Thursday, March 27, 2014

Matthew 25

(My BSF Notes)

Last week Jesus told us the signs of the end of the age and that all these terrible things must happen before He returns.  He told us we need to be prepared and ready, because we don't know the day or hour He will return.

This study of Matthew 25 are parables relating to Christ's return.  He warns us and tells us to be prepared for His unexpected return, that our rewards will be based on our faithfulness and the use of the talents He has given us, and that to love Him fully we need to put our faith into action.

Do you enjoy waiting?  We wait eagerly for lots of things.  We have hope and wait eagerly and are excited for a child to be born.  We get prepared for what we expect like furnishing the nursery and buying baby clothes.  Are you excited for Jesus to return?  As we are waiting for Jesus to return we are not to just to sit there.  As we wait we are to share and show Christ to others.  He wants us to be doing something.  He wants us to be prepared.  No matter what you are going through there is hope and encouragement to know we will be with Jesus someday. 

Matthew 25:1-13 - The Parable of the Ten Virgins

The kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins with lamps and oil who were waiting for the bridegroom to come to the wedding banquet.  "Five of them were foolish and five were wise.  The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.  The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps." - Matt. 25:2-4.  The bridegroom was a long time coming and they became drowsy and fell asleep.  When he finally came the foolish virgins ran out of oil and wanted the wise virgins to give them some of their oil, but they would not.  They were told to go buy oil.  When they were buying oil, the bridegroom came.  The wise virgins went in with the bridegroom to the banquet and the door was shut allowing the foolish virgins to not enter.

In this parable Christ is the Bridegroom, the ten virgins represent the entire body of Christians who claim to follow Jesus, the lamp represents our outward profession of faith, and the oil represents the Holy Spirit which produces light in our lives.  The Holy Spirit is a gift from God given to a person when he accepts Jesus as Savior.  The Bridegroom waited a longer time in coming than they had expected and they became less eager as they waited.  We are the same today.  We become preoccupied with life and all we have going on day to day and simply are not excited or eager at His return.

The wise virgins who were prepared and had plenty of oil could not give the oil to those who were did not have oil.  We cannot give the Holy Spirit to another person.  Each one must receive the Holy Spirit himself.  When the Bridegroom came, it was too late to seek the oil.  When Jesus returns, it will be too late to receive Him and His Holy Spirit.  All people have the opportunity to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and have eternal life with Him.  If we wait until He returns, it will be too late.

The foolish virgins never really had a relationship with the bridegroom.  They were over confident and fooled themselves thinking they were accepted by the bridegroom.  They were pretenders.  They didn't understand that the bridegroom would come in his timing and not theirs.  When the door was shut, they begged him to open the door and let them in.  "I tell you the truth, I don't know you.  Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour." - Matt. 25:12-13.  Jesus knows our hearts.  The Shepherd knows which sheep are His.

This parable teaches us that Jesus is coming for sure.  We need to be prepared and not surprised at His coming.  It teaches there is no second chances.  If you have not accepted Jesus as your Savior before He comes again, it will be too late to make that decision once He returns.  You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool Jesus.

Jesus gave no reason for the bridegroom's late arrival.  Peter explained it.  "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." - 2 Peter 3:9.  Jesus didn't judge the foolish virgins for falling asleep, but because they didn't bring extra oil and were not prepared for the bridegroom coming.

Principles: 
We are to be prepared and ready for Christ's return.
Only those who truly know Jesus before His return are prepared.
 
How are you prepared for His return?
Will He recognize you as His faithful follower?
How are you helping others get ready for His return?
Do you think you are saved, but not sure?
Will you ask God to reassure you?

Matthew 25:14-30 - The Parable of the Talents

The kingdom of heaven will be like a man going on a journey who trusted his servant with his property.  In this parable Jesus is the master and His servants are His followers.  A talent in those days was money.  In this passage the talent represents God's truth, the Bible and the knowledge of Jesus Christ.  You can also look at talents as the gifts He gives us.  "To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability." - Matt. 25:15.  God owns everything and we own nothing.  He lets us use what He owns.  He trusts us to use it for His purpose.  The talents He gives us are different for each person according to our abilities.

The servant he gave 5 talents use it and gained 5 more talents.  He represents someone who knows the Bible, has many abilities, and has many opportunities to spread the gospel to others which he does.  The servant he gave 2 talents used it and gained 2 more talents.  He represents someone who has average ability and average opportunities.  Maybe he is a quiet Christian, but influences others for Christ.  The servant he gave 1 talent as fearful and buried it in the ground gaining nothing.  He represents someone who understood about God, but refused to take God's promises for himself.  He didn't want the responsibility.  He buried his knowledge and said "I can't do it".  His faith without works was dead.  To bury God's light and refuse salvation is to deserve hell. (Matt. 25:30).

When the master returned, he was pleased with the first 2 servants and rewarded them with many things.  They had been responsible, faithful, and diligent.  "Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with few things;  I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master's happiness!" - Matt. 25:21, 23.  This teaches us that God is fair and just.  He is wise and rewards those who serve Him.  He expects us to serve Him with what He has given us.  We are to accept the talent He gives us and we don't need to compare our talent with the talents of others. 

