Posts Tagged ‘judgment’

Matthew 23:13-36

Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees

There is a country song that comes to mind when I read this passage. It is “How Do Ya Like Me Now” by Toby Keith. It is a song a boy who was in love with a girl in high school but she was too popular to notice him and he was a fringe kind of guy. He was one of those artists that marched to his own tune and she was the prom queen type. She made fun of him when he left to go to Nashville to become a country singer. Now, she is married to a wealthy man she never sees and spends most of her time alone with her small kids. She hates what her life has become. Now, Toby Keith’s song is playing on the radio and he has become a big country music star. How do ya like me now? Although the song has nothing to do with the passage, the title of that song is what I want to play with today. How do ya like me now? Keep that question in mind when you read this passage, Matthew 23:13-38:

 

13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14] [a]

 15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

 23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

 25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

 29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

 33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.

 

 Wow, Jesus really laid the wood to these guys! No holes barred! Tell it like it is. This is like a preacher on fire and not caring about hurt feeling. He is laying the truth on them. It’s like a hip-hop artist speaking truth and dropping the microphone on the floor as he says his last word and walks off stage. It is Toby Keith saying, “How Do Ya Like Me Now?” Jesus was not holding back in this scene. He was laying down truth track by track, woe by woe. How do ya like me now?

Being a religious leader in first century Israel was very different from being a preacher or religious leader today. Israel’s history, culture, and daily life was centered around their relationship with God. The religious leaders were the best known and most powerful people in Israel. Jesus made these stinging accusations because these leaders were more concerned about maintaining or gaining more power, money and prestige than they were about leading people into a better, deeper relationship with God. He blasted them for their religiousness. They were so caught up in the details of their own laws and regulations that they completely missed God, to whom our need for His mercy is brought out by the Law. A religion requires performance and outward signs of obedience while missing the need for inner renewal and humble submission to God. Jesus was saying that they were outwardly appearing to be clean but they were full of pride and were not submitted to God on the inside. Jesus condemned them for outwardly appearing upright and holy but inwardly remaining full of corruption and greed. They were putting on a show but there was no life change on the inside. How do ya like me now?

Many today want Jesus to be the easy Jesus. We want Jesus to be all love and forgiveness and not any judgment. What do you do with this passage if you think that way? We want our Jesus to accept everything that we do as OK. We want to keep seeking the things that we want to seek and we want our Jesus to be OK with that. We want to continue to pursue our own desires whether it is wealth, possesssions, behaviors that are inconsistent with the totality of Scripture. We don’t want our Jesus to judge us for anything that we do. We just want a “stoner” Jesus who just says, “whooooaaaaa, duuuude, it’s your party maaaaannnn!” We just want a Jesus that lets us live our life the way we see fit and He will forgive us for it. We can continue to pursue things that we think are important. We think that just because we are doing it, that makes it OK in Jesus’ eyes. He is all love and no judgment! But what do you do with this passage? Jesus is condemning the Jewish leaders for not seeking to obey God but rather pursuing their own desires and justifying it as OK through their rules and regulations. They made outward appearances more important than the soul. They made justifying their behaviors as being OK with God because of x, y, and z. Jesus might as well be preaching the woes to us today because are we not just like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. Are we not a society that wants to justify our seeking our own desires as being OK with God because we want a Jesus who accepts and forgives everything. We have to rip these pages right out the Bible if that is the Jesus we believe in! Woe to us for the things that we think are important. Woe to us for not living for eternity. Woe to us for saying that God’s Word can be a pick and choose thing. Woe to us for trying to change God’s Word to fit the new cultural norms. Woe to us for separating the God of the Old Testament from the Jesus of the New. Woe to us for justifying our lifestyles as OK because the Bible was written for a people and a time that does not apply to current culture. Woe to us for being just like the Pharisees! Let’s keep on living like Jesus will accept and forgive our continued sins in the areas of our life that we do not want to submit to His authority. One day we will see judgment in Him for those who try to justify our behaviors while seemingly, outwardly being “good people”!

It reminds me of the end of the movie, Schindler’s List, where the war is about over and he is saying God by to his dear friend and accountant. He hugs him and cries as he looks at his watch. Schindler says that He could have saved another Jew with that watch. He looks at his car and says I could have saved ten Jews with that car! Why did I care at all about any of these things? None of it matters. All that matters is that I could have saved more Jews than I did. If only I did not care about these things. Although Schindler saved countless thousands of Jews from certain death during World War II, he could not be consoled for the ones that he could not save. Are we so concerned with things of this life and our own desires that are in opposition to God’s commands that we miss the real deal. We miss the truth?

