5 Understandable Words for Today:

“…Jesus has become the guarantee…” Hebrews 7:22

Hebrews is unique from all other New Testament literature. It is actually a letter to first century Hebrew Christians with the primary aim to encourage their faith in Jesus Christ while under the duress of persecution. Another aim of the letter may be to provide an argument for Jews to consider Jesus as the promised Messiah, evidenced by mentions of Abraham, Melchizedek, the high priest, referrals to the covenant and the Holy of Holies, prophetic mentions of a new covenant, and sacrifice for sins.

Student’s of The Bible are introduced to Melchizedek in the Genesis story of Abram. There had been a large battle over the land encompassing the Valley of Siddim, where five tribal leaders joined forces against four tribal leaders. The underdogs won the battle, and after the battle took Lot, Abram’s cousin, as a prisoner, along with Lot’s family, slaves, and possessions (Genesis 14:5-12). One of the those captured escaped and ran to Abram’s camp to inform him of his nephew’s situation. Abram quickly assembled 318 male relatives trained for battle to rescue Lot. They were victorious (Genesis 14: 13-16).

After celebrating their victory with the other tribal leaders who were allied with Abram, Melchizedek, the king of Salem (who was also recognized as the priest of God Most High), brought out bread and wine which he shared with Abram. Melchizedek then blessed Abram with these words:

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, Who delivered your enemies into your hands.” (Genesis 14:18-20)

In response to this blessing, Abram gave one-tenth of his entire wealth to Melchizedek. After this episode, the King-Priest is not mentioned again in the historical narrative. David refers to him in the 110th Psalm (v.4), when The Spirit breathed this prophetic psalm into his heart and mind. The writer of Hebrews first mentioned the name of Melchizedek in chapter five (v.6) when referring to Psalm 110. Then Jesus is described as acting in the ‘order’ of Melchizedek (Hebrews 6:20). Without a lengthy explanation, many theologians consider Melchizedek as an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ.

In chapter seven, the writer of Hebrews delves into a description of Melchizedek, pointing to him as the pre-incarnate Christ:

  • His name can be translated “king of righteousness” (v.2b)

  • King of Salem can be translated “king of peace” (v.2c);

  • Abraham (the writer recognized Abram by the new name God gave him after establishing His covenant with him) gave a tithe of all he owned to this Priest of God Most High (vv. 2a; 4-6);

  • There is no record of Melchizedek’s genetic record (vv. 3a & 6a);

  • There is no record of Melchizadek’s life span (v.3b);

  • Melchizedek is thus recognized as Jesus, Who remains our eternal priest (v.3c);

  • In blessing, the greater person imparts to the lesser (the supernatural, infinite God blessed Abraham, a natural, finite man, who received it by faith, v.7);

  • The writer then recognized the priestly role of Levi to collect tithes, and showed how the priest (while in the seed of Abram) paid the tithe – pointing to Jesus Who paid the final sacrifice (v.10).

The writer summarizes the argument of Christ being our high priest (vv. 11 – 14), concluding the argument with these words:

“And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared, ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” (vv. 15-17)

The reader is introduced to the reality of a new covenant offering a new and better hope by setting aside the former things, found to be weak and useless (my note: due to man’s sin which manipulated and distorted the law), and verified by God Himself through the oath prophetically recorded by King David (Psalm 110:4).

Jesus, then, has become the guarantee of a new and better covenant, fulfilling God’s oath to mankind (vv. 20-22):

“…because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.”          (vv. 24 – 25)

Jesus, our High Priest, meets our need by the demands set forth in the first covenant (vv. 26 – 28):

  • He is holy – blameless – and completely pure, knowing no sin;

  • He is worshiped in heaven;

  • He became the FINAL sacrifice, and does not need to offer any other sacrifices, for He alone met the laws demand to atone for man’s sin.

This Easter Sunday, worship Jesus, The Christ, Whom all heaven exalts as Savior and King, with a new understanding of His greatest work – greater than creation, greater than all His miracles… the glorious work of redemption accomplished upon the cross of Calvary!

Have a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“…take hold of the hope…” Hebrews 6:18

In this section of Hebrews, the writer brings the reader to conclusively decide to grow up spiritually, offering these steps:

  1. Hunger for the deeper things of scripture, especially of Christ’s teachings (v.1a);

  2. Resolve to walk in the way of righteousness, abandoning those actions leading to death (eternal death from sinful living; v.1b);

  3. Allow God’s Word to be the authority on biblical doctrine: baptism, ordination, the resurrection, and the two sides of eternal judgment (v.2); and

  4. Developing a world view dependent upon God’s perspective, not your own (v.3).

Without maturing in the faith, one will fall away – abandoning the precepts of faith in Christ and trusting in His power to transform hearts. They return to their previous pattern of sin, crucifying Christ all over again by their rebellion. For this reason, one who has completely rejected Christ’s teaching and shows no real spiritual fruit cannot be brought back to repentance (vv. 4-8). Their hearts are completely closed to the transforming power of Christ.

The writer encouraged the Jewish Christians by imparting written confidence in their future faith practice - evidenced by their past performance. They are advised to imitate those who demonstrate faith and patience (vv. 9 – 12). Abraham is given as an example to follow because he demonstrated both faith and patience before receiving his son, Isaac (vv. 13-15).

The chapter concludes with descriptions of two unchanging things:

  1. The nature of His purpose: to offer mankind an eternal hope; and

  2. The oath or promise to redeem mankind, fulfilling His purpose.

Even we today can be greatly encouraged to take hold of that hope through faith in Jesus Christ. He is an anchor to our souls that holds secure. He is The High Priest Who has entered behind eternity’s curtain where He intercedes for the souls of man (vv. 16 – 20).

If you are beginning to doubt God’s purpose for your life, take hold of the hope for eternity – Jesus Christ. Hold on to Him as if you were holding on to a life preserver in the middle of a vast ocean. Don’t allow the imps of doubt lead you out your promised rest.

Keep the faith!

