Posts Tagged ‘sin’

Matthew 12

Matthew 12 has Jesus being chased by the religious leaders.  The disciples were hungry and plucked some heads of grain to fill their stomach.  The Pharisees get all bent out of shape and accuse them of violating the law. “Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath”.  Jesus takes them on head on.  He then goes into the temple and meets a man there with a whithered hand.  They ask “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—  so that they might accuse him”.

The religious leaders want to trip Jesus up.  He asks them a question about caring for their sheep on the Sabbath, and then gives them the answer: “So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath”.  That wasn’t the satisfactory answer in the mind of the religious leaders.  They were very upset and “the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him”.  Jesus launches into a discussion of how evil begats evil and good produces good.  Fruit that is bad comes from bad trees.  Fruit that is good from good trees.

Jesus draws a line in the sand.  “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters”.  Faith is a black and white proposition.  Jesus isn’t something that can be partial – it’s an all or nothing proposition.  You can’t sort of believe in Him.  You have to make a choice – to believe and receive His gift of grace on the cross that pays for the penalty of sin, or to face the holy God that will judge us based on how we have lived.  Jesus makes it clear what we’re going to face.  “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned”.

We’re going to face God and have to explain how we have lived.  God is holy and just – He won’t be able to tolerate sin.  So unless we are able to stand before Him and give an account that completely aligns with His law and standards we’re going to fall short.  Scripture is clear that every one of us will be in that position – guilty of sin and without excuse.  That’s when our decision about Jesus will come into play.  If we’ve got a personal relationship with Him as our Savior and Lord, His shed blood will cover our sin and God will invite us to spend eternity with Him.  If we don’t, we’ll stand there on our own merit and fall short.  “The tree is known by its fruit”. We’ll be seen as sinners and evil in God’s sight.  We need Jesus.  Now is the time to get right with God.

Matthew 7

Matthew 7 has Jesus teaching some powerful truths.  He begins warning us about judging others.  “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you”.  We need to think twice before judging someone else.  We’re quick to do it because it takes the light off us.  But Jesus goes on to ask “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye….first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye”.

 

We need to start by looking inward before we lash outward.  Jesus goes on to tell us about the power we have through prayer.  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find;  knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened”.  Talk about an amazing prayer promise.  Jesus makes it clear that when we ask, seek and knock, it won’t be in vain.  God will hear our request and answer.  He’ll show us what we are looking for.  He’ll show up and let us come to His throne with our requests.  Prayer works.  Always.

That said, Christ also makes it clear that there are some true gates that will make it difficult for us to get into heaven.  In fact, on our own, we aren’t going to make it.  We’ll never be that good as God demands holiness and righteousness and we fall short.  He does give us some guidance for how to live – the golden rule – “whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them”.  Basic truth but so important for us to understand and live by.  But back to the future and our standing before God, Jesus says this: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few”.

Heaven is an amazing place, but getting in won’t be easy.  We’ll stand before a perfect and holy God and have to give account.  Jesus tells us that we’ll be known by the fruit of our life.  It won’t we what we say – it will be based on how we have lived.  “You will recognize them by their fruits….Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”.  God will clean house and not let everyone enter.  If our life has not been bearing good fruit, we’ll not gain entry.

The truth Jesus tells us is that “Not everyone who  says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will  enter the kingdom of heaven….many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord….then will I declare to them, ‘I  never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness”.  Our words aren’t going to be our ticket into eternal life with the Father.  What will is how we have lived and addressed the sin problem we have in our life.  We will never be good enough to enter.  It is only by having the blood of Jesus cover our sin that we’ll be able to enter heaven on that judgment day.  Jesus is the only ticket that will work for entry.  Have you received His offer of grace where He went to the cross to cover your sin?  If not, now is the time to make sure you are ready!

Matthew 4

Matthew 4 has Jesus being tested.  “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness  to be tempted by the devil”.  Any question about whether you and I will be tempted.  Jesus was, and so will we.  How did he prepare for it?  “After fasting  forty days and forty nights, he  was hungry”.  We see that Jesus was human – he got hungry.  And after 40 days that would be intense hunger for sure.  Satan comes at Him where he would be weakest.  That’s how the enemy attacks us.  He knows our weaknesses and attacks there.  “And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are  the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread”.

