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Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees series #10 The King’s Denunciation – Matthew 23 (part 7)


Peacemakers and persecuted are God’s children—persecutors are the devil’s children
(Matthew 5:9-12 NASB) “”Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. {10} “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. {11} “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. {12} “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

(Matthew 23:29-33 NASB) “”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, {30} and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ {31} “Consequently you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. {32} “Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers. {33} “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?”

The God of peace (Rom. 15:33; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9) has emphasized that cherished but elusive reality by making peace one of the dominant ideas of His Word. Scripture contains four hundred direct references to peace, and many more indirect ones. The Bible opens with peace in the Garden of Eden and closes with peace in eternity. The spiritual history of mankind can be charted based on the theme of peace. Although the peace on earth in the garden was interrupted when man sinned, at the cross Jesus Christ made peace a reality again, and He becomes the peace of all who place their faith in Him. Peace can now reign in the hearts of those who are His. Someday He will come as Prince of Peace and establish a worldwide kingdom of peace, which will eventuate in ultimate peace, the eternal age of peace.

But one of the most obvious facts of history and of human experience is that peace does not characterize man’s earthly existence. There is no peace now for two reasons: the opposition of Satan and the disobedience of man. The fall of the angels and the fall of man established a world without peace. Satan and man are engaged with the God of peace in a battle for sovereignty.

The scarcity of peace has prompted someone to suggest that “peace is that glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload.” In 1968 a major newspaper reported that there had been to that date 14,553 known wars since thirty-six years before Christ. Since 1945 there have been some seventy or so wars and nearly two hundred internationally significant outbreaks of violence. Since 1958 nearly one hundred nations have been involved in some form of armed conflict.

Some historians have claimed that the United States has had two generations of peace—one from 1815 to 1846 and the other from 1865 to 1898. But that claim can only be made if you exclude the Indian wars, during which our land was bathed in Indian blood.

With all the avowed and well-intentioned efforts for peace in modern times, few people would claim that the world or any significant part of it is more peaceful now than a hundred years ago. We do not have economic peace, religious peace, racial peace, social peace, family peace, or personal peace. There seems to be no end of marches, sit-ins, rallies, protests, demonstrations, riots, and wars. Disagreement and conflict are the order of the day. No day has had more need of peace than our own.

Nor does the world honor peace as much by its standards and actions as it does by its words. In almost every age of history the greatest heroes have been the greatest warriors. The world lauds the powerful and often exalts the destructive. The model man is not meek but macho. The model hero is not self-giving but self-seeking, not generous but selfish, not gentle but cruel, not submissive but aggressive, not meek but proud.

The popular philosophy of the world, bolstered by the teaching of many psychologists and counselors, is to put self first. But when self is first, peace is last. Self precipitates strife, division, hatred, resentment, and war. It is the great ally of sin and the great enemy of righteousness and, consequently, of peace.

The seventh beatitude calls God’s people to be peacemakers. He has called us to a special mission to help restore the peace lost at the Fall.

The peace of which Christ speaks in this beatitude, and about which the rest of Scripture speaks, is unlike that which the world knows and strives for. God’s peace has nothing to do with politics, armies and navies, forums of nations, or even councils of churches. It has nothing to do with statesmanship, no matter how great, or with arbitration, compromise, negotiated truces, or treaties. God’s peace, the peace of which the Bible speaks, never evades issues; it knows nothing of peace at any price.

It does not gloss or hide, rationalize or excuse. It confronts problems and seeks to solve them, and after the problems are solved it builds a bridge between those who were separated by the problems. It often brings its own struggle, pain, hardship, and anguish, because such are often the price of healing. It is not a peace that will be brought by kings, presidents, prime ministers, diplomats, or international humanitarians. It is the inner personal peace that only He can give to the soul of man and that only His children can exemplify.

False Leaders Are Cursed for Their Pretension

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the
monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Consequently you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell? (23:29-33)

Seventh and last, Jesus cursed the scribes and Pharisees for their pretension in presuming to be superior to others, including their forefathers.

For many hundreds of years these leaders had been in the vanguard of ventures to build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous saints and heroes of Israel. They would have been on the speaker’s platform in ceremonies honoring the great men of the past and would have voiced the loudest adulations. Realizing that many of those saints had been persecuted and martyred by their own forefathers, the scribes and Pharisees made vehement disclaimers for themselves, asserting self-righteously: “If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.”

But Jesus repudiated their pretension and exposed their true character, declaring that “consequently you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.” At that very moment they were plotting to kill Jesus, their Messiah and the Prophet of prophets, proving they were even more wicked than their ungodly ancestors. They were so consumed by hatred of the truth and righteousness of God that they were totally blinded to the fact that they were about to crucify the very Son of God.

Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers,” Jesus said. “Your scheming to put to death the greatest prophet of all,” He declared in effect, “will be the final measure of the murderous conspiracies of your fathers against God’s messengers.” They were about to culminate all the guilt of those in the past who killed God’s messengers. This was the supreme act of sin against God’s prophets, as they murdered the Prophet-Messiah. In a final curse Jesus exclaimed, “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?” The question was rhetorical, meaning that they could not possibly escape the sentence of hell if they carried out the evil intent that now poisoned their hearts.

 Ophis (serpents) was a general word for snakes, but echidna (vipers) referred to small poisonous snakes that lived primarily in the desert regions of Palestine and other parts of the eastern Mediterranean. Because they looked like a dried twig when they were still, a person collecting wood for a fire would often pick one up inadvertently and be bitten, as happened to Paul on the island of Malta. That particular viper was deadly and when Paul suffered no harm from the bite, the superstitious islanders thought he was a god (Acts 28:3, 6). Vipers therefore had the understandable reputation for being both deadly and deceitful.

At the beginning of his ministry John the Baptist had called the unbelieving and unrepentant Pharisees and Sadducees who came to him for baptism a “brood of vipers” (Matt. 3:7), using exactly the same phrase used now by Jesus at the end of His ministry to describe those same false leaders. Neither the messages of John the Baptist nor of Jesus had any positive effect on those men, but served only to harden them in their unbelief and in their opposition to the gospel and to God’s righteous messengers.

In pagan Greek culture, the echidna had long been associated with evil. In their mythology the name was given to a monster deity that was half snake and half woman and that gave birth to other monsters, including the murderous sphinx of Thebes.

By the time of Christ, echidna was universally associated with extreme wickedness and danger. Therefore when Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees a brood of vipers, He was declaring them to be both evil and deadly.

As explained earlier in this chapter, the term geenna (hell) was derived from the name of a valley near Jerusalem where trash and garbage continually burned. Jesus’ relating vipers to the sentence of hell suggests the common practice of a farmer’s burning the dried stubble in his field to prepare the land for the next planting. As the flames approached their dens, vipers would try to scurry away but were usually unsuccessful and consumed by the fire. Jesus said, in effect, “You wicked, deceitful men, do you really think you can outrun God’s fire of judgment?”

As Jesus had just reminded them, those false leaders were guilty of keeping people out of the kingdom, guilty of subverting the people, guilty of perverting God’s truth, guilty of inverting God’s priorities, guilty of extorting God’s people, guilty of spiritually contaminating everyone they touched, guilty of pretending to be righteous while being malevolent, and worst of all guilty of preparing to execute God’s own Son.

False religionists pride themselves in a godly heritage. Christ said four significant things about this point.

  1. False religionists honor the relics of the past. They show great respect for former prophets. They build, renovate, adorn and look after the tombs of the great men of the past. But note: Christ says they pay honor to their tombs and memory, not to their teaching and godly lives.
  2. False religionists denounce former abuses. Their forefathers had rejected, abused, and killed many of the prophets. The false religionists denounced such evil behavior. They preached and taught against murder.
  3. False religionists are prideful, claiming that they are better than the religious people of former years. They feel they are beyond such sins and would never have rejected and abused the prophets of God. They believe they would have gladly heard the preachers of the past and done exactly what they said.
  4. False religionists witness against themselves. They reverence the prophets of old but reject the prophets who are living. They reverence Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, and Zechariah; but they reject God’s very own Son. In rejecting Him, they prove that they are just as their fathers were: murderers. They are children of their fathers, following in the very steps of their fathers, rejecting the messengers of God. Like father, like son.

Note what Christ said: they were filling up the measure or cup of murder which was begun by their fathers. Christ was probably saying that His death was the last drop. The cup was about to reach the filled point; the cup would not be able to take another drop. There would be no chance to turn to God after they killed the Prophet, Christ Himself.

It is easy to honor great men of the past. They are not present to speak the truth and demand that we follow the truth. A dead man cannot disturb us with his warnings. Every generation has this one great deception: since they are more educated and technologically advanced, they think they are stronger and better off than the former generation. They think…

  • if they had been given the opportunities of the past, they would have done more with them.
  • if they had faced the temptations of the past, they would have withstood them better.

