Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Matthew 19:1-22

(My BSF Notes)

Matthew 19:1-12 - Divorce or Not to Divorce

Again the Pharisees came to Jesus to test Him on the controversial subject of divorce.  They ask, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" - Matt. 19:3.  Jesus answered, "What God has joined together, let not man separate." - Matt. 19:6.  He said from the beginning, God created man and woman in His own image (Gen. 1:17-28; 2:23-25).  Jesus always turned to the Scriptures.  Then they asked, "Why did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" - Matt. 19:7.  Jesus answered, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.  But it was not this way from the beginning.  I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." -Matt. 19:8-9.  Notice He said Moses permitted it, not commanded it.  Actually it was God who permitted it, but Moses wrote down what he received from God.  In Moses' time women were considered property and when a man was tired of his wife or she became old and not as attractive, he would put her out and she had no way to support herself.  God mercifully protected women by permitting divorce.   Then she would not be discarded without provision.

God defined marriage as a holy joining of one man and one woman.  This was to be an eternal commitment, but God knew we humans would be human and He provided a way out for people who are stuck in an unhealthy marriage. (Deu. 24:1-4).  Jesus said divorce was only permitted for adultery.  Today our laws allow divorce for any reason.  People think they know better than God and even play God thinking His laws are outdated in today's society.  God is very clear about this issue of marriage and divorce.  God said,  "I hate divorce." - Mal. 2:16.

What has caused your heart to be hard?
What is your response to divorce?

Today Christians are pressured to drift away from the biblical view of marriage.  There is divorce everywhere, in every family, and for every reason.  There is sex outside marriage, unmarried couples living together, and gay marriage.  It is viewed as the norm.  Society is influenced by seeing this in practically all movies and TV shows.  We are told to be tolerant and non-judgmental and that times have changed.  What do you think God would say about that?  I guess we will find out when He returns.  If it was wrong hundreds of years ago, it's wrong now.

We can strengthen ourselves and influence others by knowing what the Scriptures say on these matters.  Jesus always turned to the Scriptures.  Biblical knowledge is power.  It's a weapon against Satan and his evil.  The more you know the stronger you are.  "For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." - Heb.  4:12.

Are you considering divorce?
Will you take this to God in prayer?

Then the disciples asked if it were better to not marry.  Jesus replied that marriage is not for everyone.  "For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and other have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven." - Matt. 19:12.   (Eunuchs were usually castrated males or those with reproductive birth defects.  It was also common practice for rulers to castrate their servants for those who tended to the royal harem.)  He said marriage may not be for those who wish to devote themselves totally to God for marriage may be a distraction.  However, if they cannot control their lust, then it is best to marry and remain with that person.  This is also taught by Paul in 1 Cor. 7.  The Bible does not teach that it is best to marry.  There are those who are called to devote themselves to God's work.  Paul is a great example.  Whether you are married or not, the only life that brings joy, fulfillment and purpose if one that does the will of God.

Eph. 5:21-33 tell us to be loving and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Husbands and wives are meant to be one flesh and work in unity.  Paul compared marriage for a man and woman as that of Christ and the church.  We are to love our spouse as Christ loved the church.  He loved it enough to die for it.

If you have been divorced outside of God's loop hole of adultery and have remarried, stay in the marriage or you will commit another sin if you leave.  Because of Jesus if you repent, you are forgiven and cleansed.  Do not dwell on it.  It's in the past and we all have past sins.  Just live your life knowing God still loves you and that you are forgiven. Then prayerfully commit to make God the center of your married life.

Do you live with the guilt of divorce?
Will you repent and ask God for forgiveness? 
Will you then live a life of forgiveness without quilt?

Principles:
God hates divorce.
God meant for marriage to be permanent.

Matthew 19:13-15 - Little Children and Jesus

Then parents brought their little children to Jesus for Him to touch them, bless them, and to pray over them.  The disciples rebuked this.  They disapproved probably thinking children were not important and Jesus was busy and had more important business to attend to.  They didn't want Jesus' work interrupted.  Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." - Matt. 19:14.  Children are very open and honest.  They have a simple humble faith.  This is how we should approach Jesus - completely honest, open, and with a humble faith like a little child.  This story of Jesus welcoming little children is reassuring for both parents and children - that children are important to God!

Christians today fail to bring children to Jesus.  We think children are too young to understand about Jesus.  We ignore them thinking they are not worthy of attention.  We forget that they have feelings, too and that they are important.  Parents leave the teaching of Jesus to the Sunday School teacher.  We can bring them to Jesus by setting a good example, blessing our meals, treating them with respect, reading stories of Jesus, praying for them and with them, giving God the glory openly in front of them, and talking about God and Jesus often.