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“...the source of eternal salvation…” Hebrews 5:9

While exhorting first century Jewish Christians to hold firmly to the faith (4:14), the writer also presented a theological argument supporting Christ as both the promised Messiah - making Him The Eternal High Priest (vv. 1-10). Evidence provided to support the assertion were:

  1. He became human to be able to sympathize with us (vv. 2,7,&8);

  2. He was ordained by The Heavenly Father (vv. 5,6,&10);

  3. He became the final sacrifice (vv. 8&9).

By His resurrection, Jesus claimed the crown as eternity’s King, our eternal High Priest, and the perpetual Prophet of Love and Joy.

The writer of Hebrews then chastised those who had fallen away from threat of death. They were reprimanded for their lack of familiarity with scriptural truths, leading to compromised living, being unable “to distinguish good from evil” (vv. 11-14).

If there is a weakness in the church today, it is biblical illiteracy. One is unable to apply the strength of God’s Word toward principles for living when it is absent from a daily practice of reading and praying for its activation in one’s heart and mind.

May God’s Word equip you for every good work He brings your way!

Have a blessed day!

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“...hold firmly to the faith…” Hebrews 4:14

The early first century church came under harsh persecution. Historians have noted the roads entering the district of Rome being lit by burning crosses, with the remains of martyred Christians hanging upon them. Rome was strongly opposed to the movement sweeping across the empire - a movement which recognized an eternal king. Many people who had first embraced the grace of Christ began to fall away for fear of death by various styles of executions. One of the main purposes within Hebrews was to encourage Believers to remain steadfast in their faith.

Three times, the writer of Hebrews admonished first century Jewish Christians: “...do not harden your hearts…” (3:8 & 15; also 4:7). The motivation for Believers, even to this day, was the promise of entering eternal rest - the joy of acceptance into Heaven, a rest reflective of God’s rest after the creation (vv. 3-10). So the writer emphasized that no Believer should be found to have fallen short by placing more value on this life than on one’s eternal life (vv. 1 & 11).

All Christians of the early church received the message of salvation in the same manner: they had to be told of salvation through Jesus Christ. That method has not changed… one’s mind must be engaged to process what is heard or read to engage the spirit when inviting into one’s heart. What words engage the mind and soul in such a way? The Word of God, which is living, active, sharper than any double-edged sword, and which penetrates into one’s soul, judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (vv. 2 & 12). The reader is directed to accept that nothing is hidden from God’s sight; there can be no duplicity with God, as He sees right through it and will call every soul into account (v.13).

The fourth chapter concludes with a declaration of Jesus being The Eternal High Priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, having been tempted in every way as ourselves, and Who grants mercy and grace to help in a time of need. Within these parting comments are found today’s five understandable words: “...hold firmly to the faith…” (v.14; vv. 14-16).

Christianity will never win a popularity contest with the world. Christians are being martyred in higher numbers today than at any time in history. We are emboldened to hold firmly to the faith through the mercy and grace God provides to those who believe. Hold on… this life is a roller coaster of sorts. Trust God for strength and courage to persevere in the faith.

Have a blessed day…

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“…fix your thoughts on Jesus…” Hebrews 3:1

The reader is reminded of each Believer’s call to holiness… to be separate from the world (2 Corinthians 6:17). We are not to think or act as those whose minds are preoccupied by lusts of the flesh. Instead, we are to keep Jesus in the forefront of our thoughts. It is Jesus Who is The Apostle and High Priest Whom we confess as Savior and Lord. The Greek word used for apostle is APOSTOLON (Ἀπόστολον), which translated means messenger or envoy. It is Jesus, Heaven’s King, Who became Heaven’s envoy to earth with the good news of God’s love (v.1). Because we have received that good news and believed, we have welcomed the message and thereby recognize The Messenger as our High Priest.

The writer then compares the faithfulness of Moses and Jesus, declaring Jesus worthy of receiving greater honor than Moses. This was a bold declaration, as Moses was considered a pillar of Jewish history. The writer supported his argument by recognizing Jesus as The Builder (Creator) of everything (vv. 2-4). While Moses was faithful to lead Israel to The Promised Land, Jesus is The One Who faithfully built the church upon the bedrock of faith (vv. 5-6; read Mt. 16:18).

Then the writer presented believing Jews with a most convincing argument to persevere in believing that Jesus is truly the Christ, offering another warning to not fall away:

“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried Me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astsray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared an oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” (vv. 7-11; Ps. 95:8-11).

The reader is cautioned that any unbelief will be counted as sin, just as in the lives of their forefathers who would not believe Moses (vv. 12, 15-19). The new Believers – Jewish Christians – were instructed to encourage one another so that, “…none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (v.13).

Any of us can be deceived into believing a lie, as well as being convinced the truth is false… especially in this day of memes and tweets, and political action groups seeking to mislead the masses into accepting propaganda as reliable news and truthful reporting. When it comes to timeless truth, God’s Word has not changed: sin is still sin, and every one of us is a sinner, deserving of death and hell. Jesus offers each of us a hope in a home He has prepared for us in Heaven (read John 14:1-6).

Don’t give up on the promise of His return. Don’t be misled into apostacy and disbelief… keep believing… keep trusting that He is The Way, The Truth and The Life. This Sunday, join with other Believers in worship, and prepare your heart by fixing your thoughts on Jesus.

Have a blessed day and a wonderful weekend…

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“…merciful and faithful High Priest…”  Hebrews 2:17b

When Hebrews was codified, the next section of the letter was given a separate chapter which further substantiated the legitimacy of Jesus being the promised Messiah. Verses one through four listed six ‘proofs’ of such:

1.   The angelic announcements to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds was binding, in that they were bringing heaven’s news to earth (v.2a; Lk. 1:26-38; Mt. 1:18-25; Lk. 2:8-20).

2.   All violations and every disobedience against God was met through the death of Jesus Christ (v.2b; read v.10; Is. 53:3-12; Lk. 24:25-26, 46; Ac. 3:18, 17:2-3, 26:22-23; 1 Co. 15:3).

3.   The plan of salvation was first announced by God in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit (Ge. 3:14-15).

4.   The truth of Jesus’ life was told by His disciples who walked with Him through three years of ministry and teaching (Lk. 1:1-3; 1 Jn. 1:1-3).

