Tag Archives: sayings of jesus

What does ‘This Generation’ mean?

Jesus said: Assuredly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

Jesus prophesied these unforgettable words to four of his disciples on the Mount of Olives as recorded in Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:30.

It is critical to understand which generation Jesus meant. Taking the plain meaning without any bias, Jesus was referring to his own generation—the generation of his listeners there on the Mount of Olives.

But some scholars say Jesus must have meant a future generation. 

Some others insist that Jesus meant the word “race”,  i.e., the Hebrew race. They reason that because the Hebrew race remains today, the coming of Jesus has not taken place, putting his coming far into the unknown future.

These scholars avoid the obvious meaning in the context of the gospel, dogmatically committed to a future return of Jesus, instead of simply accepting that Jesus spoke of the relative closeness of His coming.

Jesus prophesied to those disciples on the Mount of Olives, that He would return before His hearers’ generation had passed away. Yet many of the same scholars and teachers have no problem in accepting that Jesus spoke literally about the coming fall of the Jerusalem temple.

So then there is no logical reason to exclude the plain fact that Jesus spoke of his soon coming.

Further, there is no doubt the disciples took Jesus’ words “this generation” to mean soon, at the door, at hand. They knew His coming was imminent, perhaps even in their lifetime. We see it in their writings.

Their letters in the N.T. frequently reflect their expectancy of a soon coming, though the hour and day were unknown. We read of their warnings, their urgency to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God and their urgings for their readers to live righteously.

They knew Jesus warned them to get the Kingdom proclaimed in the towns of Judea before His coming (Matthew 10:23).

Check these references out for yourself: Rom 13:11-13, 1 Cor 10:11, Phil 1:6,10, 1 Thes 1:10, 4:17; 2 Thes 1:7; 2 Tim 3:1; Heb 1:2, 9:28, 10:29; Jas 5:3; 1 Pet 1:5, 7-9, 13, 17, 20; 2 Pet 3:3; Jude 19).

Now let’s look at only a few instances of Jesus’ phrase this generation in the gospels, paying close attention to the context of each. You will see they consistently refer to the people alive then as Jesus spoke.

Mat 12:45. . . the last of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.

Mat 12:41-42. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented. . . The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment. . .

Mark 8:12. Why does this generation seek . . sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.

Mark 8:38 : “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels”.

Jesus warned people in that crowd that some of them, this generation, will be alive ‘when He comes in glory!  He said this generation not that generation.

Luke 17:25. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

Mat 17:17. O faithless generation, how long shall I bear with you . .  

Here he referred to the crowd who had no faith to heal.

Mat 23:35-36. Assuredly, I say unto you, all these things will come upon this generation.

That phrase is repeated in Mat 24:34, Mark 31:30, and Luke 21:30.

Mat 24:34f, Mk 13:30f, Lu 21:30f. NKJV. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

In all three synoptic gospels! And all three carry the word assuredly! (Grk amen) and the affirmation that though heaven and earth could pass away, his words stand forever!

So who would dare to change his plain words?

In Mat 23 we read Jesus’ savage attacks on the Jewish ruling elites of that current generation: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  Then after the 7 woes, we read verses 31-36:

Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Further, this particular generation was condemned to such a great extent, that Jesus warned those weeping women as He was led to the cross saying: Weep not for me but for yourselves and your children . . . as he knew what terrible times they would face (Luke 23:28).

Conclusion

In the Olivet discourse of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the generation named by Jesus can only mean the generation of people Jesus was addressing.

We can see that this is consistent with the other numerous references of his using the phrase this generation.

There is no logical or hermeneutical reason why we should not believe and accept that Jesus spoke literally about “all these things will come upon this generation.” (Mat 24:34).

The letters in the New Testament frequently reflect the expectancy of a soon coming, though the hour and day were unknown. We read of their warnings, their urgency to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God and their urgings for their readers to live righteously.

Olivet Discourse: Matthew 24:20-30

Continuing our close look at the amazing account of Jesus answering the questions of His disciples.

20-21. But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath . For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.  

