Tag Archives: Gospel of Matthew

Walking On Water

And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. (Matthew 14:29)

One of my favorite accounts recorded in the Gospels is that of Peter walking on water. Everyone knows that Jesus walked on the water, but no one remembers that Peter walked on the water too. Most people focus on the fact that Peter sank. Peter succumbed to the natural laws of physics, but he did walk on water.

The record begins when Jesus fed “about five thousand men, beside women and children” (Matthew 14:21). This He did by multiplying the five barley loaves and two fish (Matthew 14:17). “And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full” (Matthew 14:20) – one basket full for each of the twelve disciples. The miracle demonstrated Jesus’ power as Creator. The beginning amount of food, if simply broken up into tiny morsels sufficient for each of the over 5000 people, would not have been enough for them all to be “filled” – the Greek word used there is chortazō, which means, “to gorge.”  Jesus created new food out of nothing, and the people were “stuffed.” After the “feast,” Jesus dismissed the crowd and instructed His disciples to get in the boat and go across the Sea of Galilee. Meanwhile, “he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23).

While Jesus prayed, a storm came up on the lake and caught the disciples in middle of the water fighting for their lives. After a long night of bailing water and manning the oars, the disciples looked across the water and thought they saw a ghost walking in their direction.[1] It was past three o’clock in the morning – the fourth watch. Lack of sleep combined with aching backs and shoulders from fighting the elements contributed to the fear that gripped their hearts at the sight of this phantasm. “They were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear” (Matthew 14:26, emphasis mine).

Then came that all too familiar voice, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid” (Matthew 14:27). Literally, the Greek reads, “Have courage. I AM. Fear not.” The Great I AM who created the laws of physics now subjected them to His will by transforming the surface tension of water into a solid surface for His footsteps. Incredible! The disciples had their doubts.  “And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come.” (Matthew 14:28-29a, emphasis mine).

One must really admire the audacity of Peter! Although he could not believe his eyes, he recognized and trusted the voice of the Savior. “And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus” (Matthew 14:29b). Look closely at what the verse says. Peter got out of the boat, but he did not just stand there holding on to the side. “He walked on the water.” He let go of the boat and started walking “to go to Jesus.” Peter was walking on water! Peter did not perform a miracle. He did not manipulate the laws of physics like Jesus did. He simply trusted in the Word of Jesus. Jesus said, “come,” and that was enough. Way to go, Peter!

However, “when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid” (Matthew 14:30). The Greek word translated “boisterous” is ischuros, and it means “forcible, mighty, powerful, strong, or valiant.” We cannot really “see” the wind, but we see its effects. The wind was “forceful.” The waves broke over the bow of the small boat. The sea plunged to a depth of more than 200 feet. A man could easily drown under these circumstances. Peter took his eyes off the One who said, “come,” and he took notice of the elements around him instead. That is when he lost his footing, “and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him” (Matthew 14:30-31, emphasis mine).  Peter’s head did not go under before Jesus brought him to the surface, “and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). We should not be too critical of Peter’s “little faith.” Under similar circumstances, we might react the same way.

Like Peter, Jesus calls us to come to Him. The storms of life surround us. Danger lurks everywhere. Some see Jesus as a phantom, a figment of religious imaginations, and though the storms of life are very real, they prefer to take their chances in the boat where it is “safe.” However, the boat guarantees no safety. One big wave can swamp the boat, and life is over. The safest place is out on the water with Jesus. We can walk on water through the storms of life as long as our eyes are fixed on the One who says, “Come,” “and be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27).

That is not the end of the story. Peter did walk on water again. After Jesus saved him, they walked to the boat together. “And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased” (Matthew 14:32, emphasis mine). Walking on water with Jesus calms the storms of life.