The servant who hid his 1 talent was like church members who hear the gospel but refuse to take God's promise for themselves.  He was fearful, had excuses for everything, blamed the master, had a very legalistic view of the master, was angry and frustrated with the master for giving him talents, and didn't even want the responsibility.  The master called him "wicked" and "lazy".  Then the master took his talent away and gave it to the servant with 10 talents and sent judgment on him.  "And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." - Matt. 25:30.  Even though we go to church, read the Bible and hang out with believers, if we don't obey God we are worthless to Him. 

Principle: 
Believers are called to take obedient risks for Christ to multiply their faith.

Are you using the knowledge of God's Word He has given you?
How are you putting that knowledge to work?
Do you bury what God has given you?
What risks is He asking you to take?

Matthew 25:31-46 - Judgment of Nations

Jesus came the first time for salvation.  He will come the 2nd time for judgment. At His 2nd coming He will come with His angels and will sit on His throne in heavenly glory.  This period will begin the Millennium as described in Rev. 20, which is Christ's 1,000 year reign on earth.  There will be 2 judgments.  One is the judgment of nations in Matt. 25 which takes place before the Millennium begins.  This will be a judgment on those who are alive at that time.  Those dead before He comes will either be already in heaven or hell. (Rev. 20:4-6).  The last judgment to come is called the white throne judgment will take place at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:111-15).  This is when non-believers of all ages whose names are not written in the book of life are raised for judgment.

"All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left." - Matt. 25:32-33.  Jesus will be the judge.  All nations are people still living when Christ returns.  The sheep are believers.  They will be put them on the right hand of the King, Jesus, a place of honor.  They will inherit the blessing of the kingdom.  They are the ones still alive after the tribulation and who treated God's servants by giving them food when hungry, drink when thirsty, invited them in when a strange, clothes when needed, looked after them when sick, visited them in prison.  Jesus said by doing these things for them they were doing it for Him. (Matt. 25:34-40).  Jesus recognizes work and help given to His people.  He rewards us even after He has saved us from sin and death.  He always knows our heart's motives.

The goats are unbelievers.  They will be put on the left and sentenced to punishment.  They are those who reject Jesus.  He says, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." - Matt. 25:41.  They did not feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, invite in a stranger, clothe when needed, look after the sick, or visit those in prison.  Therefore, they did not do it to Jesus. (Matt. 25:42-43).  Out of fear and self preservation they did not expose themselves to helping God's people.   They were heartless and selfish.  Hell is eternal punishment.  God doesn't send people to hell, people choose to go there.

How can we change our inner motives to be like His?  We can pray, fast, and obey.  We can study God's Word and follow Jesus' example.  We can accept and apply Jesus' teachings in our mind, heart, soul, and strength.  We can have a humble loving sacrificial heart and live by the Spirit, not by the flesh.

Principle:  The righteous will inherit the kingdom of heaven and go to eternal life, but the wicked will go to everlasting fire for eternal punishment.

What can you do to serve Jesus?
How are you loving Jesus through people in your church and community?
What assures you that you have been born again by God's Spirit?
Are you ready for His return?

Lots to think about in this lesson.  Lots of soul-searching to do.  Next time we will cover Matthew 26:1-46 - the plot against Jesus, Jesus betrayal, the Lord's Supper, and Jesus predicts Peter's denial.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Matthew 24

Last week we learn the greatest commandment was to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind.  The 2nd greatest commandment was to love others as ourselves.

Matthew 21-28 are the events of Jesus' last days.  We call this week Passion Week.  It was the week leading up to Jesus' arrest, death, and His resurrection in Matt. 28.

This chapter is about the end of this age.  He wants us to know the signs of the end of the age and not be alarmed when they happen.  He wants us to know these things must happen, but that the end is still to come.  Then He will return as promised.  Jesus' teachings are mainly for Christians, especially those who will come to believe in Him during the tribulation period. 

Matthew 24:1-35 - Signs of the End of the Age

Jesus finished His teaching in the temple and was walking away when the disciples came to Jesus to call His attention to the temple buildings.  They found it hard to believe that the temple would be destroyed as Jesus had told them in Matt. 23.  It was bigger and stronger that any they had seen.  The temple mount was a collection of large carved rocks and nothing compared with its beauty.  The temple was the symbol of the Jewish nation and religion.  If Jesus was to be the king of Israel and the temple was gone, how could this happen?  Jesus said to them,  "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down". - Matt. 24:2.  The disciples said, "When will this happen and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" - Matt. 24:3.  Jesus was continually teaching and reminding what would happen to Jerusalem and the temple.  It was His warning to repent.

The temple was used for sacrifices, but would no longer be needed.  Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins.  God is everywhere.  The temple was only a meeting place for the people to come for worship and prayer.  Now the Holy Spirit is in us and our bodies are His temple.