 

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2021 in Pharisees

 

Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees series #9 The King’s Denunciation – Matthew 23 (part 6)


Pure in heart—defiled in heart
(Matthew 5:8 NASB) “”Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

(Matthew 23:25-28 NASB) “”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. {26} “You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. {27} “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. {28} “Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawless-ness.”

Jesus used two illustrations: the cup and platter, and the sepulcher. They both stated the same truth: it is possible to be clean on the outside and at the same time defiled on the inside. Imagine using dishes that were defiled! Whatever you put into the dish or cup would also become defiled.

The Pharisees were careful to keep the outside very clean, because that was the part that men would see; and they wanted the praise of men. But God sees the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). When God looked within, He saw “greed and self-indulgence” (Matt. 23:25, NIV).

Jewish people were careful not to touch dead bodies or anything relating to the dead, be-cause this would make them ceremonially unclean (Num. 19:11ff). They would whitewash the tombs lest someone accidentally get defiled, and this was done especially at Passover season. What a graphic picture of the hypocrite: white on the outside, but filled with defilement and death on the inside!

“Blessed are the pure in heart,” was our Lord’s promise. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23, NASB). The Pharisees lived for reputation, not character.

Here is one of those passages of Scripture whose depths are immeasurable and whose breadth is impossible to encompass. This incredible statement of Jesus is among the greatest utterances in all of the Bible. The subject of holiness, of purity of heart, can be traced from Genesis to Revelation. The theme is infinitely vast and touches on virtually every other biblical truth.

False Leaders Are Cursed for Their Extortion and Self-Indulgence

Jesus cursed the scribes and Pharisees for their extortion of others and indulgence of themselves.

To illustrate again their hypocrisy, Jesus used the figure of cleaning the outside of a cup and… dish, but not the inside. The Greek phrase behind dish was often used of a platter on which exquisite delicacies were served. The idea is of a person who offers a guest a seemingly lovely meal served with the best wine. But it turns out that, although the utensils are beautiful and ceremonially purified, the food served on them was putrid.

Outwardly the religious leaders gave the appearance of pious devotion to the Lord, but inwardly they were full of the moral and spiritual filfth of robbery and self-indulgence. They were ceremonially immaculate and attractive but spiritually squalid and repulsive.

 Harpageô (robbery) carries the ideas of plundering, pillaging, and extortion, and akrasia (self-indulgence) has the basic meaning of lack of self-control and was often used to denote unrestrained self-gratification. The unscrupulous religious leaders robbed the people they were supposed to serve in order to satisfy their own greed. They plundered both the souls and the wallets of the people and used the ill-gotten gains to serve themselves.

Making the accusation more personal and direct, Jesus said, “You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.” No utensil is clean that holds ill-gotten food or drink.

Throughout history false religious leaders have become rich and fat by fleecing those they pretend to serve. Outwardly they appear righteous, caring, and exemplary but inwardly they are rapacious wolves.

 False Leaders Are Cursed for Their Contamination

Jesus cursed the scribes and Pharisees for spiritually contaminating everyone they touched.

After the spring rains had ceased, Palestinian Jews in New Testament times had the custom of whitewashing houses, walls, and particularly tombs. They began this task on the fifteenth of Adar, which roughly corresponds to March, in order to make their communities more attractive for Passover pilgrims. They had an additional purpose for whitewashing grave sites, however, especially those in and near Jerusalem. Because a person became ceremonially unclean for seven days if he touched a dead body or even a grave (Num. 19:16), all tombs were carefully whitewashed to identify them to unwary travelers. They would be prevented from inadvertently touching the tombs and becoming defiled and thereby disqualified to participate in many of the Passover activities, including the offering of sacrifices. In some cases the entire tomb was painted, and in others drawings of bones were painted on it to mark it as a sepulcher. Because of all the whitewash, Jerusalem and its environs glistened in the sunlight during the Passover season.

Like the whitewashed tombs, the scribes and Pharisees on the outside appeared beautiful, but inside they were also like the tombs, full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. They were spiritually dead and had no genuine regard for God’s law despite their outward praise of it and claim to be its true interpreters and teachers. In an infinitely worse way than the tombs ceremonially defiled those who touched them, the scribes and Pharisees spiritually defiled those whom they touched.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2021 in Pharisees

 

Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees series #8 The King’s Denunciation – Matthew 23 (part 5)


Obtaining mercy—rejecting mercy
(Matthew 5:7 NASB) “”Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

(Matthew 23:23-24 NASB) “”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. {24} “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!”

The Pharisees majored on minors. They had rules for every minute area of life, while at the same time they forgot about the important things. This crowd thought nothing of con-demning an innocent man, yet they were afraid to enter Pilate’s judgment hall lest they be defiled: (John 18:28 NASB) “They led Jesus therefore from Caiaphas into the Praeto-rium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium in order that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.”

There is no question that the Old Testament Law required tithing (Lev. 27:30; Deut. 14:22ff). Abraham had practiced tithing long before the Law was given (Gen. 14:20), and Jacob followed his grandfather’s example (Gen. 28:20-22). The principles of Christian giving under grace are given in 2 Corinthians 8-9. We are not content simply to give a tithe (10 percent), but we also want to bring offerings to the Lord out of hearts filled with love.

Justice, mercy, and faithfulness are the important qualities God is seeking. Obeying the rules is no substitute. While it is good to pay attention to details, we must never lose our sense of priorities in spiritual matters. Jesus did not condemn the practice of tithing. But He did condemn those who allowed their legalistic scruples to keep them from developing true Christian character.

The first four beatitudes deal entirely with inner principles, principles of the heart and mind. They are concerned with the way we see ourselves before God. The last four are outward manifestations of those attitudes. Those who in poverty of spirit recognize their need of mercy are led to show mercy to others (v. 7). Those who mourn over their sin are led to purity of heart (v. 8). Those who are meek always seek to make peace (v. 9). And those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are never unwilling to pay the price of being persecuted for righteousness’ sake (v. 10).

The concept of mercy is seen throughout Scripture, from the Fall to the consummation of history at the return of Christ. Mercy is a desperately needed gift of God’s providential and redemptive work on behalf of sinners—and the Lord requires His people to follow His example by extending mercy to others.

Jesus cursed the scribes and Pharisees for inverting divine priorities. They magnified the insignificant and minimized the essential.

 Mint and dill and cummin were garden herbs used as kitchen spices, and were not generally considered farm produce, of which the Mosaic law required a tithe be paid to the treasury in Israel (Lev. 27:30). Because it helped support the government, which was a theocracy operated to a great extent by the priesthood, the tithe was a form of taxation. A second tenth was to be paid each year for support of the various worship ceremonies and national festivals (Deut. 12:11, 17). Another tithe was to be paid every three years for a type of welfare, to support the Levites, aliens, orphans, and widows (Deut. 14:28-29), which amounted to an additional 3.3 percent a year. Israelites were therefore required to pay just over 23 percent of their income a year in taxes to fund the theocracy.

The instructions for tithing produce (see also Deut. 14:22) related to marketable farm crops such as grains, olive oil, wine, fruits, and vegetables. But the legalistic scribes and Pharisees extended the provision to include the smallest potted plant grown in a kitchen window. As today herbs then were grown mostly for their leaves and seeds, and when the scribes and Pharisees picked leaves from a mint plant or gathered seeds from the dill and cummin plants, they would carefully count out the leaves and seeds, separating out one for God from each ten counted. They gloried in the self-righteousness of subscribing to such minutiae.

But with all their carefulness in such insignificant and often noncompulsory matters, they neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. They were obsessed with counting leaves and seeds but indifferent to basic ethics.

Jesus borrowed the word weightier from the rabbinical tradition, which had divided the law into light and heavy categories. In their inverted priorities the scribes and Pharisees had reduced such matters as justice and mercy and faithfulness to the light category and elevated the tithing of garden herbs to the weightier category. In His reference to the truly weightier matters, Jesus paraphrased the words of Micah. Some 700 years earlier that prophet had declared, “[The Lord] has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8).

The scribes and Pharisees were inequitable, unfair, unjust, unmerciful, brutal, unforgiving, unkind, greedy and abusive of others. They were everything that is contrary to the weightier provisions of the law. Worst of all, they walked by sight rather than faith, trusting in their own works rather than God’s grace.

Jesus did not denounce the tithing of herbs, which would have been perfectly acceptable if done in sincerity and faith. And because tithing was at that time still a valid requirement under the Old Covenant, He certainly did not reprove tithing in general. “These are the things you should have done,” He said, “without neglecting the others.” In light of the fact that such garden plants had not generally been considered covered under the Mosaic laws of tithing until rabbinical times, it seems likely that by these… things Jesus was referring to tithing in general. In other words, while being faithful to tithe according to scriptural instruction, they should not have neglected the Lord’s much weightier demands.