Notes:


[1]  “Jesus’ Seven Signs in John (5)” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/11/20/jesus-seven-signs-in-john-5/

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Resurrection

colorful sunset

Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up … When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. (John 2:20, 22)

Christians today, especially in the Middle East, suffer martyrdom by the hundreds at the hands of brutal ISIS executioners. These undergo a gruesome and horrific death by beheadings or being burned alive. Yet, as ghastly as we may perceive such brutality, the pain and suffering of these victims is short-lived, unlike that experienced by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.[1]

On the Lord’s Feast of Passover,[2] Jesus, already physically drained from lack of sleep[3] and subjected to a sham of a trial by the Jewish religious leaders, was brutally beaten and scourged at hands of Roman soldiers, experts at inflicting pain without killing the victim. Then in that depleted condition, He was forced to carry His own cross to the place of execution, and whether it was a fully assembled cross or just the cross beam, for a man in Jesus’ condition at that time was next to impossible – but He did it. Under the weight of that burden, determined to complete His mission, He faced the horror of the cross. God, wrapped up in human flesh, with His host of angelic armies standing at the ready awaiting the command to rain down vengeance upon His tormentors. At the time of His arrest, Peter pulled his sword in His defense, but Jesus stopped him. “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).  Nothing would deter Him from His mission. “[He] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

Determined to give to the very last, He carried Himself up Calvary’s hill, laid Himself down upon the timbers and spread His arms out to receive the nails – our pain, our guilt, our sins. “For [God the Father] hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). At the last, He gave His life. He did not die. Jesus said, “… I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:17-18, emphasis mine). He was not killed. “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost” (Matthew 27:50, emphasis mine). He was not the victim. He was in full control until the very last. John, the beloved disciple, and the only one of the twelve to witness the event said, “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:30, emphasis mine). Finished! Paid in full!

That was not the end. On the first day of the week, on that spring Sunday morning, He broke the chains of death and brought sheol’s captives with Him. Matthew records, “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matthew 27:52-53).[4]

His resurrection is key! Had Jesus died and remained in the tomb, we would venerate a martyr, nothing more. His bones would be marked by an ornate shrine. Perhaps followers would make faithful pilgrimages to the site to stand in awe and wonder. If that was the case, our faith’s reward would be death and eternal separation from our Creator with no hope of redemption. “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).  Because of His resurrection, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:5). So now we can say, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

Before going to the cross, Jesus left us with this promise: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3). His resurrection guarantees the promise. On that day, “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world are brutally killed daily by the enemy of God. We can thank God that for many, death is swift; it is nothing like what their Lord and our Lord endured for our sakes. But the guaranteed promise of the resurrection assures us that one day soon, we will be together with Him in His house.

Notes:


 

[1]  It is said that victims could linger on the cross up to three days until succumbing to dehydration and asphyxia.

[2]  Despite conventional tradition, this even could not have taken place on Friday. Jesus said He would rise in “three days,” not three partial days. Jesus specified “three days and three nights” (Matthew 12:39-40). No matter how one may try to convolute the time to fit a “Good Friday” scenario, one cannot get “three days and three nights” from Friday evening to Sunday morning. Jesus said, “three days and three nights” – 72 hours, nothing less will do!

[3]  Jesus had spent the night in prayer while His disciples slept (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46) before being betrayed by Judas, arrested and tried.

[4]  Matthew’s recording of this event that seems to coincide with Jesus’ death and the renting of the veil to the Holy of Holies, but a close inspection of the text reveals that this event occurred after the resurrection. See again Matthew 27:52-53.

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Jesus Said It

Jesus Preaching the Sermon on the Mount - Gustave Dore

                 Jesus Preaching the Sermon on the Mount – Gustave Dore

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.   (Matthew 24:35)

The general conception of Jesus, if He is thought of at all, is that He was a nice guy, a good teacher, and perhaps a miracle worker. A lot of what He said are words to live by, like, “all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12), and “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1 – taken out of context, a great verse for Christian bashing). There is no doubt that Jesus taught many things that benefit when applied to every-day life. Those kinds of teachings find general acceptance by all, but Jesus also said many things that many in this politically correct culture would find offensive.

Jesus said, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repent? Many today who, like Donald Trump, believe they have done nothing from which to repent. The Bible says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). Jesus said, “Repent”!

