Every Day with Jesus – July/August 2016 – Seek Me and Live

Every Day with Jesus – July/August 2016 – Seek Me and Live  ‘let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream’ Amos 5:24

Over the next two months, Selwyn looks at the book of Amos, who wrote around the time of 750 BC. He was thought to be an expect in agriculture  and travelled widely from his home town in Tekoa, Judah (Southern Kingdom) to parts of Israel (Northern Kingdom).

In the notes for the first day of this issue, Selwyn tells us a little more: “During a lull in international tensions, the kingdoms of Israel in the north and Judah in the south were enjoying what amounted to a ‘golden age’. The two kingdoms had grown prosperous and complacent.

The economy was growing, consumption was rising, the places of worship were full. But during his trips across the border into Israel, Amos noticed that beneath the surface lurked serious injustice, hypocrisy, corruption, and false worship.”

In his second study of this issue, Selwyn writes: “How comfortable are you in your spiritual life? If we are honest, far too many of us have settled down in a comfort zone and do not wish to be disturbed. Even a Bible study group can be a place where we pool our ideas rather than a place where we go to hear God speak.

If you don’t want to be challenged in you Christian life then don’t read any further. Amos is a very challenging book. The words recorded in it will bring us face to face with the fact that God will never agree to preserve our comfortable and complacent spiritual status.”

Please join me in the discussion on the book of Amos; however, if you feel comfortable with you spiritual life, particularly if you live in a western society – then don’t waste your time. Enjoy what time you have, feeling ‘comfortable’.

Every Day with Jesus, May/June 2016 Issue – The Presence of God

The current issue of Every Day with Jesus, published by CWR, has the title: ‘The Presence of God.

The signature verse, for this issue, is from Psalm 16:11 (NIVUK): ‘You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’

These notes, from the back cover of the publication, provide an useful summary: “In this issue, Selwyn shares with us how we can practise the presence of God and experience Him more powerfully in our everyday lives. Each day he unpacks how God not only wants us to know about Him but also to experience His presence and live in the fullness of life as He intended.”

Mick Brooks, Consulting Editor, makes this important statement in his word of introduction: “The most important truth to grasp hold of is that we can know God and be known by Him. We can experience the presence of God in our day-to-day lives.”

Acquire your copy if you have not already done so; and feel free to join in the discussion, on www.tofollowjesus.org

Grace and suffering

Grace – as described by the Apostle Paul

I read this interesting article on Grace, based on the apostle Paul’s writings, the nature of God’s grace is often misunderstood. (Interview on Grace). Any comments on this article?

Whenever, we talk about grace, we should also remember that suffering is also part of our daily walk with Jesus. In Philippians 3:10-11, we read: “I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”

The late Selwyn Hughes, wrote this in today’s study, taken from the CWR publication: Every Day with Jesus: “The resurrection did not cancel out the cross, so that Jesus did all the dying, while we do all the triumphing, No! By raising Jesus from the dead God endorsed the whole self-giving, servant lifestyle that had taken Him to the cross.

So, if we enjoy the power of His resurrection working in us – and by the Spirit we certainly do – then we must realise it is intended to empower us to enter into the fellowship of His sufferings in the real world, to carry the pain of rejection as He carried it, to bear scorn as He bore it. Nothing could be more relevant in today’s Church.

I think the concept of suffering for one’s faith in Jesus – is poorly understood in many western countries – perhaps, because there are some Christians who only follow a watered-down, socially acceptable version of Jesus’ teaching – where there is little risk of criticism or condemnation from friends or social community.

Your view?

Matthew 4:12-17 ‘The Light Dawns’

(Draft) Bible Study notes on Matthew 4:12-17

Matthew 4:12-17 (NIVUK): “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee.

Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali – to fulfil what was said through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’

From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’”

The incomparable majesty of Jesus is demonstrated by he way His nature is described as ‘Light’.