The tithe, however, was strictly a requirement of the Old Covenant. It is mentioned only six times in the New Testament, three times each in the gospels and in the book of Hebrews. In the gospels it is always used, as here, in regard to its abuse by the scribes and Pharisees (see also Luke 11:42; 18:12). In the book of Hebrews the Mosaic tithe is mentioned only in regard to its use in ancient Israel (Heb. 7:8-9; vv. 5-6). At no time in the New Testament is tithing mentioned as binding on the church or even recommended as the standard for Christian giving. This is easy to understand if one recognizes that tithes were a form of taxation to support the national life of Israel (see the author’s 1 Corinthians [Chicago: Moody, 1984], pp. 454-55). The closest New Testament parallel is the requirement to pay taxes indicated in Romans 13:6-7.

Almost without exception, false religions strongly magnify the insignificant and minimize or entirely ignore the truly spiritual. The worldly is idolized; the spiritual is disregarded.

It is also possible for true believers to become caught up in minutiae. Some Bible students, for instance, claim to have ascertained the meaning of virtually every obscure sign and symbol in Scripture yet give scant attention in their lives to the Bible’s clear and unambiguous moral truths.

Jesus graphically illustrated the scribes’ and Pharisees’ inversion of priorities by saying that they would strain out a gnat and swallow a camel. The gnat and the camel represented the smallest and the largest, respectively of the ceremonially unclean animals (see Lev. 11:4, 42). Fastidious Pharisees would drink their wine through clenched teeth in order to filter out any small insects that might have gotten into the wine. In their typical reversal of values, those Jewish religious leaders were more concerned about being contaminated by a tiny gnat than by a huge camel. They were painstaking about formal, ceremonial trivialities but were unconcerned about their hypocrisy dishonesty cruelty greed, self-worship, and a host of other serious sins. They substituted outward acts of religion for the essential virtues of the heart.

False religionists stress the lighter commandments and omit the weightier ones. Christ said two things.

  1. Religionists stress the lighter duties and omit the greater duties. They pick and choose what they want and are willing to do and omit the rest. They stress outward duties such as tithing, observances, rituals, ceremonies, and works; they minimize the change and inward duties of the heart. Christ mentions three duties of the human heart that are omitted.
  2. There is justice: treating our neighbor as we should; doing and saying nothing that would hurt another person; showing honor and respect to all men; never being guilty of injustice.
  3. There is mercy: showing care, concern, kindness, and tenderness to all who are weak, bad, and needy; and not being hard, distant, demanding, or cruel.
  4. There is faith: believing God and trusting Him to fulfill His promises.

Christ said that the weightier matters of the law are these: justice and mercy and faith. But the false religionists minimize and omit these matters. They talk about and stress the lighter or outward matters of religion such as tithing. Outward matters such as observances, rituals, and works just do not carry the weight that inward matters of the heart carry. Why? Because, if the heart is right, then outward behavior will follow. All outward behavior will be changed and not just certain areas that have been picked out to show that a person is religious. Note what Christ says: stress the weightier matters and do not leave the other undone. Do the lighter, yes, but major upon the weightier matters.

  1. Religionists avoid the lesser sins, but commit the greater sins. They strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. This was a humorous proverb in Christ’s day. Wine was carefully strained through a piece of linen cloth to catch gnats and other impurities before drinking. This was to avoid violating the law of purity (Leviticus 11:20-23; Leviticus 17:10-14).

The false religionists strained to keep the lighter matters of religion, but failed to keep the weightier matters. They did not sin by straining to keep the lighter matters; they sinned by omitting the weightier matters.

 Many have a form of religion, but few pay much attention to the weightier matters of godliness. How many attend church regularly, give of their money, pray, and take part in church affairs; but they…

  • do not give an honest day’s work to an employer (justice)?
  • do not humble themselves, showing mercy toward the weak and less disciplined?
  • do not sacrifice, showing mercy toward the needy and less fortunate?
  • do not act responsibly and lovingly toward others, even toward their own family (justice and mercy)?

Think about it. How easy it is to keep up an outward appearance of religion, but how difficult it is to be godly within. Yet inward godliness is what Christ demands. We are to treat all people with pure justice and mercy and to believe God in all things.

One of the great failures of false religionists is this: they emphasize and stress the wrong matters. They stress the lighter matters and omit the weightier matters. What they stress is important and should be done, but they are not the major matters.

The false religionist fails at both points of sin. He sins both by omission and commission. He omits the weightier duties, and he commits the greater sins.

Christ called false religionists “blind guides.” Note three things.

1)   Some are blind to what Christ was saying. They do not know they are stressing the lighter matters. The lighter matters are all they have ever known and been taught. Therefore, they are steeped in the lighter matters, knowing very little about the weightier matters of religion.

2)   Some do know they are stressing the lighter matters; and they deliberately continue in their error, refusing to change lest they face ridicule, loss of position, security, and all they count dear in this world.

3)   Religionists are guides, teaching the lighter matters of religion and omitting the weightier matters.

 

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2021 in Pharisees

 

Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees series #7 The King’s Denunciation – Matthew 23 (part 4)


Hungering for holiness—greedy for gain
(Matthew 5:6 NASB) “”Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

(Matthew 23:16-22 NASB) “”Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obligated.’ {17} “You fools and blind men; which is more important, the gold, or the temple that sanctified the gold? {18} “And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering upon it, he is obligated.’ {19} “You blind men, which is more important, the offering or the altar that sanctifies the offering? {20} “Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. {21} “And he ho swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. {22} “And he who swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.”

This beatitude speaks of strong desire, of driving pursuit, of a passionate force inside the soul. It has to do with ambition—ambition of the right sort—whose object is to honor, obey, and glorify God by partaking of His righteousness. This holy ambition is in great contrast to the common ambitions of men to gratify their own lusts, accomplish their own goals, and satisfy their own egos.

Jesus declares that the deepest desire of every person ought to be to hunger and thirst for righteousness. That is the Spirit-prompted desire that will lead a person to salvation and keep him strong and faithful once he is in the kingdom. It is also the only ambition that, when fulfilled, brings enduring happiness.

A starving person has a single, all-consuming passion for food and water. Nothing else has the slightest attraction or appeal; nothing else can even get his attention.

Those who are without God’s righteousness are starved for spiritual life. But tragically they do not have the natural desire for spiritual life that they do for physical. The tendency of fallen mankind is to turn to itself and to the world for meaning and life, just as ‘“a dog returns to its own vomit,’ and ‘a sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire’” (2 Pet. 2:22; cf. Prov. 26:11).

Jesus cursed the scribes and Pharisees for their perversion of truth. God is the God of truth and cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18), and His people are therefore to be people of truth. On the other hand, there is no truth at all in Satan. “Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature,” Jesus says; “for he is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44). His followers are also skilled in lying, and perversion of truth is the hallmark of every false religious system. From the beginning, those who have rejected God have rejected His truth. They have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25).

In this particular indictment, Jesus did not call His opponents hypocrites but blind guides, emphasizing their unawareness that they were ignorant of the truth. As God’s chosen people who were entrusted with His revelation, the Jews had long considered themselves as guides to the blind, lights to those in darkness, correctors of the foolish, and teachers of the immature (Rom. 2:19-20; cf. 3:2). But as Jesus had declared earlier in His ministry they were “blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matt. 15:14). The scribes and Pharisees prided themselves in their superior religious knowledge and understanding, but they were blind leaders trying to lead blind Israel, and together they were doomed to judgment if they would not come to the light.

Among their many perversions of truth was the teaching that Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obligated. The very fact that they had developed such a double standard for swearing gives evidence that their concern was not for truth but for the evasion of it when it did not suit their selfish interests. The underlying purpose behind the first part of the standard was to provide sanctimonious justification for lying with impunity. A person could lie all he wanted, provided he swore by the temple and not by the gold of the temple. Since no society can survive without some provision for verifying and guaranteeing such things as promises and contracts, the second part of the standard was developed as a necessary expediency. If a person wanted to make absolutely certain that someone was telling the truth or would live up to an agreement, he would make him swear by the gold of the temple, which supposedly made his word binding. A person who broke his word after taking such an oath was subject to penalties under Jewish law.

Societies have had various means of trying to make its people keep their word. In some, the most sacred and binding vow was sealed with the blood of the parties involved. In others, an agreement is written in a contract, which each party signs and which often specifies penalties for defaulting. Until recent years, many western courts of law required those giving testimony to swear to tell the truth by placing their right hand on a copy of the Bible and invoking God’s help.