Jesus said, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). What man alive can claim innocence of that sin? These days, the same could be said of woman. Along with that He said, “whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matthew 5:32). With today’s high rate of easy divorce, to how many does this apply? Speaking of adultery, Jesus said marriage is between one man and one woman: “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:6-9, emphasis mine) – so much for same-sex unions.

Many think of Jesus as peaceful and gentle, but Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Why is that? To His followers Jesus said, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake” (Matthew 10:22, emphasis mine). “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).  Jesus said, “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Matthew 10:36).  “And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death” (Matthew 10:21).  Jesus said, “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 10:35); so “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. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37-38). However, He offers this promise: “he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:39).

Jesus wants total allegiance; He wants first place in our lives. The reward is eternal life, but it is not without cost. Some will protest, and rightfully so, “Salvation is a free gift. It cannot be earned, Ephesians 2:8-9!” True. The “wages of sin” (Romans 3:23) were paid by Christ on the cross, but along with accepting the free gift comes the responsibility that goes with it. The Christian life is not one of ease, a life of “do as you please,” but the Christian has the promise of the Savior who says “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30) because He becomes your “yoke partner.”

Jesus said that the Global Flood was real: “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be (Matthew 24:37-39). Jesus said that the Jonah “fish story” was true: “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). He said this in foretelling of His own death, burial, and resurrection which He fulfilled at His crucifixion.

Jesus said hell is real. He spoke of those within the church – “tares” – that by all appearances look like genuine Christians, but are not. Of these He said, “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:40-42, emphasis mine). He spoke of the kingdom of heaven being like a net cast into the sea (the “sea” is often used as a metaphor for “the people” of the world) and gathered in by the angels who separate the good from the bad. “So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:49-50, emphasis mine).  Jesus said that if your hand, foot, or eye causes you to sin, you should get rid of them, for it is better to enter into heaven maimed than to be whole and “to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43-48, emphasis mine). Notice that Jesus stressed the eternality of hell; “never” means NEVER.  Jesus spoke of hell as a real place. He told the true account of a rich man and a poor beggar who both died and stepped into eternity (Luke 16:19-31).  The rich man ended up in hell, “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments” (Luke 16:23, emphasis mine). Hell is real. Jesus said it.

Just as hell is real, Jesus said heaven is real. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3, emphasis mine). That place has dimensions: “And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal” (Revelation 21:16).  A furlong is 660 feet. Twelve-thousand furlongs would be 7.92 million feet, and divided by 5280 feet (i.e. one mile), that is equal to 1500 miles. That is about the distance from Dallas, TX to New York, NY. Now imagine that in the size of a cube. It is not a small place! And that is just the “New Jerusalem.” There is no telling just how large the rest of heaven is, but with all that space, it is a very exclusive place. Jesus said, “Enter ye in at the strait [narrow/tight] gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14, emphasis mine).

Many today appeal to the “love” of Jesus suggesting that a “loving God” would not send anyone to hell. Even the Pope has boarded that band wagon claiming that all roads lead to God. Those who appeal to a loving God are partially correct; God sends no one to hell. They end up there by their own choice. Those who claim John 3:16 fail to read any further. Two verses down, John 3:18 says, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (emphasis mine). In my Bible, those words are written in red; Jesus said it.  God is not swayed by popular consensus. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, emphasis mine). There is no other way. Jesus said it.

Jesus taught many good lessons that when taken to heart prove beneficial to our day-to-day lives. But He also taught some very hard lessons that, when ignored, lead to eternal damnation. It’s tough to hear, but Jesus said it.

If you are unsure of your eternal destination, you alone can do something about it. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). Jesus said it.

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Remember?

