what we can to live. But Jesus shows us here that there’s a danger in doing that. We all want to live. No one wants to suffer and die. But when life becomes a matter of preserving it at all costs, no matter the costs; then we stand the greatest danger of losing it eternally because God denies those who deny Him. You can disavow the Lord to save your skin, but you’ll save it at the expense of your soul. SAVE YOUR SKIN, LOSE YOUR SOUL.

BRETHREN, THERE'S SOMETHING MORE VALUABLE THAN LIFE ITSELF, AND THAT IS ETERNAL LIFE. THERE'S SOMETHING WORSE THAN DEATH, AND THAT IS DAMNATION. Friends, don’t be too concerned about saving your life. Be occupied instead with being faithful. Let loyalty matter more to you than life itself. You’ll never regret it!

 

THE REWARD

Matthew 10:40-42, He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.FN {41} He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. {42} And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. Matthew 10:40-42 (NIV),  "Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.  (41)  Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward.  (42)  And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward."

 

In closing His instructions to His disciples, Jesus speaks about the reward due those who receive these messengers of the Lord and are hospitable to them. Their reward is they enter into the reward of the messenger. What the messenger gets for his service, they also receive who have received him and extended kindness to him.

Brethren, THE LORD MARKS HOW WE TREAT HIS MINISTERS. HE DOESN'T FORGET OR OVERLOOK AN ACT OF KINDNESS. HE REWARDS IT. Big time! So be nice and be kind to God’s ministers!

 

 

JESUS GOES ON HIS OWN EVANGELISTIC MISSION

THROUGHOUT GALILEE

 

Matthew 11:1, And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. Matthew 11:1 (NLT), When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to His twelve disciples, He went out to teach and preach in towns throughout the region.

 

After Jesus instructed His disciples, He sent them away two by two (Mark 6:7). As for Himself, Jesus resumed His third missionary tour of Galilee. He went and did what He sent His disciples out to do.

 

 

THE APOSTLES GO ON AN EVANGELISTIC MISSION

THROUGHOUT GALILEE

 

Mark 6:12-13, And they went out, and preached that men should repent.FN {13} And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.FN Luke 9:6, And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where. Mark 6:12-13 (NLT), So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. (13) And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.

 

The disciples went out and did what Jesus empowered and told them to do: they preached, healed, and cast out demons. Now these were ordinary men much like you and me, yet they did the same marvelous and miraculous things that Jesus Himself did.

Brethren, don’t think you can’t do the same thing! Jesus says you can! He said in John 14:12, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD BE A MIRACLE-WORKER JUST LIKE JESUS! Brethren, we fall far short of our God-given commission and duty if we fail to help the people the same way that Jesus helped them—by giving them the miracles they need in addition to the Gospel (Mark 16:15-18).

 

 

JOHN THE BAPTIST IS BEHEADED

THE PRISON AT MACHAERUS

 

Mark 6:14-16, And king Herod heard of him;FN (for his name was spread abroad:) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him.FN {15} Others said, That it is Elias. And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets. {16} But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead. Mark 6:14-16 (NLT), Herod Antipas, the king, soon heard about Jesus, because everyone was talking about Him. Some were saying, "This must be John the Baptist raised from the dead. That is why He can do such miracles." (15) Others said, "He's the prophet Elijah." Still others said, "He's a prophet like the other great prophets of the past." (16) When Herod heard about Jesus, he said, "John, the man I beheaded, has come back from the dead."
Matthew 14:1-2, At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, (2) And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him. Luke 9:7-9, Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by him: and he was perplexed, because that it was said of some, that John was risen from the dead; {8} And of some, that Elias had appeared; and of others, that one of the old prophets was risen again. {9} And Herod said, John have I beheaded: but who is this, of whom I hear such things? And he desired to see him.FN

 

At the start of Jesus’ Galilean ministry, Antipas had the Baptist arrested and locked up in the dungeon of his palace-fortress at Machaerus (Matthew 4:12, Josephus Antiquities XVIII.5.2). Evidently, sometime during the course of Jesus’ third tour of Galilee, Antipas had the Baptist beheaded.FN With many miracles being done in the cities of Galilee, word of Jesus’ power reached Antipas and haunted him afresh with the memory of what he had done: he had killed a righteous man. As far as he was concerned, Jesus was the Baptist resurrected from the dead. John had come back!

 

Mark 6:17-18, For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her. {18} For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.FN Mark 6:17-18 (NLT), For Herod had sent soldiers to arrest and imprison John as a favor to Herodias. She had been his brother Philip's wife, but Herod had married her. (18) John had been telling Herod, "It is against God's law for you to marry your brother's wife."
Matthew 14:3-4, For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife. (4) For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her.

 

Why was John the Baptist imprisoned and ultimately beheaded? Because he denounced Antipas’ marriage to Herodias. Now Herodias was married to Philip I, Antipas’ half-brother. As for Antipas himself, he was married to a daughter of Aretas, King of the Nabatean Arabs. Philip I didn’t inherit a tetrarchy when his father Herod the Great died. Instead, he lived as a wealthy private individual in Rome.

Now it came to pass that Antipas made a visit to Rome and became infatuated with Herodias. Together they agreed to put away their spouses and they ended up eloping and getting married.

Now from the standpoint of Old Testament Jewish Law, Antipas could not marry his brother’s wife. Leviticus 18:16 reads, Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness.

Similarly, Leviticus 20:21, And if a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.

There was only one instance when a man was allowed, yea, commanded, to marry his brother’s wife, and that was when his brother died childless. In such a case, known as a levirate marriage, the surviving brother was to marry his brother’s wife and raise children to preserve the name and memory of his dead brother. This was stipulated in Deuteronomy 25:5-6, If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her. {6} And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.

The law of levirate marriage, however, didn’t apply in Philip I’s and Herodias’ case. Firstly, because Philip I wasn’t dead. And secondly, because they had a child named Salome, the damsel who danced before Herod Antipas. Thus, the provision of Deuteronomy 25 didn’t apply in Antipas’ case.

In short, his marriage to Herodias was adulterous, incestuous, sinful, and forbidden by law.FN It was this marriage that John denounced and it was this marriage that ended his ministry, ultimately, his life.

 

SHOULD JOHN HAVE KEPT HIS MOUTH SHUT ABOUT THE MARRIAGE?

We’ve already looked at the bravery of the Baptist in his denunciation of Antipas. {Click here to review the baptizer’s bravery.} Before looking at the other players in this incident, I’d like to think as a twenty first century person and ask a twenty first century question. Why didn’t John keep quiet about the marriage? After he was arrested and imprisoned, why didn’t he strike a bargain with Antipas and agree not to say anything more about the Herodian marriage?

You see, John refused to keep quiet. His mouth brought an end to his ministry and his life. Was it worth it? John had a lot of people following him. He had a tremendously-effective ministry. He won converts from many strata of Jewish society. But his world came crashing down on him when he spoke up against Antipas. The question once again is, was it worth it?

The Baptist’s life and death illustrate the truth that DOING THE RIGHT THING CAN, AT TIMES, HAVE UNDESIRABLE, UNPLEASANT, DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCES, HUMANLY SPEAKING.

THE FACT THAT BAD THINGS HAPPENED TO YOU, BRETHREN, DOESN'T AUTOMATICALLY MEAN YOU MADE THE WRONG DECISION. Put your emotions aside and think with a mind that’s covered by the blood of Jesus. John made the right decision and bad things happened to him. Doing the right things, my friends, doesn’t always mean things will go right for you. Remember persecution. Jesus said you’d be persecuted for doing the right things (Matthew 5:10).

Perhaps you’re looking back over your life and wondering if you did the right thing because so much has gone wrong with you ever since you did it. I don’t know. Bad things do happen when you’ve been bad. But the imprisonment and beheading of the Baptist shows that bad things also happen when you’ve been good!

RIGHT DECISIONS, BRETHREN, AREN'T JUDGED SOLELY OR EXCLUSIVELY BY THE RESULTS OR THE CONSEQUENCES: THEY MUST BE JUDGED BY YOUR FAITHFULNESS OR OBEDIENCE TO GOD. If you did what God told you to do, you made the right decision in spite of all the wrong things that have happened to you ever since.

Go back to the question I asked earlier about the Baptist’s death. Was it worth it? You see, to answer the question with a No means John made a mistake: he shouldn’t have denounced his governmental leader; preserving one’s life means more than speaking up against sin in high places. But to answer the question with a Yes only proves the point we’ve already made, that being, bad things can, at times, happen when you do the right things. My friends, DESPITE THE CONSEQUENCES YOU SUFFER, IT'S ALWAYS WORTH IT TO OBEY THE LORD. NOTHING'S WORTH DISOBEYING THE LORD.

 

Mark 6:19-28, Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: {20} For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him;FN and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.FN {21} And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee;FN {22} And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him,FN the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. {23} And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. {24} And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. {25} And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist. {26} And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her.FN {27} And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, {28} And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother. Mark 6:19-28 (NLT), So Herodias bore a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But without Herod's approval she was powerless, (20) for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him. (21) Herodias's chance finally came on Herod's birthday. He gave a party for his high government officials, army officers, and the leading citizens of Galilee. (22) Then his daughter, also named Herodias, came in and performed a dance that greatly pleased Herod and his guests. "Ask me for anything you like," the king said to the girl, "and I will give it to you." (23) He even vowed, "I will give you whatever you ask, up to half my kingdom!" (24) She went out and asked her mother, "What should I ask for?" Her mother told her, "Ask for the head of John the Baptist!" (25) So the girl hurried back to the king and told him, "I want the head of John the Baptist, right now, on a tray!" (26) Then the king deeply regretted what he had said; but because of the vows he had made in front of his guests, he couldn't refuse her. (27) So he immediately sent an executioner to the prison to cut off John's head and bring it to him. The soldier beheaded John in the prison, (28) brought his head on a tray, and gave it to the girl, who took it to her mother.
Matthew 14:5-11, And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. (6) But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. (7) Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. (8) And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger. (9) And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath's sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. (10) And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. (11) And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.

 

A WORD TO THE WIVES

 

SIN PERSISTED IN CHANGES YOU AND LEADS YOU TO MORE SIN.

Since Salome was a pawn in her mother’s hands, I’d like to focus our attention on Herodias and Antipas and I’d like to talk to you wives and husbands. First, Herodias and the wives.

Herodias loved Antipas and refused to give up an adulterous marriage relationship. It was this forbidden love that caused her to despise the Baptist and seek his death (Mark 6:19). You see, sin changes you.

*It causes you to become bitter, resentful, and vengeful against those who expose or oppose you.
*You rationalize your sin so that you no longer feel guilty about it; it’s no longer sin to you. You deceive yourself.
*You seek to silence the voice of those who speak against you; you discredit or slander them.
*In Herodias’ case, forbidden love led her to murder. She did things a mother ought not let her daughter do: she used her daughter to carry out an execution that her husband refused to grant her.


One sin, friends, leads to another—that’s just the nature of sin. IF YOU THINK YOU CAN COMMIT JUST ONE SIN AND STOP THERE WITHOUT COMMITTING ANYMORE, YOU'RE MISERABLY MISTAKEN. When you see that one sin only leads to more you’ll perhaps come to see that it’s better to give the sin up than to persist in it. PERSISTING IN SIN ONLY COMPOUNDS AND ADDS TO YOUR SINS!

 

SILENCING THE SPEAKER DOESN’T RIGHT THE SIN.

Herodias had John killed. She silenced the voice that spoke against her.FN But SILENCING THE RIGHT DOESN'T LEGITIMIZE THE WRONG. Just because you’ve gotten rid of all those who opposed you doesn’t mean that what you’re doing now is right. JUST BECAUSE THERE'S NO ONE AROUND NOW TO TELL YOU YOU'RE WRONG DOESN'T MEAN YOU'RE NO LONGER WRONG. WRONG, MY FRIENDS, REMAINS WRONG EVEN WHEN THE VOICE OF RIGHT IS SILENCED.

We all like to think we’d be a lot happier and better off if we didn’t have anyone around to “criticize,” rebuke, or correct us. But the truth of the matter is WE ARE ALL THE MORE IMPERILED OR ENDANGERED WHEN THERE'S NO ONE AROUND TO RESTRAIN US OR TURN US FROM SIN. Every way of a man is right in his own eyes (Proverbs 21:2, see also 12:15 and 14:12). Brethren, WHEN WE CAN DO WHATEVER WE WANT TO DO, WE ARE MOST IN DANGER OF DAMNATION AND DEATH.

 

FORBIDDEN LOVE HURTS A LOT OF PEOPLE, INCLUDING YOU.

Wives, getting involved with another man, even marrying him, hurts a lot of people. You think loving this man will right the many wrongs in your life. You think it’ll make you happier. Friends, forbidden love hurts a lot of people, including you. Let me tell you what I mean.

Herodias was married to Philip I. Antipas was married to a daughter of Aretas (all extant records, including those of Josephus, do not mention her by name). Anyway, while Antipas was off in Rome getting married to his beloved, the daughter of Aretas found out the plot and ran to her father, the King of the Nabatean Arabs. Enraged by Antipas’ shameful treatment of his daughter, Aretas made war against Antipas and Antipas’ forces were utterly defeated. The war would have dragged on to other battlefields and cities, but Antipas sent to Rome for help and the Roman army intervened, whereupon Aretas withdrew to his fortress at Petra. When all was said and done, many of Antipas’ and Aretas’ soldiers laid dead on the battlefield of war—all because of forbidden love. Forbidden love hurt Philip I and the daughter born by their marriage. It hurt Antipas, his wife the daughter of Aretas, and Aretas too. Forbidden love hurt a lot of soldiers in Antipas’ and Aretas’ army. It added to the many troubles that Rome had to rectify. The Baptist lost his life. His followers lost their master. Many in Israel grieved his death. And the nation as a whole was deprived of the greatest prophet ever born in Israel.

Forbidden love, friend, hurts a lot of people! It hurts more people than you could ever imagine. But most of all, it hurts you because adultery is punishable by death. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 reads, Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, {10} Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God (see also Galatians 5:19-21). Brethren, THE CONSEQUENCES AND HURTS OF ADULTERY WILL FOLLOW YOU INTO ETERNITY. NO MAN, NO WOMAN, NO LOVE, IS WORTH SPENDING ETERNITY IN HELL'S FIRES.

 

GUARD AGAINST FORBIDDEN LOVE.

Because of all the troubles and sins involved in an illegitimate marriage or relationship, you wives need to be on guard against forbidden love. YOU MUSTN'T ALLOW YOURSELF TO GET EMOTIONALLY, ROMANTICALLY, AND PHYSICALLY INVOLVED WITH ANOTHER MAN. The admonition is apropos to wives who find themselves in any one of three situations.

(1) First, wives who harbor lust in their hearts must guard against forbidden love, likewise those who have wandering eyes and fantasizing minds. Women who entertain the possibility of loving another man beside their husband are especially prone to the Devil’s temptation to enter into unlawful relationships.

(2) Second, wives who are involved in unhappy marriages need to be on guard against seeking marital happiness or bliss in another relationship. A lot of things constitute an unhappy marriage:

*you’ve lost your love for your husband,
*you no longer respect him or want to be around him;
*your husband isn’t home a lot of the time, he’s always gone,
*he isn’t affectionate to you anymore;
*you hardly communicate with each other anymore,
*you don’t do things together like you used to;
*there are constant arguments, both of you refuse to budge on any given matter;
*you don’t have much money,
*you endure a lot of financial burdens and trials;
*and so on. In a word, you’re just not happy!

Ladies, THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH WANTING A HAPPY MARRIAGE. MARRIAGE WAS MEANT TO BE A HAPPY AND ENJOYABLE ONE. BUT YOU MUSTN'T LET YOUR SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS TAKE YOU INTO GOD-FORBIDDEN, ADULTEROUS RELATIONSHIPS.

(3) And third, you battered and abused wives need to guard against forbidden love. No one likes being abused, whether it’s verbal, emotional, mental, or physical abuse involved. When your husband gets violent, I see no teaching of Scripture that requires you to stay with your husband and suffer repeated beatings. Abuse isn’t grounds for divorce, but at the same time, it doesn’t obligate you to stay there and take it. Whether you live with your husband or separate from him temporarily, you mustn’t allow or use your troubles to find a more fulfilling, satisfying marriage with another man.

 

TRUE LOVE DOESN’T LEGITIMIZE FORBIDDEN LOVE. ADORATION DOESN’T LEGITIMIZE ADULTERY.

Herodias really loved Antipas. Her hatred for, and murder of, the Baptist was driven by the fact that she really loved Antipas. She couldn't stand the thought of living without him or being separated from him.

Here’s the proof. Years later, Antipas was banished from the Roman empire by the Emperor Caligula. His tetrarchy was given to Agrippa I. All his money and property were confiscated from him. He literally had nothing left but Herodias his wife. Now when Caligula found out that Herodias was the sister of Agrippa I whom the Emperor favored greatly, he offered her immunity. In other words, she wasn’t under the same judgment of banishment as Antipas was. But here’s what Herodias said to the Emperor: “Thou, indeed, O emperor, actest after a magnificent manner, and as becomes thyself, in what thou offerest me; but the kindness which I have for my husband hinders me from partaking of the favor of thy gift: for it is not just that I who have been made a partner in his prosperity, should forsake him in his misfortunes.”FN Her goods and estate were taken from her and she followed Antipas into banishment in Gaul, which is present-day France.

Herodias, I’m saying, really loved her husband. She gave up everything to have, and to be with, her husband. The love was mutual. The marriage was consensual. But true love doesn’t legitimize a wrong marriage. Adoring your new husband doesn’t legitimize adultery. You see, it’s so easy to talk yourself into a marriage relationship with another man because you really, truly love this man. No doubt. BUT LOVE, BRETHREN, DOESN'T MAKE AN UNLAWFUL MARRIAGE RIGHT. WHAT'S WRONG REMAINS WRONG EVEN WHEN LOVE IS INVOLVED.

 

BE CONTENT WITH YOUR HUSBAND AND WORK TO MAKE THE MARRIAGE WORK.

Lastly, ladies, be content with your present husband and don’t look for another. I know you’re looking for a good, happy marriage. DON'T LOOK FOR IT OUTSIDE YOUR PRESENT MARRIAGE. CONCENTRATE YOUR ENERGIES AND THOUGHTS ON PUTTING AN UNHAPPY MARRIAGE BACK ON TRACK. Claim a happy marriage. Claim the love back. Claim your husband’s love back. Believe the Lord.

Understand in your heart that God’s on your side, that is, He wants your marriage to stay together, He wants your husband saved, loving you, and fulfilling his husbandly duties toward you. God will do it!

Pray for your husband. Instead of fighting against him, pray for him and fight the Devil instead. Remember—it’s the Devil who’s leading, and keeping, your husband alienated from you. It’s him you need to fight against—not your husband. Don’t nag. Watch your attitudes and tongue. A BAD MOUTH AND A BAD ATTITUDE GO A LONG WAY IN MAKING A BAD MARRIAGE. Submit to him. Overcome his evil with good. Do things together. Go places together. Hold hands and kiss each other again. Appreciate all the things your husband does for you and does around the house. Try to understand him. Help him with his weaknesses or wrongs. Sit down and talk things out. Pray out loud together. Encourage him. Love him. Be a Christian to him. Expect miracles. But be patient. A change of heart takes time.

