October 12, 2017

October 12, 2017

MATTHEW 24-25

Focus Verse: The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
Matthew 25:40

 

THIS is the measure of how much we love God. THIS is the measure of how deeply we understand the Gospel. It’s not how many worship nights we attend. It’s not how much Christian music we listen to. It’s not how many times we complete a Bible-in-a-Year plan. It’s how we put the Gospel in action by loving others.

 

The flip side of this is in verses 45-46 when those who refused to show Gospel love to others are told that they proved how much they love God with their inaction and are cast out of His presence.

 

We have to move out of the idea of thinking that the Gospel is just for us. Now don’t get me wrong, the Gospel is for you. But you cannot get it down into your core until you realize that it cannot stay there. In fact, you cannot get the Gospel for you until you turn it to others.

 

All of these things that the Gospel is, all of the great things that we receive from the Gospel, those are all things that we have to now give to others. The unconditional love, the unconditional acceptance, laying down out lives, ALL OF IT FOR THE LEAST OF THESE. Regardless of social status, skin color, nationality. We love EVERYONE because Christ loves EVERYONE, and in loving them, we love Him.

 

You can’t do it. But Jesus did. And He will through the Holy Spirit in you.

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October 11, 2017

October 11, 2017

MATTHEW 22-23

Focus Verse: “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Matthew 22:11-14

 

This is another pretty interesting parable. A man invites a bunch of people to his sons wedding feast, and all of the people ho-hum around and don’t accept the invitation. Some are too busy with their business, others too busy in their fields, while still others are just jerks and beat up and kill the people who come around to invite them to the feast! The Father (I’ll go ahead and use the capital letter because we all know Jesus is talking about God) has these people taken care of, and then extends the invitation to those wandering around in the streets. Unlike those who were invited the first time, these people actually accept the invitation!

 

And that’s where we step into our focus verses, and a pretty valuable lesson for us to grab hold of. The King comes in and notices a man who isn’t dressed in the appropriate attire. So He asks the man why he isn’t wearing the right clothes. The man is so stunned that he can’t even answer. So the King boots him from the party out into the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

 

Pretty harsh right? For a religion that is supposed to be so accepting, someone ought to tell Jesus that this parable doesn’t really fit with what’s politically correct. You can’t kick people out of parties because of what they’re wearing. This poor guy probably didn’t have anything nicer to wear.

 

And to that point, I think you’re absolutely right – I don’t think this man had anything nicer to wear. I think that’s why he accepted the invitation in the first place. These other people had “more important” things to do than come to the wedding. The didn’t see the need for them to accept this free invitation. Clearly though, this man saw his need to accept the invitation. There was something in this invitation that he needed, so he responded.

 

Are you making the connection to the Gospel here? Christ’s invitation is open to everyone, but only those who see that they need a Savior will accept His invitation. So many other people have more important things to do. They are pretty happy with their lives and don’t really need a Savior to step in and tell them that they need fixed.

 

Those who do see their need though, come running at the invitation. They can’t believe that they are even invited in the first place! They are fully known by the King and unconditionally accepted, even though they are broken and lost and wandering. That’s the good news of the Gospel! And it ought to put a thrill into our hearts! YOU are invited to the Son’s wedding!

 

But then there’s this second tiered teaching here. After accepting the invitation, we find out that there’s a dress code for the wedding. You have to be wearing the right clothes in order to stay at the wedding. What’s with that!?! I thought that we were saved by grace and grace alone – now you’re telling me that we have to dress a certain way if we’re going to maintain our status!

 

Well, if it makes you feel any better, I’m not telling you that…Jesus is. But it’s not a matter of acceptance, it’s a matter of laziness. The problem is the same in both camps. Those who didn’t respond to the invitation don’t think they need a Savior. But those who responded to the invitation and then refused to change their clothes ALSO don’t think they need a Savior. They realize they are broken, but don’t see any reason to, or don’t see any way that they can, change that brokenness.

