Posts Tagged ‘Father’

Matthew 7:21-23
True and False Disciples

Have you ever had someone just get up in your face and tell you the truth? Often, it is the truth that you do not want to hear? When other people either won’t tell you the truth because they fear it will hurt your feelings or they just want to avoid the conflict. But, there is that one friend. You know! The one who really cares about you and is willing to risk your friendship to set you straight. Jesus is being that friend in this passage. He is in our face. He is telling us the truth. He is willing to risk our friendship with Him to set us straight.

As we draw to the close of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gets more and more direct and to the point with his commentary. No parables. Just straight up, in your face words of spiritual reality. Words of authority and his place as judge. In this passage, Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus says,

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me: you evildoers!’

What is Jesus saying to us here? Let’s bottom line this thing. I think Jesus is saying one central thing…only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter God’s Kingdom on judgment day. This passage is all about obedience to God, the master of the universe. As Matthew Henry says in his textbook series, “Commentary on the Scriptures”, when speaking of this passage, “He shows, by a plain remonstrance, that an outward profession of religion, however remarkable, will not bring us to heaven”…

Henry goes on to say, “He is an excellent Christian on the Sabbath. As soon as the sun shines upon the earth on the first day of the week, all his religion is awake, but, alas, he is a very queer Christian on a Monday, and a remarkably bad Christian on Saturday nights. Many people keep their piety folded up and put away with their best clothes, and they only give it an airing on the Sabbath. Their Bible is to be seen under their arm on Sunday, but on a Monday, where is that Bible? Well, not at the man’s right hand, as a perpetual companion. Where are the precepts of Scripture? Are they in the shop? Are they in the house? Alas the golden rule has been left in church to lie dusty in the pews until next Sunday. Religion is not wanted by some people on a weekday, it might be inconvenient. Many there be who sing psalms of praise to God but confine their praises to the congregation; as to praising Him in their heart at home, it never occurs to them. Their whole religion lies inside the meeting house walls, or comes up at certain times and seasons during the day, when the family is called in to prayer.”

Wow, can’t put it any plainer than that. After reading Matthew Henry’s Commentary it is very clear that Jesus is saying that we have to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Jesus is saying that only the only who does the will of my Father will enter into heaven. There is no list here of things you have to do in life. No need for flashy public displays of your “love of Jesus”. Do the will of the Father. That’s it. Plain and simple. Without that, you are not in the Heaven club!

How do we do the will of the Father? What is the will of the Father? I think that we must answer the second question first and answer it this way. The will of the Father is different from our own human fleshly will. Thus, to do the Father’s will is to give up our own will. To give up our own will, our own control over our lives, is an act of obedience led by faith. Just as a child obeys his parents out of his faith that his parents will not let them come to harm so is giving up our will to that of God. The will of the Father is to love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love others more than we love ourselves. We are to do more for others than we do for ourselves, love without expectation of return, loving the unloveable, being selfless instead of selfish, serving others without expecting a reward for it, never being ashamed of placing God at the kingship of our lives, being willing to die for our belief in God. These are the things of God’s will. These are the things of a full-on commitment to God. These are the hard things.

Charles Spurgeon, the great theologian, wrote this on the subject, “Do believers ever always do God’s will? Sadly the answer is no. We are not yet glorified. We still possess the fallen flesh. Clearly, genuine believers from time to time choose their will over God’s will, but when they do, as disobedient children of God, they subject themselves to the disciplining hand of their Father. In contrast, those individuals that Jesus is describing in this passage continually, habitually and as their “normal” pattern of life choose their will over God’s will. In short, what Jesus is describing is not “perfection” but “direction” of one’s life as evidenced by one’s daily thoughts, words and deeds – believers while not perfect (perfection) in this life are headed toward heaven (direction), although from time to time they do live like they are headed in the opposite direction!”