 

A WORD TO THE HUSBANDS

I’d like to turn our attention to Antipas now and I’d like to say a few things to the husbands. Now keep in mind, gentlemen, that everything we’ve said to the wives applies equally as well to the husbands: (1) Sin persisted in changes you and leads you to more sin;FN (2) Silencing the speaker doesn’t right the sin;FN (3) Forbidden love hurts a lot of people, including yourself; (4) Guard against forbidden love;FN (5) True love doesn’t legitimize a forbidden love or marriage; (6) You can live without forbidden love; and (7) Be content with your wife and work to make the marriage work. I have a few additional things to say.

 

HUSBANDS, LOVE YOUR WIVES.

Marriage is not just a contract between you and your wife: it’s a contract that involves the Lord too. You see, men, God has an idea of what He wants your marriage to be like and He wants you to live up to that.

Listen to what He had to say in Ephesians 5:25-29: Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; {26} That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, {27} That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. {28} So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. {29} For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.

You see, MEN, YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO LOVE AND TREAT YOUR WIFE ANY OLE WAY YOU PLEASE. You are to love and treat your wife the way God told you to love and treat her. YOU ARE TO LOVE AND TREAT HER THE WAY CHRIST LOVES AND TREATS THE CHURCH.

Now the question is, How did Christ love the church?

 

1. CHRIST’S LOVE WAS SELF-SACRIFICIAL. The text of Ephesians 5 tells us three things about Christ’s love for the church. First, He gave Himself for her: He died to save her and give her life. You see, men, Jesus was not as interested in saving His life from the death of the cross as much as He was interested in giving His church life. Jesus loved His church and He gave His life for her.

Husbands, YOUR LOVE FOR YOUR WIFE IS MEANT TO BE A SELF-SACRIFICIAL ONE, NOT A SELF-SATISFYING ONE. There are times when the welfare of your wife means you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. It might be a sacrifice of your time when she needs to talk to you; a sacrifice of your schedules when she needs you to be with her; a sacrifice of your material desires when she has things she would really like to get; a sacrifice of your body when she would like to be affectionate and sexually intimate with you. BEING THE HEAD OF YOUR HOME, MEN, DOESN'T MEAN YOU'RE NOT REQUIRED TO DIE OUT. BEING THE HEAD OF YOUR HOME, HUSBANDS, DOESN'T MEAN YOUR WIFE IS SUPPOSED TO DO ALL OF THE DYING OUT.

 

2. CHRIST’S LOVE WAS PURIFYING. The second way in which Christ loved the church is He sanctified and cleansed the church. As products of this world we were all unclean. But when Jesus saved us He cleaned us up and He’s continuing to do that. Why? Because there’s a glorious day coming when He’s going to present the church to Himself as a glorious church without spot or blemish. Jesus, I’m saying, is interested is keeping the church clean.

Men, don’t defile your wives. God didn’t make her to be a sex object that you can fulfill your ungodly lusts upon. You’re not supposed to defile her with sin by making her do things that are sinful or fleshly.

The next time your wife refuses to submit to you, before you go into a fitful rage and cry foul, using Scripture against her, take a look at the things you’re asking your wife to do. Are they purifying or defiling? Are you making your wife more holy or more unholy? Do you want her to be more Godly or more fleshly? Husbands, IT JUST MIGHT BE YOUR WIFE HAS A PROBLEM WITH SUBMISSION BECAUSE YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH SIN. DON'T EXPECT YOUR WIFE TO SUBMIT TO YOU IN A MATTER OF SIN! GOD DOES NOT REQUIRE HIS CHILDREN TO SIN OR TO SUBMIT TO SIN. Just as Christ has the purity of the church in mind, so yours ought to be occupied with the purity of your wife. Help her get rid of her blemishes: don’t blemish her some more.

 

3. CHRIST’S LOVE WAS UNDYING. And last, Christ loved the church to the end. He never quit loving her. John 13:1 reads, Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

God doesn’t want your love for your wife to come to an end. YOUR LOVE FOR HER IS MEANT TO BE UNDYING, UNFAILING, AND UNENDING. You see, it’s easy to quit loving your wife when she gets fat or loses the beauty of her youth. It’s easy to quit loving her when she doesn’t live up to your expectations and fails in her Christian responsibility of submission to you.

FOR A CHRISTIAN, LOVE WAS MEANT TO KEEP ON LOVING DESPITE ALL THE TRIALS AND TROUBLES THAT ALL MARRIAGES GO THROUGH.. Brethren, we do not love after the manner of this world! We love after the manner of Christ! We love the way Christ loved us.

Here is God’s definition of love: Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant (5) or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; (6) it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (7) Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (8) Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away ((1 Corinthians 13:4-8 ESV).

 

Men, there are many Herodias’s in this world that can steal your heart and your love. Don’t let them! Stick with the woman God has given you. YOU WON'T FIND A HAPPIER MARRIAGE IN A GOD-FORBIDDEN LOVE OR MARRIAGE--NOT IF YOU INTEND TO KEEP ON WALKING WITH THE LORD. You see, when you’re outside God’s will, God will let you know. Your conscience and the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit will, like Antipas, haunt and torment you. God will have a John the Baptist nearby to denounce or rebuke you. As you know yourselves, it isn’t fun always being nagged, hounded, or convicted about what you’re doing wrong. THERE'S NO REST, PEACE, OR JOY WHEN YOU'RE DISOBEDIENT TO GOD. Get it through your heads, men: YOU WON'T BE HAPPY IN A GOD-FORBIDDEN LOVE OR MARRIAGE.

Now it just might be that IN ORDER FOR YOU MEN TO LOVE YOUR WIVES AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH YOU NEED TO SEE HER IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT. Perhaps you see your wives as prostitutes, concubines, or slaves. Perhaps you see her as belonging entirely to you, therefore, she’s totally at your service or disposal.

Brethren, to whom does the church belong, the church that Christ loves? It belongs to Christ. Men, your wives belong to God too! They’re God’s children and He cares for them. He cares how you treat them. Treat your wife respectfully as you do the Lord. If you wouldn’t treat the Lord in such and such a way, then don’t treat your wife that way either. If you wouldn’t talk to the Lord in such and such a way, then don’t talk to your wife that way either. TREAT HER LIKE YOU DO THE LORD, forasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25:40).

 

YOU’RE UNDER GOD’S LAW TOO, JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.

Thus far we’ve been talking about matters of love. I’d like to look now at matters of character because so much of Antipas’ decisions were made with a flawed character.

Antipas was a Tetrarch who ruled the provinces of Galilee and Perea. When he divorced his wife and married another he did what a lot of other rulers in his day were doing. Marriages in high places were made and broken at will.

But the point of the Baptist’s denunciation is, NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE OR WHO YOU THINK YOU ARE, YOU'RE NOT EXEMPT FROM OBEDIENCE TO GOD'S LAW. You may be a ruler or a minister, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to live by the same rules everyone else is required to live by. From the Tetrarch on the throne to the peasant in the field, everyone is subject to the laws of God. Rank or wealth doesn’t immunize you from the imperative of obedience.

What you’re doing may not be different from what everyone else is doing—in fact, everybody may be doing it. But THE FACT THAT EVERYBODY'S DOING IT DOESN'T MAKE WHAT THEY'RE DOING RIGHT. RIGHT ISN'T BASED ON WHAT EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING: IT'S BASED ON WHAT GOD SAID IN HIS WORD.

Being the head of your home, men, doesn’t give you the authority to do as you please. You’re not above the law and you’re not above rebuke when you violate the law. Don’t get mad when people like the Baptist denounce you. You need to be reminded that God’s law applies to you too!

 

WATCH WHAT PROMISES YOU MAKE.

Antipas took a liking to the Baptist after he had the prophet arrested. He would call for John on several occasions and listen to what John had to say. He heard him gladly. And he kept him safe from the murderous hand of Herodias (Mark 6:19-20). But when Salome danced before him and his guests, Antipas made her a very short-sighted promise. He promised to give her whatever she wanted—up to half of his tetrarchy—little realizing that a young girl could want anything else but power and rule. He never dreamed she would ask for John the Baptist’s death. He never thought she would ask him for something she knew he was unwilling to give. But it was too late. He had given her a sacred promise and, as much as he was unwilling to keep it, he was bound by his oath to keep it.

Friends, you need to watch what promises you make.

(1) Don’t make spur-of-the-moment promises without foresight or thought. Think about what you’re promising. Don’t make promises without thinking things through. If necessary under the present circumstances, ask the Lord for wisdom on the matter. He knows things you may not know. He sees the consequences you may not see.
(2) Don’t make promises you can’t possibly keep. If it’s not within your power to fulfill a promise, don’t make it. And
(3) Don’t make promises that you have no intention of keeping. It might be wholly within your power to do what you’re promising, but if you’re not planning on doing it, don’t promise it. If you’re not going to keep your word, don’t give it.

 

HAVE A BACKBONE AND LEARN TO SAY NO.

Men, you need to have a backbone and learn to say No to people who want you to do something that’s not right. You see, John the Baptist spoke out against the Herodian marriage and neither Antipas nor Herodias liked that. But the thing of it was, John was wholly within his right to say what he said. His rebuke of Herod wasn’t a violation of the law, whether civil or moral. As much as Herod didn’t like what John was saying, there really wasn’t anything lawful he could do about it. The Baptist wasn’t breaking any laws. But Herodias wasn’t quite as civil about the matter. She wanted the Baptist arrested, imprisoned, and killed! You see, the language of Mark 6:17 suggests that Antipas’ arrest of the Baptist was Herodias’ doing: For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her. Herodias prompted Antipas to arrest the Baptist.FN

 

HAVE A BACKBONE AND DO THE RIGHT THING.

At first, Antipas didn’t like what John had to say about his marriage. But the more he talked with John the more he saw the legitimacy of John’s words and the uprightness of John’s character. Mark 6:20 reads, For Herod feared John,FN knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.

When you’re doing something you’re not supposed to be doing, I know that the last person you want to talk and listen to is God. He’s not going to tell you you’re right when you’re wrong. He’s going to tell you straight away that what you’re doing is sinful and wrong. But, while you may not like hearing what God has to say to you, you still need to hear Him because He loves you and what He’s telling you is for your own good.

God may speak to you through His Spirit. But, as in Antipas’ case, God sometimes uses people to stand up to you and confront you with your sin. When your John the Baptist stands before you, you need to listen to him because God’s sent him to tell you what He Himself would tell you if He stood right in front of you.

Friends, has it ever occurred to you that those who oppose or rebuke you just might be right? You see, as humans it’s an easy tendency to think we’re always right, therefore, whoever disagrees with us is automatically wrong. It’s hard to listen to someone who disagrees with you.

But if they’ve got the Word on their side you’d better listen to them.FN GOD’S WORD IS NEVER WRONG! GOD HIMSELF IS NEVER WRONG! It’s we who are wrong. When God, the Bible, and His God-sent John the Baptist speaks, you need to wrestle with God’s truth and accept the wrongfulness of what you’re doing. Instead of being obstinate and hard-headed about it, have the courage, men, to admit the truth—even when you don’t like or agree with the truth. Be courageous and do the right thing. In Antipas’ case, let the Baptist go! He hasn’t done anything wrong. Make obedience to God and doing the right thing the highest priority in your life: higher than what your Herodias wants you to do. Higher than what you yourself in the flesh want to do. God saved your soul. So you owe Him big time. You owe Him your love, your obedience, your life.

 

LEARN TO VALUE A CLEAR CONSCIENCE.FN

Antipas knew John was a just and holy man. But because of his oath he had the Baptist killed. When Jesus and His miracles came along, Antipas’ conscience bothered him and he thought Jesus was the Baptist resurrected from the dead. You see, his conscience didn’t quit working when he had the Baptist killed; his conscience was still working.

Brethren, your conscience still works even after you’ve done something wrong: it takes a long time, a lot of sinning and a lot of self-delusion, to render your conscience ineffectual or inoperative. YOU MAY NOT LIKE OR ENJOY A TROUBLING CONSCIENCE, BUT BE THANKFUL THAT YOUR CONSCIENCE'S STILL WORKING! A working conscience is God trying to steer you away from the road to Hell and get you going on the path that leads to Heaven.

Learn the value of a clear conscience. It tells you to do what’s right and it hounds you when you don’t. Sin is always easy, but a troubling conscience is difficult to live with. You have no peace, no joy, and it’s hard to live with yourself. When you do the right thing, on the other hand, the peace and satisfaction that you get from having a clear conscience help you make it through the hard times people give you for not listening to them. No matter what Herodias thinks, do what’s right and keep a clear conscience. Troubles with Herodias are not as troublesome as a troubling conscience.

 

THE ENTOMBMENT OF THE BAPTIST

Mark 6:29, And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb. Matthew 14:12, And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus. Matthew 14:12 (NLT), Later, John's disciples came for his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus what had happened.

 

Apparently, John’s disciples were nearby and when they heard that their master was killed they petitioned Antipas and gave John a respectful burial or entombment. After that, they went to Galilee and told Jesus what happened.

If some of the Baptist’s followers were like any of us today, there were probably some among them who weren’t enthused with their master’s decision to denounce the Herodian marriage: they knew he’d get in trouble and likely pay for it with his life.

Like these disciples, brethren, THERE ARE TIMES WHEN YOU MUST LET YOUR PASTOR SAY WHAT GOD'S GIVEN HIM TO SAY--EVEN THOUGH YOU KNOW HE'LL GET INTO TROUBLE FOR SAYING IT. There’ll likely be consequences he’ll have to suffer and pay for what he’s saying or doing in obedience to the Lord. Leave the man go and don’t stop him from doing what he has to do. As we see in John’s case, there are times when the Lord wants us to say or do things that are upsetting to some people. THINK HIGHLY OF THE MAN, BRETHREN, WHO WOULD RATHER OBEY GOD AND LOSE HIS MINISTRY OR LIFE THAN DISOBEY GOD FOR THE SAKE OF NOT GETTING PEOPLE UPSET OR MAD.

 

 

THE APOSTLES RETURN FROM THEIR MISSION TRIP

PROBABLY IN CAPERNAUM

 

Mark 6:30, And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.FN Luke 9:10a, And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. Mark 6:30 (CEV), After the apostles returned to Jesus, they told him everything they had done and taught.

 

Upon returning from their first tour of ministry the disciples told Jesus everything they taught and did. They gave an accounting of their teachings and miracles. Friends, one day we’re going to give an accounting of all the things we’ve taught and done (cross-reference Matthew 25:14-30, Luke 19:11-27). I hope we all have a lot of good things to say!

 

 

JESUS AND THE APOSTLES TAKE A BREATHERFN

BETHSAIDA JULIAS

 

Mark 6:31-32, And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisureFN so much as to eat. {32} And they departed into a desert place by ship privately. Mark 6:31-32 (NLT), Then Jesus said, "Let's go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile." He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and His apostles didn't even have time to eat. (32) So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone.
Luke 9:10b, And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.FN John 6:1, After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.
Matthew 14:13, When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.

 

With all the miracles that had been done of late, so many people were coming to Jesus that the apostolic company didn’t even have time to eat! Jesus wanted His disciples to rest after their missionary labors and travels, so He took them to a desert place in the vicinity of Bethsaida Julias, located on the northeastern region of the Sea of Galilee.

We see in this withdrawal from the multitudes Jesus’ concern for His apostles’ physical well-being. Ministry was important and necessary, but so was taking care of themselves and their bodies.

Does Jesus have an Rest and Relaxation policy for His ministers? Evidently so. Two observations are in order about this R&R policy. First, we see that Jesus didn’t want His disciples to wear themselves thin and work themselves ragged into physical exhaustion: He wanted them to rest too and have some time to get physically and spiritually renewed.

Brethren, it isn’t a sin to postpone your labors or plan your itinerary and schedules in such a way that you get your rest and go on vacation. YOU CAN’T WORK OR MINISTER EFFECTIVELY WHEN YOU’RE PHYSICALLY EXHAUSTED OR BURNED OUT. Friends, Jesus doesn’t want, or expect, us to minister to the point of physical exhaustion. We might be doing the Lord’s work, but DOING THE LORD'S WORK IS NO EXCUSE FOR BODILY NEGLECT. We have to take care of ourselves and our bodies. We need ministry too! And one of the best ways to get that ministry is to get all rested up. NO MATTER HOW WORTHWHILE THE MINISTRY OR HOW EFFECTIVE AND SUCCESSFUL, JESUS EXPECTS US TO GET AWAY FOR A WHILE AND GET SOME REST. THAT'S AN ORDER!FN

And the second thing we see about Jesus’ concern for our physical well-being is, He made the disciples rest. He took them in a ship and went off to a private place to be by themselves. Get the picture here. Jesus and His disciples are surrounded by gobs of people. They needed ministry. Getting away and leaving them high and dry wasn’t exactly good timing. It wouldn’t look good. What would the people think? Maybe we can go on vacation when they leave, Jesus. Clearly, Jesus didn’t see it that way.

Brethren, if you’re waiting for the right time to take a breather you might be waiting for a long time. It might never come. That’s because there’ll always be people who need you and your ministry. There’ll always be work to do. There’s seldom ever a convenient time to get away.

If there’s anything we can learn from this incident in the life of our Lord and His disciples, it’s this. THERE ARE TIMES WHEN YOU'VE GOT TO FORCE YOURSELF TO REST. IF YOU DON'T DO IT, THE LORD WILL DO IT FOR YOU, OR ELSE A TRIAL WILL. You’ll get sick. You’ll suffer a breakdown. You’ll reach your breaking and melting point. You won’t be able to carry on. Other people will have to carry you away to your Bethsaida Julias. Brethren, you need your rest! Force yourself to do it. It’s for your own good. You need your quiet times with the Lord! You work better and last longer when you’re rested up. You think clearer, see clearer, behave better, and speak better, when your body has had its rest. Resting is not a sin, it’s not a waste of time. It’s God will!

 

Mark 6:33-34, And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him. {34} And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. Mark 6:33-34 (CEV), But many people saw them leave and figured out where they were going. So people from every town ran on ahead and got there first. (34) When Jesus got out of the boat, he saw the large crowd that was like sheep without a shepherd. He felt sorry for the people and started teaching them many things.
Luke 9:11, And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing. John 6:2-3 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. {3} And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.

 

When the people saw Jesus and His disciples getting into a boat and sailing away, they decided to follow Him on foot. Assuming Jesus started out from Capernaum where the apostolic boat was moored, the trip across the Sea to Bethsaida Julias was about four miles, sailing in a straight line. The trip by land encompassed about ten miles. Apparently, the multitude of men, women, and children managed to get to the northeastern shore before Jesus and His disciples got there! How was this possible? I believe the apostolic company took their time sailing across the Sea—especially if they saw the people following them on foot along the shoreline—using these few short hours to catch up on their rest. While the people did not ease up on their demands for Jesus’ service, Jesus nevertheless made a way for His disciples to get their rest.

Sometimes you have to trust the Lord, brethren, to work it out for you to get your rest. Learn to rest in what little time you have and trust the Lord to bless that rest.