Satan goes after Jesus at His weakest point.  But Jesus tackles the enemy with scripture.  That is our offensive weapon to fight with.  “It is written”.  We need to know scripture so we can use scripture to stand against the enemy.  God’s Word is our only defense.  That’s why we are continually reminded to read it, hear it, memorize it, meditate on it – because it is the one thing we can depend on to stand fast against the devil.  We need to realize that the enemy knows the Bible too.  “Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple….it is written”.  Satan can quote scripture with the best of us.  He proves it as he attempts to tempt Jesus to sin.

Jesus deals with two more temptations and each time listens to Satan quote scripture as part of the tempting.  But Jesus replies with scripture in context and as God intended, not the twisted way Satan tried to use it.  And then He had enough. “Then Jesus said to him, Be gone, Satan”! There is power in the name of Jesus against the enemy.  Satan must submit to Jesus and His authority.  “Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him”.  Jesus may have felt like He was dealing with the enemy alone, but He wasn’t.  God had His angels ready to minister to Him which they did immediately after Jesus sent the enemy away.

John the Baptist is arrested and the torch is passed to Christ to carry on the preaching of repentance.  “From that time Jesus began to preach….Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”.  He now is taking the lead in challenging people to get right with God.  And to do that, He begins selecting those who will walk with Him the next three years.  “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers….he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you  fishers of men”.  Peter and Andrew are the first to be called.

“Immediately they left their nets and followed him”.  No negotiating, no wondering, just obedience.  They answered the call immediately without hesitation.  Jesus continues as “he saw two other brothers….Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him”.  James and John do the same exact thing, picking up and leaving their dad and jobs behind so they could walk with the Savior.  The twelve were a vital part of how Christ would prepare the ministry to continue after His death.  His ministry begins to flourish, and “great crowds followed him”.  He was little known but His message resonated and people were drawn to Him.

Malachi 1

Malachi 1 has the prophet gearing up to dump God’s correction on His people.  But before he does, he reminds them that God truly loves them.  “I have loved you, says the Lord”.  Before God corrects His people, He assures them of His love. This lays a foundation for their obedience, because if they love Him, they will keep His commandments.  Obedience is definitely a sign that we love and are true followers of God.  If we insist on our own ways and doing our own things, we will never truly walk with Him.

Guzik lays out the story of Malachi.  His prophecy is built around seven questions the people asked God. These questions revealed their doubting, discouraged, sinful heart.

  1. In what way have You loved us? (Malachi 1:2)
  2. In what way have we despised Your name? (Malachi 1:6)
  3. In what way have we polluted You? (Malachi 1:7)
  4. In what way have we wearied Him? (Malachi 2:17)
  5. In what way shall we return? (Malachi 3:7)
  6. In what way have we robbed You? (Malachi 3:8)
  7. In what way have we spoken against You? (Malachi 3:13)

And God answers them all.

God asks Israel to find assurance in His election. He wants them to understand that they are chosen and remain His chosen and favored people. But there is an issue with God – how they have followed.  “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am  a master, where is my fear”?  The people were talking out of both sides of their mouth. They expect God to treat them as His own, but they refuse to honor and obey Him as they lived.  It was how they despised and defiled Him.

Here is the reality of God then, and our God now.  “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts”.  God alone is worthy of our praise.  He has set Himself apart from everything else and He alone will be glorified and praised.  It won’t just be His people that figure that out.  God will make His name great to all people in all lands.

Zechariah 13

Zechariah 13 has the prophet talking about what happens as God brings His people back to restoration through the Messiah.  “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness”.  All people have a sin problem and need a Savior.  Flowing from their embrace of the Messiah, they now enjoy a fountain that brings cleansing for sin and for uncleanness. The cleansing comes after their mourning for the One whom they have pierced.  It is a fountain that never runs dry.

I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, so that they shall be remembered no more….I will remove from the land the prophets and the spirit of uncleanness”.  Idolatry and false prophecy were the two principle ways Israel was led astray from God. God not only provides a fountain to cleanse, but He also promises to cut off the source of uncleanness – in this case, idolatry and false prophecy.  As God cleans up the primary causes leading people to sin, God promises ultimately to take away even the memory of our sin.

