Friday, February 29, 2008

We Have Been Warned

There are many who think that the Gospel will be accepted by many in the World. But, Christ said clearly that many will not only reject it, they will oppose it. They will persecute those who teach it. They will harass and betray them. They will put them in prison and even execute them. That is what Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 10: 24 -25,

Matthew 10: 24 The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.
Matthew 10: 25 It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?

There are only two responses to the Gospel: accept by Faith or reject it. The good news of salvation causes us to make a decision: Either for or against Christ. There is no neutral position. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” Matthew 12:30. This is why Christ tells His disciples in Matthew 10:34 – 37

Matthew 10: 34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
Matthew 10: 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
Matthew 10: 36 And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.
Matthew 10: 37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Jesus said to the disciples that families will split in two over the Gospel. Where there was once unity now there is dissension. Some will accept it some will not. Those who reject it will eventually oppose it. Luke 12:49 – 53 repeats a similar thought. Here Jesus says that He comes to bring fire and division. It was not that it was His intention to do this. But, it would be a result of the work of spreading the gospel. And, the disciples should be ready for this. Sister White says about this text, “"The Saviour bade His disciples not to hope that the world's enmity to the gospel would be overcome, and that after a time its opposition would cease.” This is the same point some scholars make in the following quote,

"Jesus here dispels the mistaken opinion that some of the disciples apparently had, that the message they were to bear would result in nothing but harmony. They were not to be surprised, in their house-to-house work ..., if differences arose as a result of their ministry. . . . When a [person] accepts Christ his closest friends often turn out to be [the] most bitter and relentless enemies. This is often true, not only in heathen lands, but also in Christian lands and among professed Christians who practice a form of religion but know little if anything of its power to transform the life." The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, pp. 379, 380.

The Lord said this to the disciples and us, so we would not be discouraged. This is perhaps why He repeatedly encouraged His disciples with words as such as found in Matthew 10,

Matthew 10: 19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
Matthew 10: 20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.

Christ adds on verse 22 that “…he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” He finishes chapter 10 with this passage,

Matthew 10: 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
Matthew 10: 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Matthew 10: 31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Yes, there will be troublesome times but do not be discouraged. Christ will “not leave you comfortless: I will come to you,” “and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (John 14:18; Matthew 28:20).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Spiritual Adults are as Little Children

When Christ explained the kingdom of Heaven to the disciples his explanations were is full of paradoxes. For example He said to them, “The first shall be last…,” and “He who looses his life, shall live…”(Matthew 20:16; 16:25). Let us consider this week another paradox found in Matthew 18: 1 - 4. Let us read the passage,

Matthew 18: 1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
Matthew 18: 2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
Matthew 18: 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

The disciples’ misunderstanding of the Gospel led them to argue who of them would be the greatest in the Kingdom to come. They wanted to settle their argument and went to ask Jesus. As we read in the above passage Jesus called a little child. The child came to Him and Jesus set him on the midst of the disciples and the child stood there. (The child modeled what Christ wanted from them.) Then Christ proceeded to tell them that He who answers when he is called, he who comes when he is summoned, he who stays put until told he can leave is the greatest. It is not the independent, self assertive, do it yourselfer that God commends. God commends those who totally humble themselves and totally depend and trust in God. They wait for God’s words for instruction, when God speaks they listen, they stay when and where God says so, they do not move until God says so, and toward where God points them. There is in them an implicit trust in God, which comes out of knowing God’s love and will and being thankful to Him.

What things do children have that we should emulate? Many people say children, in general, forgive easily. They fight with their playmates and a few moments later they play again as if nothing happened. They tend not to keep tabs nor hold grudges. In general, children also display an eagerness to learn and tend to be teachable. The old expression, “you cannot teach a new trick to an old dog” holds true for many adults. They are set in their ways, inflexible, stubborn and many times proud and arrogant about what they consider the right way. They reject anything that does not agree with whatever they hold true and dear. Children exhibit openness to new things and a willingness to try them.

There is something else about children that we must learn. Children, in general, always come back to their parents because they know they can always depend on them. They, perhaps subconsciously, know that without their parents they will not survive. Their parents know this, which is why their parents take care of them, and train them to survive without them in the future. Likewise, we cannot survive without God. God wants to train us to learn to trust Him and depend on Him at all times. Yes, it takes humility to accept this and live like this. Only the Holy Spirit can give us that humility. However, unlike children that grow to be independent adults, we can never grow to be independent of God. Spiritual adults are those who choose to give their will to God continually. Spiritual adults trust and depend on God continually.

We can be confused when we read what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13: 11 “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Notice Paul refers to childish things: Whining, complaining, temper tantrums, self-centeredness, etc. As we submit to the indwelling Spirit of God, He takes away the negative ways of Children and replaces them with the positive. He replaces these negative traits with humility, and a willingness to listen and learn. Those who allow this are the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

It’s All The Sermon of the Mount

A verb is a word that denotes action or state of being. Verbs are modified by tense which denote time: Whether it is present, past, or future. Within those categories there are subcategories. For example, in the present: whether it is happening now and no more or it is continually happening.