 

 

JESUS FEEDS OVER FIVE THOUSAND PEOPLEFN

A DESERT NEAR BETHSAIDA JULIAS

 

John 6:4-13, And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.FN {5} When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? {6} And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. {7} Philip answered him, Two hundred penny-worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.FN {8} One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, {9} There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves,FN and two small fishes:FN but what are they among so many?FN {10} And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. {11} And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks,FN he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.FN {12} When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.FN {13} Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve basketsFN with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. John 6:4-13 (NLT), (It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration.) (5) Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for Him. Turning to Philip, He asked, "Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?" (6) He was testing Philip, for He already knew what He was going to do. (7) Philip replied, "Even if we worked for months, we wouldn't have enough money to feed them!" (8) Then Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up. (9) "There's a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?" (10) "Tell everyone to sit down," Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.) (11) Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward He did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. (12) After everyone was full, Jesus told His disciples, "Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted." (13) So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.
Matthew 14:14-21, And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick. (15) And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. (16) But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.FN (17) And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. (18) He said, Bring them hither to me. (19) And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. (20) And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. (21) And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children. Luke 9:12-17, And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place. (13) But he said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they said, We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people. (14) For they were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, Make them sit down by fifties in a company. (15) And they did so, and made them all sit down. (16) Then he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude. (17) And they did eat, and were all filled: and there was taken up of fragments that remained to them twelve baskets.
Mark 6:34-44, And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. (35) And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: (36) Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. (37) He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? (38) He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. (39) And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. (40) And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties. (41) And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. (42) And they did all eat, and were filled. (43) And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. (44) And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.

 

By the time Jesus was done teaching and healing the people it was late in the afternoon and the disciples wanted Jesus to send them away so that they could go into the neighboring villages and get some food, and maybe secure overnight lodging. Jesus, however, wasn’t willing to send them away hungry.

In this miracle of multiplication we find great comfort in our Lord’s compassion and ability to provide for the care of His people. Three things are worthy of our note.

 

1. GOD’S CONCERNED ABOUT OUR WELL-BEING. In this feeding of the five thousand we see our Lord’s concern for His followers’ physical well-being: He was interested not only in healing and teaching them, but in feeding them as well.

Brethren, WHAT CONCERNS US CONCERNS GOD TOO! THERE ISN'T A NEED WE HAVE THAT GOD ISN'T INTERESTED IN OR CONCERNED ABOUT! You think God doesn’t care about a need that you have? You think your need is much too mundane or trivial to bother God with? Think again and know from Scripture that God’s concerned even about your hunger or need for food. God feeds the birds and He’ll feed you too (Matthew 6:26).

 

2. THE NEEDS OF MANY DO NOT HAMPER GOD’S WILLINGNESS OR ABILITY TO MEET THOSE NEEDS. We look at five thousand people—actually at least twice that much, if not thrice, because five thousand was just the men, not including women and children; and, just like the apostles, we don’t see any way we can feed that many people. The need is just too great! We can’t do anything about it, so we’re not going to do anything. What can’t be done will not be done.

Friends, just because the need is so great doesn’t mean that God can’t, or won’t, do anything to meet that need. In our diminutive way of thinking, That’s too much for God to do! He’s not going to give us that kind of money. Seriously? What kind of God do we have? Brethren, we’ve got to take all the limits off God. Jesus told us, the things which are impossible with men are possible with God (Luke 18:27). For with God nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:37).

IF YOUR GOD HAS LIMITATIONS AND ISN’T BIG ENOUGH TO DO WHAT YOU NEED HIM TO DO, THEN YOU HAVEN’T GOT THE RIGHT GOD. THE ONE TRUE GOD ISN’T HAMPERED BY THE LIMITATIONS WE’RE FACED WITH. The biggest problem we Christians have is so many of us don’t have the right God. The Can’t-Do-Anything-About-It kind of God that we have is a false god and it’s the reason why we have unsolved problems and don’t have miracles. For too many, our god is simply not in the miracle-making business. Shame on us for not believing the one, true God!

 

3. In this miraculous feeding of over five thousand people WE SEE OUR LORD’S ABILITY TO MIRACULOUSLY MULTIPLY WHAT MEAGER PROVISIONS OR RESOURCES WE HAVE. Five loaves and two fishes aren’t much. But in the Master’s hands, they’re enough! He multiplies the little that we have so that we end up with abundance. Notice that the Lord didn’t just multiply the loaves and fishes to feed everybody: He made sure there were leftovers for another meal to boot.

Brethren, there’s so much encouragement here. Jesus takes the little and inadequate that we have and makes sure it’s more than enough to do the job. That, dear friends, is the one, true God!

WHEN THE NEED IS GREAT AND YOU DON'T HAVE THAT MUCH OR ENOUGH, PRAY AND TRUST THE LORD TO MULTIPLY WHAT YOU'VE GOT. IT WORKS! Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). This promise and truth—that our Lord is an unchanging Lord—is the confidence we have that our God is still in the business of multiplying and stretching our meager resources so that our need is met. OUR GOD, BRETHREN, IS A CAN-DO GOD!

 

 

THE PEOPLE TRY TO MAKE JESUS KING

STILL IN A DESERT NEAR BETHSAIDA JULIAS

 

John 6:14-15, Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. {15} When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. John 6:14-15 (ESV), When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, "This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!" (15) Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
Matthew 14:22-23, And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. (23) And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. Mark 6:45-46, And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people. {46} And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.

 

When the people saw what Jesus had done they acknowledged Him to be the Prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15-18.FN They were so excited and convinced about Jesus that they wanted to lay hands on Him and make Him King.FN Now this was a problem because Rome would have dealt swiftly with anyone it perceived to be a rival to the Emperor. Jesus’ ministry would have been cut short if He allowed the multitudes to proclaim and extol Him as King. So Jesus disappointed them, sent them and His disciples away, and went up into a mountain to pray.FN

Brethren, WHEN PEOPLE WANT TO MAKE YOU SOMEONE YOU'RE NOT, GET AWAY AND PRAY. WHEN YOU ENTER GOD'S PRESENCE YOU'RE REMINDED OF WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOUR GOALS IN LIFE ARE. Keep the vision clear, keep a humble profile, and don’t let people deter you from fulfilling God’s call upon your life.

 

 

JESUS WALKS ON WATERFN

ON THE SEA OF GALILEE

 

Mark 6:47-50 And when even was come,FN the ship was in the midst of the sea,FN and he alone on the land. {48} And he saw themFN toiling in rowing;FN for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the nightFN he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them. {49}But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit,FN and cried out: {50} For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. Mark 6:47-50 (CEV), Later that evening he was still there by himself, and the boat was somewhere in the middle of the lake. (48) He could see that the disciples were struggling hard, because they were rowing against the wind. Not long before morning, Jesus came toward them. He was walking on the water and was about to pass the boat. (49) When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, they thought he was a ghost, and they started screaming. (50) All of them saw him and were terrified. But at that same time he said, "Don't worry! I am Jesus. Don't be afraid."
John 6:16-20 And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, {17} And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.FN {18} And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. {19} So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs,FN they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. {20} But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid. Matthew 14:24-27, But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. (25) And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. (26) And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. (27) But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.

 

Having dismissed the crowd, Jesus had His disciples set sail towards Bethsaida in Galilee while He Himself went up into a mountain to pray. While the disciples were sailing across the Sea, a fierce windstorm arose from the opposite direction so that the disciples were forced to row or sail against the wind. After about nine hours of rowing and sailing the disciples were only halfway through the Sea! They should have reached Bethsaida a long time ago, had it not been for the storm. Exhausted and soaking, the disciples were in a genuine trial.

In the wee hours of the morning Jesus came to them, walking on the water. Naturally, the disciples were scared to death, thinking they were seeing a ghost. As if the storm wasn’t bad enough, the disciples now had a ghost to contend with! But Jesus made His presence known, thus allaying the disciples’ fear and bringing them comfort after a long hard night of trial.

If you put yourself in the disciples’ sandals for a minute you’ll likely face a host of questions and human emotions that the disciples probably had to wrestle with: “Why did Jesus send us into this trial? Why isn’t He here with us now? Great! He’s safe on land while we’re here fighting for our lives! O God, why are you letting the storm drag on? We’re going to die!” It’s easy to be downcast, critical, and angry with God when you find yourself in a trial. But I’d like for you to derive comfort from our Lord’s conduct on this particular storm-tossed night.

 

ZIP YOUR LIP AND FIND COMFORT IN THE MIDST OF YOUR TRIAL
THE COMFORT’S THERE…YOU JUST HAVE TO CALM DOWN AND SEE IT

FIRST, notice that JESUS IS PRAYING (Mark 6:46). While the disciples are rowing, Jesus is praying. All the time you’re trialing, Jesus is praying for you! It’s so easy to think that God doesn’t care, Jesus is goofing off somewhere and doesn’t know what you’re going through. Friends, you could not be more wrong! Do you know what Jesus is doing right now? He’s praying for you! Hebrews 7:25 (NLT) reads, Therefore He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. God does care! Jesus is praying. And WHEN JESUS PRAYS, YOU CAN BE ABSOLUTELY SURE HIS PRAYERS GET ANSWERED!

SECOND, notice that JESUS SEES EVERYTHING YOU’RE GOING THROUGH (Mark 6:48). You may not feel His presence. Certainly, you don’t see Him anywhere near. But Jesus sees and He knows exactly what’s going on with you. He knows the trouble you’re in! And do you know what? Jesus does something about what He sees and knows. This brings me to my third observation.

 

THIRD, KNOW IN YOUR HEART OF HEARTS THAT JESUS IS COMING TO THE RESCUE (Mark 6:48). In the natural, the storm would have kept any man or ship from coming to the rescue of these disciples. You see, THERE ARE TIMES AND TRIALS WHEN PEOPLE CAN'T HELP YOU, THEY CAN'T DO ANYTHING FOR YOU, AND YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN. BUT I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT THE STORM DIDN'T KEEP JESUS AWAY! BRETHREN, THERE'S NO TRIAL OR ADVERSITY THAT CAN KEEP JESUS FROM COMING TO HELP YOU. HALLELUJAH! God is our refuge and strength, a very PRESENT help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

 

FOURTH, SHUSH ALREADY AND LISTEN: JESUS IS GONNA CALM YOUR FEAR (Mark 6:50). How? By speaking a word to you! Be of good cheer, it is I. Be not afraid. Friends, Jesus knows exactly what to say to you to settle you down and calm your fear. He doesn’t want you to be afraid and that’s the first thing He’s gonna do for you: He’s gonna speak to you and help you get over your fear.

Brethren, when the storms of life find you fearful and afraid, come apart and pray. Listen to God’s voice speaking. Some people don’t find relief and comfort from their fears because they’re not listening to God. They’re all caught up in what’s happening to them. Instead of meditating on all the negative things that the Devil, people and flesh are saying to you, get back into the Word and read what God is saying to you. Read the promises. Read what God said He would do for you. His Word, my friends, will deliver you from fear. It’ll cause you to see how the trial is going to end. He said He would deliver you, not kill you: He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. {16} With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation (Psalms 91:15-16).

 

FINALLY, REST ASSURED THAT JESUS IS GONNA CALM YOUR STORM (Mark 6:51). Take comfort, dear friends, in how your trial is going to end. Whatever the Devil’s doing to you, it’s gonna stop. It’s gonna end. Beloved, THERE'S AN END TO EVERY TRIAL! IT'S NOT GOING TO LAST FOREVER! YOU'RE NOT GOING TO SUFFER AND HURT FOREVER! RELIEF IS COMING!

The Devil may be trying to kill you, but know in your heart that God’s not going to allow him to do it! God isn’t going to sit still while you’re out in the boat in the middle of the storm. God will come and He’ll save you and give you blessed rest from a long hard night of trial: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning (Psalms 30:5). He will not allow you to be tried beyond your ability to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13). Persevere in the trial, friends. God will intervene and save! He is faithful! Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised (Hebrews 10:23). HIS FAITHFULNESS, DEAR FRIENDS, IS GOD'S PERSONAL GUARANTEE THAT HE'S GONNA TAKE CARE OF YOU. God's got you. He's got this. So don’t worry! You’re gonna be alright!

 

Matthew 14:28-31, And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. {29} And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. {30} But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. {31} And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? Matthew 14:28-31 (NLT), Then Peter called to Him, "Lord, if it's really You, tell me to come to You, walking on the water." (29) "Yes, come," Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. (30) But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. "Save me, Lord!" he shouted. (31) Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. "You have so little faith," Jesus said. "Why did you doubt Me?"

 

Peter wasn’t convinced that it was really Jesus walking on the sea. So he asked the Phantom to tell him to come walking on the water. As far as Peter was concerned, if he could walk on water it was proof that the Phantom was really Jesus.

Friends, don’t rush over these verses without getting anything out of them. There are all kinds of encouragements and lessons that God wants to give to us from these Scriptures.

 

FINDING EVEN MORE COMFORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT IN THE TIME OF TRIAL
USING YOUR TRIALS TO GROW STRONGER IN FAITH INSTEAD OF WEAKER

I know trials are meant for our good. We don’t like them and, given a choice, we’d rather not go through them. It’s no fun hurting! For most of us Christians, trials have a way of shaking our core beliefs and getting us to question God’s goodness and providential power. Trials are a time when we weaken in faith and turn our backs on God.

Trials, however, don’t have to have this kind of adverse impact on our faith. God meant trials for our good. They’re designed, engineered, and tailor-made by God to make us better persons and better Christians. That’s a tough nut to swallow and we’d rather not hear it. But it’s the truth and we need to come to terms with it (Romans 4:17-21 with James 1:2-4).

Let’s take another close look at Peter and Jesus in this wind-swept trial because God wants to show us how we can grow stronger in faith, instead of weaker, in times of trial.

For starters, growing strong in faith doesn’t come naturally or as a matter of course. It doesn’t just happen on its own. We’ve got to make it happen. And the best time to do that is before we get into a trial. If your trial has already begun, you can still take the necessary steps to strengthen your faith in God.

 

FIRST, don’t automatically give up believing God for a miracle when circumstances take a turn for the worse. People have a tendency not to believe the Lord or appropriate the promises when things aren’t looking good. Bad circumstances are, in a very real way, faith-killers: they put an end to faith and believing. But the first thing God wants you to know is YOU CAN BELIEVE THE LORD WHEN THINGS ARE BAD!

Peter believed in the midst of the storm. Peter was believing and walking on water all the time that the storm was raging. The waves didn’t stop him from believing, nor did the waves begin to get choppy when Peter started to doubt. They were choppy long before Peter even got out of the boat. What I’m trying to say is, Peter didn’t decide to believe when the circumstances improved or got better. They didn’t! He decided to believe when the circumstances were bad.

Friends, THE PRESENCE OF NEGATIVE CIRCUMSTANCES DOESN'T MEAN YOU CAN'T EXERCISE FAITH AND TRUST THE LORD. YOU CAN BELIEVE THE LORD WHEN THINGS ARE BAD.FN

 

SECOND, many of us know what it means to believe God, but we don’t understand or grasp the true power of faith. In our thinking, faith—like God—is powerless in the face of very difficult or impossible circumstances. We feel so powerless to change the tide of circumstances and events that have taken a turn for the worse. Faith, like ourselves, is powerless to do anything to remedy the circumstances and avert the doom that looms on the horizon.

To grow stronger in faith we’re going to have to change our perspective of faith. We need to see faith in a drastically different light. We’ve got to be firmly convinced in our heart and way of thinking that FAITH CAN DO THE IMPOSSIBLE (Matthew 17:20). THERE IS NOTHING IMPOSSIBLE THAT CAN’T BE DONE BY FAITH. Jesus Himself said it. He said, all things are possible to him that believeth (Mark 9:23). As we know full well, walking on water is not a natural phenomenon. It violates the law of gravity. It’s something that can’t be done in the natural sphere of things. But WHAT CAN’T BE DONE NATURALLY CAN BE DONE SUPERNATURALLY THROUGH FAITH. You see, as long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus and believed, he was able to walk on water. FAITH ENABLED HIM TO DO SOMETHING THAT CAN'T ORDINARILY BE DONE.


FAITH CAN DO THE IMPOSSIBLE! IT MAKES THINGS HAPPEN THAT DON’T, OR CAN’T, HAPPEN. That’s because faith isn’t limited to, or governed by, the laws and forces of nature. Faith is a spiritual substance and it works in the spiritual realm to change the natural realm. Just as nature obeys God and does what God commands it to do, faith has this similar kind of power over nature. Faith can stop a storm (Matthew 14:32, Mark 4:39). If need be, faith can make you walk on water. Brethren, if God has given you His Come!, then His Word—and your faith in it—enables you to do what ordinarily or naturally can’t be done. LIKE GOD, YOU CAN WORK WONDERS—YOU CAN DO WONDERS—WHEN YOU’RE BELIEVING AND OBEYING GOD.

 

THIRD, growing strong in faith requires you to not only realize the tremendous power of faith, but to recognize as well, and respect, the power of fear and doubt. While faith has a power to override the laws and workings of nature, fear and doubt can prevent faith from doing the impossible.

Peter believed he could do what the Lord told him to do, and that is Come. He believed he could walk on water like Jesus and, as a consequence, by faith, he walked on water. But Peter looked at his turbulent circumstances and, as a result, he doubted and started to sink. He could no longer do what he was doing by faith.

If you give in to fear and doubt, you’ll quit believing and, like Peter, you’ll start to sink. Your circumstances will overwhelm you and leave you hopeless in the face of pending doom. Fear and doubt can shipwreck your faith and sink you. That’s why you need to recognize and respect the power they have and do everything in your power to not give in to fear and doubt. You simply can’t afford to be afraid and doubtful!

 

FOURTH, if you want to get stronger in faith you’ve got to deal with any doubts that you may have. You can’t ignore them and pretend they aren’t there. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you don’t have any doubts when, the truth is, you have some deep-rooted doubts that you don’t want to admit or face. YOU CAN'T GROW STRONG IN FAITH IF YOU’VE GOT DOUBTS. You’ve got to deal with your doubts!

Peter wasn’t sure it was really Jesus standing out there on the water. He had a doubt and do you know what he did with it? He settled it! He dealt with it by asking Jesus to bid him Come!

Friends, we’re all tempted to doubt. That’s the Devil’s job. That’s what he does best. But doubts aren’t meant to be entertained. They’re not supposed to linger in your mind. If you have a doubt, settle it. Deal with it. Get it taken care of and resolved.

How do you deal with your doubt? Like Peter, take your doubt to the Lord and ask Him to help you settle it. Brethren, IT TAKES THE LORD TO SETTLE A DOUBT. YOU DON'T SETTLE A DOUBT BY LEAVING THE LORD OUT OF IT.

 

FIFTH, IT TAKES FAITH AND COURAGE TO OVERCOME YOUR FEARS AND DOUBTS. While Peter was still in the boat he wasn’t sure if it was really Jesus walking on the water. He heard what must have surely sounded like Jesus’ familiar voice saying, Be of good cheer, it is I. Don’t be afraid. These are the kind of things Jesus would say.

*He said them to the palsied man who was lowered on a stretcher through the roof (Matthew 9:2);
*to the woman who touched the hem of His garment (Matthew 9:22);
*and to Jairus (Mark 5:36).

But Peter still doubted. So what did he do? He asked Jesus to tell him to come to Him walking on the water: Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. So Jesus beckoned for the apostle to come.

Now when Peter got the word to Come, he believed that he could get out of that boat and walk on water. And that’s exactly what he did—he got out of the boat and, wonder of wonders, he actually walked on water! He did what Jesus was doing!

The point is, Peter walked on water because he believed. Do you see what’s happening here? Peter had a doubt. And in order to satisfy that doubt he asked Jesus to give him a word. Then once Jesus gave him a word, Peter had to believe it and act on that faith by getting out of the boat and walking on water.

Friends, IN ORDER FOR YOU TO OVERCOME YOUR DOUBTS YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO CHOOSE TO BELIEVE WHAT GOD'S TELLING YOU. You may not believe that God’s going to heal you. You may not believe that God’s going to give you the money or help you get out of a troublesome predicament. So how do you overcome your doubt? Like Peter, you overcome your doubt by taking Jesus at His Word and believing what He’s said to you.