The use of oaths had become so perverse in Israel that they were used even to renege on promises made to God. If a person, for example, vowed to give a certain amount to the Lord’s work, he would often swear to his vow by the temple. If he later decided he had pledged too much, or if he never intended to give the full amount, he had an out, because that vow was considered to be nothing.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus condemned all swearing of vows. “But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes,’ or ‘No, no’; and anything beyond these is of evil” (Matt. 5:34-37). A godly person will always tell the truth, and for him a simple yes or no is sufficient, because his virtuous character is his bond.

Jesus was not teaching a new principle. The psalmist declared, “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High” (Ps. 50:14). In other words, a vow made is a vow to be kept. David testified, “Thy vows are binding upon me, O God; I will render thank offerings to Thee” (Ps. 56:12), and again, “I will sing praise to Thy name forever, that I may pay my vows day by day” (Ps. 61:8; cf. 66:13; 76:11). It is significant that in each of those quotations the keeping of vows to God is directly related to praise and thankfulness to Him.

The great offense of Ananias and Sapphira was not in giving less to the Lord’s work than they were able to give but in lying about it. When Peter confronted them, he charged them with lying to the Holy Spirit and putting God to the test. The Lord takes lying very seriously and for their deception those two believers lost their lives. It is not surprising that, as a result, “great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things” (Acts 5:1-11).

The idea that swearing by the gold in the Temple was binding but swearing by the Temple itself was not binding was moral chicanery and logical absurdity “You fools and blind men,” Jesus said; “which is more important, the gold, or the temple that sanctified the gold?” In other words, by what perverted logic had it been determined that making a vow on something lesser was more binding than one made on something greater? The only reason the gold could be thought of as sacred, and thereby make the vow supposedly more obligatory, was the temple that sanctified the gold.

The religious leaders applied the same twisted logic to swearing by the altar, which was considered to be nothing, that is, nonobligatory and to swearing by the offering upon it, which was thought to make a person obligated to keep his vow “You blind men,” Jesus said, “which is more important, the offering or the altar that sanctifies the offering?” The whole idea was both theologically and logically preposterous. Those standards were nothing more than wicked pretenses for using holy things to disguise their unholy propensity to lie.

As Jesus went on to point out, to swear by the altar was to swear by everything on it; to swear by the temple was to swear by Him who dwells within it, namely, God Himself; and to swear by heaven was to swear both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it. In other words, everything involved with the temple and everything involved with heaven involved God. In fact, since God is the creator of everything, to swear by anything at all involves God.

false religionists mislead others; they are blind guides in oaths and commitments. Note: Christ said that they were blind guides; they misled people. How? They stressed the secondary over the primary. They took the least important and made it more meaningful than the essential. Christ gave two examples.

  1. They stressed the gold of the temple over the temple itself. Anyone who swore by the temple did not have to keep his commitment nor was he held responsible for his oath. But if he swore by the gold of the temple, he was held responsible and did have to keep his commitment.
  2. They stressed the gift over the altar upon which the gift lay. Making a commitment or swearing by the altar was not binding, whereas a commitment or swearing by the gift was binding.

Christ used strong words against the religionists at this point. They were “fools and blind.” Christ meant two things by these words.

  1. What they were doing and saying was absurd and irrational. Common sense should tell anyone that the temple is greater than what is within it, and the altar is greater than the gift that is laid upon it.
  2. What they were doing and saying was full of folly and sin. They were merely trying to evade commitments and responsibility for swearing. They wanted the right to make promises and to swear, but they also wanted the right to break their promises if it benefited them later.

Christ pointed out the raw facts about commitments and oaths.

  1. All commitments and oaths are heard by God. There is no evasion of commitments made or of swearing done.
  • God is the One to whom sacrifices are made upon the altar (implied) (Matthew 23:20).
  • God dwells in the temple (Matthew 23:21).
  • God sits upon His throne in heaven (Matthew 23:22).
  1. All commitments and oaths are binding and accountable to God.

There are at least four sins seen in what the religionists were saying and doing.

1)   The sin of stressing the secondary over the primary.

2)   The sin of evading commitments.

3)   The sin of covetousness. By stressing the gold over the temple, they were centering the people’s minds upon the gold, the wealth, and the gifts instead of upon the God who dwelt in the temple.

4)   The sin of self-righteousness. By stressing man’s gift over the altar, they were saying in essence that man’s gift was more important than God’s altar which sanctified the gift. The gift honored the altar instead of the altar honoring the gift. Such, of course, was ridiculous; for symbolically God stood behind the altar. And no gift is ever greater than God.

The very same sins are committed today.

1)   Ritual, ceremony, programs—commitment to practically every phase of church life is often stressed over God. Commitment to the various phases of church life is even said to be commitment to God.

2)   The gift is stressed more than the altar. A commitment to give and to make sacrifice often takes precedence over the altar (commitment to God). Stewardship of money (the gift and the gold) is even said to be an equal part with the stewardship of life to God.

3)   The motive is often to make the institution stronger instead of making people stronger by centering their lives upon God.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2021 in Pharisees

 

Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees series #6 The King’s Denunciation – Matthew 23 (part 3)


Meek inherit the earth—proud send souls to hell
(Matthew 5:5 NASB) “”Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.”

(Matthew 23:15 NASB) “”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”

Like the first two beatitudes, this one must have been shocking and perplexing to Jesus’ hearers. He taught principles that were totally foreign to their thinking.

Jesus’ audience knew how to act spiritually proud and spiritually self-sufficient. They were proficient in erecting a pious facade. They actually believed that the Messiah was coming soon and would commend them for their goodness. He would, at last, give the Jewish people their rightful place in the world—a position above all other people, because they were the chosen of God.

They eagerly anticipated that the Messiah would deal gently with them and harshly with their oppressors, who for nearly a hundred years had been the Romans. After the Maccabean revolution that freed them from Greece, the Jews had a brief time of independence. But Rome’s rule, though not as cruel and destructive, was much more powerful than that of Greece. Since 63 b.c., when Pompey annexed Palestine to Rome, the region had been ruled primarily by puppet kings of the Herodian family and by Roman governors, or procurators, the best known of which to us was Pilate.

The Jews so despised Roman oppression that sometimes they even refused to admit it existed. One day as He taught on the Mount of Olives, Jesus had one of His strongest exchanges with the Pharisees. When He said “to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,’” the Pharisees’ response was strange. “We are Abraham’s offspring,” they said, “and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You shall become free?’” (John 8:31-33).

The fact was, of course, that Israel’s history was one of repeated conquest and oppression—by Egypt, Assyria, the Medes and Persians, the Greeks, and, at that very time, Rome. Apparently pride would not allow those Pharisees to acknowledge one of the most obvious facts of their nation’s history and of their present situation.

The blessings of the Beatitudes are for those who are realistic about their sinfulness, who are repentant of their sins, and who are responsive to God in His righteousness. Those who are unblessed, unhappy, and shut out of the kingdom are the proud, the arrogant, the unrepentant—the self-sufficient and self-righteous who see in themselves no unworthiness and feel no need for God’s help and God’s righteousness.

Most of Jesus’ hearers, like fallen men throughout history, were concerned about justifying their own ways, defending their own rights, and serving their own ends. The way of meekness was not their way, and therefore the true kingdom was not their kingdom. The proud Pharisees wanted a miraculous kingdom, the proud Sadducees wanted a materialistic kingdom, the proud Essenes wanted a monastic kingdom, and the proud Zealots wanted a military kingdom. The humble Jesus offered a meek kingdom.

Meekness has always been God’s way for man. It is the way of the Old Testament. In the book of Job we are told that God “sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety” (5:11). Moses, the Jews’ great deliverer and law-giver, “was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). The Jews’ great King David, their supreme military hero, wrote, “He [the Lord] leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way” (Ps. 25:9).

Meekness is the way of the New Testament. It is taught by Jesus in the Beatitudes as well as elsewhere and is continued to be taught by the apostles. Paul entreated the Ephesians to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love” (Eph. 4:1-2). He told the Colossians to “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12). He told Titus to remind those under his leadership “to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men” (Titus 3:1-2).

(Matthew 23:15 NASB) “”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”

A proselyte is a convert to a cause. The Pharisees were out to win others to their legalistic system, yet they could not introduce these people to the living God. Instead of saving souls, the Pharisees were condemning
souls!

A “child of hell” is the equivalent of “child of the devil,” which is what Jesus called the Pharisees (Matt. 12:34; 23:33; John 8:44). A “child of the devil” is a person who has rejected God’s way of salvation (righteousness through faith in Christ).

This person parades his own self-righteousness through whatever religious system he belongs to. The convert usually shows more zeal than his leader, and this “double devotion” only produces double condemnation. How tragic that people can think they are going to heaven, when actually they are going to hell!

Jesus cursed the scribes and Pharisees for their subversion of the people. They not only excluded them from the true faith but subverted them with false faith.