Zechariah prophesies about some things that will happen during Christ’s life.  “What are these wounds on your back….the wounds I received in the house of my friends”.  And then he writes “strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered”.  The first refers to the beating Christ took at the hands of the religious leaders before His crucifixion, and the second to the scattering of His disciples after Jesus went to the Cross.  These prophecies are written many centuries before Jesus came.

God has plans to clean up sin among His people.  “I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested”.  After the dispersion of Israel there will come a time of devastation and purification through fiery trials. Two-thirds will be destroyed and the remaining third will be put into the fire but preserved. And then as God always does, He will restore and redeem the remnant.  “I will say, They are my people; and they will say, The Lord is my God’.  God will redeem His people and bring them to Himself!

Zechariah 12

Zechariah 12 has the prophet reminding us that God is the One “who stretched out the heavens and  founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him”.  God is in control, complete and absolute, yesterday, today and forever.  He is completely able to accomplish what He predicts and prophecies.  Jerusalem will be a cup of drunkenness to all her surrounding peoples as well as a heavy stone – a burden – for all peoples, presenting a problem that cannot be solved.  God has prophesied the tension we are experiencing there today.  And in the end, He will control the ultimate outcome.

Zechariah uses the words “on that day” six times in this chapter.  That ‘day’ will be the day God puts in motion His outcome. “On that day the Lord will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God”.  There will be war and while King David was renowned for his fighting ability, courage, and success, God promises a day when the weakest in Jerusalem will be as mighty as David – and the leaders can only be compared in might to God!  God’s plan will come to fruition and Jerusalem shall be His place again.

God will move among Israel and bring saving grace and repentant prayer.  “I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy”. As Jerusalem is supernaturally defended and the Spirit is poured out on the nation, they will turn to Jesus, the pierced One. His head was pierced with thorns, His hands and feet were pierced with nails, and a spear pierced His side.  Zechariah describes the pouring out of grace and pleas for mercy “so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn”.

God is going to open their eyes.  They will realize that they did it, and that they bear responsibility – not sole responsibility, but responsibility nonetheless – for the crucifixion of their Savior.  Each of us as sinners are actually at fault for Christ’s crucifixion.  He went to the Cross for your sin and mine.  But this will be a real eye opener for God’s people, who haven’t felt responsible for Jesus’ death.  Those scales will drop off and they will see clearly that they took the Savior and hanged Him on the Cross.

Zechariah 7

Zechariah 7 has the Word of the Lord again coming to the prophet.  If there is one consistency between all the prophets of the Bible, it is the reality that they were connected and communicating with God.  They didn’t just make things up or provide their personal interpretation.  They heard directly from God and got it ‘straight from the horses mouth’ so to say.  “The word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month”.  Do you hear from God?  Do you make it possible to hear from Him?  Sometimes we don’t listen, or create enough quiet that we can hear even when He tries to connect with us.

Zechariah tackles one of the traditions of his day – the yearly fast that was done in the fifth and seventh months and had been going on for 70 years.  But God questions the motivation.  These fasts were not commanded by God, but instituted by man. Yet because they were traditionally practiced for so long, they developed an authority of their own. People had done this for so many years, they wanted to keep doing it whether it was God honoring or not.  We can get trapped doing ‘good things’ for the wrong reason and that was true of these traditions – the people felt good but missed God.

And worse, they missed what matters most – how they lived out their daily lives.  God’s expectations were to “Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart”.  God cared about how they treated each other, not whether they were following some tradition and missing the mark completely.  We have to be careful to stay focused on what matters to God – our walk with Him, and how we love people in our patch.

But Zechariah knows his people are failing and God has some harsh words.  “They refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through  the former prophets”.  The people made a deliberate choice to disobey what God expected and stay true to their long honored traditions.  The fast had lost it’s focus, and what really mattered in taking care of people around them, had been lost.

We’re guilty of the same today.  We get caught up in just doing what we’ve always done, with little to no regard to what God may be asking us to do.  Rather than seek and listen, we just keep living how we want.  We all wrestle with change, particularly in our spiritual lives.  We like comfort and what feels good to us.  But that carries a price as God has expectations and requirements.  “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear, says the Lord of hosts, and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known”.  How we live matters and we need to seek God, hear God and then obey God.  It’s not about us keeping tradition but loving and serving a very living God!

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