The "end of the age" means when Jesus' returns to earth.  He will then set up His 1,000 year reign called the "Millennium".  This is mentioned in Revelation where a new heaven and a new earth will be created.

The disciples ask for a sign when this will happen.  Jesus told them, "Watch out that no one deceives you.  For many will come in my name, claiming, I am the Christ, and will deceive many.  You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains." - Matt. 24:4-9. 

These things are happening now.  

False Teachers and Prophets - They are people who don't know Jesus.  Some are very evil.  They teach things that go against the Bible and Jesus' teachings.  There are and have been many false prophets.  Some of them are: Jim Jones, David Koresh, Muhammad, Marx and Marxism, Hitler, Humanism, Hinduism, New Age, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, etc.  They call themselves Christians, but don't teach God's Word and don't believe Jesus is the Messiah.  They can be very convincing.  There doctrines are usually a little bit of truth to suck you in.  Our only defense is to know and continue to study the Bible, listen to the Holy Spirit, don't be discouraged, stand firm in our faith and trust God and His Word. 

Wars and Rumors of Wars and Nations against Nations - There are wars and conflicts arising daily, especially in the Middle East, and against Israel.  More and more countries are working to develop weapons of mass destruction.  Terrorism is expanding and the outbreak of was exists in many nations across the globe.

Famines - Usually famine is caused by man's wars and greed.  Famine is spreading across the African continent.  A large portion of the worlds 5 billion people suffer from a shortage of food.

Earthquakes - We have been seeing many more earthquakes these days than any other time in history.  Remember the great Tsunami in 2004?

Persecution - Many of the Prophets have been persecuted and even the disciples were persecuted as well as other Christians.  Christians are under attack throughout the world today.  Christian suffer greater persecution and often times death for their faith in countries like China, Sudan, Africa, Saudi Arabia, Korea, Russia, and many Muslim nations. 

These are just birth pains of what is about to come.  Jesus said there will be many who turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other.  There will be an increase of wickedness and people's hearts will become cold.  Jesus said we are not to be alarmed or troubled.  Jesus said, "But he who stands firm to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." - Matt. 24:14.  Jesus talks about these terrible times to warn believers to not be afraid and not be deceived by false prophets and the Anti-Christ.  He wants us to stand firm and keep the faith.  We should give thanks to God and keep our hope and faith in Him.  He said "stand firm to the end" which is repeated several times in the New Testament.  The end will not happen until all the world has heard the gospel.

"So when you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel - let the reader understand - then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains." - Matt.  24:15-16. (Also see Daniel 9 and 11)  The abomination of desolation is speaking of the desecration of the temple with the Anti-Christ who will set himself up as God.  He will put his idolatrous image in the temple and stop the sacrifices and worship, which will bring the judgment of God.  Daniel 12:11 - "From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes the desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days." (until the end).  When this sign is set up, there will be 3 1/2 years to go (called the Great Tribulation) until the end when Christ returns. 

The Jews in Judea are then to flee to the mountains or to Pella, because the desolation will first be poured out at Judea.  The church will not be a factor, because it has already been raptured. (1 Thess. 4:16-17).  This abomination of desolation will take place in the middle of the tribulation call the Great Tribulation.  "For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now - and never to be equaled again." - Matt. 24:21.

After the Great Tribulation Jesus will return.  "Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.  At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the nations of the earth will mourn.  They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other." - Matt. 24:29-31.

All the nations of the earth will mourn at His coming, because of the judgment that is coming upon them.  The wicked will mourn, because of their upcoming doom and because they have rejected the Savior.  Who are the elect the His angels will gather?  They are all that have endured to the end in the faith.

Matthew 24:36-51 - The Day and the Hour Unknown

"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." - Matt. 24:36.   If Jesus didn't know the hour or day He would return, how can men today predict when He will return?  He said we will be doing everything as usual like eating, drinking, marrying, etc. just like in the days of Noah.  He will come suddenly and unexpectedly.  Jesus tells us to keep watch meaning the believer must remain alert and prepared for His coming, because we don't know when He will come.  We need to be ready.  and on guard.  We must be faithful through to the end.

Are you ready for Jesus' return?
If not, what must you do to be ready?
How can you be faithful until His return?

The signs of the end are all around us.  We see them more and more each day.  If you have not repented and trusted Jesus as you Savior, do it now before it's too late.  He loves you and wants you to be in heaven with Him.  Why worry about this today?  "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." - 2 Peter 3:8-9.  Do not lose hope, keep the faith and be ready.

If you knew for sure He was coming tomorrow, what would you do?

Jesus tells about the faithful and unfaithful servants in Matt. 24:45-51.  We Christians are like the faithful servant who expected his master to return at any minute.  Christians have the responsible to hear and act on Jesus' words.  We are to believe and do what He says so He will be pleased with us when He returns.  We are to use every opportunity to bring others to Jesus.  The unfaithful and wicked servant does not believe his master will return and does not believe his words.  He lives only for himself and this life.  He cares  nothing about others.  Jesus promised to reveal all.