5.   Jesus’ own life testified to His power over nature and earthly limitations, the infirmities of man, as well as the sin which enslaves people’s minds (Is. 7:14; Mt. 1:18-25; Lk. 1:27-34; Jn. 2:1-11; Mt. 8:23-27; Mk. 4:35-41; Lk. 8:22-25; Mt. 17:24-27; Mt. 14:15-21; Mt. 15:29-39; Mt. 4:23-25; Mt. 8:1-3; Mt. 9:20-22, 35; Mk. 2:9-12; Lk. 17:12-16; Jn. 9:6-7; Mt. 9:1-8; Mk. 2:1-12).

6.   Jesus promised the disciples of supernatural power they would receive after His ascension (Ac. 1:8; 2:1-4).

The writer of Hebrews advises Believers to review the six proofs often so as not to drift away from the faith (v.1). Jesus continues to work through His plan to one day return to this small spot of the universe He created to claim His bride – the church – and remake this world… renewing all things. When all things are made new, Christ will reign as King of kings… everything will under His loving sovereignty (vv. 5-8a). The writer called attention to the fact that angels will not rule the new earth, Jesus will (v.5a).

Jesus, through His suffering and death, is bringing many to the joy of heaven, and Who Himself was shown as perfect through it, by suffering for sins which He Himself did not commit (v.10). It is this same Jesus Who will announce each Believer as holy, just as He is holy… declaring each name as part of the heavenly family (vv. 11-15).

It is Jesus Who became flesh… became human… so that He might become our merciful and faithful High Priest. He is able to sympathize for us in a very real way when we go to Him in prayer, when struggling with sin, and when overwhelmed by failure, for He suffered when He was tempted (Mt. 4:1-11).

Have you reviewed the six proofs recently? Review them again, and thank Him for being The High Priest we can trust.

Have a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“…the radiance of His glory…”  Hebrews 1:3

The writer to the first century Jews of Jerusalem, Samaria and beyond had one objective in mind: to reveal Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah. The letter is full of prophetic references fulfilled through the life of Jesus. The introduction closely resembles Paul’s letter to the Colossians when describing the pre-existent Christ and His being the Creator, reflecting the exact representation of God’s essence through His sustaining grace for all things (vv. 2-3, 10; Ps.102:25; Is.48:12-16; Col.1:15-20).

The author of Hebrews clearly identifies Jesus Christ as the one Who “…provided purification for sins…” (v.3), after which He rested from His work at the right hand of God The Father. He, being King of Kings, is superior to the angels and His name receives the highest honor and authority (vv.4-7). The angels recognize His authority, as they witnessed God’s proclamation from eternity past, and which God breathed into the mind of David when he prophetically wrote:

“You are my Son; today I have become Your Father.” (vv.5,13-14; Ps. 2:7; Mt.3:17; 17:5)

It is Christ Who has been coronated as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (vv.8-9; Is. 9:6-7). The author notes how creation will pass away, while His Kingdom will never end (vv. 11-12).

Many worshipped angels as an extension of God’s divinity. The writer to the Hebrews described their role as, “…ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.” (v.14). The reason for repeatedly mentioning the purpose and status of angels was to take the focus off of angelic worship, placing the focus on Jesus, the Christ, the promised Messiah Who is the radiance of God’s glory!

God cares for you! He has dispatched angels to watch over you (Ps.91:11-12; 103:20; Mt.18:10); He did so for the nation Israel (read Ex.23:20), and continues to assign angels to those who walk by faith. They are there to offer help and protection. However, we are not to worship them; instead, we are to join with them in worshiping The King of Kings Who is the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world (read Rev.5:12; 13:8). Inspired by these words, let us worship Christ alone and look for His return, when He will claim His bride, the church.

Have a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words:

5 Understandable Words:

“…The Lord has taken away…”  Job 1:21c

I received a call last week asking if I was available to officiate a memorial service for a man who had passed away suddenly. The funeral was yesterday, which is why I was unable to provide a 5UW post. I helped the family develop the memorial service on Saturday, and officiated the memorial service where I led the singing for the one hymn, sang a special selection, and preached a brief sermon.

The eulogies were touching. This man’s life made a difference in this life. He was a graduate of The Ohio State University, competing the requirements for an engineering degree. He later received his professional engineer certification, and was certified in at least twenty states as both a mechanical and electrical engineer. He worked as a consultant to one of our national protection services, advising on infrastructure needs for their offices scattered throughout the country. He was a professional who enjoyed his work and strove for excellence, winning the admiration of his peers and coworkers.

The pictures at the funeral home displayed a man that enjoyed life. There was an array of pictures with his wife and children at various places. He had an endearing smile… one which, I’m sure, quickly won people over. He must have often worn a baseball type hat… I’m guessing it was his favorite hat that was in the coffin next to him. His wife of forty-five years was clearly at a loss, and she will be discovering the hardship of widowhood in the coming days. I believe she will work through it successfully, as it seemed both her husband and her have always known how precious each day is in this life… knowing there is no promise of tomorrow.

The eulogies at the service reflected genuine love and respect from his coworkers. Those who worked with him on projects throughout the country shared some great memories of his love for ice cream and his propensity towards detail in describing specifications for the many projects requiring his skills.

The couple were blessed with two children in their marriage. They are both grown now and obviously loved their father dearly. He was not an absentee father. He was involved with their lives in school, sports, and social lives. He supported their interests and worked hard to provide for his wife and family.

It was a true blessing to be a part of this man’s memorial service. The admiration, respect, love and devotion shown by family, friends, co-workers and peers was refreshing. They were all there for this man’s family in their time of need. For my talk, I focused on the life of Job (pronounced J-oh-b).

Job was a man of wealth and influence, and even more importantly, he was a man of faith. He worked hard to provide for his family, rising early for his quiet time with The Lord when he would pray for his children (Job 1:1-5). As the story goes, God took note of Job’s piety, devotion, and responsible living, and brought up Job’s name in a conversation with satan, the father of lies and tempter (v.8; John 8:44; Genesis 3:1-15). God described Job as being uniquely blameless and upright, shunning evil. Satan, however, suggested his failure to tempt Job derived from Job being securely surrounded by God’s protection and favor. Things were about to change for Job, as God was about to allow satan to test the genuineness of Job’s faith (vv. 6-12).

