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?
This devotional appeared first on April 17, 2019.
In today’s Bible reading in Matthew chapter eight, we’re told several stories of faith. The words “faith” (noun) and “believe” (verb) are the same Greek word. They are used three times in the passage. Not all of the stories include the words faith/believe. But faith/believe is implied in the story.
For instance, in the first paragraph, Matthew tells us that a leper comes to Jesus, asking to be healed. The words don’t appear in the paragraph, but we know the paragraph is about faith/believe because why would a leper seek Jesus out unless he believed that Jesus could heal him? Jesus doesn’t tell him that his faith has healed him, but elsewhere when Jesus heals/delivers, He connects faith and healing/deliverance. (Matthew 9:22, Matthew 15:28, Mark 5:34, Mark 9:24, Mark 10:52, Luke 8:50, Luke 17:19, Luke 18:42 [this list is not exhaustive])
If you look up some of the verses above — as with Matthew 8:5-13 — you’ll see that in some cases the faith of the one healed isn’t even factored into the equation. Rather, the faith of the one requesting healing/deliverance is honored by Jesus. And although Jesus rebuked the Disciples’ “little faith”, He honored what little faith they had.
Does this mean that if you have even a little bit of faith, all you need to do is ask Jesus and He’s obligated to answer your request? NO! It doesn’t work that way! Jesus isn’t your heavenly genie!
And that’s one reason we don’t get what we pray for: we ask with the wrong motives. (James 4:3) Nowhere in the Bible are we given a blank check with the authority to command God to do anything. Remember Christian Life Rule #1: God is God. and Rule #2: You aren’t God. Always remember that your place is to submit to God’s authority, God’s sovereignty. He calls the shots. And the reason we pray isn’t to change God, but to change us.
If you are a Believer, you are an adopted child of God. And being one of His gives you incredible authority and privilege. But that authority and privilege must be a balanced with reverence and awe of the Great God Who created it all, owns it all, and rules it all.
And that requires a great deal of humility and killing of pride.
One thing that I’ve been reminded of in this strange new world we live in: The simplicity of the Gospel. In today’s Bible reading, we read of John the Baptizer. He’s out in a deserted region, baptizing people in the Jordan River. They come from near and far with one purpose: They want to be right with God. Their hearts are prepared to do business with God.
However, when the religious leaders — the Sadducees and Pharisees — approach him, John didn’t greet them with a warm handshake, telling them how glad he was that they came out to hear his program. No, John looked them in the eyes and called them a brood of vipers, a family of venomous snakes. “You think you’re somebody because you can trace your bloodline back to Abraham. That’s nothing! If God wanted to, he could create Abraham’s descendants out of this rock pile. Get ready, because God’s about to bring judgment on the House of Abraham!”
Now, that doesn’t sound very friendly, does it? That doesn’t sound very “seeker-sensitive”, does it? I thought you could attract more flies with honey than vinegar. Well, honey does work best … if you’re wanting to attract flies. But if you’re calling fallen people to get right with a holy God, you can’t beat around the bush. You have to be real. You have to be direct. You have to call your audience to repentance.
All the Sadducees and Pharisees knew — all they were interested in — was religion. John’s call was not to religion. John’s call was to come to know God in a relationship. And they couldn’t do that without a miraculous work of God in their hearts, drawing them to turn from their old ways of dealing with God under the rules of the Old Covenant Law. Their hearts were hard.
Later, when Jesus asked them for the source of John’s authority, (Matthew 21:25–27) they claimed they didn’t know. They knew that if they said he received his authority from man, the people would revolt. And they knew that if they said John received his authority from God, Jesus would ask why they didn’t believe. So they blinked. They knew they had been caught in their hypocrisy.
The Gospel is a very simple message: God is God and you aren’t. God is holy and you aren’t. You are enslaved to sin. You are an enemy to God. And if you’re ever going to be made right with God, you’ll have to humble yourself and turn from your ways. You’ll have to turn to Jesus and ask God to take Jesus’ death as the payment for your sin. (Romans 6:23)
There is simply no other way to be made right with God.
Yes, the Gospel is a very simple message. But it isn’t easy. It requires a commitment — every single day — to die to your way. Die to your wishes. Every single day, you choose to pick up your instrument of death and follow Jesus. (Luke 9:23)
If you’ve never made a decision like this to follow Jesus, please reach out to me. I’d love to tell you more!
In today’s Bible reading, James warns his readers against judging other people. He says, “If you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” (James 2:9-10 ESV)
Let’s be clear. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 ESV) That means every one of us. Every. One. Of. Us. James agrees and points out that “For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.”
You may tend to look down on other people because they participate — and may even celebrate — a particular sin. But don’t judge them just because they sin differently than you. You sin too. Your sin may not be a “grievous” as someone else, but your sin — as “mild” as it may seem — put Jesus on the cross. Jesus died to cover your sin just like He died to cover that other person’s sin.
Grace is never deserved. Wages are deserved for service rendered. Grace isn’t just unmerited favor. But grace is favor granted to someone who deserves condemnation.
When seen in that perspective, it’s easier to extend grace as grace has been extended to you. You are no more deserving of grace than anyone else. In fact, to view grace in that way only proves how much you don’t understand grace.
If you have freely received grace (which you have), then freely extend grace to others.
In today’s Bible reading, the writer of Hebrews says all of the other priests who came before Jesus brought the blood of goats and calves into the holy places to make atonement for the people. Once every year the high priest would bring a sacrifice to atone for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 9:7)
However, he says that when Jesus entered the Most Holy Place, He brought His own blood to atone for the people’s sins once for all time, securing an eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:12)
And as I said two days ago, Jesus didn’t have to bring blood for His own sin since He was without sin.
Never again will anyone need to offer another sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin-debt sufficiently dealt with God’s wrath. Jesus’ sacrifice was so complete that you don’t have to worry about whether or not God will accept you. You are completely acceptable for all time.
Until you cross over to the other side of eternity, you will continue to have to deal with temptation. You will always have to deal with sinful inclinations and sinful behaviors. But if you are one of God’s kids, you can never do anything that will bring His displeasure to throw you out of His presence. You have been forgiven once-for-all. You have been adopted once-for-all. You have been accepted once-for-all.
And that’s good news!