Loaves and Fishes

Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? (Matthew 16:9-10)

Jesus and His disciples left the village of Magdala and crossed the Sea of Galilee. Mark tells us that they landed at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22), but before they arrived, Jesus thought aloud about an encounter they had in Magdala with a group Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:1-4). This bunch demanded “a sign from heaven” to validate His teachings. Obviously, the miracles Jesus performed were insufficient for these religious experts. So as Jesus thought on this, He offered His disciples an object lesson. “Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6). However, the disciples were preoccupied with the fact that they forgot to pack a lunch (v. 5), “And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread” (Matthew 16:7).

In their preoccupation with their stomachs, they missed the spiritual meal their Master had prepared for them. So, to refocus their minds to receive the real meal, Jesus reminded them of the miracle where He fed the 5000 (Matthew 14:13-21), and more recently, the feeding of the 4000 (Matthew 15:32-38). They need not concern themselves about what they were going to eat. Indeed, Jesus spoke on this very thing in His Sermon on the Mount. “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” (Matthew 6:31). They were not about to go hungry with Jesus in their company.

We often behave just like the disciples. We get caught up with the worries and troubles of this world, and we forget all the times that God carried us through those troubled times. Remember when you were abandoned, and God brought that special person into your life to mend your brokenness? Remember when you lost your job and somehow God provided for you until He had a better job for you? Remember when you sacrificially gave to a cause God placed on your heart, and somehow you never missed that sacrificial gift? Remember?

When you are in the company of Jesus, all your needs (not wants) will be met, “for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things” (Matthew 6:32). Remember how God provided for you in the past, and “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Remember.

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Who Were the Magi?

There came wise men from the east to Jerusalem

There came wise men from the east to Jerusalem

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. (Matthew 2:1-2)

No Nativity scene is complete without three wise men and their entourage. Of course, any student of Scripture understands that their number is unknown but rather inferred from the three gifts that were presented to the Christ child – gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). Nor did they arrive at the moment of His birth, but rather some two years later. We know this because the family was living in a “house” (v. 11) rather than a stable (Luke 2:7). The wise men also found a “young child” (Greek: paidion – a toddler) rather than a “babe” (Greek: brephos – an infant). Regardless, the shepherds, wise men, singing angels and the whole menagerie make for a sweet tableau at Christmastime.

But who were these “wise men” and from where did they come? First of all, the Greek word translated as “wise men” is magoi meaning an “oriental scientist,” or by implication, a “magician” or “sorcerer.” The Latin translation of the Greek is magi, which is also commonly used in English. Secular sources say that the magi were the Zoroastrian priests of the ancient Medes and Persians. John Wesley suggests that “Probably they were Gentile philosophers, who, through the Divine assistance, had improved their knowledge of nature, as a means of leading to the knowledge of the one true God.” Other commentators suggest that they had Balaam’s prophecy (Numbers 24:17), and perhaps Daniel’s (Daniel 9:24, etc.), handed down to them by tradition. Adam Clarke offers this: “It is very probable that the persons mentioned by the evangelist were a sort of astrologers, probably of Jewish extraction, that they lived in Arabia-Felix, and … came to worship their new-born sovereign.”

The Bible has little to say about these men. They came from the “east,” which most agree is from the area of Persia. Since no one really seems to know for certain, I feel free to offer my suggestion. I reject the secular view that these men were Zoroastrian priests. While a pagan priest might be familiar with Hebrew Scriptures (because as educated men, they would probably study a wide variety of sources), they would not necessarily be compelled to take them seriously. After all, they adhered to their own religion. I agree with Clarke who suggests that they were “probably of Jewish extraction.” My guess is that they were of the remnant that remained in Babylon after Cyrus allowed the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem. Daniel remained in Babylon and maintained a high position as advisor to the king. Daniel was a “wise man.” Undoubtedly he established a school for wise men where he taught from the Hebrew Scriptures. There were many Jews that served in high positions in the Persian court: Mordecai (Esther 2:19), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:11); so it is reasonable to conclude that others followed suit. As Jewish “wise men,” they would have a greater reason to study the Scriptures as they yearned for their Messiah, the King of the Jews. I conclude that these magi were Jews coming from Babylon in search of their Messiah, and “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy” (Matthew 2:10). And when they found the child, they “fell down, and worshipped him” (Matthew 2:11).