Taking Spurgeon’s thought a little further, if we are from fallen flesh, then what hope do we have to continually do the Father’s will. As Paul says in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, then we are hopelessly unable to complete a life of doing the Father’s will. Going back to Romans, Paul goes on to say in Romans 3:24, “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Thus, as our parents punished us for living outside their will, we suffer the results of our own living out of alignment with their will. We suffer the results of our sin. However, through the redemptive love of Jesus who died for our sins, we can be reconciled to God. Just as our parent’s wipe our slate clean and reinstate us to their favor, so does the redemptive grace of Jesus.

So, what does all this mean? To me, it means intentionality. It is choices. It is a mindset change. We must intentionally seek to do the will of God. To intentionally seek to do the will of God, we must give up our will. Willful children suffer when they purposely live their lives outside the will of their parents. So, we as God’s children must give guidance of our lives up to God. We must willingly seek His favor and His will. It is only when we see how lucky we are to be given good standing with God through Jesus’ redemption that we willingly take our own will off the table. We want to do God’s will. We live our life in that direction. Our actions of compassion, love and forgiveness and mind choices that demonstrate that direction. Any child no matter how angry and willful ultimately wants their parent’s approval and will glory in it when they get it. So, are we as God’s children! We willingly submit to his leadership of our lives. We want to represent him in the world. We want the world to know that through the covering of His Son that we have new life. We are so happy in that we want to do more, we want to be more for God. So happy in the new lease on life we have been given – taking us away from the life of selfishness and the pit that it dropped us in. Just as the Prodigal Son found himself in a pit with pigs (willing to eat the husks that people had rejected) realized that he could return to his Father. When he returned to his father, he was willing to be a lowly servant to just be in his dad’s house. His father rather gave him his place back in the house as his son. Although the Bible does not go on with the Prodigal story, but can you imagine the immense joy felt by the son who days before was in the pit. That’s how we feel as a true Christ follower, yes, father I want to do your will … anything you ask I will do … whatever you say I will follow it … I know from my life experience that you know best for me.

Those who say, “Lord, Lord” but yet live in a different direction are deluding themselves. We may think that going to church at the coolest church in town is enough. We may think that listening to and singing along with the most modern music with concert quality sound systems is enough. We may think that listening to a message by the hippest pastor around is all we need. However, if there is no salvation, there is nothing. If there is no life change, there is nothing. There is an old saying that goes, “They praise heaven on Sunday and live like hell the rest of the week.” Just sitting in church on Sunday at the “in church” in town without life change, without salvation, without living a submitted lifestyle is just saying “Lord, Lord” and Christ will say He never knew us. Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” How do we do this? We must truly accept Christ as our Savior and He will send the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. Nothing can replace or imitate salvation. The Holy Spirit then puts on His work gloves and begins to work in us daily. We must begin daily, hourly, minute by minute, make the mental choices to listen to the Holy Spirit. We must renew our mind. We must make choices that are consistent with God’s will as expressed in His Holy Word. It is hard work, this renewing of the mind thing. Sometimes, our flesh cries out against the Holy Spirit and it is a real struggle to do what the Holy Spirit says. Sometimes, what the Holy Spirits says for us to do is so very much in contrast to our nature and our culture! It is a choice to follow the Holy Spirit. It is a renewing of the mind. It is submitting our will to the will of God. How hard it is to let go of our will! There is no list or prescribed checklist here. Our faith is not about doing all the right things and not doing all the wrong things. That is legalism. That is meaningless in God’s eyes. What God wants is our heart, our allegiance, our undying devotion to Him, our willingness to give Him glory and not ourselves. What God wants is all of us. He wants us leave our will at the door and follow Him, trust Him, believe in Him, and allow Him to change us from the inside out.

Sometimes a hard dose of reality is what we need. That is what Jesus gives us in this passage. It is not hard to figure out. It is not a story that we must figure out the meaning. Jesus could not have put it any plainer. Even a child could figure out what Jesus is saying to us here. Direct language. Plain and simple, Jesus is direct. He says it straight out…do the will of my Father in Heaven and you will be there when your time comes! Do the will of the Father. Doing the will of the Father will show through our Prodigal son-like thankfulness for having been saved from the pit. Doing the will of the Father, Jesus says, is more than public displays to be seen by other men…it is actually living a life that is actively seeking to do the things that the Father wants us to do…really wanting to. As they say on American Idol, we need “to be in it to win it.” In it to win it…all in…thankfully joyfully seeking our Father’s favor by doing his will… His will not ours…Plain and simple.

