~Then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." Matthew 16:6
I must confess that I find myself increasingly less interested in the sectarianism that seems to rule our contemporary society. Not just secular partisanship, but sectarianism in the church as well. All my life I have been a person who has never been one to get excited about movements or social pressures. Each time I have dabbled with a movement or been enticed by something that appears interesting and hopeful, I have been disappointed at the contrast between the ideals and the reality. All this to say that I am something of an outsider and my initial response to that is guilt. However, when I consider the Scriptures and especially the depth of the above verse, I am pulled from guilt and encouraged to find that my Lord and His disciples were much the same. The Lord Jesus is essentially saying to beware of the infectious influence of movements and ideals with agendas that draw you away from Christ, His Word, and His Kingdom.
Beware the influence of the Pharisees. No short paragraph can capture the Pharisees accurately, but suffice to say their focus was on an external obedience, not only to the Scriptures, but also to what human authorities had added to God's Word. Their moralism was an infection that displayed the symptoms of self righteousness, pride, arrogance, and fear of the loss of power and status. Their thoughts and actions were consumed with the physical external state of their nation and its outward practices. When presented with God manifest in the flesh, their true prophesied Messiah, he was unrecognizable, unwanted, and had to be stopped. Our church should never be so afraid of loss and so consumed with appearance that we neglect the heart. Nor should we be so obsessed with getting things right out of our own pride that we forget our total inability and need for a savior. If certain man made traditions and laws in our culture have a higher place in our estimation than the Gospel that we would compromise that Gospel and God's Law, we have veered and been influenced by the leaven of the Pharisees.
Beware the influence of the Sadducees. The Sadducees likewise were a group focused on externals. The political and social progress of their nation state was their religion. While the Pharisees ultimately thought they were pleasing God and earning his favor in a spiritual afterlife with a concept of future resurrection, the Sadducees were even more obtuse. Theirs was a narrow view on the here and now, not the hereafter. Whatever it took to keep material status and success is the meaning of life. It was fine to embrace Herod and work with the Romans as long as materialism was gained. God's Word was a fine guideline but much of it was doubtful and irrelevant to them. A humble non political savior who spoke of another world, of dying to self, keeping Caesar and God separate, and putting others good first was problematic and counterproductive. He had to be stopped. Our church should never care more about action and influence than about eternal life. If social progress, quality of life, and government strength are more important than faithfulness and obedience to an invisible kingdom and God's Word, we are influenced by the leaven of the Sadducees.
Ultimately these two opposing factions were not as different as they claimed. They had different methods, but were both man made man centered power hungry factions. God's people are not to be sucked up into these ways of life. We are to come out from among them and remain separate. to keep in the middle of the straight and narrow path that leads unto life. Pharisees and Saducees hated each other, but they unified against the Lord Jesus and against His apostles and disciples. Their world was not to be messed with. Are you messing with the world of Pharisees and Sadducees or are you sympathetic to one over the other? Both sides will reject you Christian, but both sides are of no eternal consequence. Your master and Savior has given you a better way. Its not popular and its unceremonious with no material reward but it is the way, the truth, and the life. Beware the leaven, eat the bread of life, lean wholly on Christ alone. Look to Him and live for His eternal transcendent Kingdom.
Friday, November 1, 2019
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, II Corinthians 1:3
The Apostle opens his second letter to the Corinthian church with words of greeting and benediction followed by an encouragement to bless and praise God because of who He is. It is always helpful for us to remember that any person or church that Scripture addresses as an original audience knows the hardship, fears, and frustrations of life on this planet. The Bible is not a fantasy or a proposal of idealism. It deals with real issues and offers real solutions. The church is encouraged to bless God the Father. That is to ascribe all goodness, praise, service, and life to the Lord. Why? Because He is the father of mercies and the God of all comfort. Mercy has its origin with God. It is an attribute that the creation can grasp and demonstrate in its own fallen way but as a concept, God is the originator. Bless Him because He shows mercy. Your life, your joys, your eternity, all that you have that is good is because of your merciful God who gave it to you. One of the many blessings that the Father mercifully provides is comfort. He is the God, lord, master, source of all comfort.