One day, one of two things are going to happen. We will meet our death and receive our just judgment at that time or Jesus will return in the eastern sky and the game is up for all of us! We will meet the moment of truth. We will meet our Savior and He will judge us for our relationship with God. Did we humbly obey Him or did we try to justify our behaviors as being OK. There will be no wiggle room on that day. There will be the moment of truth. Jesus will judge us. That’s right. Jesus will judge us as to whether we gladly submitted our lives to Him. No justifications. No excuses. Just the truth. That will be the real Jesus that we have been trying to avoid. How do ya like Him now?

 

Amen and Amen.

Luke 17:20-37 — End times movies. End times books. Trying to understand prophecy. It sells. People want to know how this all going to end. The Left Behind books series was not just a Christian best-seller. It was one of the best selling book series of all time on the New York Times bestseller list. We are all wired to understand that there must be an end to things, regardless of whether you are a child of Christ or not. Throughout the centuries and throughout all cultures, there are, have been, and will be stories of how the world as we know it will come to an end. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the kingdom of God come?” The disciples asked, “where will this happen?” Why is it that we are so preoccupied with the end? It sells books. It sells tickets. Any time you mention the book of Revelation people stop and listen. People make all kinds of money trying to interpret the signs of the end times. YouTube is full of videos of people saying the end is here. Books are sold trying to say that current events are matching up with ancient prophecies.

Jesus tells us two things in this passage. First, the kingdom of God is already here among us. Second, when Jesus actually does return to end all things, He will come quickly and many will be caught off guard by it.

The first thing that Jesus teaches us in this passage is that the kingdom of God is already here. The Pharisees wanted to know but could not see that it was already here right in front of them. The kingdom of God is not like earthly kingdoms with defined boundaries and signs that tell you that this is the boundary of the country. Instead, it begins with the work of the Holy Spirit in peoples lives and in relationships. We must not look for institutional signs of the coming of God’s Kingdom. Instead, we must look at what He is doing in people’s heart. A 65 year old man coming to Christ after a life of ambition and greed is the kingdom of God showing itself. My friend, Marvin, passed away night before last. He accepted Christ as His Savior not til he was 65 years old. His life was radically changed by his salvation in Christ. That my friends is the kingdom of God in operation. It is his church in action. It is the spreading of the gospel to those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That is the kingdom of God. Paul warned the Thessalonians not to quit life watching and waiting for the end of time and Jesus’ return. They had work to do. They had a gospel to spread. Instead of waiting and worrying and bemoaning the state of the world as Christ followers, we should be about our business of spreading the gospel as if Jesus were about to return tomorrow. When Jesus does return (and only the Father in heaven knows when that will be), there will be no more second chances. As our Ironmen men’s ministry at has been progressing through Revelation, the thing that has struck me the most is that it must increase our urgency to share the gospel. Not just live our lives as examples of Christ in front of them but actually telling them about their need for Jesus that they don’t even recognize. When Jesus returns, what will we say then? We were too busy to share the gospel. My friend Marvin did not think twice about sharing the gospel with complete strangers. He was so thankful for his salvation that he felt compelled to share the gospel with everyone he met. We should be the same. When the end does come there will be no more second chances. We should have gospel urgency. Stop trying to match Obama to the anti-Christ. Stop trying to determine if the United States is Babylon. Share the gospel before its too late.

The second thing that Jesus tells us is that many of us will go through life as business as usual ignoring the signs of the kingdom of God. Even if the signs of the end times are really coming to fruition people will not take them seriously. Many of us want to continue to live like there is no end times. There is an end time for us all whether its in our own physical death or when Jesus does actually return to end all things. One way or the other, we will meet our own end time. Our own death or Jesus returning today. Many of us live as if one or the other is not going to occur. We live like hell. We live for ourselves. God is merely and idea. We believe in our tangible things. We believe in our possessions. Our things will make us happy. We ignore the kingdom of God. We believe in our own abilities. We believe that we determine our destiny. We worship ourselves. We worship what we can touch and feel and ignore the Holy Spirit of God. We ignore our need for God. We ignore our need for a Savior. If we make this world the most important thing, we cannot see the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is among those who have already submitted their lives to His Lordship. Those who cannot see this will go on living there lives living to please themselves all the way up until the day the Lord returns, indifferent to the kingdom of God. I have time. I will deal with Jesus later. I will deal with this whole God thing later. They will be taken by surprise by Christ’s return. They will taken by surprise by their own death if it happens before Christ’s return. We should be living as if Christ will return tomorrow. When He does return it will be too late for those who have ignored the kingdom of God. You must deal with this God thing right now. Stop trying to interpret the signs of the end times by buying the latest book on the end times by some guy who has a Messiah complex. Stop trying to push the envelop as far as you can because you think you will be able to interpret the signs of the end times and THEN get your life together. Stop. Now. Like my friend Marvin at age 65 had to stop on the side of the road and deal with Jesus right then and there. We all are going to face an end. We do not know when it will come. Either you die or Jesus returns. We don’t know when it will come either one of those. You could die today on your way to work. Jesus could return today during your commute to work. Stop trying to interpret signs. Deal with Jesus right now. If you died RIGHT NOW, where would you spend eternity. If Jesus returned RIGHT NOW, where would you spend eternity? He will come suddenly! Death often comes when we least expect it? The kingdom of God is here. It is in Jesus Christ. Know Him now. Accept Him as Your Savior NOW!

