It never ceases to amaze me. Despite Jesus’ clear words in today’s Bible reading, people still think they’ve figured out when Jesus will return.
Pre-millennial. A-millennial. Post-millennial. Pre-Trib. Post-Trib. Mid-Trib. The theological term is eschatology, the study of the End T
Jesus gives us things to look for, but He never tells us when but He says you can tell the seasons by looking at a fig tree. (Matthew 24:32)
Why would Jesus not tell his disciples when He will return? Well, for one thing, He didn’t know! (Matthew 24:36) Other than that, I think the most convincing reason He didn’t tell them/us when He will return is that He knows our hearts. He knows that if He said He wouldn’t return until the Twenty-First Century, the missions movement of the past one hundred-fifty years probably wouldn’t have taken place. We think we can wait until the last minute to get right with God and get busy with Kingdom affairs.
Look around. Do you see a sense of urgency in the lives of churches around your town? Do you see a sense of urgency in the lives of the leaders in those churches?
There’s no reason to fear the end-times … if you are a believer. Your eternal destiny is secure. But if you aren’t a believer, you have a lot to fear! Don’t hesitate! No one knows when Jesus will return! And no one knows when their own time is up! Don’t wait! Get right with God now!
Now, if you are a believer, your work isn’t done yet! Sure, your eternity is secure, but don’t you want to bring as many into the Kingdom of God as possible (here and now, as well as then!)? If you have breath in your lungs and if your heart is still beating, your work isn’t done yet! You can still tell people about Jesus. And you can still pray! Pray for God to create a spiritual awakening, that people will be drawn to Christ and that believers will pursue Gospel-centered conversations with lost friends and loved ones.
No, the work of God’s people is not yet done yet. And Jesus won’t return until it is. So, let’s engage in His business until He returns! (Luke 19:13)
Up front, I want to apologize for this long post. It is by far the longest I have ever written. But like with all of my devotionals, I hope you will find this one helpful, encouraging, and applicable.
Admittedly, I can be quite political in my Social Media posts. But I don’t like to get political in my preaching or Bible teaching. I really don’t. But the Bible continues speaks to today, even on cultural and political issues, and especially on moral issues.
As we begin today’s Bible reading in Matthew 19, we are faced with Jesus’ statements on very hot contemporary topics in the Christian Life: divorce/remarriage and sex/gender.
Under the Old Covenant, Moses permitted divorce under just a few situations. (Deuteronomy 24:1–4) Requiring that a divorce certificate to be given had a couple of purposes: it restricted the reasons why a husband could put away his wife; he couldn’t just divorce her because she burned the toast. If you remember the story of Jesus’ birth, Joseph considered putting away Mary. He would have justification to do so if she had been unfaithful during their betrothal/marriage. Given that she was pregnant, it would be obvious — apart from an immaculate conception — that she had been with another man. Also, given the cultural situation of the day, giving a divorce certificate gave rights to a divorced wife that she didn’t otherwise have. Just like the command of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” was a way God limited His people, divorce did the same.
Note: Jesus’ statements on divorce spoke specifically to the Old Testament teachings on divorce. He was not addressing modern, American “no-fault” divorce.
Jesus’ comments on divorce were right in line with the Old Covenant. Nothing Jesus ever did, broke the Old Covenant; instead, He fulfilled it.
“Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell
you,until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass away from the law until all things are accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17–18 CSB)
The second cultural hot topic that Jesus addressed in today’s Bible reading is sex/gender.
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that he who created them
in the beginningmade them male and female, and he also said, ‘For this reasona man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? (Matthew 19:4–5 CSB)
Going back to Genesis 1:27, Jesus points out that God created mankind with two sexes/genders. A person is born either a male or a female. Period.
One of the reasons God created two sexes/genders is for procreation. Sexuality, as God created it, was to be a part of us, but it wasn’t all of us. That’s one key area where modern culture has gone off the rails. If you remove God from the equation, you’re going to come up with the wrong answer.
If you remove God from the equation,
you’re going to come up with the wrong answer.
When Moses penned the Pentateuch (the First Five Books of the Old Testament), and when Jesus and Paul addressed sexuality in the New Testament, there were no categories of “sexual identity” (the sex you “identify with”) and “sexual preference” (the sex of the person/people to whom you are attracted). Neither was there a category of “gender fluidity” (the idea that someone’s sexual identity or sexual preference can change).
The Bible doesn’t address these categories, because they were unknown at the time. Similarly, the Bible doesn’t address the topic of nuclear energy. These categories of understanding and discussion didn’t exist at the time.
So what do you do with those who claim to not “identify” with the sex/gender they were assigned at birth? And what do you do with those who claim they are attracted to someone of their own sex/gender?
If one is to believe that the Bible is true because it is God-breathed it (literally “expired” in 2Timothy 3:16), that the Bible is completely authoritative, and that the Bible is relevant for all time, these questions must be answered with a Biblical answer.
And while the Bible doesn’t address the issues of “identity” and “preference”, the Bible is very clear about behavior. The Bible consistently condemns homosexual sexual behavior. Some have twisted the Biblical treatment of the subject to say that God only condemns homosexuality when it is disrespectful and otherwise “not loving”. Or they dismiss the authority of the Bible outright. Either that or try to insist that those statements are “culturally conditioned” to the Biblical times and do not apply today.
