Showing posts from January, 2024

The Attitude of a Slave

The Attitude of a Servant Philippians 1:1-2 “Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus.”               We live in a culture where the mantra is personal empowerment and entitlement. One can even attend a three-day “Culture of Empowerment Conference.”  The conference aims “to enhance practical skills and build insights among a community of practitioners striving for a culture of empowerment within their organizations.”  The movement towards empowerment promotes “taking control of your life and making positive decisions based on what you want.”  If one were to pick a theme song for this movement, it would be Frank Sinatra’s popular hit, “My Way.”  If things do not go the way we want, we feel cheated and mistreated. Indeed, there is a place for helping people who are abused and mistreated by others.  Nevertheless, Paul gives us a different perspective regarding our personal autonomy and control demands.             In the letter to the Philippians, Paul begins with his salutation an

Living a Life of Significance

A New Mission Matthew 28:16-20 “To therefore and make disciples of all nations.”               What is your life purpose and goal?  What would it say if you were to write down three or four sentences that you would like to be known for at the end of your life? The greatest tragedy is that often people stand at the end of their lives and discover that they have spent their lives pursuing the insignificant.  The measure of a successful life is what we have accomplished that has eternal rather than temporal consequences.               In his final words to the disciples before his ascension, Christ realigns their priorities and gives them a purpose and calling with eternal value.  Commonly referred to as the “great commission,” this mandate is not only for all followers of Jesus but also serves to realign our whole purpose for life.  But this mandate is not just for missionaries and pastors; it is for all the followers of Jesus.  The task is simple in its mandate but profound in its impli

The Reality of the Resurrection

The Proof of the Resurrection Matthew 28:57-28:15 “Therefore give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third da, otehrwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, He has risen from the dead, and the last deception will be worse than the first.             Everything in Christianity hinges upon the resurrection.  It is the one event that distinguishes Christianity from every other religion.  Every other religion is based upon the teaching of an individual who has long since died.  But only Christianity is grounded upon the teaching of a person who has returned from the dead.  It is the linchpin.  If the resurrection of Christ is a myth or a fairytale, then all of Christianity is a hoax.  Paul affirms this when he writes, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, and your faith is vain…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless, and you are still in your sin” (1 Corinthians 15:14-19).  This brings us the the crucial q

The Cure for Sin

The Cure for Sin “And Behold the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.”               The moment Christ died, three critical events happened, events that served to foreshadow what Christ accomplished on the cross.  The cross was more than a story of a righteous man dying unjustly for a just cause.  Jesus went to the cross to pay the penalty for sin.  His death was more than just an example of one who was living for God no matter the cost.  It was a vicarious death.  In other words, Christ was dying in our place to pay the penalty for the sins we have committed.  It was a judicial act that satisfied the justice of God.              In the three events that simultaneously happened, we have pictured the significance of Christ’s death for the world.  The first thing that occurred was that the temple's veil was torn in two from top to bottom. When the temple was built part of the mandated requirements was that a heavy veil b

The Cost of Sin

The Cost of Sin Matthew 27:45-50 “And behold the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth shook, and the rocks were split.”               What happened on the cross?  What is so significant about the cross that it is the defining moment of history? We know the story well, but in many ways, we never can fully grasp the importance and significance of what Christ did.  Part of the reason we do not fully understand the importance of the cross is that we fail to understand the full depth of our sin. While acknowledging that sin is wrong, we minimize it and even justify it. However, on the cross, we see the total weight of the vileness of our sin.             The first significant statement that points us to the insidiousness of our sin is found in verse 46.  The statement Jesus makes was misunderstood by those who heard it.  They misinterpreted Jesus’ statement to be a cry for Elijah. So often, we mistake these words as a mere cry of anguish.  But the statement i

The Irony of the Crucifixion

The Irony of the Crucifixion Matthew 27:27-44 “He saved others; He cannot save himself.  He is the King of Israel; Let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in him.”               The crucifixion of Jesus is a story that most people are familiar with.  From movies to celebrations of Easter, the story has been told and rehearsed even in popular culture.  Many people see the cross as an important symbol of our religious history.  This is evidenced by the number of people who wear the cross as a piece of Jewelry.  Yet, as familiar as we are with the story and the events, we often overlook or minimize the significance of the cross.  Ironically, it is on the lips of the very people that put him on the cross that affirm who Jesus was and why he was on the cross.             First, we have the Roman soldiers.  In preparation for his crucifixion and their mockery, they took off the clothes of a pauper and placed upon him clothing of scarlet and purple (see Mark’s gospel), which

