Friday, 27 April 2018

The least of these


"Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.' – Matthew 25.37-40

How would we treat Jesus given the chance? If somehow He came and we did not know who He was how would we respond? What would we do?

I wish I could say what I would do, but here Jesus Himself gives us a pretty good indication.

Just before this Jesus had told about servants who came to the king and were praised for feeding and clothing the king and giving him water. ‘When did we do that?’ they asked. ‘You did it when you did it to the least of the people in my kingdom.’

If we want a test of how we would treat Jesus if we met Him and didn’t know it is Him is by how we treat ‘the least’ of those around us. It is not how we treat the popular or well-respected or the well off or the well-dressed or the proper folk. It is how we treat the lesser and the rejects and the unpopular.

How would we treat Jesus if He showed up unannounced today?

How do we treat others, especially the less fortunate?

The answer is the same.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Heaven and earth will pass away


Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. – Matthew 24.35

As we look around us we see a whole world of things that and wonderful and beautiful and precious. There is nothing wrong with treasuring the material things that God has given us.

We mustn’t forget however that everything we see around us will be gone one day. We don’t know how long they will last, but one day it will all be gone. One day heaven and earth will pass away and be replaced by a new heaven and a new earth.

We catch a glimpse that even in our lives. Things that were once so important have passed away and are forgotten. Even friends and associates pass away and as we get older we start to lose more and more family and friends.

However, with everything else passing away there is one that that will never pass away because it is preserved in heaven forever. God’s words will never pass away.

That is such a source of strength. The word of God that we read today is the same word of God that has existed for thousands of years. It is preserved in heaven forever and faithfully preserved for us here on earth.

Heaven else will pass away, but Jesus and His word will never pass away. Praise God I have something in which to put my faith that will never, ever fail.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Whited sepulchres


Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. – Matthew 23.25-27

The Pharisees would have fooled anyone. The way they dressed and the way they acted and the standards they kept and their religious activities were all spot on. On the outside they were spot on.

It must have shocked them when they heard Jesus say ‘woe onto you…’ and the next words must have really hit them. ‘You clean the outside of the cup…you are like whited and clean sepulchres that look beautiful on the outside.’ In others you have done everything right on the outside. You would pass any external inspection.

It is what follows those words that nails the problem. While the outside of the cup is spotless in the inside is filthy. To be specific your inside is full fo extortion and excess. The sepulchres are beautiful, but the inside is filthy with dead men’s bones.

The reality is that we can’t just fix the outside. All of us can play the conformity game. We can dress right, act right, go to the right places and avoid the wrong places, and make everyone think we are spiritual. We can all play the Sunday morning church game.

But that doesn’t tell the whole truth, by far. How we look and how we play the game is never enough. I’ve been in some situations where outer conformity was forced without ever seeking to make the heart right. It is not enough to change the shirt, we need to change the heart because eventually what is on the inside is going to leak out. The dirty inside of the cup is going to spread the outside. The stench of death will seep out. Our hearts are still prone to filth and if we don’t sort that the filth will one day be revealed.

We could all use occasional self-examination. Is Christ real only on the outside or does the reality of Christ change us from the inside out.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Gnats


Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. – Matthew 23.24

I enjoy studying and teaching theology, but I certainly could not be considered a theologian. We all we need to know and grasp and have a firm grip on Biblical theology. We must understand and be apply to apply theological truths. The reason is so that we can better live the lives that we need to grasp in order to serve Him.

These Pharisees knew their theology probably better than anyone ever has. They knew all of the finer points of the Law. They knew all the dos and don’ts. The problem is that they fought and argued over the little things that were important, but they let those things get in the way of the more serious aspects of the Law.

Like, for example, ‘love the Lord your God will all you heart and might and strength and love your neighbour as yourselves.’ The stained at the gnats of the Law and just let the big things go.

I think we can all do that today. We can get so caught up in the relatively insignificant things while we ignore the truths that are important. We argue over forms and styles and places where there should be liberty and ignore the things that are clear. Love God. Love others. Care for the poor. Walk by faith. Serve others.

We too could use the admonition to stop straining at the gnats and focus on the important things.

Monday, 23 April 2018

You have shut up heaven


But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. – Matthew 23.13


It is interesting to read of all the problems the Pharisees had and then look at our many of those problems continue on today. The reason is is that human nature doesn’t change.

Jesus said that these Pharisees were so arrogant and so caught up in the religion that they were deciding who was going to heaven and who wasn’t. Well, at least in their minds they had decided. They had shut up heaven for some men and told some who were on their way that they weren’t going.

These hypocrites were so caught up in being big and powerful and important that they had put themselves in the place of God. They arrogantly were deciding who was going to heaven and who was not.

There are Christians today who think they can do the same thing. They boldly declare who is and who is not saved. They say things like ‘nobody who does this or that can really be saved.’ 

The truth though is that only God knows those who are His. We don’t know men’s hearts. We don’t get to decide who is going to heaven. People may not be where they need to be, but we don’t know who has and who has not put their faith in Christ.

We love people. We share with people. And we leave the results up to God. 

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Self exaltation


But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. – Matthew 23.11-12

We live in a great day of self-promotion. I know of course that this has gone on for a long, long time, but our social media generation has made self-promotion easier than ever. How many likes or share can we get with our posts about ourselves? What kind of lovely comments can we garner with the right selfie?

Although it is easier now this is nothing new. Man always likes to be exalted in some way and if can’t anyone else to exalt we will just do it for ourselves.

Jesus talks about the topsy-turvy paradox of Christian faith here. Those who the greatest amongst us and those who spend their lives exalting themselves will be brought low.

In another place Jesus uses the illustration of a man going into a dinner and assuming he is going to be seated as the guest of honour and taking that seat. The host then tells him he has to move and takes the person in the lowest seat and moves him to the guest of honour’s place.

Humility and meekness are key Christian virtues. It goes much further than a place at the table. It talks about putting others first in every aspect of our lives. It talks about us taking the back seat in the every circumstance that we face. It means that we serve instead of being served. It means we elevate others and not ourselves.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Titles


But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. – Matthew 23.8-10

I have been saved for a while now and been in church for a while now and been associated with preachers for a while now. I have met some of the most humble, meek, quiet, and unassuming men you can ever imagine.

On the other hand I have known men who were just the opposite. I have known men who insisted on being called ‘pastor’ or ‘doctor’ or ‘reverend.’ As I have always gone by ‘Roger’ I once had a slightly older pastor friend actually tell me ‘you were trained better than. Your people need to respect you enough to call you ‘pastor.’

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day like it too. Call me ‘Rabbi’ or call me ‘Master’ or call me ‘Doctor.’ They would have loved that.

I am not going to say much more because it would be sure to get me into trouble.

Suffice it to say this. God is not impressed with manmade titles. We have one Master, one Father, one Teacher. Jesus serves all of those functions.

Of course there is nothing inherently wrong with using terms of respect for our leaders. The problem is when the titles become an issue for the user. Like so much of what Jesus says it is a heart matter, a matter of the spirit of the Law and not the letter. The passage says ‘don’t you be called’ this or that. The idea is not expect or require it. Just be yourself and don’t use those titles to elevate yourself over others.