Although this has been the longest post I’ve ever written, I don’t want to write a dissertation on the topic of the Bible and homosexuality. Kevin DeYoung very clearly and quite exhaustively addressed the issue in his What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality. (affiliate link) Note: I highly recommend this book to anyone, from straight to LGBTQ+ because this is an issue that every Bible-believer should be well-versed in. This is too important of a cultural issue to withdraw from the conversation.
The issues of “identity” and “preference” are not addressed by the Bible, but there are applications we can — and should — make of clear Bible verses on closely-related issues.
Take a look at Matthew 19:12.
“For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.” (CSB)
Jesus comments here that some were eunuchs from birth, some were made eunuchs by men, and some made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of heaven. Eunuchs were men who had been castrated. I don’t think it would not be out of line include in this label those males who had been born with disfigured and otherwise dysfunctional genitals. It would be safe to define a eunuch as a male who could not perform sexually like most other men. As such, they lived their lives accordingly — in celibacy.
Given that the Bible consistently condemns homosexual behavior, would it be out of the question to apply Jesus’ comments about eunuchs to those who are “same-sex attracted”? Could we not apply Jesus’ words to encourage same-sex attracted individuals to pursue a life of celibacy, just like unmarried heterosexuals should?
Regardless of whether they feel that they were “born that way”, everyone makes choices based on their preferences: whether it’s drinking coffee with cream and sugar vs. straight black, or whether it’s to have sexual relations outside of marriage with someone of the opposite sex … or of the same sex.
Sex outside marriage — heterosexual or homosexual — and drunkenness are condemned by the Bible, without regard to “desire” or “preference”. And even if someone were to be born an alcoholic, every alcoholic decides to take that first drink, and every drink since.
I hope you have seen how the Bible applies to issues that it does not directly address. The Bible is relevant to your life and mine.
When you come to Bible passages you don’t like, you need to ask questions of the Bible text. Ask other believers what they see in the passage. Look at the passage. Ask what it says.
Only after you see what it says
These are basic principles of reading, studying and understanding the Bible. It is crucial to understand these principles and to apply them every time you read and study your Bible.
Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!
He has conquered sin and death!
He has made a way for us to be made right with a Holy God.
Jesus gives us more than we ask.
In today’s Bible reading, Jesus encounters lots of people and heals many of them. He begins with some men bringing a paralytic on a stretcher. Jesus tells the paralytic that his sins are forgiven. (Matthew 9:2)
But wait, his friends only brought him to be healed! Why would Jesus tell him that his sins were forgiven? Neither the man nor his friends asked for forgiveness. Jesus told him that his sins were forgiven because He knew that healing the man’s paralysis wasn’t his greatest need.
Matthew concludes Chapter Nine with Jesus telling the disciples that the fields are ready for harvest. He’s looking at the spiritual need, having met the people’s physical needs.
Too often we become shortsighted, concerned about things that really aren’t the main things. How often we overlook the most important things, like our spiritual health.
Don’t get me wrong. Physical health is a big deal, especially if you or a loved one is dealing with physical issues. But in the grand scheme — in light of eternity — our physical lives can be compared to our breath vapor on a cold day. What is most important is our spiritual health.
Lots of people watch what they eat. Many make a trip to the gym a part of their day. How about you? Are you being a good steward of your body?
But like I said, the bigger issue is your spiritual life. So what are you doing to steward that? Are you spending time every day praying? I’m not asking if you are “saying your prayers.” Are you conversing with the Creator and Sustainer of the universe — your “Papa” — every day?
Today’s Bible reading from James 5 includes a verse that people frequently read incompletely. When someone quotes James 5:16, they are referencing the second half of the verse regarding the power of prayers from righteous people. Again, read the context. In the first half of the verse, James links the prayers of righteous people with the possible cause of their illness, hence the need for righteous people to pray.
James says that if anyone is sick and needs healing, call the local church leaders and have them anoint the sick person with oil. Then he says that the sick person should confess their sins to others and pray for them. That’s the part we miss.
In this case, I don’t think the verse divisions are the cause of the problem; I think our problem is our theology. Protestants, like myself, don’t believe we should have to go to a priest to confess our sins, so we bristle at the thought of confessing our sins to anyone but Jesus. And that’s a problem. And that may be the reason believers aren’t healed.
Now, before you brand me with a “heretic” label, let me say that God is still in the healing business. Not all sickness is caused by sin. Sometimes God uses miraculous means and sometimes God uses therapeutic means to heal people. (Acts 28:8-9) And sometimes God heals through physical death.
If you’re sick or suffering from any physical or mental ailment, by all means, seek medical care. There is — or there should be — no shame for a believer to take medicine or have surgery. And by all means ask God for healing, enlisting others to join with you. Both of these healing methods are mentioned in Acts 28:8-9, where Paul instantaneously healed Publius’ father and Dr. Luke used medical therapy to restore others to health.
But don’t neglect
And trust God for healing by any of the three methods I listed earlier.