When a person is asked if he or she is comfortable, the initial analysis is physical comfort; warm clothing, soft pillows, a good mattress, a clean environment etc. While God is the provider of physical comfort, this verse is speaking of something much more profound and lasting. Your God is the only source of spiritual comfort. Because we know Him we know that our souls are safe and secure as Christ’s victory over death and hell is total and absolute. When this life and this world would tear us to bits with fear, doubt, unknowns, loss, and disappointment, our God has granted us comfort. We know where our home is and no matter what happens we have a mansion in our father’s house that is everlasting comfort. He is the God of emotional comfort. When torn apart by the sadness and woe of this world our God has promised that He is with us through the deep waters and will never leave us or forsake us. The non Christian may sink into emptiness and loneliness but we can bless our God as His Spirit remains with us. He comforts our sorrows and quiets our fears. He is the God of mental comfort. If we do not know something, we can be assured He does. If we feel inadequate to a task, He is not. If our mind is troubled the almighty needs to be its resting thought and mental focus. He will accomplish His will in our lives and our psyche needs to be comforted by that.
Grace Church, behold your God! He is the solution that the Scripture provides to all your struggles and difficulties. Let His comfort overwhelm your pain. Know him as the source of spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental comfort. Bless and love him with heart, soul, mind, and strength. Do not despair, He knows your end as he knew your beginning. Walk with Him, trust Him, and delight in Him, your Lord and Savior, the God of all comfort!
Friday, August 2, 2019
Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The Kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord and against His anointed,… Psalm 2:1-2
The questions of the Psalmist are perpetually relevant to every human in every age in every culture. As a Christian and a pastor I ask myself the same questions as I am confronted with the twenty four hour news cycle. Why is everyone so angry? Why do people spend short lives focused on vanity? Why does everyone seem to live contrary to God’s good way and law? I believe the Bible gives us the answers to these questions. We have an explanation, but the reality still hurts and stings. The anger of the earth is essentially rebellion against its creator. We know who made us and why there is evil and where we can find good, salvation, and redemption. However, we do not want salvation as a gift we want to achieve it for ourselves. Every day our inconsistencies and imperfections remind us that that is impossible and it causes anger. Things are not the way they should be. The world knows it and hates it and wants to blame outward and upward instead of inward.
To distract us, or to vent our anger, humans plot vain things. We obsess over the temporary. Even Christians are not immune to this obsession. The state of the American church shows us that. Churches are more interested in meeting temporary appetites than eternal needs because the temporary appetites motivate more people and attract money. Feeding people’s pride makes them comfortable whereas God wants them comfortable only in Him. The nations plot business deals, wars, parties, political movements yet people still starve, get sick, and succumb to addiction, loneliness, and death. We ask with the Psalmist, “Why?”.
Among the discord and anger of the world there appears to be unity against the Bible and its commands. People who have nothing in common are agreed that Christ, as the Bible presents Him, needs to be stifled. Scripture should not be taught, preached, loved, known, or understood. This is an emptiness that is aggressive and destructive. What is a 21st century Bible church to do? So much seems against us, apathy and disinterest are the rule of our day. How do we deal, and what is our strategy?
I would venture to say we deal, do, and think the same way the Psalmist did. The issues and problems are not new and neither is the solution. Verse eleven and twelve say to serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss or embrace the Son! There is blessing with total trust and reliance on the Lord. The anger, vanity, and evil of the nations will be dealt with by a righteous and just eternal king. It has an end that is outside of our hands and we need to be satisfied with that. The Christian needs to keep his or her focus on serving and rejoicing knowing the awe and might of God and reverencing Him! Don’t look for human recognition. The Psalmist when distracted by his news cycle returns to the unchanging, unshakable, indestructible rock that is God and Savior. Cling to that rock and His Word. Serve Him and dispose of your pride and vanity. Our strategies are flawed and must be repented of. Our worries and fears must be handed over to God every day. Our future and His kingdom’s future is safely in his hand and providential care. Embrace the Son! Live in Him walk in Him, fear Him, delight in Him! Why would you rage, plot, or rebel when you are justified, being sanctified, and will be glorified? May Christ be all and in you all!