Brethren, YOU DON'T OVERCOME YOUR DOUBT BY DOUBTING GOD'S WORD! YOU DON'T GET THE VICTORY OVER DOUBT BY STAYING IN UNBELIEF ABOUT THE WORD. There’s one way to believe, and that is, by believing God’s Word. Believing begins with believing the Word. DO YOU WANT TO GET RID OF YOUR DOUBTS? START BELIEVING THE WORD!FN

 

SIXTH, some doubts are truly difficult to get over. I know. I've been there. My heart goes out to all of you who are facing doubts that are getting the best of you. But, believe me, there's a way out of this dark, hopeless morass. ASK GOD FOR HELP! GOD WILL HELP YOU OVERCOME YOUR DOUBTS. Peter had a doubt. He wanted to satisfy or overcome that doubt. And the thing I want you to see is, Jesus helped him do it! He said, Come. Friends, Jesus doesn’t want you doubting! He doesn’t want you to stay in doubt.

Do you remember when Thomas doubted Jesus’ resurrection? What did Jesus do? He made a personal appearance to Thomas so that Thomas would quit doubting (John 20:26-29).

Brethren, Jesus will help you overcome your doubts. But, like Peter, you’ve got to look to Him for help.

When people doubt the promises, what do they do? They walk away from the Lord and continue to look at the circumstances, they meditate on the medical report, they listen to the experts, they believe what the Devil is saying to their mind. They start questioning the Word and criticizing the message of faith and the church or minister that teaches faith. You see, they don’t look to God for help. They don’t ask the Lord to help them overcome their doubts.

Brethren, when in doubt look to the Lord and ask Him for help. He wants you to believe, He wants to help you overcome your doubt, and He’ll help you do it. Brethren, God has just the right Word for you that will remove your doubt. To hear it you’ve got to stay around, listen, and read. YOU DON'T GET FAITH BY LEAVING THE LORD AND HIS WORD OUT OF THE PICTURE, OUT OF THE TRIAL, OR OUT OF THE STORM.

Brethren, when circumstances and symptoms are getting absolutely worse and fear and doubt start creeping in—that’s not the time to forget or forsake the Lord! That’s the time for you to draw near to the Lord. DOUBTS ARE CURED ONLY WHEN YOU'RE IN GOD'S PRESENCE AND IN HIS WORD. DOUBTS CANNOT LINGER, REMAIN, AND PREVAIL AS LONG AS YOU'RE IN GOD'S PRESENCE AND WORD!

IF YOU SHOULD START TO DOUBT AFTER YOU’VE BELIEVED, THEN GOD WILL HELP YOU WITH YOUR DOUBT AND HELP YOU BELIEVE AGAIN. Peter was doing fine as long as he had his eyes on Jesus. But when he turned away and looked at the waves, he started to doubt and sink.

The thing that I want you to see is, Peter was doubting and sinking, but what did Jesus do? He stretched out His hand and saved him.FN When did Jesus save him? Jesus saved him while he was doubting. Jesus didn’t stand over him and say, I’m not saving you until you believe, or, I’ll give you My hand when you give Me your faith, or, Drown, you doubter! You see, JESUS DIDN'T WAIT FOR PETER TO BELIEVE BEFORE HE REACHED OUT AND GRABBED HIM.

Faith is a condition for receiving (Matthew 21:22, Mark 11:23-24). But just because you’re doubting now, don’t be so quick to write yourself off and resign yourself to drowning. Don’t think that God won’t help you now because you’re doubting Him. Don’t think that God has cut you off. Believe, my friends, in God’s unfailing love and mercies. HE LOVES AND HELPS YOU EVEN WHEN YOU'VE FALLEN SHORT OF THE MARK, WHEN YOU'VE TRIED AND FAILED.

Make no mistake. Faith is still a condition for answered prayer. God still requires you to believe. He rebukes you for doubting. But the thing of it is, He still comes through for you and saves you! Why? Because He wants you to believe. He doesn’t want you to drown or die. And in order for you to come to a point of faith you’ve got to be alive to get there.

You see, Jesus didn’t save Peter because he doubted, anymore than Jesus answers our prayer because we’re doubting. Brethren, don’t use God’s mercies or miracles as an excuse to stay in doubt and not believe. Jesus saved Peter in the midst of his doubt so that Peter could live, get rid of his doubt, and start believing the Lord again.

So what’s the point? The point is, don’t give up on yourself, on faith, or the Lord, just because you’re doubting now. Falling and failing is not the end! You may be down, but brethren, look to the Lord for help. EVEN THOUGH YOU'RE DOUBTING, GOD HAS A MIRACLE FOR YOU BECAUSE HE DOESN'T WANT YOU TO DIE. HE WANTS YOU TO BELIEVE. AND IN ORDER FOR YOU TO BELIEVE YOU'VE GOT TO STAY ALIVE, AND THAT'S WHAT THE MIRACLE OR ANSWERED PRAYER IS ALL ABOUT. IT'S ALL ABOUT GOD PRESERVING YOUR LIFE AND GIVING YOU A SECOND CHANCE SO THAT YOU CAN GET RID OF YOUR DOUBTS AND BELIEVE. Friends, don’t give up! Cry to God for help. He’s got a hand to hold you up!

 

SEVENTH, I’ve been talking to you about doubt. Let me turn a corner here and talk to you about believing in the midst of fear. JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE ALREADY AFRAID DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN’T BELIEVE GOD NOW. BEING FEARFUL DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN’T PRAY AND BELIEVE GOD FOR A MIRACLE. Let me tell you what I mean.

Peter was a fisherman. He spent many years on the seas. He knew full well what storms can do to a boat and the people in it. This storm has raged on for the last few hours and, undoubtedly in my view, Peter and the other apostles were definitely afraid for their lives. Fear was already present, on the scene, and at work.

But Jesus had given Peter a command and Peter chose to believe and obey that command. His faith took over, he set aside, or overcame, his fear, he got out of the boat, and walked on water.

Do you see what I’m saying, EVEN THOUGH YOU’RE ALREADY AFRAID, YOU CAN STILL BELIEVE THE LORD. As long as you’re believing you can overcome your fears and doubts.

But if, like Peter, you give in to your fears and doubts, they’ll put on end to your faith. Brethren, fear and doubt are real faith-killers. They’ll rob you of your much-needed miracles. Take them seriously and refuse to be ruled or governed by your fears and doubts. YOU CAN BELIEVE EVEN THOUGH YOU’RE AFRAID!

 

EIGHTH, to grow in faith you’ve got to believe that GOD WILL HELP YOU GET BACK IN FAITH.

When Jesus reached out His hand and grabbed ahold of Peter, what did they do? Read the first portion of Matthew 14:32, And when they were come into the ship. What did they do? They walked back to the ship! They didn’t swim. They didn’t ask the disciples for a life preserver. Jesus didn’t carry him back. They both walked back.

Brethren, how do you walk on water? By faith. How did Peter walk back to the boat? By faith. How do I know that? Because doubters don’t walk. They sink. Peter proved that point rather well. But when Jesus came to him, grabbed him, and helped him get back on his feet, do you know what else Jesus did for him? He helped him believe once again! How do I know that? Because Peter walked back to the boat and the only way he could have done that is by faith. Peter got his faith back! He believed the Lord again!

Brethren, you might think that since you’re doubting now there’s no chance that you can ever believe the Lord again. You might think you’ll never again have faith for healing, or faith for protection, or whatever the promise might be. Friends, look at verse 32. GOD WILL HELP YOU BELIEVE AGAIN! You can walk on water again! Jesus will help you. FAITH ONCE LOST IS NOT LOST FOREVER. DOUBT ONCE ENTERTAINED IS NOT ENTERTAINED FOREVER. FALLING ONCE IS NOT STAYING FALLEN FOREVER. Brethren, you can get back on your feet, believe the Lord again, and walk on water. Ask the Lord for help. WHEN HE HELPS YOU HE NOT ONLY SAVES YOUR LIFE: HE SAVES YOUR FAITH. HE NOT ONLY HELPS YOU STAND: HE HELPS YOU BELIEVE! Thank you, Lord!

 

NINTH AND LAST, to grow strong in faith you need to stay in faith. That is, you need to keep on believing and not give in to fear and doubt.

Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he looked at the storm-tossed waves, and what he saw caused him to doubt and fear.

Like I’ve already said, adverse, negative circumstances aren’t conducive to faith. IF YOU LOOK AT THE CIRCUMSTANCES THEY'LL ROB YOU OF YOUR COURAGE AND FAITH. That’s why you simply can’t afford to look at, or concentrate on, bad circumstances.

Now get this. Peter started out believing and walking on water, but he ended up doubting and starting to sink. You see, STARTING OUT BELIEVING ISN'T ANY GUARANTEE THAT YOU'RE GOING TO END UP BELIEVING. JUST BECAUSE YOU BELIEVE NOW DOESN'T MEAN YOU'LL KEEP ON BELIEVING. You might be walking on water now, but it doesn’t mean you’ll still be walking on water five seconds from now.

How long does it take you to take your eyes off of Jesus and look at the circumstances? Friends, that’s how long it takes the Devil and the circumstances to rob you of your courage and faith. It only takes a second! You need to appropriate the promise and step out of the boat in faith to possess that promise, but you need to keep on believing and acting on your faith. Don’t assume that just because you have faith now you’ll have it later. Believing is something you do on a moment-by-moment basis.

To keep on believing you need to work diligently to stay in faith and not give in to fear and doubt. So how do you keep on believing? Keep your eyes on Jesus. Focus on God. His power. His love for you. Look at everything God has done and can do. His power wastes every circumstance that’s trying to kill you or put you down. Keep your mind on the promises. You get faith by believing God’s Word (Romans 10:17). So, like blood flowing through your entire body, keep God’s Word flowing through your entire body and being. Ponder the Word. Confess it. Don’t listen to the negative. Don’t open the door to fear and doubt. Quit looking at your circumstances! If you want to walk on water and make it to Jesus, keep focused on Jesus, keep on believing, and keep on walking. Don’t let fear and doubt stop you from walking, believing, and looking at Jesus! Brethren, staying in faith isn’t rocket science. It isn’t hard. It takes work, yes. Constant work. But you can do this! With God helping you, you definitely can do this! Thank you, God, for all your help! What a life-saving difference You make in our life!

 

 

JESUS INSTANTLY, MIRACULOUSLY, CALMS THE WINDSTORM

ON THE SEA OF GALILEE

 

Matthew 14:32-33, And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. {33} Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.FN Matthew 14:32-33 (ESV), And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. (33) And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
Mark 6:51-52, And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. (52) For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.FN John 6:21, Then they willingly received him into the ship:FN and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.

 

Two miracles happened as soon as Jesus and Peter got into the boat: the windstorm ceased and they were supernaturally transported to the western shore. The disciples got to their destination and Jesus made up for lost time by bringing the ship instantly to shore, which was two or three miles away. This is a miracle of Divine transportation where God supernaturally transports you from one place to another in an instant. Acts 8:39-40 is another example of supernatural transport in the New Testament.

 

 

JESUS HEALS SCORES OF PEOPLE

GENNESARET

 

Mark 6:53-56, And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret,FN and drew to the shore. {54} And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him, {55} And ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard he was. {56} And whithersoever he entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch if it were but the borderFN of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole. Mark 6:53-56(CEV), Jesus and his disciples crossed the lake and brought the boat to shore near the town of Gennesaret. (54) As soon as they got out of the boat, the people recognized Jesus. (55) So they ran all over that part of the country to bring their sick people to him on mats. They brought them each time they heard where he was. (56) In every village or farm or marketplace where Jesus went, the people brought their sick to him. They begged him to let them just touch his clothes, and everyone who did was healed.
Matthew 14:34-36, And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret. (35) And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased; (36) And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.

 

The apostolic company landed at Gennesaret, whereupon they were immediately recognized and sought by many people in need of healing. No matter where He went, the sick sought Him and they were healed.

I put myself in this number and take great comfort and solace in the fact that when I come sick and diseased to Jesus, He heals me and makes me feel better again.

Brethren, there’s no need for you to stay sick or diseased. Come to Jesus! You serve the best Doctor in the world. God can heal whatever it is that’s ailing you!

 

 

JESUS' DISCOURSE ON THE BREAD OF LIFEFN

CAPERNAUM

 

John 6:22-24, The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone; {23} (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:) {24} When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus. John 6:22-24 (NIV),  The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone.  (23)  Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.  (24)  Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.

 

There were about 5,000 men present when Jesus fed the multitude near Bethsaida Julias. When you consider that there were women and children present at the same time (Matthew 14:21), the total number of people was probably closer to 10,000, if not more. Since evening was fast approaching and there was not enough daylight left for them to walk back home towards Capernaum, many of the people went to the nearest villages to seek overnight lodging.

When the next morning came many of them returned to the place where Jesus fed them the previous day, expecting to find Him there. They knew there had been only one boat at shore the day before and Jesus’ disciples got into that boat to sail back to Capernaum. Jesus, however, didn’t get into the boat with them. Instead, He went up into a mountain to pray. Naturally, then, the people expected to find Jesus somewhere near. After a while, it became apparent to them that Jesus was nowhere around. In the meantime, a fleet of boats from Tiberias came to the area. Conveniently, the people hitched a ride on these boats and sailed back to Capernaum to look for Jesus.

 

John 6:25-27, And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? {26} Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. {27} Labour not for the meatFN which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.FN John 6:25-27 (NIV),  When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?"  (26)  Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.  (27)  Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."

 

Why were the people so intent on finding Jesus? They wanted Jesus to feed them some more! Imagine this. If we all stuck close to Jesus He would feed us and we wouldn’t have to work or worry anymore about where our next meal would be coming from! They were following Jesus with an ulterior motive. Jesus knew this and He used the occasion to exhort them to work for the food which is life everlasting.

 

John 6:28-29, Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? {29} Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. John 6:28-29 (NIV),  Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"  (29)  Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

 

Judaism was a do-religion. It wasn’t just a matter of believing the things Moses wrote. Rather, it was a matter of doing the things that God prescribed in the Law. Obedience, you see, is practical by nature. You obey the Lord by doing the things that He commanded.

Jesus told the people to work for the food which is from God. What were they supposed to do? Believe on Jesus.

Now to a great extent, these people were already believers in Jesus. Many of them acknowledged Him as Israel’s King at Galilee’s shore near Bethsaida Julias. Others in Israel acknowledged Him as Messiah, a prophet, or even the Prophet of Deuteronomy 18. Without doubt, Jesus was a great man in the eyes of the people.

But that’s just it! They saw Him only as a man. To this point in time, aside from the angels on the night of His birth and the demons who feared being cast out of the demoniacs, the only ones who acknowledged Jesus as the Divine Son of God were His disciples (John 1:49, Matthew 14:33)! In John 6 Jesus wanted these people to believe on Him as the Divine Son of God. As long as they didn’t believe this, they weren’t counted as believers.FN

 

John 6:30-33, They said therefore unto him, What sign showest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? {31} Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. {32} Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. {33} For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. John 6:30-33 (NLT), They answered, "Show us a miraculous sign if You want us to believe in You. What can You do? (31) After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, 'Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" (32) Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, Moses didn't give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now He offers you the true bread from heaven. (33) The true bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

 

As if Jesus didn’t already do enough miracles and signs for these people, they wanted Him to do a definitive sign that would confirm to them that He was indeed the Man He proclaimed Himself to be. The signs He already performed didn’t count! They weren’t enough. They wanted a special sign that would erase their doubts or apprehensions concerning His real identity. Without it they wouldn’t believe.

Does Jesus give them the sign they ask? No. Like the unbelieving Scribes and Pharisees who asked Him for a sign (Matthew 12:38, 16:1), Jesus didn’t give these people a sign.FN Instead, He gave them a sermon and a revelation of Himself. Just as the Lord gave the Israelites manna from Heaven, so this same Lord was giving the Jews life-giving bread from Heaven.

 

John 6:34-35, Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. {35} And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life:FN he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. John 6:34-35 (NLT), "Sir," they said, "give us that bread every day." (35) Jesus replied, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.

 

The people wanted this bread. If, like manna, it was free for the taking, why not get it? You wouldn’t have to work for your bread: it would come already made and delivered to you. These people came to Jesus looking for bread, that’s what drew them to Him, and that’s what they wanted—they were out for a free meal. But that wasn’t what Jesus was talking about! He was the bread. God’s modern-day manna wasn’t a loaf of bread: it was Jesus! Putting it altogether, Jesus came from Heaven. He was sent by God to give life to the people.

 

John 6:36-40, But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.FN {37} All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. {38} For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. {39} And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. {40} And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.FN John 6:36-40 (NLT), But you haven't believed in Me even though you have seen Me. (37) However, those the Father has given Me will come to Me, and I will never reject them. (38) For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent Me, not to do My own will. (39) And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those He has given Me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. (40) For it is My Father's will that all who see His Son and believe in Him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day."

 

We find here glimpses of the doctrine of predestination, namely, that God ordains some to eternal life: they end up coming in faith to Jesus and Jesus saves them. In the clearest of terms, Jesus told the people that He came down from Heaven, that’s where He came from. Hence, He was Divinity in the flesh! As the Jews would have understood Him, Jesus was proclaiming Himself to be God! Why did He come? To do the will of His Father, known to Israel and the Jews as Yahweh, Elohim, and Adonai. What was the Father’s will? That Jesus save those whom He had chosen unto salvation and raise them up at the last day. Jesus, then, was on a Heavenly mission of salvation.

 

John 6:41-42, The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. {42} And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? John 6:41-42 (CEV), The people started grumbling because Jesus had said he was the bread that had come down from heaven. (42) They were asking each other, "Isn't he Jesus, the son of Joseph? Don't we know his father and mother? How can he say that he has come down from heaven?"

 

The people had a hard time accepting what Jesus said about Himself because He looked every bit like a man—just like the rest of them. His parents were Joseph and Mary. If He was born to human parents, how then could He be from Heaven? How could He be Divine? You see, like all of us without God’s grace and enlightenment, these people did not understand the union of Divinity and humanity in human flesh. They couldn’t understand how a man could be God at the same time.

Furthermore, they had an idea of how God would come down from Heaven. In the Old Testament, angels would appear from nowhere and disappear from sight. No one saw where they came from and where they went. Wouldn’t the same apply to anyone else who came from Heaven or God? He would appear from nowhere, no one would know where He came from, no one would know who His parents were. His origin would be a complete mystery.

But that wasn’t the case with Jesus! The people knew exactly where He came from. How, then, could He say He came down from Heaven? The issue, as you see it unfolding, is an issue of Jesus’ identity and origin. He’s revealing to the people who He was and where He came from. But the people didn’t buy it. They grumbled because they didn’t believe a word of it.

 

John 6:43-46, Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. {44} No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. {45} It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God.FN Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. {46} Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. John 6:43-46 (NLT), But Jesus replied, "Stop complaining about what I said. (44) For no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws them to Me, and at the last day I will raise them up. (45) As it is written in the Scriptures, 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from Him comes to Me. (46) (Not that anyone has ever seen the Father; only I, who was sent from God, have seen Him.)

 

Jesus knew that the Jews weren’t receiving what He had to say about Himself. Their reaction was proof that they weren’t sent or given of the Father. You see, the people knew Jesus was the Son of Joseph and Mary. But that’s where the problem came in. While they knew some things about Jesus’ human origin, they didn’t know the exact details of His Divine conception and virgin birth.FN WHAT THEY DIDN'T KNOW KEPT THEM FROM RECEIVING WHAT JESUS WAS SAYING TO THEM. And do you know what? Jesus didn’t bother to tell them about it. Why not?