Lord, God, give me the power to speak your words with urgency as if you are coming tomorrow. Give me the urgency to share that you are the only and only way to heaven and to the Father. Give me urgency to share the gospel story of rescue and restoration. Help me to be a part of the expansion of your kingdom. The kingdom that lives in the hearts of men. The kingdom to which we are blind to its existence until we accept Christ as our Savior. Amen.

Romans 11:25-36 — Will the Jews who reject Jesus be saved anyway? That seems to be the implication of Paul when you read this passage. It almost seems to say that because God chose Israel as His chosen people that ultimately that fact will save them. Is Paul contradicting himself from his “faith alone” theology that is rampant throughout his writings?

At first, when you read this passage, you think that Paul has pulled a great theological blunder. It is untrue though when you meditate on this passage. It is actually a continuing confirmation of Paul’s theology that it is by faith alone that we come to God. The point of the passage is that even in Israel’s rebellion God still loves them. He has mercy upon them just as He has mercy upon the Gentiles. Paul is saying that Israel will be given ample opportunity to turn to Christ just as He gives the Gentiles. Their rejection of the Messiah does not mean that they and their ancestors are permanently excluded from coming to Christ in the future because God is merciful and patient.

What does this mean for you and me? How do we apply this passage to our daily lives. I think that there are two takeaways from this passage. First, we must not judge those whom we know that are actively rejecting Jesus as their Lord and Savior. We are to love them anyway. We are to love the atheist. We are to love the agnostic. We are to love those who know of God but reject Him because they enjoy living their life of sin. We love the person who has never even heard the gospel. God is waiting for them to come to Him. They have as much right to God’s mercy as we do. We too were once rebels against God. It was not until we were humbled before the Lord and saw our need for Jesus that we came into God’s mercy. It is never too late for even the farthest person from God to come the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Thus, we keep witnessing. We keep inviting. We must be patient but persistent with non-believers just as God is. Never write anyone off. No one is too far gone until they die without accepting Christ as their Savior. Only then are they too far gone.

Second, we must be merciful as God is merciful. God is patient with us even as we sin against Him. As the Sovereign all powerful God of the universe, the Creator of all things, why does He not just be done with us rebellious people. We sin. We grieve His heart daily. Why doesn’t he just zap us out of existence. Why doesn’t He just bring on the end of the world. This place is pretty doggone screwed up. We as the human race are screwing it up together at an ever increasing rate. To God, there is no pleasure in executing the justice we deserve. Just as a dad when you tell your child that this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you when you spank them for disobedience, God is grieved to execute our final sentence when we have rejected Him for a lifetime and we have never accepted Christ. God is just but He is also merciful. We must be patient with those who reject us. We must show mercy to those who reject God. That means we love those whose lifestyle is in complete opposition to God’s Word. We are merciful. We love them despite their continuing sin. We share the gospel with them. We give them every opportunity to come to knowledge. We keep witnessing. We are patient as God is patient. We are merciful as God is merciful. God is waiting patiently. We never give up because God never gives up. No one is too far gone. God is waiting. He is like the father of the prodigal son. He stares at the horizon daily. Waiting. When He sees his son on the horizon, He doesn’t just wait til his son gets to the house. He runs out and meets him and celebrates his return. God is waiting. He is patient. He is merciful. Just call on His name. It’s never too late while you are still drawing breath.

Father, help me to remember that I too once rejected you. As a result, I should never feel myself superior to those who are not saved. You were patient with me. You are patient with them. Help me not to judge others for continuing to reject you. You loved me enough to patiently wait for me to turn to you even though I deserved to be judged harshly by you. You love me and have patience and mercy for me through your Son. Help me to see the unsaved with the same mercy that you saw me with before I turned to you. Help me to not exclude anyone from the gospel because of where they are now in their rejection of you. It is never too late for anyone to make the choice to turn to you. There are no people groups that I can automatically exclude from the gospel message. You have mercy for all. Amen.