 

I hope that what I’m saying makes sense here, because it is absolutely pivotal that we grasp this. BOTH meet the same end in this story. They both get tossed out into the darkness, which translated from parable terms equals hell. Maybe not the fire and pitchforks versions that you’ve seen in cartoons if that kind of hell offends you, but the kind that is an eternal separation from God…a fate far more awful than any amount of fire or little red men with horns.

 

Here’s the most frustrating part about this man that was kicked out of the party for not wearing the right clothes: the wedding clothes ARE PROVIDED FOR US! ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS TAKE OFF OUR OLD CLOTHING AND PUT ON THE NEW! Check out Romans 13:14 and Galatians 3:27. We are to clothe ourselves with CHRIST! Clearly there is a level to that which we can’t do on our own.

 

So the wedding clothes concept comes down to the same concept that we have talked about over and over again in this devotional – You CAN’T, but JESUS DID and WILL through the Holy Spirit IN you! So it’s not a matter of God not accepting you, it’s a matter of us being unwilling to change. Just as Jesus called out to the people when He raised Lazarus from the dead, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go”! Take off those grave clothes and put on HIS wedding clothes.

October 10, 2017

October 10, 2017

MATTHEW 20-21

Focus Verse: When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’ So the last shall be first, and the first last.”
Matthew 20:11-16

 

So here’s the story…condensed style: This landowner hires some people really early in the morning. They go work on his land. Then he hires some more people a little later in the morning. They go work too. Then he goes and hires some more people. He hires some more people around lunch, and then some more people a little after lunch. With only a few hours left in the workday, there’s still work to be done, so he hires even more people to work the last few hours.

 

Then payday comes. The men who were hired last get paid first, and they get exactly what the landowner had agreed to pay the people whom he hired first. These workers see this and get really excited! If he paid them that, he for sure has something special up his sleeve for us! But he doesn’t. He pays them exactly the same thing that he paid those who were hired last.

 

Clearly this was a hard pill to swallow for these workers, and it’s even a hard pill for us to swallow as believers. I think that this parable is actually an excellent way to measure how much you understand the Gospel though, and here’s why.

 

The reason we struggle with this concept is because we can’t separate ourselves from this earning and deserving process. It is so ingrained in us that we can’t even separate it from the process of salvation. But we have to. Because that’s the only way we can come to the Gospel – by seeing that we can’t earn any part of the Gospel, by seeing that we don’t deserve it, even at our best.

 

I’ll be honest, my thought process when I read this parable goes a little something like this: “Alright Jesus, so You’re telling me that I’m just as good if I live like a sinner, cheat on my wife, live however I want, do the most immoral, distasteful things, and then on my deathbed, give my heart to Jesus, as I am if I live every second of my life serving You? That can’t be the lesson that You want people to get from this.”

 

To which I believe Jesus would respond, “You still don’t get it Jeremy. You still don’t understand the Gospel.” Sure, I understand that Jesus was born of a virgin, that He was fully God and fully man, that He lived a sinless life, that He died on a cross for me, that He was buried and in three days rose from the grave. I believe that He ascended to the right hand of the Father after forty days on this earth in resurrected form and then ten days later released the Holy Spirit to fill anyone who would put their faith in Him. But those are just the events of the Gospel. That’s not the multi-dimensional Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

When we dig down into the meaning of those events, we see that Jesus HAD to do these things for me because I am more wicked and sinful – even on my best day – than I would ever want to admit. When we dig down into the meaning of those events, we see that Jesus was GLAD to do these things for me, because He saw who I could become IN HIM. So even while I was lost, He loved and accepted me because He knew that HE could make me beautiful.

 

It is this meaning that drives the Gospel down into your core. When this becomes who you are…when you become driven by the Gospel by having the Gospel driven down into you, you see something different in this story.

 

You see that you, on your own, are no better than any other “sinner” on this planet – past, present or future. So whether you’ve been serving Him faithfully for two days before your time on this earth is up, or two hundred years, at your core, without Jesus, you still deserve eternal judgment and death. It doesn’t matter HOW LONG you’ve been saved. The only thing that matters is WHO has saved you.