Then, one day, in a matter of just a few hours Job’s wealth, possessions, and children were all destroyed. Job’s reaction? He arose, tore his clothes as a sign of mourning, fell to his knees in worship and said,

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and The Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (v.21)

Through the horrific losses, Job did not get angry with God, accusing Him of wrongdoing (v.22). God then allowed satan to inflict Job with painful sores over his entire body. Job was a pitiful site as he sought relief from the pain by scraping the sores with a broken piece of pottery. His wife told him to curse God and die. However, Job maintained his integrity, answering his wife with the question, “Should we accept good from God and not trouble?” (Job 2:1-10). Job had three friends that came to visit him and share his pain. During their visit, Job came to a time of pondering the meaning of life. Job resolved to take it before God (Job 13:3), in faith, knowing it would all turn out for the good, for that is God’s character (Job 13:16; Galatians 2:28).

The fourteenth chapter of Job reveals Job’s heart as he struggles with the meaning of life. Job expressed to God how he wished he would have died instead of his children (v.13). He then asks God a question that mankind has grappled with since the beginning of time: “If a man dies, will he live again?” (v.14). Jesus answered this question at the grave of a man named Lazarus.

Lazarus was the brother of a woman named Mary. She is the very one whom the disciples had chastised for anointing Jesus’ head with precious oil and whose actions Jesus defended (John 12:1-8; Mark 14:3; Luke 7:38; John 11:2). Mary and her sister, Martha, sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was critically ill. Jesus and Lazarus were close friends, however, Jesus and the disciples stayed in an area on the other side of the Jordan river from Jerusalem where many were coming to faith in Jesus (John 10:40-42; 11:3-6). While Jesus and his disciples were there Lazarus died.

Martha met Jesus with a bereaved heart, telling Him her brother would not have died had Jesus been there. Jesus told her that Lazarus would live again. Martha answered she believed her brother would rise again at the end of time when all will who believer will rise (John 11:21-24).

Jesus’ words to Martha are words answered the question posed by Job many years before, and are words which will ring true for all eternity:

“I am The Resurrection and The Life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25)

Yes, in the passing of our loved ones and friends, we can say The Lord has taken away. God deems beautiful the deaths of those who died believing, as He receives their souls into Heaven’s joy. Job’s question for all humanity was answered by The One Who conquered death and hell, and Who provided a prequel to His victory through the resurrection of Lazarus and the declaration He made at Lazarus’ tomb.

King David echoes Job’s words pondering about life’s bevity and meaning in Psalm 39:

“Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before You. Each man’s life is but a breath.” (vv. 4-5)

Have a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words:

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that The Son may bring glory to The Father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)

John’s account of the Last Supper provides further insight into the parting words of Jesus. One’s final words may be the most earnest words given to those dearly loved. Jesus was empowering His disciples to continue pointing people to the Kingdom of God through the sacred texts and prayer. He wanted their view of prayer to be active, not passive; to be powerful, not weak; to be supernaturally empowered, not humanly possible.

You might be asking yourself, ‘Is it really possible to do the things Jesus did? Am I able to do even greater things? If so, what are they?’ Prayer and God’s Word are heavenly gifts for preparing one’s soul for eternal life, as well as for equipping one for overcoming spiritual strongholds on earth.  So, why are we not seeing the release of God’s power on earth in our lives and in our time? We have not been taught how to pray. Most people consider prayer a memorized set of words to use before a meal or bedtime, when Jesus taught His disciples the discipline of breaking away from the world to converse with God.

The recent movie, “The War Room”, provided Christians and non-Christians a better understanding of the focused practice in the life of a Christ-follower. One must commune with God as friend to friend, while recognizing Him as Lord and Maker. Prayer begins with a heart overflowing of praise to God, transitions to intercession for others, followed by personal requests, and concludes with statements of confidence towards God to work in those issues presented before His Mercy Seat through the conduit of prayer. One is empowered to approach God after time spent in His Word, allowing one’s mind to be transformed by the Holy Spirit imparting understanding and conformed to the likeness and character of Christ in thought and action.

So, you see, prayer is not God’s rabbit foot for an unvetted supernatural wish list. Prayer is the result of a matured heart and mind empowered to activate heavenly power upon earthly situations for a heavenly purpose. It is not a difficult dynamic to comprehend, one must approach God as a child approaching a parent – having faith in the parent to provide wisely. Children know when err in asking for things unreasonable or selfish. In the same way, our Father in Heaven will qualify our prayers through the filter of God’s purpose and timing. The more we think as Christ thought: “…Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven…”, the more powerful the prayer becomes, enabling the whole-hearted follower of Christ to do the things Christ did and bring Heaven to earth. Even greater things are possible through those who believe without doubting (Matthew 21:21), which was shown in the lives of the disciples after Jesus ascended to Heaven: raising the dead; healing the sick; casting out demons; and pointing thousands to Heaven’s Doorway through faith.

In the discipline of prayer, we are exposed to an eternal truth: as we bring glory to The Son, we are bringing glory to The Father – just as Jesus did. Begin expanding your boldness in prayer as you deepen your faith in Christ to do all things through Him (Philippians 4:13). Petition God to work through you to do even greater things for His Kingdom. Through Him we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:31-39).

Have a blessed weekend.

 

5 Understandable Words:

“I tell you the truth, on this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Matthew 26:34

As we saw yesterday, we are all found guilty of betraying God. “Surely not I, Lord” is a thought many have considered, disbelieving the possibility of personal moral failure in any shape or form. Yet, history shows humanity’s default mode of sin – inherited from Adam and Eve. After Jesus instituted what Christians worldwide now celebrate as “Communion” (vv. 17 – 29), he informed His disciples that they would ALL abandon Him. Each of them would hide, so as not to be identified as His disciple – personally recruited and trained by Him (v.31).