To know more about end of the age, the Anti-Christ, the Great Tribulation, etc. as in Daniel, Zechariah, John, Romans, Thessalonians, Revelation, and other books of the Bible, see my posts:

"Order of the End Times" - http://devotionsbylv.blogspot.com/2011/03/order-of-end-times.html

This chapter gives us lots to think about.  Jesus is real.  He will return.  The end is real and it will come.  See you next week for Matthew 25.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Matthew 22:15 - 23:1-39

Matthew 22:15-32 - Jesus Questioned

This lesson is the Lord's last encounter with the religious leaders.  As usual they tried to trap him.  The Pharisees used cleverly worded questions and even tried flattery hoping His answers would publicly discredit Him.  The first question was, "Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.  Tell us then, what is your opinion?  Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" - Matt. 22:15-17.  They were really laying it on thick.  They knew the Jews didn't like paying taxes to a corrupt government and if He said they should pay taxes it would discredit Him before the people.  If He answered they should not pay the tax, He would be going against the Roman authorities.

Jesus knew their intent and was not flattered by their words.  He said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?  Show me the coin used for paying the tax.... Whose portrait is this?  And whose inscription?" - Matt. 22:18-20.  They replied it was Caesar's so Jesus said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." - Matt. 22:21.  They left amazed.     

How are you being a good citizen to your government?
Do you complain about your taxes
Do you try to get out of jury duty?
Do you obey laws put into place like speed limits?
How are you a good citizen to God?
Do you give tithes and offerings to God?
How are you serving Him?

We each owe our countries and governments many things, including respect for every law that does not require us to disobey God's law.  We are citizens of heaven and also of an earthly country.                                           

Then later the Sadducees thought they had a question that would definitely trap Jesus.  The Sadducees were liberals.  They were the wealthy governing class.  The chief priests were Sadducees.  They rejected a lot of the Pharisees beliefs especially the resurrection after death.  They asked Jesus a question about marriage at the resurrection trying to show that resurrection is an impossibility.  They said if a man dies, his brother must marry his widow as the Moses taught.  Then if he has seven brothers and the same thing happened, who would be his wife at the resurrection?  Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.  At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.  But about the resurrection of the dead - have you not read what God said to you,  I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?  He is not the God of the dead but of the living." - Matt. 22:29-32.

Are you in error because you choose not to know the Scriptures?
Are you in error because you do not believe?
Are you in error because you choose not to know the power of God?
Are you in error because you choose to accept only parts of the Bible as true?
 
To be in error includes both wrong beliefs and straying from God's truths.  Teachings not rooted in truth are not acceptable.  To be in error is to be wrong or mistaken.  The Sadducees considered only part of the Old Testament as true. 

Do you see God as the God of the living?
If He is the God of the living, wouldn't He want to be involved in your life?
 
The doctrine of resurrection is foundational to our faith.  If there is no resurrection, why are we here?  We will be resurrected from our existing decaying body into a perfect heavenly body.  This life is temporary.  Because Jesus lives, we live.  We will enter into an eternal life into His kingdom.  It's a mystery, but we can trust God with all of it.

(They did not believe in the resurrection so they were "sad you see".)  :)
 
Matthew 22:34-46 - The Greatest Commandments

After the Sadducees were silenced by Jesus, one of the Pharisees tested Jesus again by asking, "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" - Matt. 22:36.  Jesus answered, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it; Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hand on these two commandments." - Matt. 22:37-40.

What does it mean to love God with all your:
heart? - to make Him the center of your life giving Him total access to your heart.
soul? - being in total submission to Him.
mind? - being in agreement with Him.
strength? - strength of physical body, focusing on Him, trusting Him and His truths, using the gifts and talents He has given you.

We please God when we recognize Him as above all others.  It is impossible to love others without loving God first.  It is impossible to love God and be indifferent to others.  We are to love God first, others second, and ourselves last.

Jesus asked them, "What do you think about the Christ?  Whose son is he?" - Matt. 22:41-42.  They answered that He was the son of David.  Jesus said, "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him Lord?" - Matt. 22:43.  The Jesus quoted Ps. 110:1 - "The Lord say to my Lord; Sit at my right Hand until I put your enemies under your feet."  He then asked, "If then David calls him Lord, how can he be his son?" - Matt. 22:45.  They could not say a word and did not ask Him any more questions.

Jesus was the Son of David by physical ancestry, but He was more than a mere descendant.  He was his Lord by virtue of His deity. 

Who is Christ to you?
Is He your Lord?
Is He the center of your life?

When we love God totally with our whole being, it glorifies God, it permits us to love others, and it gives us joy.  JOY -  J = Jesus, O = Others, Y = Yourself and we must do it in that order.

Matthew 23:1-39 - Hypocrites!

Jesus told the crowds and His disciples to obey the Pharisees, because they sit in authority.  They were to do everything the Pharisees told them to do, but not to do what they do or practice what they preach.  Everything they did was for men to see.  They were to humble themselves.  "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." - Matt. 23:12. 