1 Corinthians 13 — Yesterday, we talked about how pretty much every gift given from God is meaningless unless we love, unless we show love, unless we act in love. Then, that begs the question, What is love? In this next paragraph of this chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul describes love. It reminds you of that scene from the movie, Forest Gump, when he asks Jenny to marry him for the first time and the speaking parts of the scene end with Forrest saying, “I might not be a smart man, but I do know what love is!” Paul, in this paragraph, tells us what Forrest already knows. Since love is the central theme of Christianity, we will spend a few days here on these definitions of love. Just think how patient Forrest was with Jenny. That was patient love. That was abiding love. We can learn a lot from how Forrest loved Jenny.

The first definition of love is that love is patient. Right out of the gate, Paul uses patience to describe love. It must therefore be a primary characteristic of love. Just as food labels are required by law to list the ingredients of food you purchase in their order of relative content in the food. If patience is listed first, it must mean that Paul sees it as the most important ingredient in love. What is patience then? Dictionary.com defines patience as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like. It goes on to define patience as an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay. Patience is also quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence. To be patient is to have these qualities and to live out these qualities. Love is patient.

According to gotquestions.com, patience is noted as part of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Love is also mentioned there, revealing the close connection between these two attributes. Both love and patience are products of the Spirit’s presence in one’s life. Without patience can we truly love? The lack of patience in relationships means that we are not willing to invest in them. Lack of patience with others means that we see our agenda as greater than theirs. Impatience is the fruit of selfishness.

Patience means setting aside getting my needs met. That is where impatience is born is in our selfish, depraved, sinful desires to get what I want and I want it now! We start out young being impatient. Babies that do not get their needs met immediately shower us with their curdling cries and screams. We come into this world wanting what we want and wanting it now. Patience only comes when we care about the needs of others more than our own needs. Think of the wife how suffers through decades of her husband’s alcoholism but still loves him. She still sees the best in him.

Patience gives us hope. Patience believes in the best in others. Just think of the joy that she has when her husband finally admits his problem, joins Celebrate Recovery, and begins his sobriety journey. Impatience would have ended that marriage decades ago. Patience is rewarded in this scenario we are talking about. Often the strongest marriages are those that have survived devastating setbacks, pain, and troubles. When marriages come out of the valley, one or the other or both see the godly love that has been shown them by their spouse and it deepens their love for one another. Without patience that would never happen.

Patience sees potential in others. Patience allows us to nurture that which is good in others. It allows us to invest in another person even though right now that person is so annoying. Patience allows us to give them space to be themselves. Patience concentrates on that which is good in others rather than that which annoys us.

Patience allows us to grant others grace, the same grace that we have been shown by Our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. In a world where Christians are bombarded by a world now that sees what is wrong as right and what is right as wrong, patience can be in short supply. We want to wash our hands of a world gone mad. We may find it disgusting and it may turn our stomach and make us nauseous to watch Bruce Jenner in an evening gown being rewarded for his courage. We can lose our patience over things like this because it just seems that the world now glorifies everything that is the opposite of what we think is right. But weren’t we ourselves ones who used to shake our fist at God by the way we lived our lives in opposition to Him. Unless you were one of the lucky ones who accepted Jesus as your Savior as a child, then, you and me have lived lives that grieve the heart of God. It was not until God allowed circumstances in our lives to bring us to our knees before Him that we quit shaking our fist at God. We must be patient with those whose lifestyles are in opposition to God’s Word. We must offer them the same grace that we have been given.