In New Testament times a great effort was being made to convert Gentiles to Judaism. They worked aggressively, traveling about on sea and land to make one proselyte. The word proselyte had the basic meaning of a person who has arrived, and came to be commonly used of an outsider who was brought into a religion.

Had that Jewish effort been made in the right way and for the right reasons, it would have been commendable, because Israel had been called to be God’s channel for reaching the world for Himself. In His covenant with Abraham the Lord promised that through him and his descendants “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). In the covenant at Sinai the Lord set Israel apart as a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6), who, like her Messiah, was meant to be a light to the nations (Isa. 49:6).

But for most of her history, Israel aspired to do anything but bring Gentiles to God. Like Jonah, they loathed the idea of pagans repenting, being saved, and thereby gaining the same standing before God that they enjoyed. By his own admission, it was for the purpose of forestalling, and no doubt if possible preventing, the repentance and forgiveness of Nineveh that Jonah tried to flee to Tarshish (Jonah 4:2).

By the time Jesus began preaching, however, a different spirit had arisen among some of the Jews, and they were zealously trying to win converts. As the result of those efforts, many synagogues had regular Gentile worshipers who had turned from paganism. Partly because Jews had such an unsavory reputation for exclusiveness and bigotry. Gentile proselytes were not easy to make, and when one of them converted he was considered something of a prize.

There were two kinds of proselytes in the synagogues. One was called “a proselyte of the gate,” a Gentile who only attended the services. He now worshiped the true God, but he had not committed himself to full ritualistic and legalistic Judaism. Such proselytes are referred to in the book of Acts as a person who was devout (10:2, 7; 13:50), as “God-fearing” (10:2, 22, 35; 17:4, 17), or as “a worshiper of God” (16:14; 18:7).

The other kind was referred to as “a proselyte of righteousness,” so called because he became as religiously Jewish as a Gentile could become. They participated in all the ceremonies, rituals, and feasts; they observed all the cleansing and other rites, both biblical and traditional; and if males, they were circumcised. Those converts were even given Jewish names in order to separate them as much as possible from their pagan past. Contrary to their popular appellation, however, they became anything but righteous. Like the scribes and Pharisees who instructed them, they became paragons of self-righteousness.

For obvious reasons there were many more proselytes of the gate than proselytes of righteousness. It was the latter kind in which the scribes and Pharisees delighted, and it was considered a great achievement to initiate a Gentile into all their legalistic practices.

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2021 in Pharisees

 

Spending Time With Jesus: Relational Sins: How to Deal With Them – Luke 17:1-6


Sometimes when I counsel with couples I marvel at how this angry, bitter couple sitting in my office could be the same couple that just a few years before stood at the altar, gazing adoringly into each other’s eyes, promising to love one another forever. What went wrong?

Relational problems not only occur in the church; they also occur in the home and anywhere else that people have to work closely with one another.

In a word, what went wrong is sin and not dealing properly with that sin. Relationships can be the source either of our deepest joy in life or of our deepest pain, depending on whether we follow God’s directives on how to work through relational problems. The second greatest commandment in the Bible is to love our neighbor. Thus the Bible is filled with counsel on how to love one another. In our text, Jesus is saying,

We should be on guard against relational sins and we should deal with them biblically when they occur.

Having just dealt with the Pharisees and their religious hypocrisy, Jesus now turns to the disciples with a corrective warning. The false teaching and self-centered, superficial religion of the Pharisees would inevitably cause many of the sinners who had recently turned to Christ (15:1) to stumble in their new faith.

Jesus warned his disciples against causing the downfall of other believers and holding grudges against them. He also encouraged them to place their complete trust in God and to serve him with joy.

1. Be on guard against committing relational sins (17:1-3a).

1  And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come!  2  It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. 3  Pay attention to yourselves!

The Greek word skandala used here denotes any hindrance that causes another person to fall into sin, whether through temptation or false teaching. Jesus explained that this was bound to happen, but it did not excuse that person through whom the temptation came

Jesus explained that the consequences were so severe that it would be better to have a millstone tied around one’s neck and be thrown into the sea than for a person to face God after causing others to stumble.

A “millstone” was a heavy, flat stone used to grind grain. This large stone would be connected to an ox or donkey that would walk in a circle, causing the stone to roll and crush the grain. To have a millstone tied around the neck and be dumped into the sea pictured a horrifying death by drowning. Even such a death would be minor, however, compared to what this person would face in eternity.

When Jesus refers to “these little ones,” He probably means the new believers from among the sinners and tax-gatherers (15:1) who were coming to Him. The phrase, “little ones,” pictures them as God’s little children, showing His tender concern for their well-being.

The major reason that we are so prone to sin against others and to take offense when others sin against us is that our sinfulness prompts us to justify ourselves and to blame others.

When Jesus warns, “Be on guard,” He means that each of us needs to look first and foremost to our own hearts. When relational conflicts erupt, the first thing you should do is to ask God to show you what part you are responsible for. If you think that, being generous, you’re responsible for ten percent of the problem, you can safely multiply that number by four or five!

We all are prone to justify ourselves and blame others. But healing will not begin in damaged relationships until each person allows the Spirit of God through the Word of God to shine into his or her own heart and reveal the sin that is there.

We need to guard against relational sins because God views them so seriously.

In Matthew 5:23-24 He says, “If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” In other words, our relational sins hinder our worship!

2. Deal biblically with relational sins when they occur: rebuke, repentance, and forgiveness (17:3b-4).

If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4  and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
If your brother sins, rebuke him.

Careful leadership is important for Jesus’ followers, but so is constant forgiveness. When there is sin among God’s people, they are responsible to rebuke one another. To “rebuke” does not mean to point out every sin, for Jesus also warns against being judgmental (6:37).

To “rebuke” (always in love) means to bring sin to a person’s attention with the purpose of restoring that person to God and to fellow humans. In context here, this refers to sin that could pull that person or others away from God and thus result in the horrible judgment Jesus spoke of in 17:2.

When a person feels that he or she must rebuke another Christian for a sin, it is wise for that person to check his or her attitudes and motivations first. Unless rebuke is tied to forgiveness, it will not help the sinning person.

Jesus explained, in fact, that if the other person repents, the rebuker must forgive. And that forgiveness extends constantly (seven times a day simply means “all the time”) because, after all, that is how God deals with every person.

Because God has forgiven all believers’ sins, they should not withhold forgiveness from others. Realizing how completely Christ has forgiven should produce a free and generous attitude of forgiveness toward others. Those who don’t forgive others set themselves outside and above Christ’s law of lov

In my experience of helping people work through relational conflicts, this step is often neglected completely out of cowardice or done poorly at best. People would sooner walk away from a strained relationship than to give biblical rebuke to the person who is sinning against them or against others.

Or, quite often if someone sins against us, we go and tell others about it, “just so they can pray about it” or “to get their counsel.” Sure! Jesus clearly says, “If your brother sins (against you is implied), rebuke him.”

Let’s face it, it’s not pleasant to have to rebuke someone. If you find it pleasant, you are not in the right frame of mind to do it and you will probably do it in an ungodly manner! But the command to rebuke a sinning brother is the first step in the restoration process. You are not dealing with him biblically until you do it.

Rebuking a fellow believer requires care. Finding fault and expressing it effectively are delicate proceedings. People are easily offended. We are not to be passive about strained relationships. To be apathetic is not to love the other person. We should ardently go after peace.

If someone who professes to be a Christian is acting in a way that brings shame to the name of Christ, and you know the person and are aware of his behavior, you’re it! You need to go and talk to him about his sin in an attempt to bring him to repentance. To let it go is not to care about the Lord’s glory or your brother’s holiness.

In a first-time confrontation, try these six steps:

  1. Pray for God’s help in getting your concern across without generating antagonism or defensiveness.
  2. Approach the other person as a friend, not an adversary.
  3. Imagine the most innocent possible reason for the other’s fault, not the most insidious or repulsive.
  4. Make your approach a series of gradual and mutual agreements: “Could I speak to you?” “I’m having trouble with something. May I ask you about it?”
  5. State your case once clearly. Repetition becomes like the pounding of a sledgehammer.
  6. Express gratitude for the conversation, confidence in the friendship, and cordial expectations for the future. Show that you harbor no doubt that the matter has been solved

Is the other person’s sin damaging your relationship with him (or her)? Perhaps the other person habitually gossips about others, so that you find yourself wanting to avoid being around her (or him). You don’t have to become best of friends, but the loving thing to do is not to avoid her, but to attempt to help her face up to her sin and repent.

Or, perhaps the person said or did something that hurt you, so that you find yourself dodging him every time you see him. Again, the loving thing to do is to meet privately and confront what he did so that you help him grow as a believer.