God put leaders over us.  There are some that are bad and there are some that are good.  We are to respect and obey them, because God put them in positions of authority.  "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority...." - Heb. 13:17.  We then must trust God and pray for them for His guidance and intervention.  Then let God deal with the bad ones.

What is a hypocrite?  The Scribes and Pharisees where hypocrites.  They were telling others what to do, but not doing it themselves.  They wanted to be seen as holy and respected, but didn't want to earn the respect.  They did not teach God's forgiveness and grace.  They only taught "do and don't".  They didn't submit to God's authority.  They lacked integrity.  They were cruel and showed no sympathy.  They lacked humility.  They were proud of what they were and how they lived. 

Does this sound like people in our churches today?  Some go to church just to be seen and don't really know Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Really, all of us are hypocrites in some ways.  If we were perfect, we wouldn't need Jesus or the church.

How are you being a hypocrite?
Do you practice what you preach?
Do you think you are perfect and don't need Jesus?

Jesus gave the religious leaders 8 woes.  He called them hypocrites 8 times here and 13 times the book of Matthew.  A Woe is an expression of judgment and sorrow or a morning over their sin.

Woe #1 - Matt. 23:13 - They shut up heaven to men.  They should have led the people to God and to Jesus Himself.  Instead they taught the way of salvation was by keeping the law and led the people to reject Jesus.  They were preventing people from entering the kingdom of heaven.

Woe #2 - Matt. 23:14 - They devoured widows' houses and did lengthy prayers for show.

Woe #3 - Matt. 23:15 - They won a convert and then made him twice the sons of hell as themselves.

Woe #4 - Matt. 23:16-22 -  They were blind guides.  They were blinded by the things of this world like power, status, self glory.  They made distinctions between swearing of oaths.  They had their priorities upside down.

Woe #5 - Matt. 23:23-24 - They gave exactly a tenth and focused on material things without the meaning behind them, but left out justice, mercy and faithfulness.

Woe #6 - Matt. 23:25-26 - They were concerned how they looked on the outside and were dirty on the inside with pride and selfishness.

Woe #7 - Matt. 23:27-28 - They appeared to be righteous on the outside, but on inside you were full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

Woe #8 - Matt. 23:29-32 - They were self-righteous and patted themselves on the back saying they would not have killed the prophets of their forefathers, but at the same time they wanted to kill Jesus.

Jesus used strong words in verse 33.  He called them "snakes" and "vipers" and asked them how would they escape and that guilt and judgment would come to them.  They were more like the sons of the devil than of Abraham.  They could have escaped, if they believed in Jesus. 

How are you like a Pharisee?
Do you make the same mistakes as the Pharisees?
Do you make a show when worshipping?
How are you showing others mercy?
Are your priorities upside down?

In Matt. 23:37-38 Jesus laments for Jerusalem.  In Luke 19:41 Jesus wept as He looked over Jerusalem.  He thought about its coming judgment and wanted to protect the people from the terrible judgment for those who would reject Him.  He wanted to protect and nourish His people like a mother bird protects her young chicks.  Jesus was willing to rescue them, but they were not willing to let Him.

"For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" - Matt. 23:39.  When Jesus comes again, the Jewish people will welcome Him as the Messiah.  This is hope for the Jews.  When He returns the Jewish nation will recognize Him and be saved. (Rom. 11:26)

Will you call Him Messiah?
How real is your worship of Jesus?
Will you ask Him to deepen your love of Him?
 
Jesus' life on earth is coming to an end.  He is in His last week before the cross.  Join me next time for more of His teachings through scriptures in Matthew.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Matthew 21:18 - 22:1-14

Matthew 21:18-22 The Fig Tree Withers

Every spring thousands of worshippers poured into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  Jesus spent the night in the nearby town of Bethany.  On His way back to the Jerusalem He was hungry and saw a fig tree by the road, but found nothing on it except leaves.  The fig tree and the olive tree are usually symbols of Israel and Judea in the Bible.  Like the Pharisees and chief priests the fig tree did not fulfill its purpose.  It was a living symbol of deceit and hypocrisy.  He said to the tree, "'May you never bear fruit again! And immediately the tree withered.'" - Matt. 21:18-19.  The nation of Israel never produced fruit meaning they did not obey God.  The disciples saw this and asked how it withered so quickly.  Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done.  If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer," - Matt. 21:21-22.  We are to have faith and not doubt.  This kind of faith takes conviction of Jesus' love and knowledge of God's will.  You must be a true believer.  God knows what we need, but He wants us to ask.

What fruits do you produce?
How are you fulfilling your purpose?
 
Principles: 
A real relationship with God produces real results in life.
God knows what we need, but wants us to ask.