  • The warning is for the people of the generation he is addressing—it is ‘your flight’. Jesus was not warning people two millennia hence, but to people who observe the Sabbath, Jews.
  • To imagine that Jesus was referring to an event in the distant future is to question the truth of his prophecy which forsaw “yourflight” and observers of the Jewish Sabbath.
  • Jesus does not know the timing of this (see v.36) so he warns these disciples accordingly. The warning applied only to his disciples of his own generation.
  • There will be utter devastation and terrible suffering then. The eyewitness historian Josephus confirmed the terrible depth of horror of the incomparable events of 68-70 AD, having no restraint describing the chaotic, dreadful events in his famous ‘Wars of the Jews’.
  • Jesus’ term nor ever will shows this will not be the end of the world—again, no fleeing then!
  • Luke 23:27-31 shows us that Jesus, on the way to the cross, said to the weeping crowds and women “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.For behold, days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are those who cannot bear, and the wombs that have not given birth, and the breasts that have not nursed.” They must be very concerned for terrible events would happen in their own generation.

22.  Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.  

  • Those days are days of great trouble; they are limited, cut short, and the elect, the obedient believers, who are still living, will escape it in their flight.
  • Again, human life will continue after the days are cut short—it’s not the world’s end!
  • History records several temporary cessations of the assaults by the Roman army when the elect, those who follow Jesus, would have had the opportunity to escape from Judea.
  • Jesus was not prophesying about some event far in the future but much sooner events.
  • This escape has little to do with a ‘rapture’ of 1 Thes 4:17 where Paul there gives absolutely no hint of anyone fleeing anything, but being united with Jesus forever.

23-25.  Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if it were possible, even the elect.  See, I have told you in advance.

  • You: Jesus warns these disciples about misreading the timing and nature of His coming. He warns them, his generation, to have such an expectation—not future millions of believers.
  • False prophets’ signs will be so powerful misleading many, but as Albert Barnes commented (1870) “His real friends would be too firmly established in the belief that he was the Christ.”
  • Many rabbis then practised sorcery, e.g., flames seemed to come out of Barcochab’s mouth (John Gill’s Commentary). We read of Simon Magus & Elymas in Acts 8:9-11,13:6. Magic arts practice was widespread.

26. So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them.

  • He continues to warn them to ignore reported sightings of him; such places like ‘wilderness’ and ‘the inner rooms’ can’t possibly fit any description of a future end of the entire world.
  • His coming will not be observable. Jesus had told the Pharisees, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed . . .  “(Luke 17:20) which reminds us that His coming will not be seen by physical eyes though it will be experienced and understood.

27. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

  • There is no break in Jesus’ warning—when he comes in judgment it will be understood by all and swift like lightning, and be ‘seen’ as widespread (‘from the east to the west’)—not in any inner room or special place. Lightning is sudden, unpredictable, lasts only for milliseconds.
  •  It is limited geographically to a region—as the region of Judea—not the entire planet. The Roman historian Tacitus reported, “sudden lightning from the clouds lit up the Temple.” Histories ch. 5 sect. 13 AD 109 and “In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour.”
  • Lightning often shows God’s power in the OT, e.g. Job 37:3 ‘He sends it (his voice) out under the whole sky, and his lightning to the ends of the earth.’ Also Job 26:13, Pss 97:4, 77:18.
  • Coming: The Greek word here is parousia, a noun meaning visitation.
  • Son of Man: When Jesus answered the disciples’ questions he kept referring to himself in the 3rd person and not the 1st, as “the Son of Man” (Mat 24:30, 36, 39; cf. Mat 16:27-28).

28. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. 

  • The corpse: the carcass of the Jewish nation, especially Jerusalem.
  • vultures: Josephus described multitudes of corpses piled up in Jerusalem during the Roman invasion—graphic evidence of God’s judgment everywhere. Vultures gather after battles.
  • Birds eating human flesh is a judgment motif in O.T. e.g. Ezek 32:3-4, 39:1-5, Rev 19:21.
  • In Luke’s account, Jesus answers the disciples’ question of those left behind in Judea and killed ‘where to Lord?’ answering ‘where the body is there also will the eagles be gathered’ (Luke 17:36). Again, this is a Judean, Roman conquest context, not the world’s end.

29. “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

  • Immediately: Another time stamp—there is no delay after the tribulation ends and is then closely followed by the ‘appearance’ in v.30, no gap. Cf Mark 13:24 ‘but in those days’.   
  • Stars falling: Collapsing of cosmic entities is a common motif in judgment prophecy, e.g. Isa 13:10, 19:1,24:18-20, 34;8-15, Ezek 32:7–8; Joel 2:28; Nah 1:3; Pss 18, 104:3) and this would be understood by informed Jews familiar with the prophets.