Jesus took them to the sacred texts. The Living Word was about to reveal a script written from eternity past. Jesus reminded His disciples of prophesy written many years before - a passage from Zechariah 13:7:

“I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” (v.31b)

Then Jesus matter-of-factly informed them that after His resurrection He would meet them in Galilee (v.32; also read 28:7-16). Peter would have none of it and declared he would never abandon Jesus in His time of need, even if all the others ran away (v.33). Jesus’ reply to Peter is where our phrase under study appears once again. The God-Son calmly told Peter how Peter would deny Him three times before the next morning (v.34). Still, Peter and the rest of the disciples all declared they would die with Him, if necessary (v.35).

The eternal truth written in this passage is found in Heaven’s narrative of earthly history. Jesus was informing His disciples of events which were yet to come! Just as the disciples could not fathom such supernatural knowledge, so we are not be able to comprehend God’s unrestricted access to time and history, both from eternity past to eternity future. God has already written the end of the story for every living person, every nation, and for earth as we know it. He is never uninformed or surprised by anything that happens in our lives, our country, or our world. In fact, He has already been there. Like an author who has written the story and knows the characters, plot, storyline, and ending before it is published, so God knows our future as intimately as our past. This is why we can trust God with our lives. O, what comfort and assurance that gives!

If you know Him, He is walking with you through your loneliness, through every painful circumstance, through your tragedy, through your moment of critical need. Talk to Him… lay your burden at His feet. He will get you through the crisis, and you will rise up to abundant living.

Have a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words:

“…I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”

Matthew 26:21

The next use of ITYTT occurred at the Last Supper, before Jesus was betrayed by Judas and given into the hands of the chief priests. Jesus was reclining at a table to eat with His disciples. The likely posture Jesus took is one sitting on one side of the body with one arm supporting the body from the waste up while the legs are stretched out. The table was low to the floor, as was their custom. Others may have sat facing the table with their legs crossed. Both Matthew and Mark recall Jesus “reclining” at the supper table, a posture of relaxation and contentment. It was during this setting Jesus confronted His disciples with the above statement.

The reaction by the disciples was certainly not met with a hearty cheer, as Matthew described them being saddened by the declaration… so much so that each one replied to Jesus with, “Surely not I, Lord.” (v.22) Even many non-Christians can point to Judas as the one who betrayed Jesus. It is one of those historical episodes similar to Caesar’s betrayal by Brutus, or Lincoln’s assassination by John Wilkes Boothe: their names are preserved as benchmarks of betrayal and duplicity.

No one wants to be known as an unfaithful friend or for failing by lack of integrity. One of the worst things a friend can do to another friend is betray a confidence. Betrayal, it seems, is often the unforgiveable sin in the minds of sinful man. Perhaps that is why so many people feel unworthy to receive the gift of salvation: each of us has failed God in so many ways; each of us has betrayed Him when failing to speak up for good, or speak out truth, or speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. That’s where satan and his imps of darkness trap our thinking and work to deceive the sinner into believing the lie that God would reject a sinner. There’s partial truth to the lie… that’s the way satan works – spinning partial truths so the broken mind and heart believe the lie and give up on ever becoming transformed and redeemed.

You see, satan knows us by our name and confronts us with our sin, while God knows us by our sin, yet calls us to Himself by our name. The eternal truth found in this passage is the picture of Jesus enjoying the meal celebration of the first night of Passover. It is a picture of heaven described by John’s vision in Revelation:

“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, The Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’ – for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’”

(Revelation 19:6-9, ESV)

Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon for each of us who are willing to agree with Him about our sin and ask for forgiveness. Each of us may find ourselves stating, “Surely not I, Lord”, in our prayers. However, if we are completely true with ourselves and before God, we will readily confess the nature each of us has to wander from the path of righteousness. Ask God to take your heart and seal it… to protect it from the temptations leading to sin and betrayal of The Lord Who heals us from the disease of sin.

Have a blessed day… and look forward to the joy of Heaven’s banquet!

 

5 Understandable Words:

“I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” Matthew 26:13

 While Jesus and the disciples were visiting in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, Matthew’s written record tells of a woman who anointed Jesus’ hair with expensive perfumed oil (vv. 6-7) Mark’s record shows the perfume to be worth over one year’s wages (Mark 14:4-5)! The disciples complained that the perfume could have been sold to feed the poor. Jesus, however, pointed to the cross. His entire life pointed to the cross and His atoning work accomplished upon it.

The perfume was pure nard, an oil derived from a flowering plant found in Nepal, China, and India. Jesus described the woman’s actions as preparing His body for burial. Events leading to His death would happen quickly over the few remaining days of Jesus’ ministry, just prior to the Passover which Jesus and His disciples would celebrate in an upper room in Jerusalem.

The eternal truth found in this passage is found in verse thirteen: Jesus knew the purpose and meaning of His death, and He was emotionally and mentally prepared for it. Jesus saw the world through the lens of God’s eyes: reconciling man through the forgiveness of sins by the very blood He would spill from the cross… HE was the sacrificial lamb. It is this eternal truth which the angels, cherubim and seraphim will sing about in heaven’s song of the ages:

“Salvation belongs to our God, Who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:10)

Though the disciples were motivated to do good works with the perfume, it would not have come close to the value of the atoning work Jesus accomplished on that cross. The priceless value of redemption is evidenced in the woman’s selfless act toward Jesus.

When we gather with the hosts of heaven before The Mercy Seat of our Savior, we will join the throng in singing:

“Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” (Revelation 7:12)

Have a blessed day…

5 Understandable Words:

“I tell you the truth…” Matthew 25:40&45

Jesus concluded His teaching outside the temple by describing how God would delineate between those allowed entrance into Heaven and those denied entrance into Heaven. He likened the two groups to sheep and goats (vv.32-33): the sheep, being the souls who lived lives of love which met the felt needs of others (vv.36-40), were corralled to His right, and the goats to His left. The sheep would be called into Heaven with the words, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (v.34) The goats, those who ignored the felt needs of others, were turned away from Heaven with these words: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (v.41)

Both groups, however, had one thing in common: they were clueless of their actions. That one common character trait, though, makes a huge difference in their world view. How is forgetting their actions a character trait? Both groups acted from their default reaction or reflex: one reacting to others felt needs with mercy and care; the other reacting without concern for one’s fellow man and denying the care needed. The members of each group asked the same question: “Lord, when did we see you…?” (vv.37&44). Both times Jesus began His answer with our phrase under study, ITYTT, and each time that phrase was used to support an eternal truth pronounced upon the souls of both groups.