Matthew 21:23-32 - Jesus' Authority is Questioned

Jesus entered the temple and began to teach.  While He was teaching, the chief priests and elders asked Him on whose authority was He doing these things? (Matt. 21:23).  No doubt they were rude and impolite.  They had ignored the miracles He had done.  The miracles alone should have answered their question.  Jesus answered with a question, "John's baptism - where did it come from?  Was it from heaven, or from men?" - Matt. 21:25.  They were asking out of their own selfish desires and unbelief and could not really expect an answer they would recognize.  They discussed among themselves and gave an answer.  They were afraid of the crowds and were ashamed and had to say they did not know.  John had already announced who Jesus was, but the leaders could not decide about John.

They were not able to answer Jesus so He told them a story and asked for their opinion.  The story was about two sons.  The first son refused to obey his father, but later changed his mind and went to work for his father.  The second son said he would go to work, but was not sincere and did not go.  Jesus then asked which of the sons did what the father wanted.  They answered, "The first." - Matt. 21:31a.  Neither son was perfect, but the second son finally obeyed.  Jesus said, "The tax-collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did.  And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him." - Matt. 21:31b-32.  The tax-collectors and women were like the first son.  They listened to John and changed their ways, but the religious leaders did not.  Their religion was all about words and rules.  They claimed to be God's servants, but did not obey God.

Which of the 2 sons represents your life?
How do you obey your Father in heaven?

Then Jesus told them another parable, the parable of the tenants.  A landowner planted a vineyard and rented it to some farmers or tenants.  When the harvest approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.  The tenants beat up a servant, killed one, and even stoned another.  He sent more servants and the tenants did the same things to them.  Then he sent his son thinking they would respect him, but when the tenants saw him they wanted to kill him and take his inheritance.  They took the son and threw him out and killed him. 

God is the landowner and the vineyard is the earth or Israel.  Jewish leaders were like the tenants.  God had given them responsibility and expected them to look after the people.  The servants were like God's prophets sent to the people of Israel many times long ago.  The leaders made God's servants suffer.  Example: They beat Jeremiah and put him in prison and they killed Zechariah.  Then the landowner sent his son who is Jesus.  Jesus knew the Jewish leaders would plan to kill.  The tenants threw the son out of the vineyard and the soldiers killed Jesus outside Jerusalem.  "When the landowner comes he will bring those wretches to a wretched end and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time." - Matt. 21:41.  Harvest time is when Jesus comes again and the wicked will perish.  The other tenants here are the Gentiles. Since the Jewish nation rejected Jesus, God would allow the Gentiles share in His inheritance.

Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures:  The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes?  Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.  He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed." - Matt. 21:42-44.  The Stone and the Capstone is Jesus.  "He is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone." - Acts 4:11.  When the leaders heard this, they knew He was talking about them.  God had revealed their pride.  They were so mad that they looked for a way to arrest Him, but were afraid of the crowd because it was Passover time and didn't want to cause any problems. 

Are you worried what other people think about you as you follow Jesus?
Will you be ready when the harvest time comes?

Principles: 
Anyone who rejects God's Son will receive God's judgment.
To be God's servant we must obey.

Matthew 22:1-14 - The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

Jesus spoke again in a parable saying the kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.  The king sent his servants to invite guests to the banquet, but they refused to come.  Then he sent more servants to tell the guests to come, but they paid no attention to them.  They seized his servants and mistreated them and killed them.  The king was enraged and sent his army and destroyed the murders and burned their city.  Since the guests he invited would not come, he told his servants to go to the streets and invite anyone they find.  The servants gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad and the banquet was filled with guests.  When the king saw a man who was not wearing wedding clothes, he threw him outside into the darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.  "For many are invited, but few are chosen." - Matt. 22:14.

The kingdom of heaven is like a wedding banquet, a very joyous and festive place.  God wants to share His joy with us.  God is the king.  His son is Jesus.  The invited guests were the Israelites.  The religious leaders did not listen to Jesus' messages. They tried to find ways to discredit Him.  They also did not listen to the prophets.  They didn't love or fear the king.  The servants are the prophets and apostles sent out by God.  The continual rejection of God's loving invitation cannot be forgiven.  It is blaspheme of the Holy Spirit.  The king sent judgment and punishment upon them.  He didn't cancel the banquet, because God has a plan.  The people on the street were ordinary people.  They are the Gentiles, tax-collectors, prostitutes, and common sinners.  When the Jews rejected Jesus, He went to the Gentiles.  These people did nothing to be invited.  The offer of free salvation is presented to the whole world.  We are all invited, but few will come. 

God has a plan for mankind and He sticks to it.  God is King then, now and forever more.  God is sovereign.  People reject God's Son, Jesus because they have the wrong priorities.  They are attracted and attached to the world.  They doubt His love and don't trust Him.  Man has a sinful heart and has a tendency to sin.

As for the man without the proper wedding clothes, we are to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14).  The man is an example of someone who is indifferent to the gospel.  He came to make an appearance and to eat the king's food.  His heart had no love for the king or his son.  The man refused to wear the wedding clothes so the king put him out into darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 23:13).  In other words, in Hell where there is no light and without the presence of God.  Apart from God is only despair.  "For many are invited, but few are chosen." - Matt. 22:14.  God invites all people to come, but few people completely accept the invitation to enjoy a place where God rules.