30. And then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven, and then all the tribes of the land will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  

  • And then. Another timestamp—the remarkable number of these shows an unbroken sequence of all the things Jesus foretold, one after another, not split up over millennia.
  • The sign of the Son of Man: It is the sign that appears in heaven, not the Son of Man.
  • Cf.Daniel 7:13: “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.”
  • The Son of Man is not seen in the sky but ‘seen’ seated in the heavenlies (Grk. oranaos)! Stephen said to the Sanhedrin, at his trial,I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).
  • tribes of the land (Greek, epi tes ges) that is tribes of Israel. These Jews mourn because of the realisation of judgment—a Judean context, so there is no worldwide mourning. For Jews there is only one ‘land’—the land of Israel promised by God to Abraham.
  • Note the change to the 3rd person—‘they’; those who will ’see’ includes the high priest and those who have rejected the Messiah, cf Rev 1:7, Zech 12:10. Second Century Historian Hegesippus wrote that James (Jesus’ brother) proclaimed Jesus to the Pharisees saying: “He himself sits in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and is about to come upon the clouds of heaven.” The Pharisees then killed him.
  • they will see: This cannot be forced to mean to ‘see’ with physical eyes as a visible event but they will understand the staggering, horrifying truth of God’s judgment. Jesus’ second coming could never be seen optically, as He sits at the right hand of power and “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see” (1 Tim 6:16).
  • Daniel Moraiswrote: Christ was invisible as the brightness of His presence was masked by the Glory Cloud, thick dark storm clouds, as was the case during the coming of the Lord in 2 Sam 22:8-15, Isa 66:15-16, Psalms 18:6-16, 50:3, 97:1-5, 144:5. Also judgment on cities in the past according to the Hebrew prophets—the brightness of his presence seemingly being masked by the thick, dark clouds of the Glory Cloud.
  • The visible destruction of Jerusalem and its temple will be the sign that the Son of Man reigns in heaven having ascended to the Father. His throne and reign is taught by the whole New Testament as heavenly, spiritual, not earthly or fleshly. Natural, fleshly Israel, with its temple worship, sacrificial system, priesthood, all will disappear.
  • Jesus told the high priest at his mock trial: “But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Mat 26:64). Jesus expected the high priest would be alive and recognise the coming of the Son of Man!
  • Jesus’ coming would be marked not by his visibility, but by much visible phenomenon, e.g. storm clouds hiding his glory, Psalm 18:6-16.  Remarkably, Josephus, Eusebius, Tacitus and the Talmud variously recorded that trumpets and angelic voices were heard and supernatural activity observed around the time of the end of Jerusalem and its temple. See Albert Barnes’ commentary. These are historical facts, taking place 2000 years ago.

Peter’s First Letter-2

Once a week we look together at Peter’s first letter to people in various places. We see how he was encouraging them, preparing them. A most important, earth-shattering event was to take place. Terrible judgment was about to come on many back there in Jerusalem and Judea. The fabulous temple there and the Jewish religion as known for centuries, would be destroyed and replaced by a new creation (Mat 21:43-46). This would impact them and many Jews where they lived. Here we look at the first half of chapter 2.

In this part of his letter, Peter calls on his readers to thirst for the “pure milk of the word like newborn babies, if they have tasted the kindness of the Lord” and put aside all malice, envy, slander, hypocrisy etc.

Think how much the Lord has blessed us all abundantly! There’s much more. So let’s keep thirsting after the pure milk of God’s word to grow our salvation!  So important to long for the word of God. Look, it doesn’t matter how mature we think we are. The Lord’s blessing is inexhaustible. He wants us!

Yes, grow up in your salvation. Salvation is not merely getting newborn, started. There’s a big future idea, a whole of life growth of our salvation, as Peter reminded them several times in his letter.

So where to go? Peter says go to Jesus. Where else? Jesus is the One to come to—his open arms. He is the “chosen and precious.” Quoting from Isaiah 28, Peter identifies Jesus as like the most important stone in a building. That’s the cornerstone. It has to be laid exactly, in line, dead level, plumb. Then the building will follow the right design.

“Look, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious cornerstone and who believes in him shall not be disappointed”.

Jesus said if you don’t gather with him, you are scattering (Luke 11:23). Do you want to be building for God? Well, you have to strictly follow the playbook! Jesus is “the living stone that was rejected by men but chosen by God”. You have to build on the true rock, His words. Anything else is on sand. Anything else is useless. What God has not planted will be pulled up by the roots (Mat 15:13). This is serious.

This building design called for these newborns to be stones too—living stones! Each was being built up into a spiritual house for a special role of offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus.