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:27
I want to encourage you with the words and impact of the above verse. The disciples are in a boat in the middle of the
at night in the dark. The
circumstances naturally lead to a disposition of trepidation. When The Lord
Jesus comes walking on the water to meet them they are naturally even more
disturbed and think even worse of their situation. But the Lord’s words are to
be of good cheer, for He is with them and they have no reason to be afraid. He
identifies Himself, He draws near, and all will be well. Sea of Gallilee
There is so much in life to cause us to be afraid. Life sometimes feels like a boat in the middle of a sea in the dark. We do not know what is around us very well and all seems so fragile that any moment we could be tossed overboard. For calm we distract ourselves, but all distractions come to an end. We take comfort in the familiar and hope it will not change. But the familiar always changes and often that unsettles us. We hope the future will be like the past, because the past is what we know. Yet the future never ceases to surprise us and shake us. We turn to our fellow shipmates for strength, community, and friendship. But ultimately we are all in the same boat and cannot solve one another’s problems. Then comes the Lord. He is not in the boat, He is not in the water, He is above it and has power over it. He tells us to be of good cheer. Not because the circumstances have changed. The sea is still wet and the night is still dark. Be of good cheer because He is here! He is with us! We have no need to be afraid for the Lord is powerful to save us and keep us.
Through your daily struggles, think on this reality. Christ Jesus is with you. He has come, died for you, is risen, and has sent the comforter to be with you. He is ruling and reigning and all is in His hands. Though all else fall away and be lost, you still have Him! As a church may we know the good success of Joshua 1:8 through our meditating on, speaking, and obeying the Word of God. The Word, which tells us of Christ and to be of Good cheer no matter the temporary outward appearance of things. If we have His Word and His presence there is no need to fear though all the world be against us, for greater is the One who is with us than he that is in the world. Be encouraged Christian! You have eternal security, a lasting mission, a powerful comforting Lord, one who will never leave you or forsake you or His church!
Thursday, March 14, 2019
My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. John 14:27
A great study may be done on this verse in its entirety, but my devotional thoughts for you this week are quite simple. Christ has given us His peace, and His peace is nothing like the peace the world can give. It strikes me that the world’s peace is only an absence of something. There is peace when there is no war, noise, strife, worry, toil, etc. The best peace the world can provide is merely an absence of some negative element that may be registered by the senses. Not only is the world’s peace one dimensional this way, but it is always temporary. Anything that may cease may just as easily be able to start up again the next day. Your sleep may be peaceful, but your alarm in the morning ends it and your annoying
only a few minutes away again. The world’s peace is hollow and temporary. New Jersey
Christ provides those who trust in Him with His own peace. We may understand that this same peace is one that passes all understanding as Philippians tells us. However, since it is a given peace from God it has an active nature. It is not merely an absence of something negative; it has the power to effect change. Think of Christ’s peace given to you as the same peace that calmed the raging storm on the
Sea of Galilee. The Lord Jesus actively did that. I suggest
that he does that with all of us who are His. Peace, be still! Be still and
know that He is God! I am thankful for the given peace that comes with my
salvation. It certainly takes the worry and insecurity of my soul and eternal
state away, but it also gives me an active assurance and mission for my life.
We proclaim His Gospel of peace and we can also rest in His activity to bring
it to effect. This is a wonderful peaceful truth. Additionally the peace that
our savior gives actively calms the burdens and stresses of this earthly life.
I do not have to work to create peace, Christ has given it!
If this peace seems too far out of reach and does not seem present in your life right now, I suggest you pray for it and also consider how powerful and capable your Lord is to handle everything. As He becomes your greatest reality, the trials and tribulations diminish in stature and lose their teeth. He has given you an everlasting peace! You may not understand it here but it is real and it is active. Do not look for peace in a vacation or a good meal or a long nap or a medical cure. Look for peace in your Savior, His Word, His promises, and His action!
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:39
As is typical of these devotionals the verse above is familiar. Yet though familiar it is a verse in which we too often avoid the application and its reaches. First it is important to remember that the Lord is not talking about the physical body here The Lord is not telling his audience to kill themselves for His sake. Preservation of life is precious. He is speaking about the purpose, meaning, goals, actions, affections, and soul of life. The essence of a life summed up if you will. With that in mind consider the ramifications.