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Top Priority

treasure

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:21)

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

A “Christian” young man once lamented the exhortation to holy living by exclaiming, “Do you expect me to become a monk!” Sadly, that is not an uncommon sentiment. Such a sentiment coming from an unbeliever is understandable, but too many Christians these days harbor the same sentiments. The call to holiness[1] is prevalent throughout Scripture, yet many Christians try to hide behind “grace” claiming that we are no longer under the Law.[2] Somehow the world has taught Christians that living a life dedicated, in all things, to the service of Christ denies them of the benefits that only the world can give. But is that true?

Our verse above is taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). In this portion of the sermon, Jesus begins by calling attention to worldly “treasures”: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal” (Matthew 6:19). Here Jesus points out an undeniable fact that everyone understands: “things” do not last. There exists an unrelenting physical law which dictates that everything degenerates, wears out, or slows down. It is the inescapable Second Law of Thermodynamics.

65 T-Bird_SM

1965 Ford Thunderbird

My brother recently tempted me with the opportunity to purchase of a 1965 Ford Thunderbird – a beautiful automobile. For an antique of that type, the price was reasonable, and not outside my ability to purchase it. My brother mentioned that it had “some rust,” a couple of the electric widows were not operating properly, and the paint job was poorly done, but still, it was worth the money. As I battled the temptation, I considered the “little rust” that has the potential to spread like cancer. It would have to be cut out and replaced with “healthy” metal. Then it would need to be repainted. It needs some upholstery work. The windows need new motors. Many “minor” things are needed to make the car “right.” Then, after all that expense, I would end up with an old car that is still wearing out as parts for it become rarer. “Things” just do not last. Jesus says, “Don’t invest in things that will just wear out in the end.” Instead He says, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:20-21). What do you treasure?

Jesus goes on to talk about real needs: food, clothing, shelter (Matthew 6:25-30), and He emphasizes that “your heavenly Father” knows that you need all these things (v. 32). Just as the Father feeds the birds of the air and clothes the fields with flamboyant colors, He will provide for all your needs. After all, “Are ye not much better than they?” (Matthew 6:26). The birds of the air, and the lilies of the fields were not created in the image of God, but you were (Genesis 1:26). “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things” (Matthew 6:31-32). The Greek word translated as “thought” is merimnaō and it means to be “anxious,” and it carries the idea of being overly concerned about these things which are under God’s divine control.

An old hymn that my mother used to sing to us comes to mind. The third verse of that hymn says:

All you may need He will provide,
God will take care of you;
Nothing you ask will be denied,
God will take care of you.[3]

God will take care of you. He has promised to provide for all your needs (not necessarily your desire for a 1965 T-Bird). With your needs met, what should be your priority? “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Top priority is the kingdom of God.

This is the first place this phrase appears in Scripture. If the search for the kingdom of God is to be foremost, we should have an idea of what that is. The next occurrence of this phrase takes place after Jesus has been accused by the Pharisees of casting out demons by the power of Satan. Jesus asserts that He casts out demons by the “Spirit of God” testifying to the presence of the kingdom of God (Matthew 12:28). The “Spirit of God” indwells every believer (Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:16) so that we should strive to “walk not after the flesh [i.e., the desires of this world], but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1, 4). “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). But Christians can suppress the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of God) in their lives (1 Thessalonians 5:19). So, in seeking the kingdom of God, we need to continually turn over control to the Holy Spirit in our lives (Ephesians 5:18) so that through His power we can cast out the demons in our own lives.