And so are we today—part of the house that He is building, against which the gates of hell will not stand.

Peter wrote (v7) this precious situation belongs to the followers of Jesus. Quoting Ps 118:22, he showed that the stone which rejected, actually became the very head of the corner! Then he added that others stumble because they are disobedient to the word not following the designer. For these, Jesus the precious stone was “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence” (Isa 8:14) and doom awaits them.

These “builders”—the disobedient, were the Jews of that generation and their system, those who rejected their messiah, that wicked generation.

He goes on to tell his readers (v9) “you are a chosen race, you are a royal priesthood, you are a holy nation, you are the people of God’s own possession! Peter used those very same terms from Moses (Deut 7:6) applying them to these newborn Gentiles and Jews. There’s a whole new creation being formed here, a whole new nation. with the bad tenants, Jewish elites and their fleshly system will be destroyed as Jesus had foretold in Mat 21:43 and a new spiritual one will be formed.

Why are his readers new-born? That they “may proclaim the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” That is our role, our privilege today. We are the Israel of God (Gal 6:16).

He recalls what the prophet Hosea wrote “once you were not a people but now you are the people of God. You once had not received mercy but now you have received mercy (Hosea 1:10). This points to a mostly Gentile readership. These newbies are the true people of God! And so are we who believe today.

Applause!

All this came from the pen of a Jewish born fisherman, but now since born from above through the resurrection of Jesus with whom he had walked for 3 years, a mere 30 years had past. Amazing.

Only 30 years previously! He could never forget when they nailed Jesus to the cross and then God raised Him up as He had foretold.

We struggle to grasp the reality, to feel, to enter in to those historic scenes—it all happened so long ago.

Peter’s readers are the forerunners of a totally new society and they have great responsibility, never seen before. So Peter urges them, aliens and strangers, to keep their behavior excellent among the outsiders. They may be slandered as evil by others but will see their good deeds and glorify God in the day of visitation.

This phrase ‘day of visitation’ is fascinating. It seems Peter had in mind an ‘end-times’ event (see 1 Pet 4:7).

The glorious light of God’s people show that God’s judgments are righteous and this will be acknowledged in the coming judgment.

So their behaviour would be very important. Let’s talk more about that next time.

One Together in God and His Christ

Having prayed to the Father first for his disciples that they may be one “as We are”, Jesus then prayed for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me (John 17:20-23). He therefore prays for you and me —we believers are included in His prayer and ongoing intercessions!

So what is He praying for us, we who have believed in Him through their word? The answer follows with some staggering ‘purpose clauses’. In this post, we look at the first of these.

That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You;

This is the same request he made for the original disciples: that they may be one “as we are”, the Father in Jesus and Jesus in the Father. This is undoubtedly the will of God for you and me, for all followers. Nothing has changed, though we have changed and not for the better.

We are thus connected to the original disciples in the Spirit by the same will of God in Christ! We are meant to be together with them, immersed in the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. No change!  There is no change in covenantal privileges and responsibilities from them to us despite the passage of 2000 years. We live in the fellowship of the saints!

This awesome connection, oneness, S. Paul calls the Body of Christ. Jesus calls it My ekklesia.

This is of critical importance in how we understand our relationship with other believers, and how we look at ekklesia. That’s the original word used and badly translated into English as church, where it comes across as a religious concept. The word ekklesia in the original simply meant a gathering of people for a purpose. It had no religious connotation whatsoever. None.

The only ekklesia that is actually of God is the one Jesus is constructing—Matthew 16:18. Humans cannot build this. And we must not try. We are not commanded to do so.  And yet we fail to do what we are instructed—to bring in the harvest, to teach others to be disciples, to love one another and to be ONE together as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You.

But we can be so busy trying to help Him build churches, we fail to experience the glory He wants to display in us. He, not us, is the Architect and the Builder of His ekklesia. We are together members of His glorious Body, the living stones in this spiritual building. Together in Him.  ONE.

And in this glorious fellowship, this temple of God, we are to be one together. One not many.

Jesus’ prayer for you and me, all believers, constantly before the Father, is for our oneness. Do you see that excludes so much activity taken for granted in today’s religious organisations? Thus denominational exclusiveness is a grave error. Control of others is anathema. Selfishness, vainglory, hatred, self-righteousness, arguments, self-justifications, dogmatism causing splits, must all be thrown out.