 

You also see your real motivation when you read this parable through the lens of the Gospel. Are you serving Jesus to earn more brownie points in heaven? I absolutely hate it when people talk about adding jewels to their crown in heaven. Or that God is going to add rooms to their mansion in heaven. Keep your jewels and keep your extra rooms. I want a cot at the feet of Jesus and that’s all I want in heaven. HE is the only jewel that we need. HE is the only mansion that we need. The Gospel shows you that.

 

Now, theologically, do I think that God will reward some more than others for their service to His Kingdom? Yes, I actually do think that is scriptural. BUT WE CANNOT LET THAT BE OUR MOTIVATION! The people who hate this story so much (even though you would never admit that you hate one of Jesus’ parables), those of us who (like me) think that this parable encourages last minute salvation instead of life-long commitment and service, we miss the motivation of service.

 

The world says, “Obey and you will be accepted.” The Gospel though is unlike anything else in the world. It is quite literally God taking the standards and motivations of the world and flipping them upside down. In the Gospel, complete acceptance comes first. We saw it when God called the Israelites out of Egypt, we see it in the life of every figure throughout the Bible. This isn’t just a New Testament teaching. Abraham was accepted and THEN he obeyed. Noah was accepted and THEN he obeyed. Moses was accepted and THEN he obeyed. Even Jesus’ disciples were accepted and THEN they obeyed.

 

The motivation of the Gospel is love in its purest form. Like I wrote about yesterday, “I am completely known, YET I am loved and accepted, unconditionally and fully, therefore, I obey.” That’s the Gospel.

October 9, 2017

October 9, 2017

MATTHEW 18-9

Focus Verse: “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Matthew 18:15-17

 

This may be one of the most ignored teachings of Jesus in the Bible. As believers though, it is vital that we get this right. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be sons of God.” Not peacekeepers, but peacemakers. Peace requires ACTION. It’s not something that we can passively sit back and hold on to. And this passage from Matthew 18 is how we actively make peace. But it’s going to require work!

 

Here’s where we drop the ball on this command: we don’t see the body of Christ as a family like we’re supposed to. When I was growing up, if my little brother took a toy that wasn’t his, guess what I did? I did NOT go to school the next day and talk to all of my friends about what a creep my brother was being, taking my toys and “speculating” or (let’s get real “Christian” for you) sharing my “prayer requests” about how he’s probably taken other kids’ toys too. I would never do that! He’s my brother! What I DID was either take care of it myself (and, granted, as a child sometimes my methods weren’t the most Christ-like) or I went straight to my Mom. But before I ever went to my Mom I would tell him to give it back.

 

We miss this though. I think we’re afraid of what that other person might say or how they might react to us telling them they hurt our feelings, so we go to a thousand other people to justify our hurt feelings. And if they don’t sympathize with us, we’ll go to a thousand more people about their lack of sympathy.

 

WAKE UP CHURCH! Family doesn’t act like that…at least they’re not supposed to. If you grew up in a family that operated like that, I am so sorry. That’s no way to live! And I have good news for you, you’ve been adopted into a family that isn’t dysfunctional like that…at least it’s not supposed to be.

 

But our pride gets in the way. Our ultimate desire is to be completely known and unconditionally accepted. If you’re sitting there thinking right now, “Noooooo way! I don’t want anyone to know everything about me.” That’s because you don’t think they’ll accept you if they know everything. But check out this verse from Psalm 139:1-4

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.

Here it is, laid out for you. The God of the universe knows you completely. Now let’s follow it with this: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

 

What does that do for your pride? It should send it skyrocketing through the clouds! The God of the universe knows you completely, YET He still loves you unconditionally. You will not find that in any other relationship…outside of the Gospel that is.

 

So what implication should this have on us as Gospel believing and following Christians? We should treat others exactly the same. We should seek to be known and to know others completely AND love and accept them unconditionally. Can you imagine what would happen to the Church if we could get to this point? It would be the kind of world changing Church that we see in the book of Acts…and why stop there? I don’t want to be the Church in the book of Acts, I want to be better than the Church in Acts! (*GASP* is that even Biblical to say I want to be better?)