John, the apostle, uses this metaphor a number of times in his gospel, a good example is John 8:12, “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

Jesus spoke these words near the Temple in Jerusalem, around the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. In the Temple, at this time, massive candelabras were lit to commemorate the cloud of light, the pillar of fire, that led the Israelites at night, in their wilderness wanderings through the desert, after their escape from Egypt.

So from God’s perspective, the world is in darkness – moral darkness, spiritual darkness, ignorance, the inability to know God, the inability to change its behaviour to that which is right.

We could say that God has given to man two little candles – one is the candle of creation (Romans 1:19-20). And the other is the candle of conscience (Romans 2). Sadly, man all too readily blows those little lights out and then he is in total darkness.

It should be noted that between verse 11 (after the temptation): “Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” And the following verse 12: “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee.” There is a period of about nine to twelve months.

We have some indication of what Jesus was doing during this time from John 1:19 to 4:42: –

  • Jesus spends three days with John the Baptist; on the first day John says: ‘Among you stands one you do not know’; on the second day, he says: ‘I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God’; and, on the third day, he says, ‘Look, the Lamb of God’  When two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus (John 1:37).
  • After that, Jesus went to a wedding in Cana and it was there He made water into wine (John 2:1-11). Then He went down to Capernaum with His mother, brothers and disciples.
  • When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem and cleared out the Temple court with a whip, some time later He met with Nicodemus; then He went down to the Judean countryside and His disciples baptised a number of people. (John 3:22-24, 4:1-4). He then left Judea to go back to Galilee via Samaria, where He talked to a Samaritan woman by Jacob’s well. (John 4:7-26).
  • Once more He visited Cana and healed the son of a certain royal official, by His word, “You may go. Your son will live”. The official had come from Capernaum (John 4:46-54)

Now, as we go back to Matthew 4, we have an idea of what happened – just prior to verse 12: “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee.” It was the start of Jesus’ public ministry.

As well as the fulfilment of prophecy (Isaiah 9:1-2), Galilee was the right place to begin because the great roads of the world, running from the east to the west and the north to the south passed right through Galilee.

The whole idea of the Messiah beginning His ministry in Galilee was an impossibility to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. The outstanding Jewish minds were in Jerusalem and they expected that the revelation of God would be in Jerusalem (see John 7:40-42).

The southern kingdom, when it was taken into captivity, returned but the northern kingdom (of which Galilee was a part) never did. Their darkness and their judgement was greater than that of the south. But God’s ultimate blessing is seen in the fact that the light will dawn in Galilee. And this is a great Old Testament indication that God always intended to redeem the world, not just the Jews. To those in the greatest darkness, God sent the greatest light.

Now let us look at verse 17, the last verse for this study: ‘From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.”‘ This was the same message preached by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2).

When Jesus came and people began to ask what is the significance of what is going on, Jesus essentially said the darkness can be expelled if you repent.

What does it mean to repent? It means to admit you’re a sinner and to turn from it. It means to change the direction of your life. It means to be converted, to turn around, to become part of God’s kingdom.

Repentance is more than sorrow – it is to change your life, change your purpose, change your opinions, change your direction. It is an inner change of the heart leading to an outward change in life, which can be seen by others like a light on a hill.

Any comments?

References: 

  • Bible Study Notes prepared by the late Rev. Eric Bird (mostly used for framework and headings). His notes were, in turn, based on the following primary source: “The MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Matthew, Volumes 1-5″, published by the Moody Bible Institute. [Note: I don’t fully endorse Dr John MacArthur’s work, so I’ll try to steer away from any detailed references or quotes.]
  • Extensive on-line searches – especially in the area of translation variations.
  • Notes on Matthew’s Gospel as compiled by Fr. Bernie Patterson, sourced from multiple references.
  • Overall – I’ve selected material, which fits into my view of Matthew’s Gospel – naturally!

Matthew 4:1-11 The Crises of Temptation

Study Notes on Matthew’s Gospel: The Crises of Temptation

Matthew 4:1-11 (NIVUK): “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (tested) by the devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘“He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”’

Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”’

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”

Discussion

This is an amazing confrontation between God and Satan and this account, which could only come from Jesus, provides us with guidelines on how we can also deal with temptation.