Patience allows us to be like Jesus. When we are like Jesus, it means that we don’t write people off as beyond redemption. We don’t write people off because what they do makes us sick to our stomach, literally. Jesus would have encountered Bruce Jenner not rejected Him. Jesus would have ate dinner with a same-sex couple. He would have not waffled on God’s truths with them. He would have told them like it was, but He would have done it in a way that made them think. He would have done so in love. Imagine the patience of Jesus with us sinners. He loved us. He sat down with us in the midst of our sins. He went to the cross and died for us and patiently waits for you to accept Him as your Savior even now while you shake your fist at Him.

Jesus, The Holy Spirit and The Father are one. In Scripture it says God is patient. According to gotquestions.com, since God is love (1 John 4:8), He is necessarily patient. “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6; see also Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 145:8). Even in judgment, God’s patience is evident: “God’s patience waited in the days of Noah” (1 Peter 3:20).

If we are to be like Christ, if we are to be little Christs, we must have love in our hearts for others. We must be able to set aside our need to have our needs immediately met. We must have godly patience with others. We must love them to the cross. Sometimes that takes long-suffering patience. Patience is the hallmark of love. Patience means never giving up, never writing off, always hoping, always seeing a child of God in others even when they are shaking their fist at us and everything that we hold dear. God, grant us patience daily! OK. Let’s go watch Forrest Gump again!

Luke 6:12-16 — Have you ever had a major confrontation with someone and after it’s complete, you have to go off by yourself and just gather your wits? Do you remember playing schoolyard kickball and having to make the best picks of who needed to be on your team? These are the things that I think of when I read this passage. Although we are talking about the Son of God here and by no means am I equating myself with Him, but these thoughts kind of help me understand what the meaning of this passage is. It helps me relate to Jesus as His ministry begins to ramp up here in this passage.

The thing that jumps out here to me is prayer. Jesus and prayer seem to be intertwined. Here, Jesus withdraws to pray. This prayer seems to be integral as the completion of one scene in Luke’s gospel and the beginning of another. That He withdrew at this point is significant not just as a literary transition but rather as something that Jesus teaches us that is useful to our daily lives. Here, in this literary transition, Jesus goes off by Himself to pray. What do we learn? Prayer is necessary after we have faced major confrontations. We also learn that prayer is necessary before making major decisions or taking major actions.

In this passage, Jesus has just completed one scene in Luke’s gospel and is about to embark on the next. What is the first thing He does at the conclusion of the previous passages at the Matthean where He has a confrontation with the Pharisees? He prays. I think the first part of this prayer is thanksgiving for the Father having seen the Son through this confrontation. In this confrontation, He clearly puts the Pharisees on notice that God is Lord and not the Pharisees and that He is God in the flesh. The Pharisees as you and I know will continue to reject Jesus and His message throughout Jesus’ ministry. They were the thorn in Jesus’ side. In Jesus’ humanity, we know that He had to be irritated with the fact that they were just plain wrong but yet they were so persistent. They were always after Jesus and it became a personal vendetta for them to attempt to discredit and destroy Jesus’ ministry. Have you ever had a person in your life that forced you into confrontations with them? Have you ever had a person in your life that seems like it is their intent and purpose in life to make your life miserable? Ultimately, just as with Jesus and the Pharisees, there comes a point where you have to have confrontations with them on moral principle. There are times where you have to stand up to this person or those people. Sometimes, you simply have to stand up for what is right. Sometimes, conflict is unavoidable. After these inevitable conflicts that you sometimes wish to avoid, you are shaken and spent. You just have to withdraw and sit down and stop shaking. Though Jesus is not like us, this is how I relate personally to Jesus withdrawing. When I have these types of conflicts, after it I fall apart. I need decompression time to quit shaking because I loathe conflict. It makes me literally shake with nervous energy after I have had one of these conflicts.