Matthew records the sheep being the first to who asked:

“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

Those caring souls heard The Lord’s simple reply: ITYTT, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (v.40)

The Master-Teacher drove home the point of the uncaring goats in His condemnation of their heartless actions:

“Depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” (vv. 41 – 43)

When the goats asked when they ever saw him in such desperation, The King replied, ITYTT, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (v.45)

Matthew recorded Jesus’ concluding remarks about the two groups, beginning with those denied entrance into Heaven: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (v.46)

The eternal truths revealed in this scriptural passage are found in verse forty-six: the goats will face the eternal flames of Hell’s judgment; the sheep will enter into the abundance of Heaven, knowing eternal lives of joy.

These words by Jesus may have inspired James to write:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder! You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” (James 2:14-22)

Those who live on an autopilot of goodness often do not recall their acts of care and philanthropy… it is their default mode for living. Their hearts are moved to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. On the other hand, those who live on an autopilot of ‘selfcenteredness’ often do not recall their occasions of insensitivity to the needs of others… it is their default mode for living – their hearts are hard and their eyes are unaffected by the apparent needs of others.

There is a crisis at our country’s borders. Thousands upon thousands of people are clamoring for unfettered entrance into our country, seeking the American dream of independence and prosperity. Among those entering are also some who may seek to do our country harm. The alarming increase in illegal immigration is placing an unsustainable strain upon our educational, healthcare, law enforcement, and judicial systems. These are issues that must be addressed by our elected representatives and officials of the social systems I just described.

How are Christians to respond? We are to extend a hand of care and kindness to these strangers in our midst, while also offering solutions to meet the felt needs of both immigrants and citizens. Christians have a once in a generation opportunity to present both the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who may have never heard it, and the spirit of that gospel through appropriate care. The rule of law is essential to protect our republic, and the way of love will instill peace in a community and nation dealing with the issues we face today.

Have a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words:

I tell you the truth… I do not know you.” Matthew 25:12

To further emphasize His point on preparedness, Jesus presented a parable about ten virgins with lamps who were waiting to meet a bridegroom to celebrate his wedding. Weddings in that day had two components: the bridegroom going to the bride’s parents’ home to pick her up, and then the bridegroom would bring the bride back to his home to celebrate the wedding banquet. Those invited to the wedding feast would bring gifts and lamps to help light the occasion, so after the groom’s lamps had burned through their fuel, the guests’ lamps would help continue the celebration.

Each virgin had a lamp to carry to light one’s way in the night. However, only five of the virgins had oil for their lamps. They were prepared because the bridegroom or bride knew them and invited them to the festivities. The five without oil were obviously wedding crashers intending to take advantage of the feast and left to purchase oil for their lamps when the bridegroom unexpectedly showed up. When the remaining five virgins arrived at the door to the banquet hall, the bridegroom turned them away after declaring he did not recognize them.

For understanding this parable, we see Jesus as the Bridegroom Who will return at an hour no-one knows. In the story, He had already claimed His church, the Bride of Christ, and the virgins who had both a lamp and oil are those who are ready for Christ’s return. The virgins who were not prepared are those who do not place any credence in the return of Christ and are not true Believers in His Word… consequently, they will be denied entrance into Heaven. The lamps represent the light of God’s Word, and the oil represents the power of the Holy Spirit Who gives us understanding of the Word.

The eternal truth conveyed in this parable is found in the joy of the wedding feast. Heaven will be a place of perpetual joy and happiness. True Believers will experience the love of the Savior Who will know His own and calls them by name.

Have a blessed day and a safe weekend…

 

5 Understandable Words:

“I tell you the truth… He will put him in charge of all his possessions.” Matthew 24:47

Jesus was still teaching His disciples about the end times. Matthew recounts Jesus emphasizing the point of preparedness in the life of the Believer. We are to be prepared for the day Jesus returns… and those who are prepared will find a reward in heaven. Jesus provided the following example in verses 45-51:

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. ITYTT, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The context of these verses is outside the temple walls… possibly as Jesus was walking with His disciples and followers. He warned them of: others who would be imposters and claim to be the Christ, conflict between nations, famines, and earthquakes – all which He described as the beginning of birth pangs (vv. 4-8; 23-26).

Jesus then gave a vivid description of the persecution Believers would face in the last days. Christians will: be hated for bearing the name of Christ; be handed over to the authorities to be hassled; be executed; fall away from the faith; be betrayed by confederates. Jesus warned that false teachers will lead many astray; wickedness on the earth will increase; the love of most will grow cold – people will become unfeeling toward the needs of others (vv. 9-14). Does any of this seem familiar to you?

In the scripture passage above, Jesus is ‘the master’ Who has commissioned fully devoted followers to offer nourishment to those who hunger for righteousness. Jesus wants us to remain focused on His Word (the Bread of Life) and His work of feeding the world this manna from heaven. Those who do will discover an eternal truth: He will reward those who persevere and keep the Word before the world that desperately needs to hear it (vv. 45-47). There will be a reward in heaven! Where moth and rust will not corrupt (read Matthew 6:19-21).

Those who corrupt His message compromise their lives and the lives reached by that message. Jesus warned that such people will face strong judgment and will be completely unprepared for it (vv. 48-51). In Jesus’ description of the judgment, He gives a grissly depiction of one being cut into pieces, cast away, and suffering for a time.

Which do you choose? The reward or judgment? Jesus is coming back… don’t be fooled into thinking He won’t.

Have a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words:

5 Understandable Words:

“I tell you the truth this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” 

Matthew 24:34

Just before making His declaration that His words would last forever, Jesus utilized the phrase, ITYTT, in making the above declaration. As He continued describing the last days, Jesus used the story of Noah for showing how unknowing humanity will be when He returns to make all things new (read vv. 36-39). Then, the Master Teacher utilized vivid imagery to reveal an eternal truth: the security of the saints.