To make matters worse, instead of making it easier for them to understand, Jesus gave them more bombs: first, He insults them (as we humans would understand it) by saying they weren’t drawn of the Father; and second, He claims to have seen God! As the Jews understood it, no man can see God and live (Exodus 33:20). Either Jesus is lying or else He isn’t an ordinary man. The more Jesus talks, the harder it is for the people to receive His claims!

If you aren't drawn to Jesus, it's because God hasn't drawn you. Friends, you'll know if God is drawing you to Jesus because you'll come to Jesus, accept Him, and believe Him.

 

John 6:47-51, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. {48} I am that bread of life. {49} Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. {50} This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. {51} I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. John 6:47-51 (NLT), "I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. (48) Yes, I am the bread of life! (49) Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. (50) Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. (51) I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is My flesh."

 

Jesus goes on to say things that the people just couldn’t understand or accept! He would give His flesh for the people to eat and they would live forever. Was Jesus espousing cannibalism? This was abhorrent and repulsive to the Jews. It was sinful!

Do you see what’s happening here? The people here were looking for Jesus. They wanted Jesus. But they didn’t really believe Him for who He said He was. He told them the truth, but they didn’t believe it. Does Jesus make it easier for them to believe? Does He help them believe? Astoundingly, No! Which goes to show, IF YOU REFUSE TO BELIEVE, JESUS ISN’T GOING TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR YOU TO BELIEVE. In fact, He’s going to make it harder for you to believe! He’s going to say all sorts of things that blows you away and blows your mind.

 

John 6:52-58, The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? {53} Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. {54} Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. {55} For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. {56} He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. {57} As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. {58} This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. John 6:52-58 (NIV),  Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"  (53)  Jesus said to them, "Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  (54)  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.  (55)  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  (56)  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.  (57)  Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.  (58)  This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever."

 

To make matters worse, Jesus talked about drinking His blood. Now to the Jew, this was unthinkable! It was forbidden by Law to eat or drink blood, Leviticus 7:26-27. Was Jesus teaching the people to break the Law?

The people clearly didn’t understand the things Jesus was saying. They took Jesus literally when He was, in reality, speaking spiritually or figuratively. He wasn’t talking about literal flesh and blood: He was talking about His redemptive sacrifice. Just as in the Old Testament atonement was made through the killing of an animal sacrifice and the pouring out of its blood on the altar, so Jesus would be slain for the atonement and redemption of all who believed on Him.

To the Jews who were accustomed to animal sacrifices, the idea of a human sacrifice must have been abhorrent and repulsive. But Isaiah prophesied it in the fifty-third chapter of his prophecy! Atonement of sins would one day be accomplished through the redemptive sacrifice of a very special human being. Thus, when Jesus talked about His flesh and blood He wasn’t off-base or out in left field at all. He was entirely in line with Scripture!

People today are not that different from the people of Jesus’ day. Like the Jews of old, many of us think we know our Bibles pretty well. Truth is, a lot of us think we’re experts in the Word. We know what it says and what it means! Yet, for all our professed knowledge, like the Jews, we think some of Jesus’ claims are absurd and out in left field because we don’t know what the other portions of Scripture say. We don’t know all of the Scriptures. And the Scriptures that we don’t know make it difficult for us to accept the truth of the things Jesus said that we find so objectionable, disagreeable, and wrong. So, in a very real way, it isn’t Jesus after all who’s wrong. It’s us! OUR IGNORANCE, AND UNBELIEF, MAKES US WRONG.

 

 

MANY OF JESUS' DISCIPLES QUIT FOLLOWING HIMFN

CAPERNAUM

 

John 6:59-66, These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. {60} Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? {61} When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? {62} What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? {63} It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. {64} But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. {65} And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. {66} From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.FN John 6:59-66 (NIV),  He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.  (60)  On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"  (61)  Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you?  (62)  Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!  (63)  The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.  (64)  Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.  (65)  He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them."  (66)  From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

 

How shocked and disappointed these people must have been! They came eagerly looking for a Man they thought was prophet or king. But now, He was acting as if He had lost His mind! He was making all sorts of unbelievable claims about Himself! To add insult to injury, He even told them they weren’t believers or believing! They took offense and many of them no longer followed, extolled, or identified themselves with Him.

Sadly, as history shows, many of Jesus’ followers are still defecting from Him. Friends, will you be in that number?

I’d like to look at this defection of Jesus’ followers and bring several observations and admonitions to your attention. Would to God we can stem the tide of defection and instead make us all loyal followers of Christ!

 

WHY PEOPLE DON’T FOLLOW, OR QUIT FOLLOWING, JESUS

FIRST, note what made these people in Capernaum turn away from Jesus: it was a sermon. The people quit following Jesus because they didn’t like something Jesus said.

People will flock to Jesus for His miracles and signs. They’ll come to Him for what He can do for them or give to them. But when Jesus gives them a sermon that they don’t particularly like, they’re history.

* Some don’t like certain doctrines.

*Others can’t accept certain claims Jesus made about Himself—especially those claims about His divinity and about Him being the only way to God and Heaven.

*Many can’t stand some of the rules or laws that Jesus requires them to live by.

Friends, what did Jesus say that you don’t like or agree with? IF YOU DON’T ACCEPT THE THINGS JESUS SAID YOU’LL END UP REJECTING HIM.

More to the point, the Capernaumites rejected Jesus because of the claims He made concerning Himself. You see, Jesus gave them a revelation of Himself. He told them in unmistakable terms who He was, where He came from, what He came to do, and what His relationship to God was. The people didn’t believe it. They refused to accept what Jesus said about Himself. The issue, you see, is an issue of identity. The people would not accept Jesus as the Divine Son of God.

Like these people of Jesus’ day, there are many who will admit Jesus to have been a great man or a prophet. But they refuse to accept Him as Divine Son of God. Whether a cult or a world religion, a Jehovah’s Witness or Buddhist, a Mormon or an Eastern Mystic, a Christian Scientist or Islamic; CHRISTIANS ALONE ACKNOWLEDGE JESUS AS THE ETERNAL, DIVINE SON OF GOD.

 

SECOND, notice that while these people followed Jesus, they were never believers! They never accepted Him as the Divine Son of God.

Brethren, NOT EVERYONE WHO IDENTIFIES HIMSELF OR HERSELF WITH THE LORD IS A BELIEVER! NOT EVERYONE IN CHURCH BELIEVES OR ACCEPTS EVERYTHING JESUS SAID. Many believers and followers eventually quit following the Lord because they were never really, truly, believers.

Said differently or from a different vantage point, the Capernaumites didn’t believe what Jesus said about Himself. They refused to believe Him. Their unbelief made them turn away from Jesus.

Friends, IF YOU DON'T DEAL WITH YOUR UNBELIEF, IT'LL EVENTUALLY TAKE YOU AWAY FROM THE LORD—that’s just the nature of unbelief. Hebrews 3:12 exhorts us, Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. Unbelief and turning your back on the Lord go hand-in-hand.

 

THIRD, notice that the things that Jesus said about Himself were pretty incredulous.

*Here was a Man who was going to give us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink. That’s illegal, cannibalistic, and just plain disgusting!
*He said that He was Son of God. He came from Heaven. He’s seen God. And He’s going back to God. Yet we know Him to be Joseph’s and Mary’s Son and He came from Nazareth.

So what are we supposed to make of Jesus’ claims about Himself?

At heart, we think we know better than Jesus. We know more than God. God’s wrong. The Bible’s wrong. We’re right. OUR UNBELIEF IS ROOTED IN THE FIRM BELIEF THAT WE’RE RIGHT AND GOD’S WRONG. There’s no way we can be wrong!

Have you ever been wrong? I have and I’m willing to admit it. I know I don’t know it all. I know there are a lot of people who are a lot smarter than me. I know there are a lot folks who know more than me. So if there are a lot of people who are smarter than me and who know more than me, why can’t God be smarter than me? I’ve been wrong lots of times when I thought I was right. If you refuse to say it, I’ll say it for you: you’ve been wrong too even when you thought you were right. Can we be wrong about the disagreeable things Jesus said?

Friends, THE WORD OF GOD--NO MATTER HOW INCREDULOUS OR HARD TO UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT--IS STILL TO BE RECEIVED AS A MATTER OF FAITH. THE FACT THAT THE SCRIPTURES, OR PORTIONS OF IT, ARE INCREDULOUS, FANTASTIC, OR UNREAL TO YOU, DOESN'T AUTOMATICALLY MEAN THAT THE SCRIPTURES AREN'T TRUE. So what do you do with God’s Word that’s pretty hard to believe or accept? You believe it!

The problem is we insist on following the Lord only on a scientific or intellectual basis. We’ll follow Him only when it makes sense. But as good and necessary as science and logic are, our human intellect is no match for God’s (1 Corinthians 1:19-21)! I’m cool with that. I know the shortcomings of my intellectual, logical prowess. I know firsthand the power of faith. And God’s power. FAITH WILL BRING YOU TO GOD. INTELLECT AND UNBELIEF WILL TURN YOU AWAY FROM GOD.

WHEN YOU REJECT THE BIBLE YOU’LL END UP REJECTING JESUS. And that’s fatal in a very eternal sort of way.

 

AND FOURTH, the Capernaumites were offended by what Jesus said, yet their offense didn’t make what Jesus said false or untrue.

Brethren, THE OFFENSIVENESS OF A DOCTRINE OR MESSAGE DOESN'T AUTOMATICALLY PROVE THAT THE DOCTRINE OR MESSAGE IS WRONG! The fact that the Word of God offends you doesn’t automatically mean the Word is false.

Are you offended by the Word? Don’t use your offense as proof that the Word is wrong. YOUR OFFENSE IS NOT PROOF THAT THE WORD IS WRONG: IT'S PROOF THAT THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU. IT'S CALLED UNBELIEF.

We see in John 6 that the Word that Jesus preached was strong and offensive. It turned people off and it turned them away from the Lord. Let me talk about our preachers today.

What are we preachers supposed to do with a message that’s strong and offensive—a message we know will turn people away? The common tactics are to not preach it at all, or else, to water it down so as to make it palatable and non-offensive.

But I’d like for you to notice that Jesus didn’t do either of these! To our shocked dismay and offense, He preached it and He preached it strong! Brethren, don’t let God’s message, or the likely rejection of that message, stop you from saying what God wants you to say. Certainly, you should speak the truth in love. You shouldn’t offend people.

But at the same time, YOU MUST REALIZE THAT THE TRUTH WILL OFFEND THOSE WHO REFUSE TO BELIEVE IT OR ACCEPT IT. NO MATTER HOW NICE YOU SAY IT, SOME PEOPLE WILL STILL TAKE OFFENSE! AND YOU MUSTN'T LET THEIR OFFENSE STOP YOU FROM SAYING IT.

If your number one goal in ministry is to hold on to as many people as you possibly can, you cannot be used by our Lord! OUR LORD LOST PEOPLE! In our human way of understanding things, He offended and alienated a lot of people. Get used to that fact. God’s Word will turn many people away. But in the sadness of seeing people leave, be thankful that the Word leaves you with the people who are loyal and who are truly believers. Like the twelve, God’s Word, no matter how disagreeable or unlikeable, will not drive the sheep away.

 

John 6:67-71, Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? {68} Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. {69} And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. {70} Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? {71} He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve. John 6:67-71 (ESV), So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" (68) Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, (69) and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." (70) Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil." (71) He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

 

Without a doubt, this discourse of Jesus was a deep one and a hard one at that. Offensive too. Now it’s the common and ready response to turn away from such a Word. Many people did it. But do you know what? The fact that so many people turned their backs on Jesus didn’t mean that Jesus had lost His mind. It didn’t mean He was no longer credible or true. Jesus remained true and He remained who He was even when the majority of people turned away from Him.

Now here’s a question for you. Does the loss or departure of people prove that the preacher’s wrong? Does it prove that the message he preached wasn’t right?

Brethren, if you judge the truth of a message by its results or response, you’d have to say Jesus was very much wrong. Since He fed about ten thousand people at Bethsaida Julias and many of these came looking for Him, I think it would be fair to say that Jesus lost several hundred people, if not thousands, in one day with one sermon. We regard defection on this scale to be proof that the preacher messed up big time!

But the truth of the matter is, THE TRUTH OF A MESSAGE ISN'T DETERMINED BY THE NUMBER OF THOSE WHO ACCEPT IT OR REJECT IT. THE TRUTH IS DETERMINED BY ITS FAITHFULNESS OR ADHERENCE TO THE WORD OF GOD.

Friends, don’t let numbers attract you to a church or a message. And by the same token, don’t let the lack of numbers keep you away. Truth isn’t defined or characterized by numbers. Like these twelve disciples, THOSE WHO STAY WITH JESUS AND THE TRUTH ARE IN THE MINORITY!

If you were one of the twelve and you saw your friends and relatives leaving the Lord, what would you have done? We all like to think we’d stay with the Lord. But make no mistake. PEOPLE LEAVE JESUS AND THE WORD BECAUSE THEY DON’T WANT TO LOSE FAMILY AND FRIENDS.

Now what was it that caused the twelve to stay with Jesus? Two things.

*First, they believed who Jesus was and what He said. Brethren, faith in Jesus and His promises or Word will keep you hanging on to Him. You’ll stay with Him through thick and thin because you know He’s right and His Word is true. LASTING LOYALTY TO JESUS REQUIRES ABIDING FAITH IN HIM—even when everybody else leaves and bad-mouths Him. Without this faith in the Lord, my friends, your walk with the Lord is temporary.

*And second, the disciples stayed with Jesus because they believed that He alone had the words of eternal life. In other words, they had nowhere else to turn to for eternal life. The twelve held on to Jesus because they valued eternal life more than family or friends. Nothing and no one was worth losing eternal life for!

Brethren, what can you possibly want that’s worth more than eternal life to you? What premium do you put on eternal life? How much are you willing to give up to hold on to eternal life? What on Earth, or who on Earth, is worth losing eternal life over? If you value Jesus and eternal life more than anyone or anything else, you’ll hang on to Jesus despite the loss of friends and family because you know that without Jesus you’ve got no life.

Lastly, if you were one of the twelve and you saw thousands upon thousands of Jesus’ followers leaving and bad-mouthing Him, would your faith in Jesus be shaken? Would you have questioned Jesus’ wisdom in preaching what He preached? Would you have found fault with Jesus and blamed Him for the loss of so many?

Brethren, no one—least of all the Lord—enjoys seeing a single person, worse yet, a whole multitude of people, leaving the Lord. Don’t blame the Lord or the Word. People leave because it’s their decision to leave. Jesus never told or encouraged anyone to turn their back on Him. As we see in this text of Scripture, unbelievers who refuse to believe the Lord or the Word will eventually leave—no matter how hard or how long you try to hang on to them.

Take comfort, however, in that God has everything under control—even the loss of so many from the truth. You see, FROM HEAVEN'S PERSPECTIVE, THE MULTITUDES EVENTUALLY HAD TO TURN AWAY FROM JESUS AND JESUS EVENTUALLY HAD TO LOSE HIS POPULARITY AMONG THE PEOPLE. WHY? BECAUSE HE COULD NEVER BE CRUCIFIED WITH THE MASSES SUPPORTING HIM! They simply would not have allowed Herod or Rome to kill Jesus! Even when the masses turned against Him Pilate still had a hard time sentencing Jesus to death because he knew Jesus was an innocent man. But the masses prevailed. You see, Jesus’ continuing and unabated popularity and acceptance by the people would have been a hindrance to the accomplishment of His redemptive mission. Jesus eventually had to be rejected and it was the Word—a disagreeable sermon—that brought it about. Brethren, don’t be disheartened when you see people leave the truth. God knows what He’s doing!

 

 

JESUS GETS INTO ANOTHER OFFENSIVE CONFRONTATIONFN

THE TRADITION OF THE ELDERS

CAPERNAUM

 

Matthew 15:1-2 (NIV),  Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked,  (2)  "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!"
Mark 7:1-5, Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.FN {2} And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. {3} For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft,FN eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. {4} And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not.FN And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables.FN {5} Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? Mark 7:1-5 (CEV), Some Pharisees and several teachers of the Law of Moses from Jerusalem came and gathered around Jesus. (2) They noticed that some of his disciples ate without first washing their hands. (3) The Pharisees and many other Jewish people obey the teachings of their ancestors. They always wash their hands in the proper way before eating. (4) None of them will eat anything they buy in the market until it is washed. They also follow a lot of other teachings, such as washing cups, pitchers, and bowls. (5) The Pharisees and teachers asked Jesus, "Why don't your disciples obey what our ancestors taught us to do? Why do they eat without washing their hands?"

 

Apparently, it was time for the religious leaders and experts from Jerusalem to pay Jesus another visit and see what else they could find to discredit Him in the public eye.

Brethren, WHEN YOU'RE OUT TO FIND SOMETHING WRONG WITH SOMEONE YOU'LL ALWAYS FIND IT! AND, GENERALLY SPEAKING, IT WON'T TAKE LONG.

Sure enough, the Scribes and Pharisees found fault right away when they saw some of Jesus’ disciples eating without first washing their hands. Now this was a violation of the tradition of the elders. You’re supposed to wash your hands before you eat: you don’t wash, you don’t eat!

You see, the issue here was one of ceremonial cleanness in the sight of God. If a person didn’t wash his or her hands before eating they were ceremonially unclean, hence, they were unfit to pray, worship, or come before God’s presence. They were unacceptable to God. The fact that Jesus allowed His disciples to eat with unwashed hands was proof to the Pharisees that He didn’t respect or observe even the most basic traditions and ordinances that every Jew observed. To these religious leaders, it wouldn’t be hard to discredit Jesus this time around! He’s not worth following because He’s a non-pious, non-practicing, law-breaking Jew!

 

A LITTLE HISTORY

Now in order for you to understand why the tradition of the elders was so important to the Scribes and Pharisees and why they felt so strongly about washing hands before you eat, it’s necessary for you to know a little history.

The southern kingdom of Judah came to an end when its capital Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar’s conquering forces in 586 B.C. Many of the Jews were taken captive to Babylon. While in Babylon, it finally dawned upon the Jews that they were there because they disobeyed God’s Law. The destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews were God’s punishment upon the nation for its disobedience to the Law.

To remedy their wrong, the Jews set about to zealously preserve their sacred scrolls, to teach the Law, and foremost, to put the Law into practice in their daily lives. To this end, there arose the rabbinate and a class of learned men called Scribes who devoted themselves to the duplication, study, interpretation, and teaching of God’s Law. They sought to make the Law relevant to the times in which they lived. They wanted it to be practical, or applicable, in order to fit the changing times. You see, the Law was several hundred years old. Times have changed. We’re in a foreign land. We don’t have our Temple. How can we make the Law apply to us today? And so, out of a sincere and zealous desire to obey God, the Rabbis and Scribes came up with all sorts of very minute and detailed rules and regulations that were, in one way or another, related to, or based on, the Law.

Now it’s very important for you to understand this next statement because it’s what drove the religious leaders to come up with, and observe, all these nitty-gritty rules. By making the Law so specific, they were not only making the Law binding upon every area of their life, but more so, they were making absolutely sure that they weren’t violating the Law.

For example, since the Law forbade working on the Sabbath, the Rabbis and Scribes came up with a whole list of things that they considered work so that by not chewing on one’s finger nails on the Sabbath or heating water, for example, a person could be assured of not breaking the Sabbath Law.

You see, they were doing everything possible or imaginable to make sure they weren’t breaking the Law. “Remember Babylon! No more captivities! No more backslidings! No more breaking of the Law!”