The first thing to notice about this confrontation with Satan is that it comes right after the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. At His baptism, Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit with the strength to undertake His ministry. We know it was immediately after His baptism because we are told this in Mark 1:12 – ‘At once the Spirit sent him into the desert. ‘

I think it has been a common experience of many Christians that after a successful spiritual activity there is often a period of vulnerability, which can involve a direct attack by Satan, or by others acting under his prompting.

Now, a quick word about Satan; I believe Satan is an active, intelligent being who is always prowling around seeking to disrupt the way God’s people respond to the will of God. Clearly, from what the Bible tells us (especially Jesus’ own words), Satan is not simply, the personification of evil.

In these verses (Matthew 4:1-11) Satan comes to Jesus to temp Him to sin. It should be remembered that the word ‘tempt’, in a biblical sense, can mean either a ‘tempting’ to do wrong or a ‘testing’, which leads to something good.

One writer has expressed it this way: “From God’s viewpoint, all this is a test; it is a way to prove that the Son is worthy to be the Saviour. But from the devil’s viewpoint it is a temptation – tempting the Son to be unworthy.

Now, whatever happens in our lives the things that come our way to entice us, the devil’s purpose is to draw us into sin and God may allow them as ways of proving and strengthening our faith.”

If we look at James 1:13-15: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed (Satan’s prompting can often be involved in this process.) Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

God does allow ‘trials’ to prove righteousness but He will never entice someone into sin. In Luke 22:31-32, we hear Jesus say to Peter: “‘Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’” This is a good example where God allowed the disciples to be tested, knowing that at the end of their trials they would be strengthened.

The First Temptation of Jesus

“The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’

Did you notice that the first word said was ‘if’. In the same way, Satan tempted Eve and  he used the same tactic when he tempted Jesus and likewise will do the same when he temps us. He always begins by trying to create doubt about the reality of God’s Word. In these verses, Satan implies that Jesus status as God’s Son needs to be proven.

The temptation presented to Jesus was to use His divine power to satisfy His hunger, to turn stones into bread. Satan was in effect saying that God had let Jesus down by not providing Him with food and Jesus could address this issue by using His own power and there was no need for Jesus to depend on His father.

“It was an urging on Satan’s part for Jesus to sweep aside every human want by a divine act. It was a temptation to really exercise a personal selfish authority to do what would satisfy His own want because God in some way let Him down. Doesn’t Satan tempt us in a similar manner?” In summary, at the heart of this temptation, Satan wanted Jesus to distrust the Father’s care.

Jesus’ reply: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus was declaring that the guiding motive of His life was to do the will of God and to trust Him to meet all His needs. In essence, a man is better off obeying the word of God and to count on the providential sustenance of God than he is to let his own desire and lust cause him to grab satisfaction that he knows is against the will of God because he thinks he deserves it.

In Matthew 6:31-33, we read a good summary concerning God’s providential sustenance: “So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

The Second Temptation of Jesus

“Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘“He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”’

Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”'”

Here we have an example of Satan using Scripture (Psalm 91:11-12), however, he leaves the last part of verse 11 out.  (‘For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.‘)

Satan is saying to Jesus – ‘why not let God prove that You are His Son by doing a miracle Himself’. The sin involved with this temptation is first not trusting God in the right way, and more than that, it is the sin of presuming upon God – testing to see if He would really do, what He said He would do.

As Jesus had said on a number of occasions, He was not interested in performing signs and wonders, such as jumping off the temple, just to impress people. He had come to tell people that the kingdom of God was near, that there was an urgent need for repentance, to make God known and to reconcile man to God. Secondly, Jesus knew you should never call upon God’s power to test God. That is, you don’t put pressure on God to force Him to take care of you, for selfish motives.