Is the other person’s sin seriously hurting others? Perhaps you see a young mother who verbally or physically abuses her children. Or it may be a professing Christian is ensnared in drug or alcohol abuse, along with the inevitable deception that accompanies those sins. You are not showing God’s love to let the person go on in this destructive behavior. You must rebuke with the view of leading the person to repentance.

Is the other person’s sin seriously hurting himself? If you see a Christian engaging in some sin that is going to destroy him and you shrug and say, “That’s his problem,” you are not loving your brother. As James 5:19-20 says, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back; let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.”

Is the person’s sin an often repeated pattern? If a person does the same thing over and over, he is enslaved to that sin and needs help getting out of it. Anger, lust, greed, selfishness, insensitivity to others, laziness or a lack of self-discipline, and many other sins can destroy a person’s faith if he does not get the victory in Christ. If you see these habit patterns, you need to come alongside and offer help in the Lord.

The goal of rebuke is repentance.

The goal of rebuking another believer is not “to get it off your chest.” It is not “to give him a piece of your mind.” It is not to prove that you’re right and he’s wrong. It is not to win so that next time you have some ammunition to use in the heat of battle.

The goal is to bring your brother to repentance, to restore his relationship with the Lord, with you, and with others. Until you have that goal clearly in mind, you are not ready to rebuke your brother.

The response to repentance is forgiveness.

If your brother repents, forgive him. Then Jesus adds, “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” Certainly, after seven times in the same day, you might be inclined to question the man’s sincerity!

Jesus puts it like this to say, “Go overboard on forgiveness. If there is even a hint that your brother is repentant, don’t question his motives. Just forgive and forgive and forgive again and again and again.”

Biblical forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. It is to dismiss the case from court. The word means to let go or release. When you forgive, you choose to let the matter drop and you promise not to bring it up against the person in the future.

5  The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6  And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

Handling Conflict With Maturity. Could Paul, David, or Peter attend this congregation? All are known as great men of faith and yet they committed terrible sins in their adult years trying to serve the Lord.

Peter denied Christ in spite of being warned about it beforehand. David’s sin of pride cost the death of 70,000 men in 1 Chronicles 21. David was an adulterer and a murderer…yet called him “a man after God’s own heart.”

Perhaps Paul gives us words to encouragement if we’re having difficulty answering the question: (1 Timothy 1:15-16)  “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. {16} But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2020 in Luke

 

Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees series #6 The King’s Denunciation – Matthew 23 (part 2)


Mourners comforted—destroyers condemned
(Matthew 5:4 NASB) “”Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

(Matthew 23:14 NASB) “”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation.”

There are also, of course, other kinds of sorrow, legitimate sorrows that are common to all mankind and for which reasonable mourning is appropriate. To express these sorrows and to cry over them opens an escape valve that keeps our feelings from festering and poisoning our emotions and our whole life. It provides the way for healing, just as washing out a wound helps prevent infection.

An Arab proverb says, “All sunshine makes a desert.” The trouble-free life is likely to be a shallow life. We often learn more and mature more from times of sorrow than from times when everything is going well. A familiar poem by Robert Browning Hamilton expresses the truth:

I walked a mile with Pleasure, She chattered all the way, But left me none the wiser For all she had to say I walked a mile with Sorrow, And ne’er a word said she, But, oh, the things I learned from her When Sorrow walked with me. (Cited in William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew [rev. ed.; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975], 1:94)

These false religioinists use the guise of religion for greed and covetousness, especially to steal from widows. This is a gross sin and it is common. There are some persons—preachers, leaders and professing hypocrites—who court the attention and favor of people, especially widows, for the purpose of securing or getting their money. They seek large donations, endowments, trusts, investments, and gifts to promote themselves or their institution. And the great tragedy is this: such false and hypocritical hearts use the guise of religion to promote themselves and their false ideas. Their call to people is to institutional religion, not to the honor of God. Of course, vain men are succeptible to such appeals, but widows in particular are exposed to those who seem to be so devoted to God.

Note: Christ said that the damnation of these shall be greater. There are some sins more horrible than others. Using religion for selfish ends is one of them. This sin will receive a greater damnation. Another fact should be noted here: widows hold a special place in God’s heart. He has always instructed His people to care for widows in a very special way.

Stealing from widows (and widowers) is one of the most serious sins that can be committed. It will receive “the greater damnation,” yet it is done every day, even by religious persons. It happens like this: a man covets something—to have his ideas spread through the media, or his institution strengthened and enlarged, or his pockets filled. Therefore, the man begins to court people who have money, especially widows. He seeks either donations and investments or to become trustee of their estates.

The sin is twofold.

1) The money sought is not for the honor of God, but for the promotion of oneself or one’s institution.

2) The guise of religion—being a religious person, organization, or institution—is used to secure the money.

There is one question that needs to be asked with an open heart by every man in every generation: Can the godly concern for the lost and starving masses of the world and the huge ornate buildings and homes and bank accounts of Christians be from the same God?

The point is this: a man’s motives must be pure. He must seek only the honor of God and the salvation and strengthening of people. Two specific things must be done.

1) Whatever money a man seeks, especially from widows, must be carefully used for God and for people in need, not for oneself nor for institutional religion.

2) Every single believer must deny himself totally. He must give and give, and he must work in order to have enough to give to others (Ephes. 4:28). He must always be in a state and condition of sacrificing. He must never store up. Storing up can reap only one benefit: to be called rich and to feel materially secure. The fallacy of this is that true security can come only from God (Matthew 6:25-34; 1 John 5:11-15).

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2020 in Pharisees

 

The Three “Great Miracles”


Three “Great Miracles” described in scripture shape the Christian’s understanding of God. Each of these three grand miracles have been challenged by non-believers and even watered down by some believers.

  1. The Miracle of Creation

The most insidious and damaging ideology ever foisted upon the mind of modern man is the notion that human beings are but animals, and the offspring of other, more primitive creatures. It’s known as the theory of organic evolution.

Tragically, multiplied thousands across the land have ingested this dogma. Evolution is not a scientific law. It is a mere hypothesis that falls quite beyond the pale of the scientific method, which should include observation, experimentation, and verification.

Many scientists dispute that evolutionary dogma is true science. Evolutionist Robert Jastow has conceded that belief in the accidental origin of life is “an act of faith much like faith in the power of a Supreme Being.”

Theodore Tahmisian, a nuclear physicist with the Atomic Energy Commission, has said: “Scientists who go about teaching that evolution is a fact of life are great con men, and the story they are telling may be the greatest hoax ever. In explaining evolution we do not have one iota of fact … It is a tangled mishmash of guessing games and figure jaggling … If evolution occurred at all, it was probably in a very different manner than the way it is now taught”.

    (Gen 1:1 NIV)  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

(Gen 1:2 NIV)  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

John 1:1-3 (ESV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2  He was in the beginning with God. 3  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

  1. The Miracle of the Incarnation

How does God reveal Himself?  Through scripture…through our conscience…through the indwelling Holy Spirit. But it begins for many through nature.

(Psalms 19:1-6)  “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. {2} Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. {3} There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. {4} Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, {5} which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. {6} It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.

(Romans 1:20) For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

In the Bible God tells us what He is like. We learn how He thinks, how He feels, and how we can expect Him to act.

If we want to know God, we must begin by opening the Bible and reading what He has to say about Himself.

But God is infinite, and we are finite human beings. How can the finite ever really understand the infinite? How can the human ever truly know the divine?

It seems that God must reveal Himself to us in some way more personal than mere written words if we are ever to know Him genuinely.

And that is exactly what He did through Jesus Christ.

(John 1:14-18)  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(Hebrews 1:1-3)  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, {2} but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. {3} The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Jesus Himself made that claim when He said: If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him. (John 14:7).

The miracle of Jesus’ Birth.

Biblical names frequently have a profound theological meaning. For instance, in Isaiah 7:14 the prophecy was given: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

The name “Immanuel” in Hebrew means “God is with us,” and the prophecy finds its fulfillment in the birth of Jesus Christ.

By the use of  “Immanuel,” at least two things are in view:

First, that Jesus is a divine being; he is God.

Second, there is the implication that in some way Deity has identified “with us.”

As the sustainer

The Bible teaches that the divine Christ sustains the very universe in which we live. In that great chapter which is designed to exalt the Lord, Paul affirms that in Christ “all things consist” (Col. 1:17).

In human nature

Though Christ was existing eternally as Deity, yet it was the divine plan that he become human. So in the fulness of time the “seed” of woman came to earth (cf. Gen. 3:15; Gal. 4:4).

In order that he might identify with us, Jesus came “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3).

Through his vicarious death

The identification of God the Son with us in his death is vividly stressed in Isaiah 53. Note the interchange of pronouns:

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:4-5).