When we are united together in actually doing what he has commanded—rather than what our precious theology or doctrines or opinions or religious organisations want—when we are abounding in the actual work of the Lord, filled with the Holy Spirit, bearing witness to Him, participating in the making of disciples, reminding, teaching, urging, persuading, encouraging others—in our joy and gladness in serving Him and one another, we leave behind those obstacles to oneness.  We forget our own agendas in favour of His agenda—our ONENESS.

 

It’s not about you. It’s not about us. It’s all about the Father and His Christ. Right?

DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE – Part 1

Hey, what a hugely relevant matter this is! And how very complicated it can be. And so many voices! So firstly allow me to share thoughts on Jesus’ answers put to him by the Pharisees and his bottom line to his disciples in Mark’s Gospel, chapter 10.

Vs 2-4. Pharisees came to him testing him, and asked him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”  He answered, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a certificate of divorce to be written to divorce her.”

The context for this question was the ongoing discussion among the Pharisees regarding “for what cause can a man divorce his wife?” Rabbi Shammai’s tradition said “for no cause except adultery” and Rabbi Hillel’s “for any cause”. Big debate.

Vs 5-9. But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart, he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female.  For this cause a man will leave his father and mother, and will join to his wife, and the two will become one flesh, so that they are no longer two, but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

Jesus takes the matter back to Genesis 1-2, God’s original plan, long before Moses and his ‘concession’ (repeated by Jesus in Matthew 5:31-32) and concludes bluntly that no one should separate those joined by God. That is sin.

Can we ask what circumstances, if any, exist when God has NOT joined two together? And then can man put then asunder? Are two gay men joined by God? Are two pagans joined together by God? What if two come together in lust for erotic, no holds barred experiences? Are two who write up a contract to legalise what happens in the event of divorce, really joined together by God?  What about one who has sex with a prostitute? What about a woman who is raped? Is she obliged to marry her aggressor? And what if one attempts marriage having had a previous sexual encounter? (see Deut. 22:13−21 and Matthew 1:18-25). Just asking! This is a complicated subject and one which we are not always given clear scriptural direction. In such cases we need to hear from God humbly and without trying to justify ourselves.

10-12.  In the house, his disciples asked him again about the same matter.  He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife, and marries another, commits adultery against her.  If a woman herself divorces her husband, and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Jesus flatly and emphatically overthrew Moses’ tradition in his reply to his disciples. In Moses a woman cannot give her husband a bill of divorce. But for Jesus, neither spouse can divorce the other—he treats the wife and husband equally!

The gospel of Jesus brings with it forgiveness, grace, mercy. He welcomed ‘sinners’ but castigated the ‘righteous’. He did not condemn the Samaritan woman (John 4)—he did not say “divorce your current husband” but “drink the water I will give you”. He said to the condemned woman taken in the act of adultery “I don’t condemn you. Go and don’t sin anymore”.

In that dramatic story (John 8), Jesus wrote on the ground. Some think he wrote the 7th commandment re adultery. The context is Jewish and Mosaic. But Paul insists in his letters we are not under the Ten Commandments. Instead we are no longer to live in sin, not because we are under commandments, but because Jesus sets us free from the bondage, the enslavement of sin and we are under grace and now married to another. We are now under a New Covenant.

I cannot see Jesus saying to divorcees who are truly repentant of their sin but now remarried, “Divorce your second spouse”. I can see him saying instead, “I don’t condemn you. Go and don’t sin anymore”. There are things done which cannot be reversed e.g, abortion, murder, rape, divorce, adultery, illicit sex. These cannot be undone. But they can be repented of, renounced and left behind in the gospel. “Go and do not sin again”. David and Bathsheba comes to mind—Jesus’ ancestors!

Don’t be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor extortionists, will inherit God’s Kingdom. Such were some of you, but you were washed. But you were sanctified. But you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God. 1 Cor 6:9-11

A covenant can be broken. Moses smashed the 10 commandments, Israel broke God’s covenant (Jeremiah 31:31, Ezekiel 16:59) and God was said to have given adulterous Israel a bill of divorce (Isaiah 50:1, Jeremiah 3:8, Hosea 2).

Christian leaders have a responsibility to present the Gospel of grace to those broken, hurting and traumatised by a dominating, cruel spouse. They must not simply deal with people like the Pharisees did, by absolute commands supported by isolated texts dragged out of their Judean or Greco-Roman context, resulting in the imputing and retaining of their sin.

To direct one to remain married to a person who destroys the marriage covenant by repeated unfaithfulness, enslavement, serial illicit sex, constant abuse and the like is also contrary to the spirit of Jesus.

to be continued . . .  . .