Faith that depends on sign and wonders isn’t faith, it’s doubt looking for proof. When Jesus returned to His home town, Nazareth, there was an expectation by the people that He would perform miracles. Luke 4:23, “Jesus said to them, ‘Surely you will quote this proverb to me: “Physician, heal yourself!” And you will tell me, “Do here in your home town what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.”’ Yet we know from Mark 6:5-6, that there was little faith to be found in Nazareth: “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few people who were ill and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.”

In reply to Satan’s second temptation, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16, by saying: “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” We don’t create an unnecessary test of God’s justice, mercy, compassion and love by putting our lives in unnecessary danger (physical or spiritual).

The Third Temptation of Jesus

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”’

Satan offered to Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. Jesus deserved them and they were going to be His anyway, as we read in Psalm 2:8, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”

One commentator has explained it, as follows: ‘Satan’s temptation was to compromise God’s plan and to achieve similar ends by other means and this alternative would have meant avoiding the cross.’

Yet, the nations and the earth is only a small part of creation and Jesus is responsible for all of creation – seen and unseen. Consequently, this temptation, shows the devil grasping at straws, it could never have substance in the eyes of our Lord and God. Yet, it provides for us a good example of how Satan works on our ‘the ends justify the means’ mentality.

Jesus, the loyal servant of God the Father makes no deal with Satan. Jesus would never ever compromise the single most important reality in all the universe and that is that God and God alone is to be worshipped.

Another aspect of the temptations of Jesus, is that they provide an example of how Jesus, as the sinless man, full of the Holy Spirit, could resist the false arguments and deception of the devil.

Conclusion

There are a number of points we can take away from this study: Satan uses a number of standard deceptions, depending on our individual weaknesses. The devil will tempt us to distrust God’s care for our well-being and to encourage us to sort out our own problems without His involvement; The second type of temptation is to get us to test God’s love and power – along the lines of: ‘If you really loved me then you would do this good thing for me or my family’. The third, and very successful temptation in today’s western culture, is to follow the ways of the world and to allow God to be replaced in our hearts by earthly desires. That is, we remove God from His rightful place of worship.

However, we should remember that we have available to us, the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us and we also have access to God’s word as found in Scripture, which we can use when confronted by these types of temptations.

In Hebrews 4:15, we have these great words: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin.”

In addition, we can be confident that we will not have to face overwhelming temptation that will break us, for Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation (or testing) has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

The Triumph of Jesus

“Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! …  Then the devil left him.”

In the three temptations, Satan was asking Jesus to prove He was the Messiah – the King of Kings, and in a way he received the proof – in these few words: ‘Away from me Satan!’  Satan was given no choice but to leave – he had been defeated.

In summary, we too can be victorious over Satan by depending on the power of God’s Spirit. We can resist the devil by standing firm in our faith: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

And in James 4:7, we read: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

In Christ, we can resist the devil’s temptations – just as Jesus did!

References: 

  • Bible Study Notes prepared by the late Rev. Eric Bird (mostly used for framework and headings). His notes were, in turn, based on the following primary source: “The MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Matthew, Volumes 1-5″, published by the Moody Bible Institute. [Note: I don’t fully endorse Dr John MacArthur’s work, so I’ll try to steer away from any detailed references or quotes.]
  • Extensive on-line searches – especially in the area of translation variations.
  • Notes on Matthew’s Gospel as compiled by Fr. Bernie Patterson, sourced from multiple references.
  • Overall – I’ve selected material, which fits into my view of Matthew’s Gospel – naturally!

Any comments?

Every Day with Jesus – March/April 2016 Issue – Straight from the Heart

The current issue of Every Day with Jesus, published by CWR, has the title: ‘Straight from the Heart.

The signature verse, for this issue, is from Philippians 1:7 (UKNIV): ‘I have you in my heart … all of you share in God’s grace with me’.

This issue takes us on a journey through Paul’s epistle to the Philippians.