What can you do to help bring children to Jesus?
How can you be a good example for children?
How do you communicate to your child Jesus' great love?

Principle:  Jesus welcomes little children.

Matthew 19:16-22 - The Rich Young Ruler

A rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked what good thing must he do to have eternal life.  He didn't recognize Jesus as Lord or the Son of God.  He called Him teacher.  Jesus answered, "Why do you ask me about what is good?  There is only One who is good.  If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." - Matt. 19:17.  The ruler was young, wealthy, powerful, religious, and a good moral man.   When he asked his question, he was putting himself in God's position and using his own values to make judgments.  He was also focusing on his works and what he could do instead of having the heart of God.  Jesus told him to sell his possessions and give to the poor, which he was unwilling to do.  The man left and was sorrowful, but not sorrowful enough to repent and trust Jesus.  He lost the joy of being filled with the Holy Spirit and having purpose for his life.

To have eternal life is not about what you can do.  Jesus exposed his sin showing him that his heart was prideful and that he loved money more than God.  Money and possessions were his idols.  This doesn't mean you have to give everything up to follow Jesus to have eternal life.  It does mean you must give up your idols.  An idol is anything that you put before God.  It's where you spend most of your energy, time, and money.  Your idol can be your children, spouse, love of your talents, social position, career, or anything you love more than Jesus Christ.

There are people like the rich young ruler in our churches today.  They obey all God's laws, come to church each week, and probably even serve as an elder or Sunday school teacher - but they put their love of their idols before their love of God.  Salvation is through faith in Christ alone, but there are certain things like money that can keep us from putting our faith in Him.  Jesus wanted the man to give up his possession because it was keeping him from exercising his faith in Christ.

How are you like the rich young ruler?
What is the hardest thing for you to give up?
What thing to you love more than God?
What steps will you take to change?
Do you have the assurance of eternal life?

Principles: 
To have eternal life you must be willing to give up everything.
Jesus called His followers to live for Him fully.

More great lessons from Matthew.  Next week we will finish Matthew 19 and do part of Matthew 20 and 21.  See you then.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Matthew 18


Matthew 18:1-14 - True Greatness

The disciples were arguing who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." - Matt. 18:3-4.  By saying "I tell you the truth", Jesus is really emphasizing this.  The disciples wanted to have the best seat in His kingdom.  They thought Jesus was going to rule a earthly kingdom and they were thinking of political greatness and not greatest of character. 

The world calls one greater, because they are superior to others.  God calls a person greater if he is humble and serves others.  We are to serve others who are weak, helpless and despised by the world.  The key to true spiritual greatest is humility.  We are to submit to Jesus as a child yields and trusts his parents.  Jesus tells His disciples they need to change.

Our attitude should be like that of Jesus.  He didn't think Himself greater that anyone else.  He was selfless and humble.  He didn't think about His own needs, but the needs of others.

When He speaks of "little children", He is speaking not only to His disciples but to all believers.  They are young Christians new in the belief in Jesus.  Luke 9:46-48 refers to the "lease among you" which are new believers and to those unable to defend themselves - the handicap, the poor, and to children.  Ways we can put into practice what Jesus is saying here is to accept others who might not be worthy by worlds standards.  We can give them credit when they deserve it, stand up for them when they can't stand up for themselves, and not judge them.  When we welcome the "little children", we welcome Jesus and God.  Mark 9:33-35 tell us that if you want to be first, you must be last and a servant to all. 

The following verses tell us more about this change:
Matt. 5:3-4 - We learn that we know we can't please God on our own so we rely on Him and we are sadden about our sins.
John 1:12-13 - If we receive Him and believe in His name, we have the right to be a child of God.
John 3:3-6 -  We must be born again by the Spirit.

"But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." - Matt. 18:6.  We can influence others to sin by our bad examples or we can influence them positively by setting good examples.  If we cause them to sin by our words or actions, then Jesus takes this very seriously.  We are in danger of Hell.  As parents we set bad examples by gossiping, arguing, swearing, cursing, not reading our Bible or praying, and not going to church.  We set good examples by teaching and letting them see us pray, studying the Bible, attending church, and helping others.  Don't say, "Do as I say, not as I do", but be an example and do and say what they should do and say.

Does you set good examples for your children?
Do you insist on religious education as you do secular education?