Naturally, as time passed by there were more and more Scribes and Rabbis who had an opinion of what was right or wrong. Hence, the list of rules and regulations became ever more multiplied until it had little resemblance to the Law it was trying to obey.

Now these rules and regulations of the rabbinate are the tradition of the elders that’s referred to here in Matthew 15 and Mark 7. They are the Oral Law, which is to be distinguished from the Written Law, also known as the Torah or five Books of Moses. They are Oral because they were passed down from one generation to another solely by word of mouth. Finally, in the third century A.D., Rabbi Judah ben ha-Nasi committed these laws to writing and the result is the Mishnah.

 

HOW TO PROPERLY, AND CEREMONIALLY, WASH YOUR HANDS

So how do you wash hands? Well, it’s to be done in a very specific way. If you didn’t wash the way the elders told you to wash, you weren’t clean no matter how hard or how long you washed your hands.

Here, then, is how you’re supposed to do it. First, hold both hands out with finger tips pointing up. Have someone else pour a minimum of one quarter of a log of water over your hands. (A quarter log is the amount of water necessary to fill about 1½ eggshells.) The water has to run down to your wrists. You then rub your hands together. Now since the water that was poured on your hands was poured on unclean hands, the water was now unclean and had to be washed away. So you hold your hands with finger tips pointing down and have someone pour water again, beginning at the wrists and running off at the finger tips. The hands would be wiped, then you’d rub one wrist against the palm of the other hand, then do the same with the other wrist. This done, the hands were officially and ceremonially clean.

A pious Jew would not only wash his hands before eating, but he would also wash his hands before every course!

 

Matthew 15:7-9 (NIV),  You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:  (8)  "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  (9)  They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.'"
Mark 7:6-8, He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites,FN as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.FN {7} Howbeit in vainFN do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.FN {8} For laying asideFN the commandment of God, ye holdFN the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. Mark 7:6-8 (NASB), And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. (7) 'BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.' (8) "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men."

 

The Pharisees used the tradition of the elders against Jesus, but Jesus answered with the stinging rebuke of Isaiah 29:13. The Pharisees were so concerned about the cleansing of the hands that they ignored the cleansing of the heart. You see, within the framework of rabbinical Judaism, a man could be full of envy and malice, but as long as he washed his hands before eating he was regarded as clean! The outside was clean, but not the inside! In this way, they were hypocrites. They were one thing on the inside but another thing on the outside.

What’s more, they emphasized ritual cleansing because that’s the only way they could approach God to worship or petition Him—by being ceremonially clean. Their approach to God depended on clean hands, not a clean heart!

While these Scribal and Pharisaic leaders worshipped and honored God with their diligent devotion to being ceremonially clean, their worship was nevertheless in vain because they were devoted to the teachings of men, not the teachings of God. You see, while the Old Testament taught the purity and ritual cleanliness of the people, i.e. they couldn’t touch a dead body, a leper, or anyone who was secreting bodily fluids (Leviticus 14 & 15); the Old Testament never decreed all the rules and regulations concerning cleanness and uncleanness found in the tradition of the elders. They were teaching men’s laws and that’s what made their worship of God useless or unacceptable to God. GOD DOESN'T ACCEPT A PIETY THAT'S BASED ON MEN'S LAWS!

 

Matthew 15:3-6 (CEV), Jesus answered: Why do you disobey God and follow your own teaching? (4) Didn't God command you to respect your father and mother? Didn't he tell you to put to death all who curse their parents? (5) But you let people get by without helping their parents when they should. You let them say that what they have has been offered to God. (6) Is this any way to show respect to your parents? You ignore God's commands in order to follow your own teaching.
Mark 7:9-13, And he said to them, Full well ye rejectFN the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother;FN and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:FN {11} But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. {12} And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;FN {13} Making the word of God of none effectFN through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. Mark 7:9-13 (NIV),  And he continued, "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!  (10)  For Moses said, 'Honor your father and mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.'  (11)  But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)—  (12)  then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother.  (13)  Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that."

 

The Pharisees found fault with our Lord’s disciples because they didn’t obey the tradition of the elders. But the Pharisees themselves were in the far greater danger of not obeying the Word of God! They were so concerned about obeying the tradition that they had no conviction or conscience about disobeying the Word.

Jesus gave them an example to back up His claim. The Law of Moses required children to honour their parents. But the elders found a way around this God-given law through the pronouncing of Corban.

Now Corban has two meanings and either one of them fits in well with the point that Jesus was making.

*First, Corban is a Hebrew word which means “an offering dedicated to God.” Suppose a man’s parents were in need and asked their son to help them out financially. If the son didn’t want to do it, but wanted instead to hold on to his own money, all he had to do was say his money was Corban, or dedicated to God. Thus he could not be expected to give his parents something that was to be given to God. The thing about this was, the son would give a portion of his Corban money to the priests or the Temple and he would keep the rest of it for himself! In this way, then, the rabbis devised and legitimized the breaking of God’s very own commandment!

*Now Corban was also used as an oath. Suppose a man was upset with his parents and said, “Corban, nothing I have will ever be used to help you.” The Corban rendered his words an oath, hence, the oath could never be broken. None of his possessions or wealth could ever be used to help his parents—even if he afterwards repented! Because of his oath, for the rest of his life, and theirs, the son was prohibited from helping his parents. And so, once again, the Corban, recklessly used, prevented people from honoring or helping their parents. It kept them from obeying the Lord’s commandment. And this, sadly, was just one example amongst many whereby observance of the elders’ tradition involved—and legitimized—disobedience to God’s laws.

Worse yet, God’s leaders were teaching God’s people to disobey God’s law! No wonder Jesus didn’t have anything nice to say to these people! What hypocrites indeed!

Saddest of all, these religious leaders were making their laws more important or authoritative than God’s laws. They annulled God’s laws. To them it was no longer good or applicable. It’s as if they said, “Forget God’s laws. There are no laws but ours!"

 

Matthew 15:10-11 (NLT), Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. "Listen," He said, "and try to understand. (11) It's not what goes into your mouth that defiles you;FN you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth." Matthew 15:10-11 (CEV), Jesus called the crowd together and said, "Pay attention and try to understand what I mean. (11) The food that you put into your mouth doesn't make you unclean and unfit to worship God. The bad words that come out of your mouth are what make you unclean."
Mark 7:14-15, And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: (15) There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. Mark 7:14-15 (NLT), Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. "All of you listen," He said, "and try to understand. (15) It's not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart. "

 

Having reproved the Pharisees for their disregard of God’s Law, Jesus called the people unto Himself and gave them one of the most revolutionary teaching He’d ever given the Jews.FN Nothing that a man ate rendered him unclean. It’s not what goes into the mouth, but rather, what comes out of it, that makes a person unclean. Thus, with one breath of His mouth, Jesus did away with the dietary restrictions of the Old Testament. What the Law said was unclean was no longer unclean!

Jesus was setting the Law aside and setting up a whole new law!

What’s more, He did away with everything the venerable rabbis taught concerning cleanness and uncleanness. You don’t have to follow all their instructions and regulations anymore because uncleanness doesn’t apply to anything you put in your mouth!

From the perspective of the Jews, Jesus challenged and contradicted both the Written Law and the Oral Law.FN And in their place He gave them a doctrine that was never before heard of or imagined.

It put the people in the awkward position of having to decide whether they were going to stick with the Written, Revealed Law of Moses, or set it aside in order to follow Jesus’ teaching.

For the Scribes and Pharisees, what Jesus said was a severe blow to everything they believed: Judaism just wouldn’t be Judaism without all the washings and the fuss about uncleanness. This was indeed a very radical teaching and it made believing on Jesus a very hard thing to do.FN

 

Matthew 15:12-14, Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? {13} But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.FN {14} Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Matthew 15:12-14 (NLT), Then the disciples came to Him and asked, "Do You realize You offended the Pharisees by what You just said?" (13) Jesus replied, "Every plant not planted by My heavenly Father will be uprooted, (14) so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch."

 

What was the Pharisees’ reaction to Jesus’ words? They were offended. They didn’t believe a word of what Jesus said and they took offense enough to arouse the disciples’ concern. Jesus’counsel? Leave them alone. Brethren, don’t worry about those whom the Father hasn’t planted. They’re not going anywhere but down.

 

Matthew 15:15-20, Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. (16) And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? (17) Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? (18) But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. (19) For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: (20) These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. Matthew 15:15-20 (ESV), But Peter said to him, "Explain the parable to us." (16) And he said, "Are you also still without understanding? (17) Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? (18) But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. (19) For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. (20) These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone."
Mark 7:17-23, And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. {18} And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also?FN Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; {19} Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught,FN purgingFN all meats? {20} And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. {21} For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, {22} Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: {23} All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.FN Mark 7:17-23 (NIV),  After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable.  (18)  "Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them?  (19)  For it doesn't go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)  (20)  He went on: "What comes out of a person is what defiles them.  (21)  For it is from within, out of a person's heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder,  (22)  adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  (23)  All these evils come from inside and defile a person."

 

The Pharisees were offended by what Jesus said and the disciples apparently didn’t understand His words either. They considered Jesus’ teaching a parable that needed to be interpreted and explained. So Jesus explained it to them.

The things that defile a person are spiritual in nature, not physical or material. Natural substances like food, cups, and people—all those things that the Law and the Rabbis said were unclean and could make other people unclean—don’t defile a person. Not ceremonially or spiritually. Why? Because physical substances don’t defile spiritually: they’re ingested, digested, then distributed throughout the body or else discharged from the body.

Defilement is something that’s spiritual and it has to do with the heart—not the literal heart with aortas, arteries and blood, but the spiritual heart which is the center of our thoughts, emotions and personality. The things that defile are sinful thoughts and emotions that cause a person to think bad things, say bad things, and do bad things; they cause a person to behave sinfully and live sinfully. Sinful thoughts and emotions, like dirt, make the heart and the person unclean. These, Jesus said, are the things that defile—not food or unwashed hands (Matthew 15:18-20).

In other words, it’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but rather, what comes out of it and the heart.

 

CHRISTIAN TRADITIONS TODAY

REVIEW

Let’s review our Scripture text. Certain Pharisees and Scribes came to Capernaum from Jerusalem to check up on Jesus. They saw the disciples eating without first washing their hands. They questioned Jesus about it because this was a violation of the tradition of the elders. Jesus, in return, accused them of nullifying the Scriptures in order to keep their tradition. Rabbinic tradition had become so important to them that they set the Scriptures aside and now Judaism became a religion centered around the teachings and prescriptions of the Rabbis. In this way, their brand of Judaism was a man-made religion.

Jesus then went on to explain what really defiles a person. Foods or unwashed hands don’t defile. The things that defile are inside. They’re in the heart. They’re the sinful thoughts and emotions that make people do and say bad things. They’re the sinful lusts that make people behave wickedly and live sinfully. Instead of being concerned about foods and unwashed hands, be concerned about what’s in the heart because that’s where uncleanness begins and resides.

So how does all this apply to us today? Brethren, we mustn’t make Christianity a religion of man-made traditions and doctrines.

 

A DEFINITION OF TRADITION

Before I go any farther let’s come to an understanding of what traditions are. Normally, we think of traditions as being an established way of doing things; a ritual that’s been faithfully observed down through the years. This, however, is not how I’d like to use the word ‘tradition’.

As we look at the history of the rabbinate we see that the traditions of the elders were a sincere and concerted effort of the Jews to live in compliance with the Law of Moses. It was, what you might say, their personal, practical application of the Scriptures to their daily lives.

Tradition, then, is a person’s application of the Word of God to his or her own life. It’s the same thing as living out your convictions or translating your belief into action.

You see, you read the Word of God and, based on your interpretation of the Word or the doctrinal teaching you’ve been taught, you have a conviction about what it means and how you’re supposed to obey it or apply it to your own life.

For example, the Lord tells you not to steal (Exodus 20:15). Stealing is taking something that doesn’t belong to you. And so, you don’t pick and eat your neighbor’s peaches because they don’t belong to you and your neighbor didn’t say you could help yourself to them. You see, not picking your neighbor’s peaches is one way you choose to apply Exodus 20:15 to your life.

This is what tradition is. It’s living out your beliefs or convictions. It’s applying the Word of God in a practical way to your own life.FN

Now that we have an understanding of what traditions are, let’s take a closer look at how we apply the Scriptures to our own lives today. You see, Jesus looked closely at how the Scribes and Pharisees were applying the Law of Moses to their own lives and He found that, in the process of applying the Law, they set the Law aside and their convictions or interpretation of the Law became their own law (known as the Oral Law or the tradition of the elders). This, brethren, is the mistake we want to avoid.

There are two basic lessons we want to learn.

APPLY THE SCRIPTURES IN A PERSONAL, PRACTICAL WAY TO YOUR OWN LIFE

One thing we see in our Scripture text is that Jesus expects us to apply the Word of God to our own lives today. In the example He used, He expects us to honor our parents. When He tells us in His Word to do something He expects us to do it. He doesn’t want us to be hearers only, but doers too (James 1:22). He doesn’t want us to confine our faith to believing: He wants us to act on what we believe (James 2:14-26). THE WORD, BRETHREN, ISN'T JUST TO BE READ OR BELIEVED: IT'S TO BE APPLIED AND OBEYED IN A PERSONAL, PRACTICAL WAY. Here are a few admonitions to help us all do just that.

 

A. STAY WITH THE PRINCIPLE OF THE WORD.

To obey the Word you first need to understand what the Word means. Obviously, you can’t obey something you don’t understand.

Now for the most part, the Word is sufficiently clear that there can be no doubt as to its meaning. For example, when the Lord says, Don’t kill or Don’t commit adultery, we pretty much know what the Lord is talking about.

Sometimes, however, the Word isn’t specific enough: it doesn’t list all of the ways a particular verse is to be obeyed or applied.

Take the fifth commandment for an example: You need to honor your father and mother. What does honor mean?

*Well, the word in the Hebrew means heavy or weighty and it refers to a person who commands influence, respect, and obedience. Who they are—the position they occupy or hold—makes them weighty or demanding of honor. A government official or church leader is an example of someone who’s weighty. The fifth commandment, then, obliges us to respect and obey our parents because of who they are. In the Hebrew, they’re weighty. In the vernacular, they deserve our respect.

*Note that the fifth commandment never specifically said we had to help our parents out financially or materially! It commanded us to honor them, but it never said we had to give them money or lend them a helping hand. Do you see what’s going on here? Even though the Scriptures didn’t say Honor your parents means helping them out in any way they need help, Jesus nevertheless clearly understood the fifth commandment to mean exactly that and He obligated us all to apply the commandment in that very specific way.

Scriptures, I am saying, don’t tell us all of the ways a particular commandment, exhortation, or admonition is supposed to be applied. But the thing of it is, Jesus still expects us to obey it and apply it to our own lives—even if the Scriptures don’t specifically say how we’re supposed to apply it!

Brethren, stay with the principle or spirit of the Word. The letter of the Word has one meaning: killing means murder, honor means respect. But the principle behind the letter has a lot of other closely-related meanings. Killing isn’t confined to murder: it involves abortion, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. Honor means a lot more things than just respect: it means being nice, kind, and helpful too—it’s all of the things you do for someone who carries around a lot of weight, power, or influence. Friends, JESUS EXPECTS YOU TO DO MORE THAN JUST STAY WITH THE LETTER OF THE WORD: HE EXPECTS YOU TO OBSERVE THE PRINCIPLE BEHIND THE LETTER.

 

B. THE SILENCE OF SCRIPTURE ISN’T AN EXCUSE FOR NOT APPLYING IT PERSONALLY OR PRACTICALLY.

Even though the fifth commandment never said anything about helping our parents or giving them money, Jesus nevertheless interpreted the commandment that way and He expected all of us to apply and obey the commandment in that very specific way.

Brethren, like helping our parents financially and materially, there are a lot of things that the Bible doesn’t say anything about. It doesn’t say we can’t smoke, wear bikinis, watch television, listen to rock-n-roll, use drugs, run to doctors, have abortions, hold a mortgage, and many other like things. But, like giving and helping, Jesus nonetheless expects us to observe the principle of the Scriptures. HE EXPECTS US TO APPLY THE SCRIPTURES IN WAYS THAT THE SCRIPTURES THEMSELVES DO NOT SPECIFICALLY MENTION.FN THE SILENCE OF SCRIPTURE, MY FRIENDS, CAN'T BE USED AS AN EXCUSE NOT TO OBSERVE OR APPLY THE PRINCIPLE OF SCRIPTURE.

You see, many Christians’ philosophy is, if it isn’t stated or found in Scripture, then they don’t have to do it or obey it. They’ll obey only what’s written and disregard whatever may be implied or deduced from Scripture.

But the shortfall of this philosophy is, in God’s sight, you’re disobeying the Scriptures when you violate, or else fail to put into practice, the principle behind a particular verse of Scripture. In other words, SOMETHING PRACTICAL MAY NOT BE WRITTEN IN SCRIPTURE, BUT THIS DOESN'T EXCUSE YOU FROM NOT PUTTING THAT SCRIPTURE INTO PRACTICE. BRETHREN, IT'S POSSIBLE TO DISOBEY THE SCRIPTURES BY FAILING TO DO THINGS THAT EVEN THE SCRIPTURES THEMSELVES DON'T SPECIFY!

 

C. DON’T LOOK FOR WAYS TO GET OUT OF OBEYING THE WORD.

God, brethren, calls us to obey the Word—not come up with creative, Corban interpretations that excuse or exempt us from having to obey it.

You see, whatever the Rabbis’ original motives or intentions were, their Corban teaching ended up being a reason or an excuse for not helping one’s parents.

Now the thing about Corban was this: their disobedience to the fifth commanded was guised under the cloak of piety or devotion to God. That is, they could not give their parents any money because they had already devoted or consecrated their money to God. It was God’s money now and they couldn’t give it away. That sounds pretty good and religious!

But do you know what? God considered their monetary offering an act of disobedience to His commandment when needy parents were involved! He expected these devout, religious Jews to help their parents financially!

Friends, DON’T DISGUISE YOUR DISOBEDIENCE UNDER A CLOAK OF PIETY! DON’T USE GOD AS AN EXCUSE FOR NOT OBEYING HIS WORD!

*For example, the Lord commands us not to commit fornication, I Corinthians 6:18. But the way some people think, He also said to love your neighbor, Mark 12:28-31. This is, after all, the second great commandment. So they use this great commandment to become sexually involved with their neighbor, thus violating the prohibition against fornication. How do they rationalize the sin? “It’s not fornication when love is involved!” Do you see what’s happening? They’re using the Word to get out of obeying the Word!

*Another example is James 5:14. The Lord tells us to call the elders of the church when we’re sick. Others, however, are quick to point out that Mark 2:17 tells us that the sick need a physician. So Mark 2:17 ends up being a Corban teaching to get out of trusting the Lord for healing and trusting the doctors instead to do the healing.

*Rebelling against a strict code of dress, a young woman will use the principle of liberty and the prohibition against legalism as a justification for dressing sensually or immodestly. She stands firmly on Galatians 5:1 and lives as if 1 Timothy 2:9 is legalism all over again.

Do you see what I mean? Some Christians regularly disobey the Scriptures and they use Scripture to defend it! And because they’ve got Scripture for it, they act as if they’re more right, more pious, more better, than their brethren who think and do otherwise. Friends, don’t look for ways to get out of obeying the Word! Don’t use the Lord as an excuse for not obeying the Lord! Pharisees did that sort of thing. Unless you’re a Pharisee, don’t act like one. Stay with what the Word says, then put it into practice.