Mick Brooks, Consulting Editor, has this to say in his word of introduction: “Paul’s letter to the Philippians helps us to understand the gospel as a gospel of love: not just receiving love but sharing love too. …

This deeply personal letter, so clearly written from Paul’s heart, shows how we can learn to live with almost anything: suffering, disappointments and the many, various curve balls life throws in our direction. … It is so much easier to face difficulties if we know we are not alone, that somebody cares enough to journey alongside us.”

Make sure you acquire your copy if you have not already done so; and feel free to join in the discussion on www.tofollowjesus.org

Every Day with Jesus – January/February 2016 issue – Alive

The current issue of Every Day with Jesus, published by CWR, has the title: ‘Alive.

The signature verse, for this issue, is from Ephesians 2:4-5 (NIV): ‘ because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ.’

The notes on the back cover of the publication provides us with this perspective: “In this first issue of 2016, Selwyn encourages us to renew our minds and discover a God who relates, thinks, feels and chooses. Understanding these aspects of God’s nature helps us to learn how to give Him access to our whole being, fulfil our God-given potential and feel truly alive in Jesus.”

Make sure you acquire your copy if you have not already done so; and feel free to join in the discussion on www.tofollowjesus.org

Matthew 3:13-17 The Commissioning of the King

DRAFT

Study Notes on Matthew’s Gospel: The Commissioning of the King

Matthew 3:13-17 (NIVUK): “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?’

Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then John consented.

As soon as Jesus was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”

This is the commissioning of Jesus Christ; the baptism of the Son, the anointing of the Spirit, and the word of the Father. All the Trinity is involved.

The Baptism of the Son

Jesus comes to John to be baptised. This signals the beginning of His ministry and the phasing out of the ministry of John.

As Jesus’ cousin, John knew Jesus and he would have been told by his mother Elizabeth, that Jesus was the ‘Lord’. In Luke 1:42-43, we hear Elizabeth say: “In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Clearly, she would have passed her belief on to her son, John.

Jesus came to John for a specific purpose – to be baptised by him. However, John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance with the confession of sins. We, are then faced with a problem, Jesus was sinless, so why did He seek baptism?

We know that John was aware of Jesus’ sinless state, in verse 14, we are told John tried hard to deter Him, and he exclaims: “I need to be baptised by you, and (why) do you come to me?”

Jesus came into the world for one important reason – to identify with sinners. In order for Him to fulfil all of God’s righteousness, He had to identify with sinners. In order to bring sinners to righteousness Jesus had to go through the depths of the water of death. He had to bear the sins of us men and women and to do that He had to identify with sinners. There was no other way to fulfil all righteousness.

In Isaiah 53:11, we read: “After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.”

Jesus submitted Himself to John’s baptism as a symbolic, righteous act of identifying with sinners who were seeking salvation. We can also say that His baptism was a symbol of His death. Jesus going into the water represented His death and His coming out of the water of baptism is a symbol of His rising to life.

In Luke 12:50, Jesus refers to His death as a baptism: “But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed!” (see Mark 10:38 for a similar reference).

The Anointing of the Spirit

Now, let us look at Matthew 3:16. ” … John saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.” This is the second element in Jesus’ commissioning.

As Jesus came up out of the water, God opened heaven and John saw the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him. The Holy Spirit has no body and can’t be seen with human eyes, but to give that physical sign to John that the one on whom he saw the Spirit alight as a dove, that’s the Anointed One. And when John saw this, he knew that God was providing confirmation to him, that Jesus was the Messiah.

It’s worth noting that this is the only place in Scripture where the Holy Spirit appears as a dove. One possible reason for the use of a dove as a visible sign, is that in Jesus’ time, the dove was the most common sacrificial animal. A Jewish person would naturally think of sacrifice when they saw a dove. [A bullock was the animal for the rich; a lamb was for the middle classes, but a dove was the sin offering for almost everybody.]

Jesus is God, but He was also human and the Holy Spirit of God came upon Him in His humanness to empower Him to preach and to anoint Him as the prophet of God. Notice that God anointed ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, that’s His human identification. So His humanness was anointed, He was inaugurated into His kingly office, He was empowered for ministry.