How are you indifferent toward the gospel?
Do you think of God only once or twice each week or when you are in trouble or need something?
Will you ask Him to renew your thinking and make Him the center of your life?
Have you excepted Christ's invitation?

Principles:
Apart from God there is only despair.
God invites all into His kingdom.

Wow what lessons.  See you for the next lessons in Matthew.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Matthew 19:23-30; 21:1-17

Matthew 19:23-30 - Riches and Rewards

Alter Jesus told the rich young ruler he had to give up everything in order to follow Him, He said it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  The disciples then asked, "Who then can be saved?" - Matt. 19:25.  Jesus explained how difficult it is for a rich man to be saved.  "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." - Matt. 19:26.  Man cannot be saved by his own means, whether he is good or not.  Only God can save.  It's through Jesus' death and resurrection.  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." - Eph. 2:8-9.  Again, it's all about the heart.

We see truth in these verses in our culture today.  People work hard for their possessions and don't want to give them up.  They are never satisfied and want more and more stuff.  Social status and wealth is more important than God.  Yes, it is hard for any to enter the kingdom of heaven and we can't do it alone.  Only God can bring people to Him.  All we can do is keep praying and setting a good example for others.

Jesus gave the disciples a wonderful promise.  "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses and brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." - Matt. 19:28-30.

Jesus knew it was extremely difficult to give up everything, but He promised them He would reward His faithful followers in this life as well as in the future life.  When He ascends His earthly throne, they would sit on thrones and judge the 12 tribes of Israel.  In 1 Cor. 2:9-10 - "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him."   

Those who give up something for His sake, Christ promises:
Mark 10:29-30 - to expect persecution. 
Rom. 8:17-18  - to share in His suffering.
1 Tim. 3:12 - if we live godly lives, we will be persecuted.
1 Peter. 2:19-21 -to be commented if we suffer.
1 Peter 4:12-13 - to rejoice and not be surprised when we go through trails.

God brings joy and reward to Christ's followers today.  We have the hope and assurance of the eternal life to come.  We know Him as our provider, protector, our healer, and our friend.

Principles: 
With God all things are possible.
God rewards those who love and follow Him.

Matthew 20:1-19 -The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

This parable are about people that are recruited for salvation at various times in life.  Some are saved early in life and some in midlife and some at the end of their life.  Is it about how God will reward His people.  Eternal life is by God's grace alone and not by any works done by us, yet we will receive rewards for what we do.

Jesus taught the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner.  The landowner hired workers at the beginning of the day and agreed to pay them a denarius for the day.  At the 3rd hour he saw others standing around doing nothing.  He hired them for a denarius for the day's work.  At the 6th, 9th, and 11th hour he did the same.  When evening came to pay the workers, the landowner paid each worker the agreed wage of a denarius.  Those who worked all day expected more pay than those who worked only part of the day and began to grumble.  The landowner said, "Didn't you agree to work for a denarius?  Take your pay and go.  I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you.  Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money?" - Matt. 20:14-15. 

The landowner is a picture of God and the vineyard His kingdom.  The workers are all who have heard the gospel and use their lives to work for Him.  A denarius represents eternal life.  The workers at the 11th hour are the Gentiles who God allowed into the kingdom after the Jews rejected Jesus.  God is the creator of all and it's His right to do want He wants.  He can save who He wants, when He wants, and how He wants.   He gives life to all that respond to Him whether they responded early in life or at an old age.  Knowledge or years of service does not earn you rank in God's kingdom and eternal life cannot be earned.  It is God's free gift through faith.  "For by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. " - Eph. 2:8-9.

The landowner saw them standing around doing nothing.  All work done outside the owner's vineyard is called doing nothing.  We will not get rewards for work done outside of Christ.  We can do all kinds of "church" work and nice compassionate things, but they mean nothing unless He calls us to do it and we give God the glory.

Luke 15:11-32 is the story of the lost son.  The two sons are like the workers of the landowner.  His older son worked and was faithful to his father all his life and thought he deserved more than his younger brother who had left home with his inheritance and squandered it all.  When the younger son returned home, his father welcomed him and treated him as if he had not left.  The older was angry with his father, because he had a big party and celebration at the younger son's return.  The father said to the older, "My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."  

The older son and the angry workers failed to see the grace given.  God's promises and rewards are for all.

God's grace is amazing!  If it were left up to us, we would say some people did not deserve heaven, because they didn't endure the struggles that we have.  God says everyone who repents and believes in Jesus has eternal life.  Remember, His ways are not our ways.  None of us deserve God's saving grace.

How do you display jealousy of others in your work place because you work harder?
What is your attitude toward God's grace to others?
Will you take those feelings to God and ask Him to change your heart?

Principle:  Jesus promises rewards for His true followers.