 

D. GIVE THE PREACHER AND OTHERS THE LIBERTY TO SHOW YOU HOW A PRINCIPLE OF SCRIPTURE CAN BE PRACTICALLY APPLIED.

The fifth commandment didn’t specifically say that a Jew had to help his parents or give them money. But Jesus saw that as being part of honoring one’s parents. He expected them to do it even when the Bible didn’t specifically say to do it!

On silent matters such as this, someone has to tell us—if we don’t already know it—that a part of honoring one’s parents involves giving them money and helping them out when they need it.

Now some of us don’t have to be told what all is involved in a principle of Scripture. We just know within ourselves that giving and helping is a part of honoring our parents. We know that abortion is a violation of the sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13). Bikinis aren’t modest (1 Timothy 2:9). And there's no such thing as Christian magic in God's eyes (2 Corinthians 6:14-17).

But not everyone knows that. Not everyone sees that. They need to be told. And the primary ones, but not the only ones, whom God has chosen for this task of enlightenment or instruction is the preacher or pastor of the flock.

The problem is, people today, as in every generation, don’t like being told what to do. They don’t like being told how to live their lives or how to apply the Scriptures practically. So preachers are often times automatically labeled legalistic, cultic, or a teacher of men’s doctrines because they’re teaching things that are not specifically found in Scripture.

Brethren, IF JESUS EXPECTS US TO DO THINGS THAT ARE NOT SPECIFICALLY STATED IN SCRIPTURE, BUT ARE NONETHELESS THERE IN PRINCIPLE, THEN WE'VE GOT TO BE INFORMED OF THE SPECIFICS BEHIND THE PRINCIPLE AND PRAYERFULLY CONSIDER THE PREACHER'S WORDS.

I’m not asking you to swallow anyone’s words. But I am asking you to pray about the unwritten, silent specifics and consider in your heart whether these specifics are truly in keeping with the principle, spirit, or intent of Scripture. And if they are, then obey or do them.

Remember, as in the matter of giving or helping one’s parents, things don’t have to be specifically spelled out in Scripture before we’re obligated to do them. Failing to do something that isn’t specifically written in Scripture is considered by our Lord as an act of disobedience to the Scripture. THE PRINCIPLE ITSELF BINDS US TO ACTION OR OBEDIENCE.

 

TAKE HEED AGAINST THE SUBTLE DANGERS OF PIETY AND ZEAL

The second basic lesson that we can learn from this encounter with the Pharisees and Scribes is this. We must guard against the subtle dangers of piety and zeal.

You see, the Pharisees and Scribes were a hundred percent sold out to God. You could say that they were the ancient equivalent of our modern-day overcomers, Gideon’s Army, or whatever else you want to call those of us who were totally sold out to God and who would rather die for Him instead of deny or disobey Him. Hopefully, that’s you and me. Anyways, these men were totally consecrated and devoted to God, the Law, and their tradition. They really wanted to obey God and be as good a Jew as possible. But do you know what? As sincere or zealous as they were, they were so very wrong! I’ll talk about that in just a minute.

But before I go any farther, let me say that God wants us to be pious and zealous. He wants us to be totally sold out or committed to Him. He wants us to be as good a Christian as possible. Brethren, He even wants us to be perfect (Matthew 5:48)!

But piety and zeal have their dangers and it’s these dangers that we must be aware of and take heed against.

 

A. YOU STRAY FROM THE PRINCIPLE OF THE WORD.

Like the Pharisees and Scribes who wanted so much to be faithful to the Law, you can be so zealously committed to the Scriptures that, in your desire to apply the Word to your life, you stray from the principle of the Word so that, in the end, your conviction or tradition has no semblance to the Scriptures you’re trying so hard to obey.

Take the Pharisees for an example. The Old Testament mandated ceremonial cleanness. But do you know what? It never mandated the washing of hands before eating!FN It didn’t stop you from eating if your hands weren’t washed! It never said you had to wash your hands before you eat!

Now, as we intimated earlier, if you believed washing your hands was a legitimate application of the Levitical laws of cleanness, that would have been perfectly alright. But the Pharisees got so minute with their convictions that the washing of hands wasn’t good enough to make you clean: you had to do it a certain way, with a certain amount of water, and the water itself had to be clean—that is, it had to come from a clean vessel or a clean pool. Unless these requirements were met, you weren’t clean—even if you washed your hands.

The point is, apply the Word to your life. But don’t go to an extreme that you end up being so far off base.

Take healing for an example. Some of us believe that the Lord wants us to trust Him entirely to heal us (Exodus 15:26). God ordained faith, not doctors or medicines, to heal us (James 5:14-15). Where do we draw the line between medicine and common sense? How do you balance the need to trust the Lord for healing with the need to be a responsible steward of your body? For example, is it wrong to take vitamins? Is skin lotion medicine for the skin? Is it alright to wear sunglasses? You don’t take medicines for an upset stomach, so is drinking 7-Up a form of medicine when you’re battling an upset stomach? Can we suck on a peppermint or lemon drop when our throats are irritated or sore? Is it wrong to use baking soda or lye soap on irritated skin to take away the itch? You’re believing the Lord to heal your ankle. Is it then a sin for you to walk on crutches until the ankle is manifestly healed? Is it wrong to use Band-Aids or peroxide on a wound? I make light of no one’s convictions on these matters, nor do I pass judgment on these matters. The point is, stay with the principle of the Word and don’t go to such an extreme that you end up with something that has no semblance to the Word you’re trying so hard to obey.

 

B. YOUR CONVICTIONS SUPERSEDE THE SCRIPTURES.

Like the Pharisees with their tradition, you can become so zealous in the matter of obedience that you quit preaching the Word and all you preach about is your conviction or tradition. I know you mean well and you want others to obey the Word too. But don’t make the mistake of the Pharisees!

You see, Judaism started out being a religion centered around Torah. But with the Babylonian captivity, Judaism became more and more centered around the teachings of the Rabbis. By Jesus’ time, tradition superseded the Torah. The religious leaders ignored, set aside, and nullified the Torah. The Oral Law took the place of the Written Law. Judaism became a matter of what the famous Rabbis said.

Brethren, CONVICTIONS ARE IMPORTANT. BUT DON'T LET THEM GET TO A POINT WHERE YOUR CHRISTIANITY CENTERS AROUND YOUR CONVICTIONS INSTEAD OF THE SCRIPTURES.

In Jesus’ day, the big thing for the religious leaders was the washing of hands, cups, and pots. In our day, we in the Faith Church consider medical healing to be a pretty big thing. Contrary to the thinking of most, medical healing is a pretty big deal because Jesus died for our healing (Isaiah 53:4-5, Matthew 8:17)! The sick need a doctor (Luke 5:31). But God is the Christian’s Doctor (Exodus 15:26). Instead of calling the doctor to prescribe medicine God wants us to call the church’s elders to pray for healing (James 5:14-15). The doctrine is right. We can’t stop preaching that.

But we can get to a point where we’re so caught up in doctors that that’s all we preach about and against. Our Christianity becomes a crusade against doctors. Really? Brethren, this anti-doctor form of Christianity has no semblance to the Christianity that Jesus practiced. True, Jesus never sent anyone to a doctor. True, He healed everyone without medicines and surgeries. But don't you find it odd that He didn't speak a single word against doctors? As focal as healing was to His ministry, Jesus' ministry never became an anti-doctor crusade! Paul and the rest of the apostles never conducted such a crusade! How can we be right to crusade against doctors when we're doing something that Jesus, Paul, and the apostles never did and never commanded us to do?

The whole point and principle of Scripture is one of total trust in the Lord. God, brethren, wants all His people to look to Him and trust Him for healing—that’s the message of Scripture and that’s what we’ve got to preach. But not everyone is to that point of faith in God for healing. A lot of Christians, through no fault of their own, have not been taught the promises of Divine healing. That's where we come in. We’ve got to let God’s people know they can trust the Lord for their healing. The objective is not to get Christians to quit going to the doctor: it’s to get them to go to the Lord and trust Him for their healing. I pray God help you understand that.

The Scribes and Pharisees changed God's original version of Judaism and made it mannish, that is, rabbinical. Brethren, don't make the same mistake. Don't make Christianity a mannish version that God doesn't recognize. Don’t make your convictions supplant the Scriptures. We don’t need Pharisees and Scribes in the Church today!

 

C. YOU BECOME CRITICAL AND CONDEMNING OF THOSE WHO DON’T SHARE YOUR CONVICTION.

The Pharisees saw some of Jesus’ disciples eat without first washing their hands. They were immediately up in arms about it and criticized them, and our Lord as well, for not respecting and observing their cherished tradition.

Like the Scribes and Pharisees, you can be so devout in your traditions that you become critical and condemning of those who don’t share your conviction. You ridicule and condemn those who don’t see what you see or who don’t interpret Scripture the way you do. You anathemize those who don’t do what you do or who don’t live the way you live. Instead of showing people what the Word says, you spend your time finding fault with them and threatening them with perdition.

Brethren, you may be entirely right in your interpretations and convictions of Scripture. BUT BEING CORRECT DOESN'T GIVE YOU THE RIGHT TO BE CRITICAL. BEING SCRIPTURAL DOESN'T MEAN YOU CAN BE SARDONIC, SARCASTIC, OR MALICIOUS.

No matter how right you are or how wrong other people are, A CRITICAL, CONDEMNING SPIRIT DOESN'T DO ANYONE ANY GOOD! YOU CAN'T MINISTER TO PEOPLE WHEN YOU'RE CRITICAL OF THEM. You can try all you want, but it's not going to work. You see, YOUR CRITICISM PREVENTS THOSE YOU CRITICIZE FROM RECEIVING ANY COUNSEL OR INSTRUCTION FROM YOU. When you criticize, chide, and condemn people, you're only making them shut their hearts and ears to you. In this very real way, your criticism prevents them from receiving the truth or the Scriptures you're trying so hard to give them.

IF YOU REALLY WANT TO HELP PEOPLE, YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO QUIT THROWING STONES AT THEM. AS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT DISPENSATION, THROWING STONES ONLY ACCOMPLISHES ONE THING: IT KILLS.

Brethren, you need to give others the liberty to apply the Scriptures as they see it and understand it to their own lives. You need to give them time to learn and grow. Growth takes time—in the physical, as well as the spiritual, realm. God has a lot of other Christians out there who really love Him like you do and who want to please Him. But they don’t yet see the things you see. Pray for them. Instruct them. Encourage them. Be nice to them. Be patient and forbearing towards them. PEOPLE, LIKE PLANTS, DON' GROW TOO WELL IN A HOSTILE, ADVERSE ENVIRONMENT.

After spending years of your life as a spiritual weakling, God got through to you and did a pretty good job maturing you. Don’t you think He can do the same for others? Do you think God’s given up on His people and He’s done trying? Brethren, you don’t know God! Give people time. Give them liberty to practice what they believe is a Biblical conviction or tradition. Remember. They belong to God and He knows exactly how to deal with them and make them pleasing in His eyes.

 

D. YOU LOSE SIGHT OF THE THINGS THAT REALLY MATTER THE MOST TO GOD.

Like the Pharisees who were preoccupied with constantly washing themselves, you can take so great a care in the things you feel so strongly about that you lose sight of the things that really matter the most to God. You get bogged down in externals that you forget about the matters of the heart.

*It’s good that you’re so concerned about not trusting in doctors or medicines. But brethren, are you trusting the Lord? Are you cultivating faith in your heart?

*It’s neat to know that you don’t want to be like the world and you’re doing everything you can to be separate from, and unlike, the world. But what does your heart look like? What’s it full of? Is hatred and resentment still in there? Has spiritual piety and zeal given place to pride and self-righteousness? Do you still have that stubborn streak in you?

*You’re really smart to take care of your body and make sure you do your part in keeping it holy and healthy for the Lord. But has salt and fat given way to fear in your heart? Has cholesterol made an unbeliever out of you so that you now refuse to eat certain meats or foods because they’re high in cholesterol? Has meat made a vegan out of you? Has bodily exercise consumed your time and energies that you have little time for prayer or devotions?

* I commend you for doing research on a lot of things to make sure you don’t open the door to occult spirits. You know more than most that many of the things people assume are innocent are, in reality, demonic. But friends, does the Devil have a part of your mouth? There’s been a lot of complaining lately. Does the Devil inhabit a part of your mind? There’s sure been a lot of filthy thoughts passing through as of late. Does the Devil have a part of your body? That lust has got to go! Are you helping the Devil do his work? Your criticism and self-righteous attitude have sure made it difficult for others to believe the Gospel that you’re preaching to them.

Do you see what I mean? It’s possible to get so caught up in your convictions and traditions that you lose sight of the more important things that really matter the most to God. Brethren, watch your heart. Like the Pharisees, it doesn’t matter how many times you wash yourself or how clean your cups and pots are. A dirty heart makes you defiled and there’s no amount of outward washings or good works that can make you clean. Brethren, DON'T FORGET THE HEART!FN

 

 

JESUS AND A VERY PERSISTENT WOMANFN

IN THE VICINITY OF TYRE AND SIDON

 

Matthew 15:21-28, Then Jesus went thence, and departedFN into the coasts of TyreFN and Sidon.FN {22} And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David;FN my daughter is grievously vexedFN with a devil. {23} But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. {24} But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. {25} Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. {26} But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and cast it to dogs. {27} And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. {28} Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. Matthew 15:21-28 (NLT), Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. (22) A Gentile woman who lived there came to Him, pleading, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely." (23) But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then His disciples urged Him to send her away. "Tell her to go away," they said. "She is bothering us with all her begging." (24) Then Jesus said to the woman, "I was sent only to help God's lost sheep—the people of Israel." (25) But she came and worshiped Him, pleading again, "Lord, help me!" (26) Jesus responded, "It isn't right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs." (27) She replied, "That's true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters' table." (28) "Dear woman," Jesus said to her, "your faith is great. Your request is granted." And her daughter was instantly healed.
Mark 7:24-30 And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid. {25} For a certain woman, whose young daughterFN had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: {26} The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. {27} But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meetFN to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. {28} And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. {29} And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. {30} And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.FN

 

Having given what must certainly have been a very controversial teaching on defilement, Jesus and His disciples departed from Galilee and withdrew to the Phoenician region of Tyre and Sidon. Apparently, Jesus wanted to get away from the crowds and a good way to do that was to go into Gentile territory where not too many Jews would follow. But even here, the apostolic company’s privacy was short-lived as a Gentile, Syro-Phoenician woman came and asked Jesus to deliver her daughter from a demonic spirit.

Notice Jesus’ response to the woman. First, He ignored her. Then, in essence, He told her He couldn’t help her because He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Finally, He told her it wasn’t good to give the bread of deliverance to dogs first. The children needed to be fed first, then the house pets. The bread of deliverance was to be given to the Jews first, then the Gentiles afterwards. In a word, the woman could have her daughter’s deliverance, but not now. Later.

Now place yourself in the woman’s shoes and understand what’s going on here. Jesus first ignored her, then He excluded her, and finally, He put her off. He even called her a dog! I can’t imagine how humiliated and insulted this woman must have felt! What did she do? Though somewhat shaken by an unexpected, unpropitious response, she remain undeterred in her resolve to get her daughter delivered. She kept right on asking and asking until she got what she wanted!

THE KIND OF PERSISTENCE THAT JESUS COMMENDS

At first glance, if we didn’t know the rest of the story, we would probably say that this woman was presumptuous. She boldly seeks Jesus out and asks Him for the deliverance of her daughter. But Jesus doesn’t answer her. So what does she do? She keeps on asking—maybe even getting louder, thinking that maybe Jesus didn’t hear her and that’s why He’s not answering her. Still no answer or response. But she keeps on asking! Friends, she’s pestering Jesus! She isn’t letting up. In fact, the disciples are so fed up with her persistent outcries that they begged Jesus to send her away: “Lord, get rid of this woman!” You might say she got on their nerves.

Finally, when Jesus does respond He essentially said He couldn’t, or wouldn’t help her. That was His answer! Does the lady go home? Not on your life! She keeps on asking! Friends, the lady’s got nerve. Why couldn’t she just accept Jesus’ answer and go home?

If you were this lady and Jesus ignored you or told you He couldn't, or wouldn't, help you, what would you have done? Would you have resigned yourself to Jesus’ will and gone home empty-handed? Would you have kept on asking? Would you have settled for later? Or would you have had the nerve to keep coming back at Jesus and insisting on having it now?

Many of us can stand against negative circumstances, demonic lies, and men’s evil reports. In spite of these negative things, we’ll continue to believe and press in for the promise. But who of us will continue to believe after Jesus Himself gives us an answer that isn’t a good one?

Friends, I want you to look at this Syro-Phoenician woman because the woman not only believed: she was persistent. She kept on hanging around and asking when it was apparent, circumstantially speaking, that Jesus wasn’t too eager or willing to help her. Even though Jesus had already given her an answer, she refused to accept that answer! She persisted in asking until Jesus gave her what she wanted. Brethren, this is persistence. This is great faith. And do you know what? It’s something that Jesus commends! Do you want great faith? Then you need to be persistent.

 

A DEFINITION OF PERSISTENCE

What is persistence? Persistence is the refusal to be denied. It’s refusing to take No or Later for an answer. Persistence is perseverance in prayer. It’s staying in Jesus’ presence and asking until you get what you want now! In a word, persistence is asking and asking and continuing to ask until Jesus gives you the answer you seek.

At first glance persistence looks very much like--

*presumption. You think you know more, or know better, than God. You refuse to accept God’s answer. After all, you know what’s good for you. You deserve what you’re asking God for!

*stubbornness. You’re stubborn and self-willed. You’re accustomed to having your way. You don’t give up easily. You insist on having what you want.

*unbelief. You don’t believe that God has given you what you want. After all, you don’t see the answer. It looks as if He didn’t answer you. So you keep on asking and asking until you get and see whatever it is you asked God for.

They all look like the same thing, So what’s the difference between persistence and presumption, stubbornness, and unbelief? How can you tell them apart? You look at the heart.

*If you see selfishness, pride, lustful desire, sinful, ulterior motives, and unbelief, then you’re dealing with sin. You need to quit pestering God and get your heart right with Him.

*If you know you’re asking for something legitimate, something God promised, something that isn’t sinful or isn’t motivated by sinful desires; then you’re dealing with godly, commendable persistence. Don't quit asking! Keep on asking because God will give you what you want.

THERE ARE TIMES WHEN FAITH IS TESTED

In order for you to understand persistence and differentiate it from presumption, stubbornness, or unbelief, you need to understand that there are times when faith is tested. Of course we know that. We know about bad circumstances, the evil reports of unbelieving men, and the lies that Satan speaks to us in our mind. But this isn’t what I’m talking about right now.

I’m talking about God Himself taking an active part in your trial. There are times when God puts your faith to the test and His initial answer or response to you, as it was to this woman, is dead silence. He’s ignoring you: you get this distinct feeling that your prayers just aren’t being heard. Sometimes, instead of ignoring you, His answer is “No” or “Later.” Brethren, the thing you’ve got to understand is God’s testing you. He’s trying to teach you something. He’s teaching you to persevere and persist; to not give up. He’s working on your faith, perfecting it, so that you learn to persevere in faith.

You see, God doesn’t always deal with everyone the exact same way.

*When the leper came to Jesus for cleansing Jesus cleansed Him right away (Mark 1:40-45).

*But His response wasn’t always so instantaneously gratifying. For example, when the two blind men followed Jesus home from Jairus’ house they cried for healing but Jesus ignored them and kept on walking home. Do you know what these blind men did? They kept on following and asking! Finally, when Jesus got home and went into the house, the blind men followed Him in and it was then that Jesus healed them (Matthew 9:27-30).