Jesus continues teaching as He teaches the parable of the lost sheep in Matthew 18:12-14.  The lost sheep in the story is a sinful man.  When is stumbled and fell away, God left heaven to save him.  When he was found or saved, all of heaven rejoiced.  This teaches us that a believer sometimes stumbles and falls away yet Go still loves him.  Each one of us is important to God.  He truly loves us and is not willing for any to perish.  When we stumble or lose our way, He is there to find us and bring us back.  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16.

What causes you to stumble?
What do you do that might cause others to stumble?

Principles: 
Godly humility makes sure not to lead others astray.
God judges those who cause another to stumble.

Matthew 18:15-35 - True Forgiveness

Jesus teaches what to do if a brother or believer sins against you.  The normal thing to do is to ignore the problem hoping it will go away, hold a grudge, or complain to others.  Complaining or holding a grudge is not true love and can cause division in the church.  Jesus said we are to first go to him and show him his fault.  If he doesn't listen then we are go to him again taking one or two others with us.  If he still will not listen, then we are to take him before the church meaning a group of Christians.  If he still refuses to listen, then we are to treat him as a pagan.  By doing these things we are showing love and concern for him and have a desire for him to repent.  We want him to be restored in fellowship with other believers.  Gal. 6:2 says we are to "carry each other's burdens".

What increases the likelihood that God will answer your prayer?  "I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three come together in my name, there am I will them." - Matt. 18:19.  God is the authority and when we come together He is there to guide and direct us in our decisions.

Peter asked Jesus how many times should be forgive someone.  Jesus said "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." - Matt. 18:22.  In other words we are to continually forgive no matter how many times it takes.  There is no limit of how many times we should forgive. 

Jesus told the story of how a master forgave his servant for a large debt he owed.  The servant then had an opportunity to forgive one of his servants for a small debt, but did not.  He had him put into prison and tortured for his debt.  "This is how my  heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from  our heart." - Matt. 18:35.  This symbolizes Hell for us, if we do not forgive.  If we forgive others, then God will forgive us.  We should remember what Jesus did for us on the cross. "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." - Eph. 6:32.

Just think, if we lived by these truths in our home, church, school, and workplace.  There would be less arguing and fights and no bullies in school.  Our home and our workplace would be less stressful and a happier place to live and work.

Principles:
A willingness to forgive is fruit of true repentance.
Godly humility forgives others because God has forgiven us.
Godly humility sets aside personal interests to confront sin and restore relationships.

How can you forgive someone when you don't feel like it?
How many times are you willing to forgive someone?

Tell God how grateful you are for His forgiveness.  Here are some words you might use.

Father God,
Thank you for your eternal forgiveness and your loving grace even though I don't deserve it.  When I stumble or lose away, you seek me out and bring me back.  Help me to be more loving, compassionate, and forgiving to others as you have to me.  I am forever grateful.

More great lessons from Matthew.  Hope to see you next week for Matthew 19.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Matthew 17

Matthew 17: 1-13; Mark 9:2-10; Luke 9:28-36 - Jesus' Transfiguration

Matthew and Mark say after 6 days Jesus went up a high mountain to pray, but Luke says after 8 days.  This is based on a Greek way of speaking meaning "about a week".  He took Peter, James and John with Him.  While on the mountain praying, he was transfigured before their eyes.  Transfigured means changed of the innermost nature that may be outwardly visible.  His face was as bright as the sun and his clothes became white as the light. Mark 9 says His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.  Luke 9 says His face changed, and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.  Then two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor talking with Jesus. 

Jesus was transfigured to benefit both Himself and His disciples.  It was an encouragement to Jesus for He was about to suffer on the cross.  It was important for the disciples to see this also, because it confirmed that Jesus needed to go to the cross.  They needed assurance who Jesus was and they needed to be witnesses to the people later.

Why Moses and Elijah?  Moses represented the Law and Elijah the Prophets.  Moses lived some 1400 years before and Elijah lived 900 years before - yet here they were alive and in a resurrected glorified state.  The disciples had great respect for them.  "For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you.  Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.'" - Acts 3:22-23.  They had a lot in common with Jesus:  They both fasted forty days and nights, they did miracles, they were leaders of the people of Israel, they preached the Word of God, many did not accepted their message, and they were suffering servants.  Moses and Elijah talked with God on a mountain and wrote God's words down. 

What is the significance of their appearance here?  In these two the Law and the Prophets honored Christ.  They were witnesses to who Jesus is.  They talked about Jesus' upcoming crucifixion and His resurrection that would follow.  The Law showed the need for a Messiah and the Prophets taught about the coming of the glorious Messiah who is now before the disciples.  It shows that those who fall asleep in Christ will not perish, but are alive.  1 Cor. 15 -  says we will get resurrected bodies when Jesus come again.