He who finds His life will lose it. We live in a day where much is made of personal identity. Do not be deceived into thinking that this is a new movement or concept. Identity without God was presented in the garden, it existed at
when the tower was being constructed. To be Greek, Roman, French, English,
American or anything else has always been an option. Likewise ability to
identify with family, gender, trade, vocation, occupation, ethnicity, religion,
politics, music style, movie fandom, school, or philosophy and more has always
been available. The Lord Jesus boldly teaches that anyone who makes any of
these things or anything else in creation the purpose and essence of their life
will lose that life. None of these things are eternal. None of these things are
alive. None of these things have living power. None of these things can atone
for sin. None of these things can save a soul. Your life in people, places,
things, and ideas will not only come to an end, but that life will be found
without any real merit before a righteous God on the day of judgment. Even the
Christian must be careful that she does not identify more with the pride of her
gifts, service, and ministry than with her Lord Himself. If you have found your
life in and are satisfied with something on earth, heed the warning of Christ
He who loses his life for My sake will find it. The person who dismisses all earthly identity to identify with Christ first and foremost will find all the things in creation and more, in eternity in abundance. Christ does not dismiss all the identities of the world, He redeems and fulfills them. They are nothing without Him they are everything in Him. Seek first the
and His righteousness and all these
things will be added unto you! Make the Lord Jesus your way your truth and your
life and you will be able to explore the deep riches of all creation’s
varieties with safety, direction, and confidence. Give up temporary earthly
identity and you will find light ant life in the one who designed all. In
Christ all things become new because we have died to ourselves and have sought
His glory. Do not worry about where you fit and what your future holds, give
all of that into the hands of the savior and commit your ways to Him. His Word
will guide you and direct you. You will know that your life cannot be lost or
wasted because He owns it and none can pluck you from His hand. Believe on the
Lord Jesus Christ, trust Him for all, Live your life for Him, seek Him daily,
walk closely with Him and find life in who He is and what He provides.
Everything else passes away, but He has promised He will never leave you or
forsake you! Kingdom of God
Friday, February 22, 2019
But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. Revelation 2:25
The visible church on earth has for many centuries been titled the Church Militant. The term carries with it a sense of action, a movement for a cause, a passion for something that must be done. This is a helpful thought for us as the Scripture often puts the Christian life in militaristic terms. We are told to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ, to fight the good fight of faith, and to make sure we have our spiritual armor on. Our faith is one that requires us to go on the offensive. We all value evangelism and mission. We all should want to be part of that work and should daily seek out how we as members of the Body of Christ can participate in that calling. And yet, it is worthy to remember that unless what we are fighting for is kept true and pure, there is no point to offensive mission at all.
The above verse is spoken by our Lord to His church in Thyatira. It is a congregation that has love, service, faith, and patience, but has been led astray by false teaching. God’s message has been twisted. Because of this the faithful among them are burdened and have a fight on their hands that seems too much to handle. To them the Lord says hold fast what you have. How encouraging these words still are to a church in our own century. It is easy for a faithful Christian to despair at the work that must be done. The unbelief, apathy, cruelty, ignorance, and falsehood often seem more than any congregation can handle. Yet, when truth and righteousness are held up, kindled, and cherished, this may have an effect on the strength of a church greater than all the offensive campaigns that can be devised. In holding fast we are exercising faith and reliance on our great commander. In holding fast we are displaying an obedience to the One who uses us in His plans of action. In holding fast we are recognizing the peace that passes all understanding keeping our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Holding fast does not negate evangelism or mission, in fact it deepens its quality.
If you feel overwhelmed by the problems in the news, distresses in your family, uncertainty with your health, or lack of faith amongst your loved ones, hold fast. The verse above also reminds us that He is coming and the mission He has given us will be completed. The verse twenty six tells the church that the faithful will have power over the nations. Your allegiance to Christ is right. Your actions for His kingdom are not in vain. Your zeal for orthodoxy brings great reward. Occupy till He comes. Redeem the time, for the days are evil. Hold fast in your love for Christ, His Gospel, His church, His coming. He eternally holds fast for us. He has won and will see you through in that victory.
Hold Fast In Christ,