 


 

SALTY AND LIT UP

Jesus words to his disciples in Matthew 5 . . .

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.  Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

We obey these amazing words of Jesus today if we are his disciples and not mere churchgoers or professors of religion.

His words are so encouraging: “You are the salt of the earth! You are the light of the world!”

Those who follow him are declared wonderful, salt that has a heavenly and altogether different taste to what is seen in the world whether in ancient Israel or in our troubled world of 2016.

Jesus’ words show he expected his disciples to be outstanding, flavoursome, even delicious. They were intended for suffering, as the context of his words surely indicate, but yet for glory. For glory!

His disciples are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Amazing. World changers.

Is that how you see yourself as a follower of Jesus? How else can you see yourself in Christ?

There is no way his expectation of us would be anything less because he is the living bread who comes down from heaven and gives life abundantly. He promises the Holy Spirit as our helper, our resource.

Not quite like the average religious people attending church services.

Jesus intended nothing like church buildings, money-driven organisations, services, priests and hierarchies. Right?

He intended that his followers be salt that had not lost its flavour and light that would not be hidden in Christian ghettos. He hates it when his people are lukewarm (Revelation 3). He would rather have them cold. But he expects them to be hot with all the amazing blessings he has lavished upon them. Isn’t that true?

They must be good salt—full of good deeds like their master because they are in him and he in them.

Their light must shine before others.

Others must see their good deeds, without them seeking the glory from men, just the glory from God.

And as a result, glorify their heavenly Father. You agree?

What have we all done with Jesus’ designs, his intentions, his commands? slumbering as we often do under the false systems of denominational, competitive businesses driven by human effort and worldly glory. So we have salt that has lost all the brilliant taste of its designer. So what will happen to this useless salt? It will be thrown out.

The light of Jesus’ good news must be shining out there in the world, upon the needy, the sick and oppressed of the satan. But all too often the light is hidden. Are we so afraid to approach the people of the world that we instead find plenty of meetings, conferences, seminars, talk-fests, group studies and formal study courses are more important?

Time for change. Radical change. Re-formation. Are we up for it?

WHAT TO PRAY FOR AND WHAT NOT

What and who to pray for is often the question.

In Romans 8 we read that “the Spirit also helps our weaknesses, for we don’t know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can’t be uttered.”

Admit it—you mostly don’t know how to pray! So you need a helper. And if you have received the Helper that Jesus promised, you have that Helper living in your spirit! Learn to pray “in the spirit” (1 Corinthians 14:14; Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20).

It may come as a surprise to some that the emphasis in the New Testament writings is not in praying for the unsaved. Jesus taught his disciples “the Lord’s prayer” and that did not include the world. So what did Jesus pray for?

Jesus asked his disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest, not for the unsaved, but for labourers engaged in the harvest and especially to pray for the Lord to send more labourers!

Did he ever pray for his family?

He certainly prayed for his disciples—let me mention John 17 where we read how Jesus prays . . . .

I don’t pray for the world, but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.  . . . . . . these are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them through your name which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are. . . . . . I pray not that you would take them from the world, but that you would keep them from the evil one. . . . . . . . Sanctify them in your truth. . . . . As you sent me into the world, even so I have sent them into the world. . . . . . . . . . . . Not for these only do I pray, but for those also who believe in me through their word . . . .

What a wonderful blessing it is to know that Jesus is praying, interceding for us–not for the world– as we go about doing his will and announcing the good news. We are being empowered!

Paul the apostle assures his Ephesian readers (Eph 6:18) that he prays constantly for them (but not for their salvation or healing!) He never seems to ask anyone to pray for any specific unsaved person—but to pray “. . . at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints”.

Paul also asks the same readers to pray for him that he will speak boldly: “ . . . . on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the Good News, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Eph 6:18-20.

The original Jerusalem believers asked for boldness and authority among themselves (Acts 4:29-30) “. . . . . grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness,  while you stretch out your hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of your holy Servant Jesus.”

We can never use our prayers to manipulate the Lord. He can never be controlled by us in any way. Prayer is all about relationship—He is your Father and you are His daughter or His son.

And it’s not how much time you put in, or your sincerity, or your passion and energy and zeal that somehow get’s God’s attention. No. It’s asking according to his will and walking, living, praying in the Spirit.

So we do not have to ask God to save someone (or to heal someone either) because we know that it is His gracious will that none should perish but come to eternal life (John 3:14-17; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Tim 3:2-7). And so He has committed the message of reconciliation to us, Jesus’ disciples (2 Cor 5:18-20). We do not pray for the harvest but for the harvesters!