We see this theme in Acts 10:37-38: “You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached – how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”

The third part of Jesus’ commissioning: the Word of the Father

There is one essential element that is required of a sacrifice – whenever a sacrifice is offered to God it has to be without spot and without blemish. This is what the Father is saying: “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” Of this One who identifies with sinners, of this One who is to be the sacrificial offering, God is saying, in effect: “I am well pleased, I accept Him as the sacrifice.”

In summary, these few verses of Matthew 3:13-17, are informing us of Jesus’ commissioning. By that act of baptism Jesus identified with sinners and pictured His death. By being anointed with the Spirit He was empowered to undertake a ministry that ultimately made Him a sacrifice. And by the Father’s word He was said to be the worthy sacrifice.

Any comments?

Matthew 3:7-12

Study Notes on Matthew’s Gospel: Fruits of True Repentance

Matthew 3:7-12 (NIVUK): “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptising, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

And do not think you can say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe has been laid to the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

I baptise you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’”

In these verses, we hear John challenging the motives of the Pharisees and Sadducees who had come with the crowds to be baptised by him.

First off, let us look at these two groups. The Pharisees and the Sadducees had very little in common – they had a history of vying for power against each other – and their influence at any point in time was dependent on their respective relationships with the current ruler.

The Pharisees came to prominence in 135-105 BC after the Maccabean revolt which saw Israel break free of Greek influence. Pharisees were seen as champions of Hebrew religious life and sought to rid Israel of all Hellenistic cultural traits. They looked to the Hebrew Bible for guidance and developed a detailed oral tradition based on their interpretation of Scripture.

Sadducees on the other hand took a very literal view of the Torah, and accepted only the first five books (Pentateuch) and they completely rejected the notion of oral tradition. They did not believe in resurrection of the body. They were wealthy aristocrats who controlled all aspects of temple life, including the collection of temple tax and the running of the major festivals. Although small in number they exerted considerable influence on religious life in Jerusalem. The high priests of this period were Sadducees.

In summary, these two groups had very little in common and their relationship with each other was often hostile.

Now, back to Matthew – members of the two groups were coming to John for baptism and because of the mutual hostility they would not have been travelling together. John says something to them which is quite insightful – he calls them a brood of vipers – identifying a common characteristic – they had no intention of honestly repenting of their sinful ways (basically because they did not see themselves as sinful). I also read that calling a person a viper (snake) at this time was the equivalent of calling them a hypocrite.

Another interesting point is that John calls them offspring of vipers – they were the product of the people who proceeded them. In a way they were poisoning the whole nation with their deadly deception and had been doing so for a number of generations

The central plank for salvation for these people was that they were descendants of Abraham yet their deeds did not demonstrate the same faith as Abraham. The outward signs they looked for in people was their adherence to the laws of Moses, especially the purity laws and separation from sinful people.

The Pharisees may have started out with good intentions when they championed Hebrew religious laws over Greek culture but they misunderstood the role of faith and replaced it with a works-based theology to the extent that they lost sight of the requirements of mercy, compassion and forgiveness.

In regard to the other group. the Sadducees, they disappeared  after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD and their religious philosophy faded from view. However, the Pharisees went on to set the scene for the next two thousand years – a scene centred on isolation and cultural purity.

Let’s look at some verses concerning these people, the first one from Matthew 23:1-3 “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practise what they preach.”

Matthew 9:10-12, “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?

Matthew 12:1-3, “At that time Jesus went through the cornfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some ears of corn and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, ‘Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.’”

Matthew 15:1-3, “Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!’ Jesus replied, ‘And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?”

Matthew 23:23-24, “‘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 practised the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

I think you get the picture, the Pharisees were preoccupied with the letter of the law but did not have a relationship with the law-giver; they were more interested in their standing before men and ignored their relationship with their God; they loved the law but they failed to love God and their neighbour. Worst of all they were, in general, hypocrites who failed to do what they preached.

The Call to Repentance

Now to bring this all together, John the Baptist was calling people to repentance through baptism; and what are the fruits of repentance? In Acts 26:20b, we read, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.” Repentance is always demonstrated in a transformed life.