 

And we can get there. Well…we can’t (here it comes), but Jesus did and will through the Holy Spirit in us. But we have to stop having our identity wrapped up in what people think of us. We have to stop being so worried about what could happen if people don’t respect our vulnerability. Jesus Christ was born as a human baby, becoming completely vulnerable. An invulnerable God, taking on flesh, only to let humans take complete advantage of his vulnerability, strip Him down, abuse Him in every way imaginable and nail Him to a cross.

 

People will take advantage of you. If they trampled Jesus, they will trample you. But the God of all creation knows you completely and yet loves you unconditionally. No one can ever take that away from you.

October 8, 2017

October 8, 2017

MATTHEW 15-17

Focus Verse: Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.
Matthew 17:1-2

 

What is your luminance? Now that’s a set up question for most of you. Most of you are saying, what’s luminance? And that’s good. That’s exactly the question that I want you to ask. I love it when science and the Bible come crashing together. If you get a chance, hop on YouTube and check out Louie Giglio’s sermon on laminin…really cool stuff!

 

Today we’re talking about luminance, the light that is reflected off of a surface, and we’ll look at two interesting case studies in luminance. Now first, we need to establish a few things – this isn’t science, it’s an analogy using science, so if you’re a scientist or even know a lot about science, I apologize. This is an imperfect analogy, but it will make my point, which I think you most likely already see if you know a lot about this stuff. Second, since this is an analogy, let me lay out the key players: God is the source of light. Moses is surface one and Jesus is surface two.

 

Now jump back with me to Exodus 34. Every time Moses meets face to face with God, His face shines. This freaks the people out, so they ask him to wear a veil to cover his face. A little weird. Super interesting.

 

Now fast-forward a few thousand years. Jesus climbs a mountain with Peter, James and John and is transfigured before their eyes. Peter doesn’t even know what to do so he starts bumbling like a complete idiot, the Bible doesn’t tell us what James and John are doing, but my guess is it probably wasn’t any better than Peter…maybe hiding in the bushes (men got really good at this tactic in the Garden of Eden and are still perfecting it to this day). Regardless of what the disciples were doing, Jesus just keeps on shining while Moses and Elijah show up and God’s voice booms down from heaven to tell Jesus’ disciples that He is please with His Son and they need to listen to Him (in other words, shut it Peter).

 

The interesting part of both case studies is found in Jesus’ clothing. Moses uses a veil to hide his luminance of the light God was shining on him. But Jesus reflected the glory of the Father so perfectly that there was, is and never will be any clothing that could cover up that glow!

 

So, back to the question. What is your luminance? How perfectly are you reflecting the glory of the Father? Can you cover it up with a veil? Or is it so great that it even lights up your clothing. Now this isn’t a knock against Moses. I think any of us would be thrilled if our faces started glowing after our prayer time with Jesus (and most of us would just be flat out freaked out). This goes hand in hand with Jesus command in Matthew 5:48 to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We want to reflect God so perfectly in our words, actions, deeds, and thoughts…every aspect of our life, that there is nothing that can cover up His glory in our lives…whether our faces are actually glowing or not!

 

And we’ll come back to the lynchpin of it all. YOU can’t do this. YOU can’t be perfect. YOU can’t perfectly reflect the light of Christ…in fact, you can’t even reflect it a little on your own. You can’t…but Jesus DID and will through the Holy Spirit IN YOU! You have the power in you to perfectly reflect the light of Christ. All you have to do is get out of the way and let Him do His thing!

 

Get your shine on!

October 7, 2017

October 7, 2017

MATTHEW 13-14

Focus Verse: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Matthew 13:44-46

 

We’ve been hitting on this a lot lately, but if Jesus keeps hitting you with something, that means He wants you to keep letting His truth drive down into your heart. I’m not going to speak for you, but I have a pretty thick skull, so even after I “believe” something with my head, the Holy Spirit still needs to keep driving it down into my heart until I “believe” it with my heart…the kind of belief that is deep enough to change my actions.