Jesus told how people will be living life as usual, with marriages, celebrating life, working in a field or in a manufacturing plant. He detailed how, at the time of His return, two people could be working in a field when suddenly one will be taken away to heaven, leaving the other behind; two women could be processing flour when suddenly one will be taken away to heaven, leaving the other… right before the eyes of any others left behind (vv. 40-41)!

There is both a blessing and a curse found in Jesus’ words: the blessing is found in God’s favor toward those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord, thereby guaranteeing them the privilege as a citizen of heaven; the curse is to those left behind who will face the horror and calamity of earth’s destruction. This is why Christians are so earnest in sharing their faith with their family and friends: like our heavenly Father, we wish that none should perish.

Paul described the security of the saints in his letter to Christians in Rome: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Matthew recorded Jesus instructing all Believers to keep watch (v. 42) for His second arrival, “…at an hour when you do not expect Him.” (v.44). Believers are to be found ready for His arrival. We will discover more on this important precept in the next few days. For now, if you know Christ as your Savior, thank Him for securing you as an eternal citizen of heaven.

Have a blessed day…

5 Understandable Words:

“I tell you the truth…”  Matthew 24:2

Living in the nation’s capital, I am oftentimes struck by the dignity of the city’s monuments and buildings. It may be that I am kind of ‘star-struck’ by the history crying out from the area. In the same way, Jesus’ disciples were a bit enthralled with the majesty of the structures in the capital of Jerusalem, and they even called Jesus’ attention to what seemed as the permanence of the temple structure. Jesus’ answer, of course, came from a different perspective - unaffected by the boundaries of time:

“Do you see all these things? I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Jesus already knew the end of the story. Nothing was hidden from Him. For the next thirty-two verses, Matthew takes the reader through a discussion of end-times given by The Lord. Please read through it (vv. 4 - 35). Jesus went on to describe how no one will be ready (vv. 36 - 51).

I remember my grandmother talking out loud to herself asking, “What is this world coming to?”. She would usually say it after something catastrophic or sad. Well, Jesus’ words provide the answer to this question we may all ask at one time or another. His answer is: an end… a cessation of existence… the collapse of everything we know to be real. It’s all coming to and end. Jesus will make everything new… He will re-make it all new and better than it has ever been since the fall of man in the garden (read Matthew 19:28).

Jesus DID, however, provide an eternal truth in His description of end times… a truth about what from this world WILL last - even after earth has passed away - His Word (v.35): His words of truth, of reconciliation, of condemnation, of restoration, of education, of pronouncement and of forgiveness. The words of the Savior will last forever… and ever… and ever…

Maybe we should take extra care to read and recognize His words…

Have a blessed day...


5 Understandable Words:

“...I tell you the truth…”  Matthew 23:36

In our discovery of eternal truths associated with this powerful five word phrase, Matthew recounts Jesus’ description of seven woes addressed to the teachers of The Law in His last public message, when He:

  1. condemned the teachers’ hypocrisy which prevented genuine seekers from discovering the love of God (vv. 13-14);

  2. exposed the teachers as frauds in their missionary pursuits (v.15);

  3. confronted the teachers’ errant perspective in taking oaths (vv. 16 - 22);

  4. exposed the teachers of the law for neglecting to teach and model justice, mercy, and faithfulness (vv. 23-24);

  5. condemned the duplicity by the pharisees - appearing pure to the common person, yet nurturing sin in their hearts (vv. 25- 26);

  6. pronounced the pharisees’ hearts as spiritually dead - whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside, while housing dead men’s bones on the inside full of the decay of death (vv. 27-28); and

  7. identified the teachers of the law as serpents, thereby linking their deceptive actions to that of lucifer, the serpent in the garden (vv. 29 - 33).

Jesus’ final message exposed the flaws of the legalism and duplicity practiced by the pharisees, who had: a false sense of righteousness (vv. 2-3); a corrupt view of ministry (v.4); and a worldly perspective of greatness (vv. 5-12). Jesus confronted them with the mirror of God’s righteous wrath, asking, “How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (v.33) Nevertheless, Jesus’ heart has always been that none should perish (read 2 Peter 3:9), and informed them that He was sending prophets, wise men, and teachers to call them to repentance, predicting they would act just as their forefathers, who stoned and executed prophets and righteous people from Abel to Zechariah. Jesus described how the blood of martyrs would cry out against all those who have acted like those teachers of the law (v.35).

The eternal truth exposed in this passage is seen in the pronouncement of Christ as Lord and King, sometime in the unknown future… and it will echo back to the generation that rejected the Christ (v.36), when He comes in victorious glory as eternity’s King. It will be the day Believers will proclaim, “Blessed is He Who comes in the name of The Lord!” (v.39). It will be the day when He gathers those He loves, just as a mother chick gathers her chicks under her wings. The churches that forsook His message of righteous living in love will be forever empty, while the halls of Heaven will be filled with the praises of those who exalt His name for His sacrificial love upon the cross.

Have a blessed day…


5 Understandable Words for Today:

5 Understandable Words:


“...I tell you the truth…” Matthew 21:31

Whenever Jesus comes to the forefront of an organization (whether it be in church, government, the athletic field, business, etc.), the existing leaders who do not embrace His way of righteousness seek to marginalize, weaken, and otherwise limit His influence for anything good and right. The Jewish pharisees and chief priests were threatened by Jesus’ presence and were certainly displeased by the actions He took against the money-changers (read Matthew 21:12-13). They chose to publicly confront Jesus, asking, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23)

Jesus did not fall for their trap, and replied with a question of His own: “Where did John’s baptism come from? Was it from heaven or from men?” Well, the pharisees and chief priests huddled together to discuss Jesus’ question; they reasoned that if they said it was from heaven, Jesus would respond by asking why they did not believe John’s message of repentance; and if they said it was from men, they feared how that would be perceived by the people. So, they replied that they didn’t know, and thereby avoided the question. Jesus, then, refused to tell them where His authority originated.