The past tense has different aspects, also. For example, whether it happened once and no more – preterite (I went), whether it happened continually as in a habit or costume – imperfect (I used to go). (For interest of space, I am omitting two more aspects.) The imperfect tense does not indicate whether the actions ever stopped. Let us say for example somebody who drives their car to work says to you, “I use to drive my car to work.” Although it would be understood that the person spoke about their driving habits in the past, it does not mean the person ever stopped driving.

This imperfect tense also exists in the Greek language. This is the case of the verb taught in Matthew 5:2, “And He opened his mouth, and taught them, saying.” In our lesson William Barkley explains about the use of the verb taught in this verse. Let us read the quote,

“…Now the point is that in the Greek of this sentence, which we are studying, the verb taught is not an aorist [tense], but an imperfect and therefore it describes repeated and habitual action, and the translation should be: ‘This is what he used to teach them.’ Matthew has said as plainly as Greek will say it that the Sermon on the Mount is not one sermon of Jesus, given at one particular time and on one particular occasion; it is the essence of all that Jesus continuously and habitually taught his disciples.”

In other words everything Jesus taught was in essence the Sermon of the Mount. It was reworded according to the occasion and circumstance. In fact, one could argue that the whole Bible is the Sermon of the Mount, reworded. The Sermon of the Mount describes what agape looks like when we embrace it. The Sermon of the Mount shows us, what and how a human being behaves when (s)he allows the Holy Spirit to dwell in him/her permanently, allowing Him to renew his/her heart and mind. The Sermon of the Mount paints a picture of how a human being looks like when (s)he yields their will to God.

This is the point God is trying to bring across on the Old Testament. Thrice God speaks through Ezekiel pleading Israel to turn to Him so God can give them a new heart (Ezekiel 11:9; 18:31; 36:26.) It is the main point of Isaiah 58: 4-7,

Isaiah 58: 4Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
Isaiah 58: 5Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
Isaiah 58: 6Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Isaiah 58: 7Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

This passage is in essence the Sermon of the Mount reworded. Such is the case of Paul epistle to the Ephesians. In Chapters 1 through 3 he expounds on the glorious riches we have in Christ. So Paul prays to the Father, “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:16 - 19). So Paul continues in Ephesians 4: 1 – 3:

Ephesians 4: 1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
Ephesians 4: 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
Ephesians 4: 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

If God dwells in you this is how you would walk. If God dwells in you, chapters 4 through 6 of Ephesians will be a reality. It is in essence the Sermon of the Mount reworded. It is the essence of John’s epistles, God is love and those who let God dwell in them will love God and others. It is how the un-fallen world lives. It is how those who are resurrected and translated will live eternally. It is a gift to you and your choice to receive it.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Lesson Learned From A Foreigner

In Matthew 15:21 - 28 a story is told of a Syro-Phoenician woman who pleads to Jesus for a miracle. The story reads as follows,

Matthew 15:21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.
Matthew 15:22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
Matthew 15:23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
Matthew 15:24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Matthew 15:25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
Matthew 15:26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.
Matthew 15:27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.
Matthew 15:28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

When we look at this account closely, this is what we see. Jesus initial silent treatment to this Canaanite woman was intentional. It was not to mistreat the woman, but, to teach the disciples and us a few lessons. It seemed the Disciples response was one of disdain. It was pretty much like, “get rid of her.” After the disciples speak out to Christ, Jesus speaks to the woman. His answer to the woman can seem very rude. However, it was in line with His intention of teaching the lesson to His disciples. What things did this event teach us all?

1. Jesus’ love crossed gender lines. The disciples needed to learn that God did not see females as inferior to males. God created them and in Jesus God was redeeming them also. He listened to the woman and answered her prayer.

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

2. Jesus’ love crossed ethnic/racial/national lines. Again, the disciples needed to learn that God does not favor one group over the other. If the disciples were to go out to the world with the gospel, they had to leave their bigotry, nationalism, prejudices and discriminative attitudes behind. Only Jesus can do this. Tolerating is not enough, you must agape others.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Colossians 3:10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
Colossians 3:11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

3. Faith can be found in anyone who believes regardless of their background.

Romans 10:11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
Romans 10:12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

4. God will test your Faith. It will seem to you that He is ignoring you. He will seem to pay no heed to your petition. However, those who have faith will keep asking, until God replies. That is what Paul did about his infirmity.

2 Corinthians 12:8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

5. The Canaanite woman admitted to submit herself to Christ as a puppy to its master. Dogs have two distinct qualities about them that most owners like. They are loyal to and dependent on their master. Are we loyal to God and dependent on Him? Puppies follow their master everywhere, as sheep follow their shepherd.

John 10:3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
John 10:4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

This passage, perhaps gives us the perfect image of discipleship. A disciple is as a puppy sitting at his Master’s feet and feeding of the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table.