Matthew 20:17-30 - Jesus Predicts His Death

Jesus tells His disciples on their way to Jerusalem that He will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law.  They will condemn Him to death and hand Him over to the Gentiles.  He will be mocked and flogged and crucified.  Then on the 3rd day He will be raised to life!  Jesus never mentions the cross without mentioning the promise of His resurrection.  Jesus had told them this before, but He tells them again because the time is getting closer and still they did not really understand.

Why did He have to die?  "By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain,  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." - 1 Cor. 15:2-4.

What does this mean to us?  We will be accepted into God's kingdom living eternally in heaven with Him.  We have freedom from our sins.  This is possible through Jesus' death on the cross and His resurrection.

The mother of James and John asked Jesus for her 2 sons to sit on Jesus right and left in His kingdom.  Jesus then asked her sons, "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?" - Matt. 20:22.  They answered, yes.  He told them they would indeed drink from His cup, but to sit on the right and was left up to God.  The cup is His suffering and death.  Jesus was saying that they needed to participate in His suffering.  They really didn't understand.  "Awake, awake, Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger."  - Is. 51:17.  At the cross Jesus suffered God's judgment in our place.  He took on our sins.  

James was the first of the apostles to be killed and John was exiled to the island of Patmos and suffered, because of His witness for Jesus.  He eventually was killed in Rome.

When the other 10 disciples heard about James and John wanting to sit by Jesus in His kingdom, they became indignant.  They wanted high seats, too.  Jesus called them together, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." - Matt. 20:25-27.  Again Jesus teaches the meaning of spiritual greatness.

Principle:  There is a cost to follow Jesus.

Matthew 20:29-34 - Jesus Heals the Two Blind Men

The crowds kept following Jesus everywhere He went.  Two blind men were sitting by the road and head Jesus was going by.  They shouted, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" - Matt. 20:30.  Jesus stopped and ask what he wanted and again they repeated the same thing.  The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they continued to ask that Jesus restore their sight.  Jesus had compassion on them and immediately they received their sight and followed Him.

What do you want Jesus to do for you?
Have you ever cried, "Save me" to God?
Have you ever confessed Jesus to be your Lord?
 
There is a lesson here for us.  Do not be discouraged.  Keep praying.  Do not let anyone stop you from worshipping, witnessing, and following Jesus.

Principle: God is always there for us when we call out to Him.

Matthew 21:1-17 - The King is Coming!

As they approached Jerusalem He sent two disciples to the village ahead to find a donkey tied there with her colt.  They were to untie them and bring them to Jesus and if anyone says anything, they were to say the Lord needs them.  They were to do exactly what Jesus told them.  God's Word would be fulfilled if they obeyed.  "Say to the Daughter of Zion, See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." - Matt. 21:5; Zech. 9:9.  This seems to indicate Jesus probably knew the owner of the donkey and the owner was a believer.  As Jesus' disciples today, we are to do exactly what we are told.  The disciples did exactly what they were told and brought the donkey and colt to Jesus.  Donkeys were not good for war.  Jesus was not riding in on a horse as conquering king would ride.  He was riding in on a donkey representing humility.  He as declaring His kingship as humbly and gentle.

The Lord doesn't really need anything, but He needed the donkey to fulfill prophecy.  God needs people today to further the gospel.  He needs men and women to live for Christ.  There is a high cost for devotion.  "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." - Luke 9:23-24.

The crowds recognized Jesus as Messiah as He approached Jerusalem.  They gave Him adoration and praise and placed their cloaks on the donkey and colt and on the road.  Others placed tree branches on the road and went ahead of Jesus shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!" - Matt. 21:9; Ps. 118:26.  Hosanna means save in Hebrew.  Previously Jesus had prohibited such public displays, but not His hour had come.

We celebrate this entering to Jerusalem as Palm Sunday.  Palm Sunday was as day of compliance, acceptance, cleansing, healing and praise.  The King is coming!

Who is Jesus to you?
How do you give Jesus adoration and praise?
How do you praise and honor Jesus?
 
Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were buying and selling there and using religion as a means of crooked gain.  He overturned the tables of the money changers.  "My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers." - Matt. 21:13; Jer. 7:11. 

Each believer is the temple of God and the Holy Spirit dwells inside of us.  "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you" - 1 Cor. 3:16.  Sometimes, we need the same cleansing.  We are to praise God.  We are to pray and do God's will.  We have allowed other things to rob God of a place in our lives.  Sometimes we allow dishonesty, fear, pride, anger, self-will, unforgiveness, stubbornness, bad attitudes, or impure thoughts to enter our minds and hearts.  Jesus removed what was offensive in the Jerusalem temple and we need to allow Him to cleanse our temples, too.

Do you have impure thoughts and desires in your heart?
How will you rid yourself of these?
Will you let Him cleanse you?
What sins will you name before Him?
 
Principle:  Christians follow their King with praise and honor.

Just as Jesus cleansed the temple, He cleanses all who belong to Him.  Will you confess you sins before Him and receive His promised cleansing?  He has rewards waiting for you.
 
Wow!  More great lessons from God in Matthew.  See you next week.