The Pressure of the Crowd

The Pressure of Popular Opinion Matthew 27:11-26 “And all the people said, ‘His blood shall be on us and our children!”               The hardest thing to do is stand alone when the crowds are against you.  The question that often confronts us is how the crowds could go from proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah five days later to shouting for his crucifixion. The answer lies in the pressure of the crowds.             The Jews did not have the authority to execute anyone.  To legally execute someone, they had to go through the governing authorities, which were the Romans, and follow Roman law.  Therefore, they needed Pilate to sign the execution order.  When they brought Jesus to Pilate, Pilate quickly saw that the accusations against Jesus were bogus.  Although Jesus may be guilty of violating some Jewish law, He had done nothing that warranted a death sentence.               As Pilate weighs his options, his wife sends him a message that she also affirms Jesus’ innocence.  In a bit of iro

Remorse, Repentance, and Forgiveness

Remorse, Repentance, and Forgiveness Matthew 26:69-27:10 “And he went out and wept bitterly”               As the trial of Jesus now takes center stage in the writings of Matthew, Matthew moves from the center stage to two bystanders:  Peter and Judas.  As we read the narrative of Jesus’ arrest and trial, the unexpected focus on Peter and Judas seems to be an intrusion. However, Matthew moves from the center stage to these individuals to give us an example of the essential difference between repentance and regret.             First, he focuses on Peter.  We know the story well.  Peter is lurking in the shadows to see what would happen to Jesus in the trial.  While all the other disciples fled and hid in fear, Peter remained in the shadows to discover what would occur.  As he was standing outside the palace of Caiaphas, Peter was confronted by several servant-girls and bystanders who recognized him as a follower of Jesus. Consequently, they confronted Peter and questioned him about his

The Unlikely Witness of Jesus' Diety

The Unlikely Witnesses of Jesus Deity Matthew 26:57-68 “He had blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy?”               The prosecutor, the judge, and the jury were already rigged against the defendant.  In their minds, he was already guilty and worthy of death.  What they could not agree upon was the accusation.  While they had already decided the sentence, they needed some semblance of law and order.  They needed a viable accusation.  As a result, they brought in many false witnesses who made accusations against Jesus.  The text does not tell what the charges were.  We know that the high priests, to get a conviction from Pilate, made the false accusation of insurrection.  Whatever these accusations were, they could not stand up to the scrutiny of public opinion.              In their search for a reason to justify Jesus' conviction, two individuals came forward and accused him of stating that he would destroy the temple of Go

Betrayal, Bravado, and Fear

Betrayal, Bravado, and Fear Matthew 26:47-56 “Then all the disciples left Him and fled.”               When we look at the arrest of Jesus, we often focus on Jesus, and rightfully so, for he remains the central point of all scripture.  However, looking at the disciples' responses is also helpful, for we often see ourselves in them.  When we look at the disciples, we see ourselves, for they were not exceptional men.  They were not super saints who were called because of their profound faith and character.  They were ordinary people who had lived everyday lives until Jesus confronted them with the calling to be his disciples.  Even when they responded to the invitation, they had little idea what was in store.               When the large crowd descended upon them in the garden of Gethsemane, their world collapsed.  Everything they believed suddenly came crashing down upon them.  In the story, we first encounter Judas. Judas suddenly reappears after leaving Jesus and his fellow discip

The Act of Inexplicable Love

The Act of Complete Love Mathew 26:36-46 “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”               In reading the gospels, we naturally focus on the deity of Christ.  Jesus was fully God come in the flesh.  Yet in Philippians 2 we discover that Jesus was not only fully God, but he was also fully human.  The wonder and inexplicable reality was that Jesus not only was fully God, but he fully embraced our human nature.  He was fully God and fully man.  Yet, during his time on earth, he voluntarily limited the divine exercise of his character and rights as God.  We see his humanity and voluntary limitations when he becomes hungry and thirsty. We see his humanity in the humble birth in a lowly stable.  Yet, in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see the fullness of his humanity.  Confronted with the horror of the cross, we see Jesus distressed.               The Garden event begins with Jesus going to be alone in prayer.  Yet he was not alone, for