Jesus did, however, share some parables to instruct these appointed leaders about the kingdom of God. Jesus told of a man who directed his two sons to go work in his vineyard:

  • one son rejected his father’s request, but changed his mind later and returned to work in the vineyard;

  • the other son told his father he would do the work, but failed to report for work.

Jesus asked which of the two sons did what the father asked. The Jewish leaders correctly replied that the first son was the one who complied with his father’s directive (vv. 28-31a). Jesus then reprimanded them with these words:

ITYTT, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw, you did not repent and believe him.” (Matthew 21:31b-32)

The eternal truth found in today’s five understandable words shows us Heaven’s litmus test for true Believers who will become disciple-makers: REPENTANCE - the first step to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. For repentance to happen, one must see himself as God sees him - a sinner loved so much by God that He gave His only Son to pay the price for one’s sin (read John 3:16-17).

Jesus followed this eternal precept with another parable which reinforced Heaven’s expectation that Believers are to be fruitful… they are to make disciples, who make disciples. Jesus concluded the parable with these words:

“Therefore, I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”

You see, repentance is simply the first step in becoming a fully devoted follower of Christ. After one has recognized she/he is a sinner, then one repents over one’s sinful condition and confesses her/his inability to defeat it (acknowledges it and turns from it, asking for power from God to overcome it). Once sin has been confronted, the sinner then invites Jesus to reside in the heart and transform her/his mind for becoming a true follower of Christ and bear fruit… become a branch that will make disciples.

EVERYONE we will see in heaven will have, at one point in her/his life, repented from sin - realizing her/his desperate condition and inability to be worthy of heaven based on one’s own merits. We are completely suited for Heaven ONLY upon the merits of Christ and His redeeming work upon a cross.

If you haven’t repented, ask God to show you the pitiful condition you are in and turn from it… acknowledging your sin before God. Invite Jesus to take control of your heart and mind… and know that when we do sin, He will intercede for us to return to Him (1 John 1:9).

Have a blessed day…

Footnote: here is an excellent link on sin by John Piper:

https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/jesus-christ-is-an-advocate-for-sinners


5 Understandable Words for Today:

The next appearance of the phrase under study occurs in Matthew 21 (After Jesus threw-out the money-changers in the temple):

“Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, ‘May you never bear fruit again!’ Immediately the tree withered. When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. ‘How did the fig tree wither so quickly?’ they asked. Jesus replied, ‘ITYTT, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.’” (vv. 18-22)

In these moments, Jesus seems to live between two dimensions: one in the supernatural world, where He speaks to all things living, and one in the natural world, bringing the power of Heaven to earth. Mark records the story’s timing as being prior to the cleansing of the temple, with the disciples taking notice of the withered tree the following day (read Mark 11:12-25). In Matthew’s account the two events (cleansing of the temple and the withering of the fig tree) are melded together in time. To understand the event, it is important to know its setting: Jesus had just entered into Jerusalem upon a donkey where the people honored Him as a prophet by spreading their cloaks and laying palm branches on the street while praising Him as the Son of David (read Matthew 21:1-11). Jesus then entered the temple and drove out the money-changers (vv. 12-13). Witnessing these events, the chief priests and pharisees were nevertheless indignant toward Him (v.15)

This brief biblical episode is symbolic of God’s judgment upon fruitlessness - be it found in the emptiness of religious formalism or in the lives of those claiming to have a personal relationship of Christ and have nothing to show for it. The cleansing of the temple and the withering of the fig tree are both actions taken by Christ to reveal His displeasure with unfruitful living. The fruits of the spirit should, at the very least, be evidenced in the lives of Believers: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (read Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus, however, also taught on the fruit of discipleship: disciples making other disciples - the principle of reproduction. Jesus emphasized this precept at The Last Supper, when they gathered in the upper room prior to His betrayal in The Garden of Eden. It was there Jesus brought back the picture of the cursed fig tree when He shared these thoughts with the disciples:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:1-8)

Jesus wants us to take fruit-bearing seriously… so serious, that we are willing to stake our eternal destiny upon the evidence of it in our lives. Yes, faith in Christ may be our ‘ticket’ into Heaven, though some will make it in as if through flames (read 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). This passage is confronting us with the question: If you were on trial for your faith, would there be enough evidence to convict you? The real evidence is found in the fruit of one’s walk: how God has used one’s life to connect God’s heart to others’ hearts.

Reproduction is built into every fiber of earth. It is necessary for life to continue… and God included the same dynamic into our spiritual lives. Connecting hearts to the heart of God is not only proof of how genuine one’s faith is, it is also the mandate found in our commissioning as ambassadors for Christ’s Kingdom: to make disciples (read Matthew 28:19).

So… what can we take away from this look into a judged fig tree? First, there can be no fruit when we live in unbelief. An unbelieving heart must be the number one reason why most people claiming to be Christians do not share their faith - they do not believe their lives and words will have any impact upon a sinner’s heart. We must hold out the Word of Truth to this lost world and share our stories of redemption, believing God will anoint our efforts with His supernatural power. It is God’s Word that will speak to those who have never had their hearts quickened by grace (read Romans 10:14-17).

Secondly, any hope of a future joy of life is lost without being fruitful. Just as Jesus judged the money-changers and the fig tree, so He will use the same standard in judging the productivity of our lives. We must live intentionally to make a difference in this world, wherever we are, whenever God engineers our lives to intersect the lives of others. Do not allow judgment to paralyze you with fear of eternity; instead, let it empower you to bringing faith into the arena of conversation with those who may only hear of Christ through your lips. One first step you could take, which I have seen practiced by a dear friend, is to pray for your server before a meal when dining out. Ask your server if there is anything you could offer to God in ‘intercessional’ prayer on their behalf.

Finally, there is assurance of victorious living to those who believe… and pray believing. Those prayers of faith empower the Believer to step out in sharing Christ with others. Start asking God for the souls of those around you! Pray believing, and God will give you the opportunity and the joy of witnessing a soul entering into covenant relationship with Christ! (v.22)

You’re the only Jesus some will ever see… or hear… The eternal truth in this passage will be found in the lives of those who appear before the throne of God as evidence of your “all-in” efforts to connect hearts to the heart of God.

Have a blessed day…