“Him who knew no sin he [God] made to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). The death of Christ is given a very prominent place in the Bible.

With daily watchfulness

The Scriptures are filled with promises that God will be with his saints on a daily basis. “Jehovah of hosts is with us” (Psa. 46:7).

Similarly, Jesus, in concluding the Great Commission, announced: “lo, I am with you always (pas hay-mer’-ah– literally, all the days – i.e., day by day) even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20).

  1. The miracle of the resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the foundation of the Christian system (cf. 1 Cor. 15:14ff). If there was no resurrection, Christianity is a hoax, and we are wasting our time. But the truth is, the event of Jesus’ resurrection is incontrovertible.

Professor Thomas Arnold, a world-renowned historian, once said that Christ’s resurrection from the dead is the “best-attested fact in human history” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, IV, p. 2569).

First, the resurrection is one of the major evidences that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Paul affirmed that Christ is “declared to be the Son of God with power … by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4).

Second, Jesus’ resurrection represents an assurance that we can have forgiveness from our sins.

Paul contended: “… if Christ hath not been raised, our faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). The reverse of the apostle’s affirmation would be this: If Jesus was raised, sins will be forgiven when we obey the gospel – Acts 2:38; 22:16.

Third, the resurrection tells the world that the kingdom of God is ruled by a living sovereign.

The founder of Islam is dead and his bones lie dormant in the earth. But the founder of Christianity – sixty years after His death – appeared to John on the island of Patmos and said: “I am the first and the last, and the Living one … I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore …” (Rev. 1:17-18).

Fourth, Jesus’ resurrection proves that physical death is not the termination of human existence.

God, who is the giver of life (1 Tim. 6:13), has the power to reanimate the human body. Christ’s triumph over the grave is Heaven’s pledge to us that we too shall be raised. This is why Jesus is referred to as the “firstfruits of them that are asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20, 23).

Fifth, the Lord’s resurrection previewed the ultimate victory of Christianity over all its enemies.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus is depicted as a lamb that had been slain, but was standing again (5:6). This same Lord was “the lion of the tribe of Judah” that had overcome His foes (5:5).

Christians too will overcome as a result of the Lamb’s sacrifice and victory over death (cf. Rev. 12:11).

Creation…the Incarnation…the Resurrection. They are facts upon which our faith is based. I am thankful we possess this information!

 

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2020 in God, Jesus Christ, Luke

 

Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees series #5 The King’s Denunciation – Matthew 23 (part 1)


Matthew 23 records Jesus’ last public sermon. It was not a sermon on salvation, on the resurrection, or on principles for living the kingdom life but rather a vital and sobering message of condemnation against false teachers.

In verses 1-7 He warns the people about false religious leaders in Israel, and in verses 8-12 he admonishes the disciples and other true spiritual leaders not to emulate them.

He then turns His attention directly to the false leaders themselves, epitomized by the scribes and Pharisees, and gives them His final and most scathing denunciation (vv. 13-36).

In His closing comments (vv. 37-39) He expresses His intense compassion for unbelieving Israel and gives the assurance that one day in fulfillment of God’s sovereign promise, His chosen people will turn back to Him in faith.

Since the Garden of Eden , the world has always had false religious leaders, pretending to represent God but representing only themselves. False leaders were active in the rebellious scheme to erect the tower of Babel. Moses came into serious conflict with the religious sorcerers and magicians of Egypt when he demanded the release of God’s people by pharaoh, who probably considered himself to be a god (see Ex. 7:11-12, 22; 8:7).

Ezekiel faced the false prophets in Israel, whom God called “foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing” (Ezek. 13:3).

Jesus referred to spurious religious leaders as “false Christs and false prophets [who] will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24). Paul called them preachers of a perverted gospel (Gal. 1:8) and purveyors of the doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1). Peter spoke of them as those who “secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them” (2 Pet. 2:1). John called them antichrists who deny that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ (1 John 2:18, 22).

Jude called them dreamers who “defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties” (Jude 8). As Paul declared to the Ephesian elders in his brief and touching reunion with them on the beach near Miletus, false religious leaders are “savage wolves” of the spirit world whose purpose is to corrupt and destroy God’s people (Acts 20:29).

The religion pages of major newspapers in our day are filled with advertisements for every kind of sect and false religion, including deviant forms of Christianity as well as cults and the occult. One writer suggested that a cult is either “Bible plus or Bible minus.”

Many of those groups masquerade as forms of Christianity and claim to teach a new and better gospel. But while purporting to offer spiritual life and help, they instead teach the way of spiritual death and damnation. While claiming to lead people to heaven, they usher them directly into hell.

Dialogue between Jesus and the Temple authorities had ended, because “no one was able to answer [Jesus] a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question” (Matt. 22:46). Although the Lord had frequently spoken against the unbelieving religious leaders (see Matt. 5:20; 15:1-9; 16:6-12; John 8:44), it was necessary to give a final word, a last comprehensive warning, to them and to everyone else, about the eternal danger of their perverse teachings. Jesus also no doubt wanted to give those unbelieving leaders themselves opportunity to turn from their falsehood and follow Him to forgiveness and salvation.

It seems evident that many hearts were softened to the gospel that day including the hearts of some of the leaders. On the day of Pentecost alone some three thousand souls came to the Lord (Acts 2:41), and it may well have been that eight or ten times that number believed within a few more months, as the apostles “filled Jerusalem with [their] teaching” (Acts 5:28). We can be certain that many, and perhaps most, of the converts in those early days had seen and heard Jesus personally and been drawn by the Holy Spirit to His truth and grace. Perhaps for some, this message was the point of initial attraction to Jesus Christ.

Perhaps the best way to deal with these eight “woes” is to contrast them with the eight beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12. In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord described true righteousness; here He described a false righteousness.

Entering the kingdom—shutting up the kingdom
(Matthew 5:3 NASB) “”Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

(Matthew 23:13 NASB) “”But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”

The poor in spirit enter the kingdom, but the proud in spirit keep themselves out and even keep others out. The Greek verb indicates people trying to get in who cannot.

It is bad enough to keep yourself out of the kingdom, but worse when you stand in the way of others. By teaching man-made traditions instead of God’s truth, they “took away the key of knowledge” and closed the door to salvation (Luke 11:52).

Discussion of this first beatitude demands that it be looked at from five perspectives: the meaning of poor in spirit, the location of this virtue in the list, the way to achieve that attitude, how to know if we have that attitude, and the result promised for having it.

False Leaders Are Cursed for Their Exclusion

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. (23:13)

Christ said two things in this point.

  1. The false religionists did not enter heaven themselves. There are three reasons why they did not enter. (These reasons are pointed out in the preceding Scriptures.)
  2. They rejected God as Messiah, as being the Lord from heaven, the very Son of God (cp. Matthew 22:41-45; John 10:31-39).
  3. They preferred their own ideas of religion rather than God’s ideas. They preferred a religion that honored man’s ability to do religious things rather than a religion that honored God’s mercy for man.
  4. They chose the world over God’s demand for self-denial. They chose the things of the world such as position, honor, recognition, esteem, wealth, power, authority, and security.
  5. The false religionists not only did not enter heaven themselves, they did not allow seekers to enter. They shut the door by misleading people, and thereby doomed them to an eternity apart from God.
  6. They tried to discredit Jesus Christ, denying that He was the Son of God incarnated in human flesh (Matthew 21:23-22:46).
  7. They twisted the Scriptures, falsely interpreting them (cp. Matthew 22:41-46).
  8. They ridiculed and threatened anyone who confessed Christ (John 9:22, 34).

Throughout its pages, Scripture highly honors genuine spiritual leaders who rightly and faithfully represent God and seek no self-glory. God lifts up His true servants and presents them as examples for others to follow and respect. The Christians of Galatia must have greatly pleased God’s heart when they received the apostle Paul “as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself” (Gal. 4:14).

Paul called upon the Philippian church to receive Epaphroditus “in the Lord with all joy and hold men like him in high regard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ” (Phil. 2:29-30). He implored the Thessalonians: “Appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and… esteem them very highly in love because of their work” (1 Thess. 5:12-13). He advised Timothy “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17).

The writer of Hebrews exhorts believers: “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17).

On the other hand, no one in Scripture is more condemned than the religious charlatan who teaches and practices falsehood. God’s most furious wrath is reserved for those men who parade themselves as His servants but who are servants only of evil and falsehood, liars and deceivers whose own spiritual father is Satan himself (John 8:44).