People own their lives by choice—God does not barge in on anyone. He waits for the invitation. He stands at the door of our hearts and knocks. He does not act as an intruder. He asks for our love, our willing obedience. It seems obvious that the Lord seeks and uses those who want to do His will and not their own. Like Jesus. Even like Paul.

We are all volunteers! The Lord never coerces us into doing his will. We always have the terrifying freedom to ignore him or refuse to obey. It is so amazing how we are created with sovereignty, after His image, with choice, a will. Awesome.

What can stop us from reaching out to the sick

How much faith is enough faith for the Lord to use you to set the oppressed free?

You may be tempted to wait or hold back action until you are free of any sickness or medical dependence before stepping out or until you think you have enough faith.

Or you may not feel like doing the stuff. Or you haven’t had a “special word” from the Lord to do it.

The devil will try every trick learned over 1000s of years to stop disciples being obedient and prevent the sharing of the good news of the kingdom.

But nothing must stop our obedience to the words of Jesus. The extraordinary English healing evangelist Smith Wigglesworth—whose miracle accounts and sermons make wonderful encouraging reading—kept up his healing ministry while in severe pain and even haemorrhaging (he visited Australia twice in the 1930’s accompanied by his deaf daughter).

Jesus was often recorded as being moved with compassion in deliverance and healing. Love for neighbour is paramount: “you shall love your neighbour as yourself”. So it is not about us and our success, our testimony, our stories, but it’s about the lost, the poor, the suffering.

How much faith is enough faith? Jesus said effective faith could be “as small as a grain of mustard seed”! That’s how intent is the Lord about showing mercy, even though He well knows that many who experience His mercy do not choose to follow Him. Fabulous love! Wonderful mercy! Amazing grace.

Does the Lord hold back from us His wonderful power and authority which He longs to show to the lost, the fallen and the sick? The good news of the kingdom and the works of Jesus are all about his mercy and his love. Such great love that He is pleased to use us imperfect people—He looks for willingness, for humans whom He may use to show His glory. In fact the biblical evidence available to us seems to show that He does nothing without the readiness, even the permission, of His human, clay pots—you and me. Wow.

“The harvest is huge but labourers are few”.

Go for it, and in the only name that counts.

THE VANITY OF WORSHIP

“In vain do they worship me – their teachings are merely human rules”  (Jesus’ words in Mark 7:6—7 of the church leaders who opposed him.)

Such manifest vanities are today practised and displayed daily by millions of church goers. Jesus could well say of today : they worship me after their own traditions instead of obeying my words.

Consider : Jesus never asked his disciples to worship him!

Imagine this absurd scenario:  The first disciples come together to worship Jesus. So they put him up on a throne and lift up their hands or they prostrate themselves! They say they love him, adore him, bowing down and singing before him, sure that their devotion, their religious acts will please him. They devise a form of service and trot it out ….. and they ignore his expressed words in the gospels.

Or, just imagine the first disciples post-Pentecost composing or going through a liturgy or holding services or dedicating buildings to Jesus! Of course, such scenarios do not fit. Human constructs.

Instead they show the worth of Jesus by obeying his Holy Spirit, sharing goods, experiencing apostolic teaching, eating together, praying, receiving the Holy Spirit.

Are we using “worship” as a substitute for plain obedience to Jesus? Faithfulness unto Jesus means we  follow him to the end.

Many ignore his commands to believe, to pray, to persevere, to go make disciples, to teach all peoples all his commands, to receive the Holy Spirit, to bear witness to him.

He has unequivocally and expressly stated that his disciples are to put his movement, his kingdom, before their interests and agendas, to put him first, to seek the Father’s will and heart, to sit at his feet, to abide in him, his words abide in them, to love one another as he has loved them.

Have we forgotten he asks us to lose our lives for his sake, to be fishers of men, to give freely, to rejoice in suffering ….. ?

Did Jesus start “worship” classes? Did he teach about how to do “services of worship”? Did he appoint worship leaders? The whole idea is absurd. So many human inventions.

“Do whatever he tells you said Mary, his mother to the servants at the wedding (John 2)—the best advice ever given. The last recorded words of Mary. How spot on! “Do whatever he tells you.

Now that’s worship: Do whatever he tells you.

Listen as he teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer: Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. His Father’s will not just listened to, but actually done.