God sees the deeds we do and these deeds reflect the spiritual status of our lives. True repentance means turning your back on sin, to  learn from God through Scripture with the Holy Spirit’s help, how to act righteously. Then to seek justice, relief for the oppressed, to defend the fatherless and to care for the widow.

As John could discern that, in general, the Pharisees and Sadducees came to him for baptism as unrepentant hypocrites. However, John’s strong words may have been a wake-up call for a few of them who came to see that their legal approach to the law of Moses and their traditions were placing a burden on people and not helping them fulfil the spirit of God’s commands through faith.

It’s the same today, many people are called to repentance but they fail to see their sinfulness and do not understand their dire need for forgiveness because in their eyes, ‘they are basically good people’.  Yet, we are told throughout Scripture, that all have sinned and therefore we all must repent.

I’ll end with Romans 3:22-25: “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith. … “

Any comments?

Additional Notes on True Repentance

Repentance is a gift from God and God grants this gift in a three-fold way – the intellectual, the emotional and the will to change by committing to a course of action.

Repentance begins when there is a knowledge and recognition of sin, involving a sense of personal guilt, a sense of personal defilement and a sense of personal helplessness to change without God’s help.

In Psalm 51, we see these three components: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

The recognition of sin is the first step, but true repentance always involves a willingness to change Pharaoh (Exodus 9:27), Balaam (Numbers 22:24), Achan (Joshua 7:20), Saul (1 Samuel 15:24) and Judas (Matthew 25:4-5) all recognised that they had sinned but their subsequent actions clearly indicated that they had not changed their sinful hearts.

When one recognises not only the fact that one has sinned, but that sin is hateful to an holy God then there is an overwhelming sense of guilt in the emotions. In Matthew 5:4, we read about the natural response to the understanding that we have offended God by our sinfulness, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” We suffer emotional grief when we realise what our sins do to our Holy Lord, and we plead for mercy and if genuine then we will receive God’s forgiveness.

The rubber hits the road, so to speak, by an act of our will to change our ways – to turn around and leave our sinful habits behind. In the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:18-20a), we read that first the son decides to go back to his father, and then he acts on this decision – he got up and went – “I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.” So he got up and went to his father.” All to often, this final step of true repentance is not carried out.

One last point: We recognise that salvation came with the first coming of Christ and judgement will come when the Lord returns. Those who don’t believe in Jesus and have not truly repented for their sins will suffer (Matthew 3:12) the flames of an unquenchable fire. That’s the ‘choice’ we all face. There is no third option!

Your view?

References: 

  • Bible Study Notes prepared by the late Rev. Eric Bird (mostly used for framework and headings). His notes were, in turn, based on the following primary source: “The MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Matthew, Volumes 1-5″, published by the Moody Bible Institute. [Note: I don’t fully endorse Dr John MacArthur’s work, so I’ll try to steer away from any detailed references or quotes.]
  • Extensive on-line searches – especially in the area of translation variations.
  • Notes on Matthew’s Gospel as compiled by Fr. Bernie Patterson, sourced from multiple references.
  • Overall – I’ve selected material, which fits into my view of Matthew’s Gospel – naturally!

Every Day with Jesus – Standing Strong – September/October 2015

The current issue of Every Day with Jesus, published by CWR, has the title: ‘Standing Strong.

The signature verse, for this issue, is from Ephesians 1:18-19 (NIV): ‘I pray … that you may know … his incomparably great power … the working of his mighty strength.’

The notes on the back cover of the publication provides us with an excellent perspective: “In this issue, Selwyn Hughes shares the anchors God taught him for standing strong every day in both the successes and challenges of life. Join us in this special anniversary issue as we explore these approaches together, including; cultivating our relationship with Him, finding sacred spaces in a secular society and understanding the goodness of God.”

Make sure you acquire your copy if you have not already done so; then feel free to join in the discussion on www.tofollowjesus.org