This is the lesson that I take from Jesus’ withdrawal after confrontation. We go to the Lord in prayer after confrontation. We vent our frustrations to the Lord. We ask Him to help us forgive those who seem hell bent on our destruction. We go to Him in prayer to ask God to show us what we may have said that could have been said differently. We go to Him to ask Him to help us figure out how to resolve the conflict without further damage. We ask Him for ways to understand and connect with those who are persecuting us. Although Jesus, who was perfect, did not have to pray about what He could have done differently or to seek knowledge from the Father, the mere fact that He withdrew from the confrontation to pray sets a huge example for me. Prayer after conflict is important. In a lot of instances, when we have conflicts, we do not think to pray. We just want to stay mad. We want to pick over and analyze what the other person or persons said to us and simply let the conflict fester in our souls. For me, this withdrawal to pray teaches me that I need to go to the Lord in prayer and give the conflict over to the Lord and seek His guidance in the matter at hand. Rather than chewing on it and letting it consume me, I must give it to the Lord in prayer and seek His guidance in how to resolve it in a Christ-like manner.

In this passage too, I think Jesus when He finished praying about the conflict with the Pharisees, He began praying about the decision that He had to make. He sought the Father’s guidance in choosing His disciples, not broader term of his large throng of followers but His direct disciples, the ones in who He would invest His life for the next three years. Jesus already had what I would call day-to-day relationships with some of these men, but this decision to make them His disciples would take their relationships to whole nuttha level. Jesus was in prayer to the Father about this decision. Jesus, God in the flesh, prayed about a momentous decision, a decision that He would live with for the next three years. Does this set an example for us or what? Jesus, part of the Holy Trinity. Jesus, eternally with the Father in the Trinity. Jesus, through whom all things are made. This one and very same Jesus prayed to God before a momentous decision. What does that teach us? It’s quite obvious right here in this passage. We need to seek God’s direction and guidance when it comes to making big decisions, and even small ones for that matter. But, yeah, the big ones we really, really, really need to seek God’s guidance. Do you and I seek God’s guidance when making big decisions or do we plunge headlong into the decision simply based on what we want? Do we even think to seek God’s guidance? And I am not talking about talking to God as we go through our day but real, set aside time for prayer. Time where we withdraw to a quiet place and really pray. Do you have time where you actually do nothing but pray? No distractions? Purposeful Prayer, not just squeezed in prayers? I know that this is the standard that Jesus sets for us. I know that I fall woefully short in this area. Jesus did it. He sets my example. Why is that I don’t? If Jesus thought it was important, why do I not? I am certainly less in tune with the Father than Jesus was. Jesus was perfect and I am not. But, Jesus still set aside time to be alone with the Father. Here, it is before a big decision. I must learn from my great Teacher, Jesus. When I have big decisions to make I must cover them in prayer to my Father in Heaven. When I seek God’s guidance for big decisions, I end up making it more about glorifying the Father with the decision than about glorifying me. When I pray about big decisions, I make the decision about doing God’s will rather than my one. When I pray about big decisions, I give it to God. When I pray to God about big decisions, I make Him part of my thought process. I recognize His superior nature to mine and begin eliminating my selfish desires from a decision process. By seeking God’s guidance, we make the decision based on what reveals as is best for everyone not just ourselves, what is best for the kingdom of God and not just ourselves. Jesus prayed. Jesus really prayed. He withdrew from people to pray. He didn’t just fit it in between washing dishes and vacuuming as I walk to get the vacuum. He didn’t just pray while driving to work. He withdrew and prayed. Especially on the big momentous decisions, shouldn’t we imitate Christ?

Tomorrow, we will stay in this passage and talk about the disciples Jesus chose. We will look at how Luke wrote their names and his descriptions of them and what it says about them and what that means to us.

Father, in Heaven, help me to understand the importance of prayer. Help me to raise its importance in my life. Help to seek to have real prayer time with you. Not just at the dinner table. Not just when I doing other things, but real prayer time. I am so bad about not doing real set aside prayer time. Most of my prayers to you, as you well know, are work it in prayers or dinner table prayers. Help me to really have prayer time. To commune with you. To really really pray from my gut, from my soul. Amen.

Luke 2:25-35 — Simeon’s Song. There are several things we must understand about this passage that are significant to our faith. First, today, let us not forget where this meeting between Simeon and Jesus’ parents takes place. Second, Wednesday, we will think on Simeon’s Song itself, Finally, on Thursday, we must consider Simeon’s warning to Mary.