The “kingdom of God” is synonymous with the “kingdom of heaven” and both terms seem to be used interchangeably in the New Testament. The kingdom of heaven seems more often to refer to the realm of the elect, i.e., the children of God (Luke 20:34-36, John 1:12), the saved (John 3:17), the church (Acts 2:47), etc. To that end our top priority is to expand the kingdom of God. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:13-15). As we draw upon the power of the Holy Spirit, we each in our own way and as the Spirit leads can share the good news of God’s love. “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” (Romans 1:16). The message is simple:

  1. We are all sinners (Romans 3:10, 23)
  2. We are all condemned to “eternal” death (Romans 6:23)
  3. God offers eternal life which we cannot earn (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9)
  4. God’s offer is in spite of our sinfulness (Romans 5:8)
  5. Our only requirement is to believe and accept (Romans 10:9-10; John 1:12)

The other priority we should seek, according to our verse, is “His righteousness.” Note that it’s His righteousness, not our own. Because of our sin nature, our righteousness could never measure up to God’s standard of righteousness (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6). It is Jesus’ righteousness we seek, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26, emphasis mine). The Greek word translated “propitiation” is hilastērion, and it is “an expiatory (place or thing), that is, (concretely) an atoning victim.”[4] In other words, Jesus, the sinless Son of God, offered Himself and His righteousness as the one and only atoning sacrifice worthy of acceptance by God and sufficient to cover (the meaning of “atone”) our sin and make us acceptable to Holy God. Notice that it comes by or “through faith in His blood.” When we receive Jesus as our Savior “through faith in His blood,” i.e. His sacrifice, we are “dressed in His righteousness.” The heavenly scene in Revelation says, “And white robes were given unto every one of them” (Revelation 6:11). Later the source of their whiteness is described: “And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14, emphasis mine). So, our entry into heaven is not gained through our own righteousness, but through His righteousness.

Our top priority then should be to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” then all “these things” will be added. In fact, when your first priority is right, the stuff the world offers will seem worthless. It will no longer have same appeal to you. Top priority: God’s Kingdom and His righteousness.

NOTES:


 

[1] Be Ye Holy

[2] Is the Law Sin?

[3] “God Will Take Care of You” – Civilla D. Martin: http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/God_Will_Take_Care_of_You/

[4] Strong’s G2435

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Everyone’s A Slave

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24)

In America, at least for the moment, we consider ourselves to be a free people. After all, we have the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights – the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. While this may be true in a temporal, earthly sense, it is not so in an eternal, ethereal sense. We are all slaves to something.

Jesus simplifies the slave masters down to two in our verse above. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Mammon was the Aramaic term meaning “riches” or “money,” but the term can be broadened to all the trappings of this world. Anything that demands your time and your devotion is your master. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16, emphasis added). Many, including Christians, deny that they are slaves to “sin” (i.e., Mammon), but they are self-deceived. This is very easy to prove. It always comes to a choice between the things of God or the things of this world. When confronted with the choice between going to church or Bible study (group or personal) and your favorite diversion, e.g., watching your favorite sports game, watching a favorite TV show or going to a movie, going fishing, boating, or camping, taking the kids to their soccer game, or dance recital, which one comes out on top? None of the things that I listed are necessarily sinful, except when given a superior position to the things of God. Of course, I could have listed really “sinful” choices, but Paul’s exhortation was given to Christians not to “heathen.” If Christians can be enslaved by the things of this world, how much more the non-Christian who is without the power of the Holy Spirit!

The Christian should be guided by a different standard. Paul says that the Christian, “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants [slaves] of righteousness” (Romans 6:18). Being a “slave of righteousness” (i.e., slaves of God) for the Christian should not be a difficult task. If it is, that one should reevaluate his standing before God. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). Strange that Jesus should use a yoke as an illustration. Certainly the reader has seen pictures of yoke of oxen pulling a plow or a cart. The yoke that binds the two oxen together for the purpose of pulling a heavy load does not look “easy.” In training oxen to pull a load, a young, inexperienced ox is yoked to an older, experienced ox. The young ox will fight the load, but gradually learns from the older. In the interim, the older ox bears most of the load while the younger is learning. Jesus assures us that “[His] yoke is easy and [His] burden is light” because He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He bears the greater load, and as we learn from Him, our load becomes easier to bear; but He must be the Master.

Everyone is a slave to something. You have the choice of who will be master of your life.

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