 

Jesus keeps bringing up to His disciples this concept of where their treasure lies. These are the people who are closest to Jesus, the people who have had a front row seat to all of the miracles, sermons, and discussions with the religious leaders; so if they need to be reminded on a daily level about what is of most value, then we probably need that reminder as well. I talked about this from the passage in Matthew 6 as well, but I take my family and lay them at the feet of Jesus daily. This is to remind me that they are His, that they will not become my idol, that Jesus is more important to me than them. That doesn’t mean I love them less, it just means that I love God more.

 

Along with this, I think we need to ask God to get us to the next level with Him, no matter what level we’re at currently. This is the only way we can possibly get to the point where we realize the true value of the Kingdom of God. It’s just not something we can reach on our own…it has to be something He reveals to us. Once again, we can’t, but Jesus did and will through the Holy Spirit in us.

 

One of the best examples we can see in scripture of this is found in Acts 7:55-60.

But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.

Stephen saw firsthand the glory of God. He saw, face to face, the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great value, and because Stephen found next level value in the Kingdom of God, he was able to forgive those putting him to death and willingly release his spirit from this life into the next.

 

You can read account after account of people who have given their life for the sake of Jesus Christ, and did so with smiles on their faces. Why? Because they received that fullness of the Holy Spirit who gave them a peek of what they had in store for them.

 

So I want to challenge you today, don’t just keep the things of this world in check to make sure you love God more, but focus on actively growing your love for God. THE ONLY WAY you can do this is by asking the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself to you. So what are you waiting for? ASK!

October 6, 2017

October 6, 2017

MATTHEW 11-12

Focus Verse: Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
Matthew 11:2-3

 

John the Baptist has quite the resume. He’s had ancient Hebrew prophecies written about him, he’s one of the hottest preachers of his day (albeit his wardrobe and diet are a bit unconventional), and he gets to baptize Jesus Christ! Those are all pretty good things to put you on the map of who’s who in the Bible. Yet, here in Matthew 11, even after everything that John had seen, even after everything that he had heard, even after everything he had done, he still has questions about exactly who this Jesus is.

 

Now based on what we read in Matthew 3 and in some of the other Gospel accounts of John the Baptists ministry, this is the last person who would be questioning that Jesus is the coming Messiah. That’s exactly what he does though. And do you know what Jesus says to His disciples immediately after John asks this question and He answers it? “Well folks, John’s credentials have been revoked. He was John the Baptist…he shall hence be known as John the Questioner” (at least Thomas wouldn’t feel so lonely when being introduced at parties).

 

Except that’s not what Jesus said at all. Instead, He goes on to brag on John’s ministry. He even goes so far as to call him the greatest man ever born of a woman. What does this tell us? It’s ok to question. It’s ok to doubt. But we have to know who to turn to with those doubts and questions. John doesn’t go to the Pharisees and see what they think about Jesus. He doesn’t head over to the temple and see what the scuttlebutt is around the water cooler about Jesus. He goes straight to the source.

 

And here’s the coolest thing about Christianity that no other religion can offer: we can do the same thing. Because we believe in a living and active God, we can go straight to Him with our doubts and questions. Don’t like something you read in the Bible? Go to Jesus with it. Don’t understand why Paul teaches some odd things about women and slavery? Go to Jesus with it. We don’t have to struggle with these things on our own. We have a God who desperately wants to walk through these hard questions with us. He’s not afraid of our questions. Our doubts don’t worry Him. But He can’t help us with them if we don’t bring them to Him.

 

The Holy Spirit is with us and will walk you through any doubt or question you have. Sure, you can consult learned theologians from the past, and that can be very helpful. You can read the latest and greatest, or the old tried and true Bible commentaries to see what they have to say. But the best thing you can do is go straight to the source, the Holy Spirit, who, we have been promised by Jesus, will lead us into all truth (John 16:13).