*A similar thing happened to a blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus (Luke 18:35-43). He asked Jesus to heal him, but Jesus kept on walking by. What did Bartimaeus do? He kept on shouting until Jesus called for him and healed him.

*When Mary and Martha called for Jesus to come to Bethany and heal their sick brother Lazarus, Jesus waited two days before He responded to the call (John 11:1-7).

*When the Syro-Phoenician woman asked for help, Jesus, in effect, said No or Later, although He indeed ended up helping her.

Do you see what I’m trying to say? Jesus dealt differently with different people. All who asked were given what they asked for. But while Jesus answered the prayers of some instantaneously, in other instances and with other people He tried them before He gave them what they wanted. As in the case of the Syro-Phoenician woman, FAITH IS SOMETIMES TRIED BEFORE IT IS REWARDED.

How was the woman’s faith tried? What did her trial consist of? Well, Jesus first ignored her, then He excluded her from His ministry, and finally, He put her off for a later time. Simply put and to the point, the trial was, it looks like God isn’t going to answer your prayer. He isn’t going to give you what you asked Him for.

Brethren, why would Jesus in effect say No or Later when all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen (2 Corinthians 1:20)? Was Jesus going back on His Word and contradicting Himself? Not at all! His response to the woman was a trying of her faith. He was perfecting the woman’s faith and encouraging her not to give up.

Where’s the encouragement? His No became a Later and, depending on how you look at it, Later could mean No, Not right now; or it could mean Yes, but later. You see, LATER IS SIMPLY A YES THAT’S BEING DELAYED OR POSTPONED TO A FUTURE TIME. Don’t you see? Jesus is encouraging the woman to keep on believing. The door of deliverance now shut to her as a Gentile is beginning to open. “Lady, don’t give up now.”

Brethren, when God doesn’t seem to be hearing or answering you, when it looks as if Heaven is deaf to your request and you know in your spirit that God hasn’t answered your prayer; you need to know that this trial or response from God is not so that you’ll resign yourself to God’s “No” and quit believing or asking.

Brethren, GOD'S NOT TESTING YOU SO THAT YOU'LL GROW FAINT IN FAITH AND GIVE UP BELIEVING. RATHER, HE'S TESTING YOU SO THAT YOU'LL PRESS IN BY FAITH AND PERSIST IN PRAYER UNTIL YOU GET WHATEVER IT IS YOU WANT. Friends, God doesn’t say “No” or “Later” to make your faith faint or fail. He says “No” or “Later” to make your faith great!

Brethren, YOU DON'T GET GREAT FAITH BY GIVING UP SO EASILY. Faith doesn’t become great by giving up believing or asking when Jesus ignores you at first or answers you unfavorably. Brethren, God’s “No” or “Later” is just a trial! He’s testing you in order to bring you to a point of faith where you stand fast on God’s “Yea” and “Amen” and refuse to take “No” or “Later” for an answer.



THERE ARE TIMES WHEN FAITH MUST BE PERSISTENT

Because God does, at times, allow faith to be tested with an apparent silence, a No or a Later; then we see that there are times when faith must be persistent.

Remember. THE TEST ISN'T DESIGNED TO MAKE YOUR FAITH FAINT: IT'S DESIGNED TO MAKE YOUR FAITH GREAT.

You see, for the most part, faith simply endures a trial, knowing that no matter what the circumstances say, God has already said Yes to your prayer and you know that it’s only a matter of time before God manifests the answer to your prayer (2 Corinthians 1:20, Mark 11:24). At other times, however, faith persists in asking because you perceive in your spirit that God hasn’t heard or answered your prayer. Like this woman, it looks as if God’s answer is No.

It’s interesting to note that two other examples of persistence in Scripture have to do with God’s people refusing to take No for an answer.

In the first example, Jacob wrestled with an angel and refused to let him go until the angel blessed him (Genesis 32:24-30). His joint was out of place as he wrestled with the angel, but that didn’t stop Jacob from holding on to him! Jacob was intent on getting a blessing! And do you know what? He got it!

In the other example of persistence, Jesus taught a parable about the need for God’s people to keep on praying and not faint (Luke 18:1-8). The elect cry unto God day and night for God to avenge them. But do you know what? God doesn’t avenge them. Not right away. Still, He tells us to keep on praying because one day He’ll avenge us. We’ll cry no more for vengeance because vengeance will have come.

You see, there’s a place for praying and praying and praying. Persistence is persevering in prayer: it’s continuing to ask until you get what you’ve asked for. And the thing of it is, Jesus wants us to keep on asking! He’s the One who taught us to keep on asking! Friends, DON'T QUIT ASKING JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVEN'T GOTTEN WHAT YOU WANTED. GOD'S SILENCE IS NOT MEANT TO SHUT YOU UP. HIS NO OR LATER IS MEANT TO KEEP YOU ASKING.

Persistence, as I’ve said, is to keep on asking and asking until you get what you want. Now for many, this notion of persistence is rather revolting because it conveys the idea of pushing God around and changing His mind about giving you what you want. It makes it look like you’re telling God what to do. In seeking to rid you of this wrong perception of persistence, I would like for you to consider three questions with me.

 

PERSISTENCE ISN’T SINFUL OR SELFISH

Is it wrong to want something bad enough that you would, from our human perspective, pester or weary the Lord for it? In answer, let me first say that GODLY PERSISTENCE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BEING SELFISH, CARNAL, OR COVETOUS: IT'S NOT DESIRING SOMETHING THAT'S SINFUL OR FORBIDDEN.

You see, people who want something that’s sinful or forbidden will oftentimes resort to pestering and nagging until they get what they want. This, brethren, isn’t the kind of persistence that the Lord wants us to have.

Rather, GODLY PERSISTENCE IS YOUR DETERMINATION OR RESOLVE TO POSSESS WHAT'S RIGHTFULLY YOURS BY VIRTUE OF THE PROMISE THAT GOD'S GIVEN YOU. Let me tell you what I mean.

When the Syro-Phoenician woman came to Jesus for help Jesus told her He was sent to the Jews, not the Gentiles. And that, my friends, was true! From all outward appearances, the woman was an exception: she couldn’t be helped because she wasn’t a Jew.

But the woman knew better and Jesus didn’t say everything He could have said. You see, while Jesus was indeed sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, He also ministered to Gentiles whenever they came to Him for help: none of them were disqualified or turned away because of race.FN

*The Roman centurion in Matthew 8 is a prime example. Jesus didn’t turn him away just because he was a Roman. In spite of who has faith—whether Gentile or Jew—Jesus honored it.

*At other times during Jesus’ ministry, up to this point in time in Phoenicia, Gentiles came to Galilee to hear Jesus and to be healed by Him. Among these Gentiles who came and who were healed were Phoenicians from the region of Tyre and Sidon where this woman came from (Matthew 4:24-25, Mark 3:7-12, Luke 6:17-18). If she wasn’t one of these who had previous contact with Jesus in Galilee, then she must surely have heard about Jesus from those went to see Him and were healed by Him.

You see, this woman had already heard about Jesus before she even knew that He was in town. And what she heard about Jesus caused her to seek Him out: For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet (Mark 7:25). Heard what? Heard that He was a Deliverer of the oppressed.

The point is, Jesus healed other people from Tyre and Sidon in the past. Do you know what? These people were Gentiles! When they came asking for help He helped them. The woman, I am saying, did not see herself as an exception. Jesus healed other Gentiles from her country and there was no reason why she couldn’t be included in this number.

Friends, PERSISTENCE IS KNOWING THAT YOU'RE NOT AN EXCEPTION TO THE LORD'S PROMISE OR HELP. Persistence is knowing that Jesus can, and will, help you even though at first glance His first response to you isn’t a favorable one. Remember it’s just a test!

Persistence is not so much about changing God’s No to a Yes, or His Later to a Now, as much as it is about withstanding the test of God’s apparent denial and taking possession of what is rightfully yours by virtue of the promises that God made you.

Now according to Jesus, this woman had great faith. Do you know what it means to have great faith? The word great in the Greek can refer to quantity or size: mégas means big or a lot. Hence, great faith means to have a lot of faith.

But mégas can also refer to quality or kind, irrespective of quantity or size. That is, mégas also means strong or mighty. In this light, then, great faith is a faith that’s strong or powerful; it prevails with God because it refuses to take No for an answer. Just as Jacob wrestled with the angel and prevailed against him, so great faith is the faith that prevails when circumstances don’t look good. It’s the faith that prevails when at first it doesn’t look as if God’s inclined to hear or answer your prayer. GREAT FAITH, I'M SAYING, GETS WHAT IT WANTS FROM THE LORD. AND WHAT IT WANTS FROM THE LORD ISN’T SINFUL: IT ONLY WANTS WHAT GOD HAS ALREADY PROMISED.

 

WHEN REPETITION IS OKAY AND WHEN IT ISN’T

Is it wrong to keep on asking for the same thing over and over again? Not necessarily. Sometimes it’s wrong, but then, at other times it’s the right thing to do.

You see, on the one hand, Jesus taught us not to pray as the heathens pray, that is, repetitiously, because prayer isn’t answered on the basis of how many times we pray for the same thing (Matthew 6:7).

God answers prayer when He hears it (1 John 5:14-15), Hence, there’s no need to keep on asking when God has already heard and answered you. In this light, it’s indeed a manifestation of unbelief for you to keep on asking for something that God supposedly gave you when you prayed. Brethren, faith asks once because it knows that God has heard and answered prayer.

But, in the same breath and on the other hand, Jesus also taught us to persevere in prayer: And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not faint (Luke 18:1). Brethren, there are times when faith must persist and keep on asking because of the way God’s working with you and trying you.

As we see in the case of the Syro-Phoenician woman, sometimes God doesn’t acknowledge or answer you right away. And the thing of it is, you know it! You sense in your spirit that God hasn’t heard or answered you—not because He can’t, not because you’re in sin. But, rather, because He’s trying you. Just as the pleas of this Syro-Phoenician woman were initially met with silence, have you ever heard Heaven’s silence when you prayed? Have you ever felt as if God didn’t hear you? This, friends, is the trial that I’m talking about. God’s trying you. There may be times when you feel just like this Syro-Phoenician woman—rejected, denied, or ignored by God. Not so! It’s only a test! Keep on asking!

Turn to 1 John 5:14-15 and notice three important words: if we know. Here’s the verse in full. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: (15) And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

The confidence we have that God has answered our prayer is, in part, dependent upon the knowledge we have that He’s heard us: we know we have IF we first know He heard. You see, THERE'S A KNOWING THAT WE EITHER HAVE OR DON'T HAVE WHEN WE PRAY. OFTENTIMES THAT KNOWING, OR THE LACK OF IT, IS SOMETHING WE FEEL OR SENSE IN OUR SPIRIT. The sense that we haven’t been heard or answered is a part of God testing our faith just like He tested the faith of this Syro-Phoenician woman: He answered her not a word (Matthew 15:23).

So what do you do when you sense that your prayer didn’t make it past the ceiling? Do you quit praying and asking? No, brethren! Jesus wants you to keep on asking because He’s perfecting your faith. He’s teaching your faith to persevere and persist.

WHEN FAITH IS TRULY IN YOUR HEART, IT'S NOT A MATTER OR AN ACT OF UNBELIEF FOR YOU TO KEEP ON ASKING. IN FACT, WHEN A TRIAL OF DIVINE SILENCE OR APPARENT DENIAL IS INVOLVED, TRUE FAITH WILL KEEP ON ASKING.FN

Note that the woman kept on asking—yet her repetitiousness was not an act of unbelief! To the contrary, her asking repetitiously was an act of great faith! Jesus Himself testified to that fact! O woman, great is thy faith (Matthew 15:28).

Brethren, there are times when you’ve got to keep on asking because that’s the work God’s wanting to do in you: He’s making your faith great. And faith, my friends, doesn’t become great if it doesn’t persist when the Lord initially gives you an unfavorable response.

 

WANTING IT NOW CAN BE IMPATIENCE OR ELSE PERSISTENCE

Is it wrong to insist on having God’s positive answer right now!?

The Syro-Phoenician woman didn’t just want her daughter delivered: she wanted her daughter delivered right now! She wasn’t going to leave Jesus alone until Jesus delivered her daughter! Not later. But right now!

Obviously, we all want answers right now. God doesn’t manifest things instantly all the time because a part of His purpose in trying us is for us to have this much needed virtue called patience.

Why is our patience so important to God? Because IT TAKES BOTH FAITH AND PATIENCE TO INHERIT THE PROMISES; BOTH ARE NEEDED TO RECEIVE MANIFESTATIONS OF THE ANSWER TO PRAYER. Hebrews 6:11-12 (CEV) reads, We wish that each of you would always be eager to show how strong and lasting your hope really is. (12) Then you would never be lazy. You would be following the example of those who had faith and were patient until God kept his promise to them.

You patiently endure your trials because that’s what God’s teaching you: He’s teaching you to be patient.

After a season of patient endurance, however, there comes a time in the trial when desperation drives us to persistence.

You see, the woman’s insistence or persistence was driven by desperation. She was desperate for her daughter’s deliverance. Why? Because the daughter was grievously vexed with a devil (Matthew 15:22). In other words, it was a bad case of demonic oppression and the woman was sick and tired of seeing her daughter miserably afflicted. She’d had enough. She wanted her daughter delivered and she was going to hang around Jesus until Jesus delivered her.

You see, the severity of a trial drives many people to desperation—the sort of desperation that makes people give up believing or waiting on God. They want instant, immediate relief and they’re going to whoever, or whatever, can offer that kind of relief. Of course, the devil is quite accommodating when it means a child of God quits believing and waiting on God.

But in this woman we find a desperation that drove her to Jesus.

Brethren, when you’re desperate and you want the answer or the miracle bad enough, that is, right now!; don’t forsake faith or the Lord. Persevere and press in for the deliverance, healing, or miracle. And do you know what? Jesus knows it and He gives it to you. Right now!

While faith is patient, there comes a time after patient endurance when faith becomes desperately persistent. It wants, it needs, the answer right now! That’s not impatience: it’s an act of great faith. Jesus knows that and He commends it.

Brethren, YOU DON'T COME TO HAVE GREAT, PERSISTENT FAITH BY ACCEPTING THINGS AS THEY ARE OR BY LETTING THINGS DRAG ON INDEFINITELY. Endure your trials. But know that after a season of endurance, there comes a time when you’ve got to get out of the foxhole, go out to the battlefield, and get rid of that vexing devil. GREAT FAITH IS THE RECOGNITION THAT THINGS HAVE GONE ON LONG ENOUGH: NOW'S THE TIME FOR A MUCH-NEEDED RESPITE AND BREAKTHROUGH.FN

IT'S POSSIBLE TO COME TO A POINT IN TIME, OR A POINT OF FAITH, WHERE YOU CAN BELIEVE THE LORD FOR AN INSTANTANEOUS ANSWER. I myself have done this several times. After spending hours or days in excruciating pain, I decided I’d had enough, I was done playing games with the Devil; I said one final prayer, made one final positive confession of faith, and I got out of bed not feeling any better for it. But within minutes, all the pain was gone and the trial came to an abrupt, sudden end.

Brethren, you can believe to have your miracle or answer to prayer right now! And the thing of it is, Jesus doesn’t stop you from believing for it! He doesn’t scold or chide you for it. To the contrary, He honors it. If you have that faith, exercise it and don’t sit on it, thinking that you’re being impatient with God. Jesus didn’t say the woman was impatient. He said she was believing! And Jesus gave her what she wanted.

 

A LEGITIMATE DESPERATION

Now when we think of someone wanting something Now! we think of someone who’s impetuous or impatient. And in many instances, that’s true. But in this woman’s case I believe her desire for a manifestation Now! was very well calculated and thought out in at least three ways. Let me explain.

 

1. IT’S GOT TO BE NOW OR I’LL BE DEAD. In the first place, the woman’s Now! was borne out of the sheer desperation of the present need. As the text of Scripture reads, the woman’s daughter was grievously vexed. That is, this was a severe case of oppression and one that a young child ought not have to go through.

Brethren, there are trials where a minute longer, an hour more, and a day later just will not do! In another minute, another hour, another day, the child or the person being afflicted will be dead. In another minute, another hour, another day, we ourselves may not endure or be in faith.

Brethren, A TRIAL WASN'T MEANT TO KILL YOU, BUT RATHER, TO MATURE YOU (James 1:2-4). A trial is prolonged to get you to endure, but it’s not prolonged indefinitely or interminably beyond the limits of your present endurance that you run out of endurance and give up or give in (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Yes, there are times when we’ve got to have a manifestation Now! That’s not a matter of impatience. It’s a matter of life and faith.

 

2. IF NOT NOW IT MIGHT BE NEVER. In the second place, the woman’s Now! was borne out of the realization that the opportunity for manifestation might never pass her way again, at least, not for a long time. You see, this woman lived in Phoenicia. Jesus lived in Capernaum. This was the first time Jesus came to Phoenicia. Unbeknownst to this woman, it would be the only time Jesus would be in her neck of the woods. In other words, the time for manifestation is Now!, while Jesus was in town. “Who knows, He might not pass this way again!” If she didn’t act now, she’d later on have to seek Jesus out in Galilee, maybe even in Judea, in order to have an audience with Him and get her daughter delivered.

This woman’s Now!, I am saying, wasn’t borne out of impatience as much as it was borne out of the realization that Jesus might never come her way again. Now that He was here, now was a good time for her daughter to be delivered.

 

3. WE CAN HAVE IT NOW. And in the third place, the woman’s Now! was borne out of the recognition that both the children and the dogs can eat of the bread of deliverance at the same time. She understood that it was only right or fair that the children get the first chance at the bread. But she also understood that the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table. The children either drop crumbs from the table, or else they purposely sneak a portion of their meals to give to the pets. In other words, while the children are eating, so are the dogs! They’re both eating at the same time!

The woman was bright and ingenious. She understood Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but she also understood that there was nothing barring her as a Gentile from partaking of the bread of deliverance at the same that the Jews were being fed with the bread. Both could be delivered at the same time.FN

At such an answer, Jesus marveled at her faith, commended the greatness of her faith, and gave her what she wanted. Her daughter was instantly delivered.

 

 

JESUS HEALS A DEAF MAN WITH A SPEECH IMPEDIMENT

SOMEWHERE IN DECAPOLIS

 

Mark 7:31-37, And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. {32} And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impedimentFN in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. {33} And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit,FN and touched his tongue; {34} And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha,FN that is, Be opened. {35} And straightway his ears were opened, and the stringFN of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. {36} And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; {37} And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak. Mark 7:31-37 (NIV),  Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.  (32)  There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.  (33)  After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man's ears. Then he spit and touched the man's tongue.  (34)  He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, "Ephphatha!" (which means "Be opened!").  (35)  At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.  (36)  Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it.  (37)  People were overwhelmed with amazement. "He has done everything well," they said. "He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak."
Matthew 15:29-31 And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there. {30} And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame,FN blind, dumb, maimed,FN and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them: {31} Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.

 

Passing northward through Sidon, Jesus and His disciples then traveled southward through the predominantly Gentile region of Decapolis.FN Once again in familiar territory, a multitude of people gathered themselves around Jesus and what ensued was a great healing campaign.FN

Out of the many people who were healed, Mark describes just one person in particular and he alone out of all the Gospel writers tells the story of this healing. A man was brought to Jesus who was deaf and who couldn’t talk ver