The writings of the whole Bible are all about pleasing God, doing his will, living under his wonderful rule (that’s worth-ship—acknowledging God’s amazing and eternal worth). Isn’t that what Jesus’ parables are all about? The house built on the rock is the person who not only hears but does the will of God.

Following Jesus is to worship him, obey him, doing whatever he says. It’s obedience to God, not sacrifice that counts, declared the prophets.

Where is worship in the Letter to the Hebrews, that most Jewish of all the New Testament writings? It’s being provocative, “stirring up one another to love and good works”.  It’s drawing near to God with faith, it’s seriously listening to your leaders, it’s enduring suffering. It is in rendering a sacrifice of praise by our lips which bear witness to his name—that is, being a witness to Jesus. It’s being mature and teaching others.

Prayer is worship. A notable example is in Acts 4 prayer with shouts of praise to God in the context of persecution.  Study of scriptures is worship.

Worship is not just a sing-song.

Worship in Acts? What about Paul and Silas in that Philippi jail in the most uncomfortable circumstances; or with Lydda at place of prayer.  Pauls’ teaching and arguing, and urging, writing letters, always on the go. Frequently imprisoned. Always acknowledging Jesus’ worth.

For Paul the apostle “acceptable worship” is service to others and witness to Jesus (Romans 12).

In 1 Corinthians 12-14 it’s building one another up when you meet together with the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit—that’s worth-ship of Jesus.

In Ephesians 5 it’s “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” … to one another! Edification of the brothers and sisters is worth-ship along with making melody in the heart to the Lord.

Entertainments are common in many churches today and they call it worship! More like having an indulgent fun time—a substitute for the solid joys of doing what he asks.

The heart of God is the saving of the lost, that’s worship. Reaching outsiders.

What did Peter teach? What did John teach? James? And the others? It’s all about serving one another and doing the work of the Lord, being lights in a dark world. Worship in spirit and in truth.

Though the Israel cultus is gone, yet people feel the need to be religious, to offer up something other than “ourselves, our souls, our bodies as a living sacrifice”.

The Father “seeks those who will worship in spirit and in truth”.

ARE YOU WISE OR FOOLISH?

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it“. Matthew 7:24-27

This teaching of Jesus to his 12 disciples, with a much larger crowd listening, immediately follows his recorded words that we looked at a few days ago. This continues the serious theme of doing what the Father wants. We noted then there will be shocked and aghast people at the End, at the judgment. Will you be one?

In this simple parable Jesus shocks us now with the stark truth: it is not how much we know or remember of his teaching, but whether we put his teaching into practice. That is the difference represented by these two different foundations.

As one who has designed many houses, I can say with the greatest conviction that the foundation on which we build a house is of first importance. It will mean the difference between security and habitability against total failure leading to complete demolition of the structure.

Let’s do a bit of foundational risk assessment.

What risks are you taking by continuing to build your life on an inadequate foundation? What is your foundation? Is it how much you understand, how great is your Bible knowledge, how much doctrine you have learned? your correct world view? loyalty to a system of doctrines or your aligned party?

If so, your foundation is critically faulty. If so, our Lord calls you foolish. You are fooling around with religion, with ideas. You faith is a waste of time. Living a lie, a fantasy. It will not be sustainable when difficulties arise, when the End comes.

A foundation for a house can appear to be sound but if the kind of ground for building is not assessed and taken into account in foundation design, disaster is ahead. Your “Christian life” may look nice to those around you, even admired and copied. But is it founded on the solid rock of not only knowing, but loving and keeping Jesus’ words? Thank, God he shows us what he wants—his perfect design.

Better surely to have a little understanding of Jesus commands and actually be keeping them than to have floor to ceiling libraries of well read volumes and knowledge but then continue to be unmoved to obey. Foolishness.

Maybe you are trusting in a doctrine, say, once saved, always saved. But there is absolutely no doctrine that can save you. Only to follow Jesus as his loving disciple will save you. This is the clear message of Jesus to would-be followers.

We will not be saved by our works, but neither will we be saved without them.

There are two critical issues here. First, we must be aware of Jesus’ commands, his words, not our assumptions of what he meant, or words of another, of others, of dogmatic decrees by minders, and these occupying our attention and energy? Doing stuff that does not conform to his plans and specifications?

Here’s a good question: Just what are the commands of Jesus? Just what does he demand of his followers?

Second issue. Are we lovers of him and his words so that we actually do them?

So we better examine ourselves, to see whether we are in the faith. 2 Cor 13:5