First, let’s think on where this meeting took place. We must remember that in the Temple, there was progressively restrictive access to the inner parts of the Temple. First, there was the Court of the Gentiles, where God-fearing non-Jews could worship the Lord. Next, there was the Court of Women. Jewish women could proceed past the Court of the Gentiles into the Court of Women where they could worship the Lord. Finally, past that point, only Jewish men could pass into the Court of Israel. It and was part of the sacred inner court of the Temple. It was a rectangular area that was just inside the eastern wall of the sacred Temple court. It covered half the area from the eastern wall and the Great Altar, and it was slightly lower in elevation than the Priest’s Court to its west, where the offerings were made.

It is significant that this meeting occurred at the Temple. It was where God’s presence dwelled. Three parts of the Trinity come together here. God, the Father, is in His dwelling place. God, the Son, is being brought to the center of worship. Jesus was always obedient to the Father throughout His life on earth. In His earthly function as the Son, He is always seeking to please the Father. Here, we see Him being brought to the Father to be dedicated to His service to the Father. The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon and reveals to him that He is in the presence of the Son. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the other two parts of the Trinity, the Father and the Son. Here, as in Jesus’ baptism, we see the convergence of the three parts of the Trinity. Thus, this is a significant event. Jesus’ parents are bringing Him to dedicate Him, as the firstborn son, to God’s service as any Jewish firstborn male had done by any righteousness-seeking parents would do. As Jesus would later state, He came to fulfill the law not abolish it. He was the fulfillment of the law. He was the culmination of the law. The law points us toward Him and our need for Him. It is the beauty that He observed the very same law of which He was the fulfillment. This moment, thus, is so significant that all three parts of the Trinity are present. All of this sounds pretty high brow theological doesn’t it? It is in a way. But what does it mean to us? Let us remember that from birth Jesus was dedicated to God’s glory. You repeatedly see throughout the gospels that Jesus’ main aim in everything He did was to glorify God. His earthly parents were righteous people were obedient to the Lord because they wanted the same thing – to glorify the Lord. For us, let us model this Holy Family’s ideal. Let us measure everything we do by whether it brings glory to the Lord. May we seek to be in His presence, in His will always. Just as Mary and Joseph are in the presence of the Trinity at this moment, may we seek the same by seeking to honor God in everything we do. Mary & Joseph were devout in keeping the Word of God at the center and as the reason for their actions. Let us be the same and it is there that we will find the presence of the Lord.

Not only should we notice that this meeting took place in the Temple but we must notice where in the Temple this meeting takes place. The fact that Mary is still in the scene is significant. She was not allowed in the inner part of the Temple. She was a woman. She would have had to stop in the Court of Women. It should not be lost on us where this meeting takes place then. Mary is still present. This means that this meeting either took place in the Court of the Gentile or at the farthest in the Court of Women. This, to me, is the signal to the readers of Luke that Jesus was not here just for the pious Jewish man. He was here for all people including women. Luke’s gospel often stresses the importance of women in Jesus’ ministry and the fact that Jesus was here for the Gentiles as much as the Jews. Jesus is not exclusive. He is for all. Jews, Gentiles, women, men. He is accessible and available to all. He offers salvation to all, not just those who have certain pedigrees or gender. He is here for the entire world. You don’t have to be born the child of a church member. You don’t have to born in a certain part of town. You don’t have to be a member of a country club. There is no one more deserving than another of God’s grace given us in the person of Jesus Christ. He is in the inner Temple. He is in the Court of Women. He is in the Court of the Gentiles. He is the Savior of the World.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Blessed Trinity. We seek Your presence Lord. Help us to glorify you by obeying your Word, by seeking to please you in everything that we do, by seeking your presence in our lives. In so doing may we learn that no matter who we are or what we have done, You gave us grace in in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the Savior of the World. All we have to do is seek Him, want Him to rule over our lives, and seek to please Him in everything we do just as when He was here on earth that He sought daily to be an obedient Son. May we remember too that the grace we enjoy is grace for all so that we will share the Good News with all. Jesus came for us all. Amen.