The seventeenth-century Puritan preacher Richard Baxter wrote, “Many a tailor can go in rags while making costly clothes for others. Many a cook may scarcely lick his fingers when he has prepared the most sumptuous dishes for others to eat” (The Peformed Minister [Portland. Ore.: Multnomah, 1982], p. 28). His point was that many religious leaders supposedly offer spiritual provision for those in their care but are themselves spiritually shabby and starving. Such were most of the Jewish religious leaders in New Testament times.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2020 in Pharisees

 

Spending Time With Jesus: How to be Truly Rich – Luke 16:1-13


In Luke 16, Jesus tells two parables—the unrighteous steward and rich man and Lazarus—to show that God’s perspective on riches and our perspective are often diametrically opposed. If we want to be truly rich, we need God’s perspective on money.

Jesus tells the first parable to the disciples (16:1), but the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening in and scoffing at Him (16:14). So the ensuing instruction and the second parable are aimed primarily at the Pharisees. The entire chapter should make us all stop and think carefully about our attitude toward money.

The parable of the unrighteous steward causes commentators a lot of grief. They call it the most difficult parable in Luke. Jesus is seemingly praising a scoundrel. But a careful look reveals that Jesus is not praising the man’s crookedness, but rather his shrewdness in using a present opportunity to provide for his inevitable future needs.

Jesus calls the man “unrighteous” (16:8), thereby condemning his wrong ways. But He is saying that we can learn a valuable lesson from this pagan scoundrel, who is wiser than many “sons of light,” in that he saw what was coming and he used what had been entrusted to him while he could to prepare for the future. The lesson for us is:

A faithful steward will use his Master’s money shrewdly to provide true riches for eternity.

Jesus is telling us that there is a way you can take it with you, namely, by wisely investing the resources that God has entrusted to you now in things that matter for eternity.

1. Faithful versus unrighteous: Be faithful, not unrighteous, in financial matters.

The first contrast, in verse 10, is between “the one who is faithful” and “the one who is unrighteous.” Jesus is saying, “Do not be unrighteous as the steward in the parable was, but be faithful stewards,” as those who will give an account to the Master. There are two crucial concepts here:

The concept of stewardship: God owns it; I manage it.

Implicit in Jesus’ teaching, both here and elsewhere, is that God owns everything and we are stewards or managers of what He has entrusted to us. We are stewards of our time, our abilities, and our possessions and money. In the parable, the steward was squandering his master’s possessions (16:1).

  • There is much debate over whether his action of reducing the bills of his master’s debtors was illegal or legal.
  • Some argue that his master had cleverly violated the Jewish laws against charging interest, and that the steward was rectifying the situation and putting the master in the awkward position of going along with the adjusted bills or else openly being guilty of charging interest.
  • Others say that the steward was giving up his own commission on the sales.
  • Others say that the steward was stealing from his master. We can’t know for sure, but it seems to me that the steward was not doing anything illegal or the master would have prosecuted him.

And yet, while staying within the letter of the law and acting within the authority given to him, the steward was not acting in his master’s best interests, but in his own.

Even though the master lost a lot of money through the steward’s actions, he grudgingly had to praise him for his shrewdness. But the fact is, although shrewd, the steward was still unrighteous or unfaithful because he was using his master’s money for his own selfish ends, not for the master’s profit.

One of the key concepts of being a steward is that the steward does not own what the master or owner has entrusted to him. He merely manages it for the owner’s purposes. If the steward begins to act as if he owns it, spending the owner’s resources for his personal betterment rather than for the owner’s benefit, he is an unrighteous, not a faithful, steward.

The principle of stewardship is a fundamental concept of Christian living. When you keep it in focus, it radically affects how you live. To be faithful as a steward, you must keep in mind at all times that you do not own your money; God does. You do not own your car; God does. You do not own your house; God does. You do not own your own life; God does.

To forget or ignore God’s purposes and to live as if what we have is ours to use for our purposes is to abuse our stewardship by being unfaithful.

The concept of accountability: Some day I must give an account to God for my stewardship.

Every business manager knows that the owner will be checking the books to see how things are going. If the business has been earning a profit for the owner, then the manager may get a raise. But if the manager has been skimming off the profits to finance his new yacht and his Mercedes, he’s going to be in trouble when the books are examined.

The idea of accountability is inherent in the concept of management or stewardship.

Crucial to being a good steward is understanding the owner’s purpose for his business. In the world, the purpose usually is to make all the money you can.

But what is our Master’s purpose? Jesus tells us in verse 9: And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

Jesus reminds us that the world uses for unrighteous purposes, but which believers can use for God’s purposes.

Jesus means that just as the unrighteous steward used his master’s money to make friends for himself, so that when he got fired they would welcome him into their homes, so we should use our Master’s money to make friends for ourselves in heaven.

It refers to the friends who have become Christians because of our faithful stewardship. When earthly riches fail, as they surely will when we die, we will have friends in heaven who are there because of our godly actions.

Each of us must ask ourselves the sober question, “Am I managing the resources God has entrusted to me with a view to giving an account some day in light of His purpose of being glorified among all the nations through the spreading of the gospel?”

God is a generous and gracious Father, who gives to us not only enough for our basic needs, but also for our enjoyment. So, it is not wrong to enjoy many things beyond the bare essentials. But, if we grasp the concept of faithful stewardship and accountability, our focus will not be on our own financial success, but rather on the financial “success” of God’s enterprise, namely, the gospel.

Temporal versus eternal: Lay up treasures in heaven.

The second contrast consists of three contrasts that all point to the same thing, namely the temporal versus the eternal. Jesus is saying that the faithful steward will provide true riches for eternity in contrast to this unrighteous steward who provided himself only with temporal provisions.

Isn’t it ironic that to us, money is a big deal, but to God it’s “a very little thing”! If you don’t think that money is a big deal to people, even to God’s people, just ask some dear old saint to part with his or her riches for the sake of God’s work and see what kind of response you get!

God views our money as a very little thing. It is the litmus test by which God tests us to see if we can handle true riches, namely, souls. If we are faithful in managing the money God gives us for His purposes, He will entrust eternal souls into our care.

We will have eternal rewards in heaven, even if we don’t have much in terms of earthly possessions. The ironic thing is, you are 100 percent certain to lose all the money you accumulate on this earth—it will fail (16:9). You are 100 percent certain to keep all the rewards you lay up in heaven—they are your own (16:12), secure where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in to steal (Matt. 6:20).

And yet, most of God’s people major on laying up money on earth and minor on laying up treasure in heaven! Puritan Thomas Adams put it, “To part with what we cannot keep, that we may get that we cannot lose, is a good bargain. Wealth can do us no good, unless it help us toward heaven.”

God versus Mammon: Choose your Master.

In verse 13, Jesus draws the third contrast, that we either can serve God or money, but not both. So we must make a basic decision as to our choice of masters.

It is a delusion to think that you can own money. That is not one of the choices. Either God owns you, including your money, or your money owns you. Those are the only choices.

Most of us would like to think that there is some middle ground, where we can mostly serve God, but also keep one foot in worldly wealth. Jesus draws the line in the sand and makes us ask, “Who is my Master: God or money?”

Use present opportunities to provide for inevitable future realities.

Jesus is saying that unbelievers are often more shrewd in figuring out how to secure temporal wealth than believers are in figuring out how to secure eternal riches.

By shrewd, Jesus does not mean dishonest, but rather, as Webster defines it, “clever, discerning awareness; practical, hardheaded cleverness and judgment” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary [Merriam-Webster], p. 1091).

How was the unrighteous steward shrewd? In at least two ways. First, he was shrewd in that he seized an opportunity while he still had time to act. He saw the handwriting on the wall: his days were numbered! He was going to get fired. So he quickly went into action, using his authority while he still had time, to get on the good side of his master’s debtors.

The application for us is, if we hear of a window of opportunity for the gospel, we should do all we can to seize it while we can. If we hear of a good investment opportunity that is reasonably certain to earn a decent profit and we have the funds to invest, we would probably jump at the chance.

In the same way, if we hear of an opportunity for the gospel and God has given us funds to invest, we should go for it.

Second, the unrighteous steward was shrewd in that he used his present resources to provide for his inevitable future realities. He knew that he was going to be fired. While many would have despaired, he went into action, using what he had to provide for his future security.

The application for us is, we know that the time is soon coming when the money of unrighteousness will fail. We will die or Christ will return, and money won’t do us any good in heaven. But we can use our money now to store up treasures in heaven by making eternal friends through the gospel.

Can you imagine the joy someday of meeting someone in heaven who says, “Thank you for giving to the cause of world evangelization! Because you gave, missionaries came to my country and I got saved.”

Ecclesiastes 5:10-17 (ESV)

Myth #1 Wealth brings satisfaction (vs. 10). He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.

Myth #2 Wealth solves every problem (vs. 11).  When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes?

Myth #3 Wealth brings peace of mind (vs. 12). Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

Myth #4 Wealth provides security (vs. 13-17) There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, 14  and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand.
15  As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. 16  This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? 17  Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2020 in Luke

 
 
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