Peter suggested they erect shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah.  But while Peter was still speaking, God interrupted him.  Peter was rebuked by a voice from the cloud of God's glory, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.  Listen to him!" - Matt. 17:5.  Jesus is God's son and deserved special attention so they needed to "Hear Him!".  Peter was making them equal to Jesus, but Jesus was above them.  Peter was probably excited so he spoke before thinking.  Mark and Luke say he didn't know what he was saying.  This was the same thing spoken by God at Jesus' baptism. (Matt. 3:17).

Do you listen to Jesus when He speaks to you and do what He says?
Do you put Him above all others?

When the disciples heard the voice of God, they fell face down and were terrified.  Jesus touched them told them, "Get up.  Don't be afraid". - Matt. 17:7.  When they looked up, only Jesus was there.  Through the witnessing of the transfiguration and hearing the voice of God was the assurance they needed that Jesus was the Messiah and would be crucified.

Jesus told the disciples to not speak of the transfiguration until after His resurrection (Matt. 17:9).  The resurrection would be His final confirmation of His ministry and glory.

Principles: 
When God speaks, we should listen.
Jesus comforts and encourages us when we are afraid.

Matthew 17:14-23 - Jesus Heals a Boy

A man approached Jesus and knelt humbly before Him asking Him to heal his son who suffered from seizures.  He had previously brought his son to the disciples, but they could not heal him.  Remember Jesus had given them authority to cast out demons in Matthew 10:8.  This time they could not.  Some demons are stronger and more stubborn than others.  This failure was probably good for the disciples.  It taught them the superiority of Jesus and to come to Him with problems.  It taught them to be humble and their dependence on Him.

Jesus seemed to be frustrated with them.  The cross was getting nearer and they didn't have enough faith.  Jesus said, "O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you?  How long shall I put up with you?  Bring the boy to me.  Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment." - Matt. 17:17-18.  The disciples asked Jesus why couldn't they have driven the demon out.  Jesus replied, "Because you have so little faith.  I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here and there' and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you." - Matt. 17:20-21.  "Everything is possible for him who believes." - Mark 9:23. 

To be successful against demons there must be trust in God who has complete authority over the demons.  Without faith we cannot please God (Heb. 11:6).  Unbelief increases Satan's dominion and power.  Unbelief means defeat.

How do you obtain stronger faith? - Sometimes through God's mercy in difficult situations, through more fervent prayer, and through the study of His Word.  It involves trust and dependence upon God.

When you doubt, do you ask God to help you in your unbelief?
Do you truly believe that God can do the impossible?

What is the difference between little faith that Jesus condemned and the small faith that He blesses?  Little faith means there is doubt.  Small faith means you believe and trust God.  As you grow in your walk with God, your faith grows larger.  As you study His Word and deepen your relationship with Him, your faith just keeps growing and growing.

Principle:  Nothing is impossible for God.

Jesus then told His disciples that the Son of Man is going to be betrayed and killed, but will rise on the third day.  The disciples were filled with grief.  Mark 9:32 says they did not understand and were afraid to ask.

Are you afraid to tell God you do not understand something?
Do you ask for His help to understand?

Matthew 17:24-27 - The Temple Tax

Jesus and His disciples arrived in Capernaum.  The temple tax collectors asked Peter if his master paid the temple tax.  The temple tax was a annual tax paid by all males for the needs of the temple.  Jesus was actually the owner of the temple and the priest who served God really served Him so it really was unnecessary for Him to pay taxes.  Jesus wanted to avoid unnecessary cause for misunderstandings that might turn people away from the gospel.  He surrender His rights for the sake of the Gospel.  Then as to not offend them, Jesus told Peter to catch a fish in the lake and he would find in its mouth a coin.  He was to take the coin and give it to them to pay the tax.

What lessons do we learn here?    
We learn that we should sacrifice our own privileges for the sake of the gospel. 
We learn that God always provides as we have learned in all of the studies of Matthew.  We learn the payment was a foreshadow of the work of redemption for all men. Jesus did not actually owe the price He paid for us on the cross, but He paid it anyway.  He paid it for Peter and for you.

How do you sacrifice your own privileges for the sake of the gospel?

Principle:  Jesus paid the price for our sins even though it wasn't His to pay.

Wow!  These studies in Matthew get better and better.  Hope to see you next week for Matthew 18.