Betrayal and Redemption

The Last Super: Betrayal and Redemption Matthew 26:20-30 “For this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sin.”               We can only imagine the atmosphere in the room as Jesus and the disciples celebrated the Passover. Typically, it would have been a time of great celebration and joy as they celebrated God’s deliverance of Israel from the bondage of slavery.  But this time, it was different.  The shadow of Christ’s impending death descended upon the room.  Then, when Jesus informed the disciples that one of them would betray Jesus, they were shocked and distraught. It must have been shocking to the disciples that one of them would do such a thing.  However, we can only imagine the absolute shock it must have been for Judas for Jesus to reveal that he knew Judas’ plot.  It was hardly a night of celebration.             However, amid the melancholy that filled the room that night, Jesus institutes a new celebration that will be remembered by al

Rejection, Confusion, Betrayal, and Worship

Rejection, Confusion, Worship, and Betrayal Matthew 26:1-19 “For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial.               The critical time had come.  The whole life of Jesus had been moving in a direction that would ultimately culminate in this event.  Why Jesus came, and everything he taught was governed and directed by the events that would now take place.  As the critical time came, we found four responses from those associated with the story.             The first we find is the rejection of the religious leaders.  Of all the people who had interacted with Jesus and listened to his message, the one group that should have been most receptive was the most opposed to Christ.  The religious leaders were not just religious men; they were the experts of the law.  They were the ones who carefully studied and dissected the Old Testament.  They knew all the prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. They had studied the failures of the Jews in the Old Testa

The Unpopular Topic

The Unpopular Topic Matthew 25:31-46 “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.             It is the least popular top discussed in Scripture.  When a pastor preaches upon it, we grumble and complain that he is negative and judgmental.  We spend more time trying to justify why we can ignore it than talking about how it should change our lives and perspectives.  The topic that we must strive to ignore and rationalize away is the judgment of God.             In Matthew 25:31-46, Christ concludes his final message with the warning of the certainty of God’s judgment.  When Christ returns, he will not only come to establish his kingdom but also bring judgment upon those who have rejected him.  Throughout the whole narrative, beginning in chapter 23, Christ has pointed out that there are two realms of existence, two groups of people:  Those who accept him and receive the reward for their faithful service and those who ignore his offer of salvation and

Christ's Measure of Success

God’s Measure of Success Matthew 25:14-30 “Well done, good and faithful slave.  You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”               In an age where numbers and accomplishments have become our measure of success, it is easy to get caught up in the obsession with accomplishment.  We measure everything by the results, which are determined by the final numbers.  For business, the bottom line becomes revenue and return.  We calculate a business leader's success by how large he grows the company and how much he increases the profits.  In sports, a coach is measured by his many wins and how far his team goes in the playoffs.  In today’s world, the question is never about “who is the person?”  The question is, “What has the person done?” In the world, achievement trumps character.             Tragically, we often bring the same mindset into the church.  Churches with increasing membership and extensive facilities a

The Danger of Spiritual Complacency

The Danger of Spiritual Complacency Matthew 25:1-13 “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day or the hour.”               What is the greatest threat to our spiritual life?  Some might think that the greatest threat involves committing some abhorrent sin.  Others might point to idolatry.  Others might point to worldliness or open rebellion against God.  For some, it would be the repudiation of the scriptures as the final authority of life and godliness. These actions reveal a heart of unbelief and rejection of God that will result in judgment.   Yet, there is an attitude that is far more insidious and dangerous.  It is a significant threat because it gives us a false sense of security before God.  It feeds our hunger for our spiritual soul but leaves us empty in our faith.  The greatest threat to our spiritual life is spiritual complacency.  It comes when we think that because we are good, we are good enough.             In the parable of the ten virgins, Christ points to the

The Importance of Spiritual Preparedness

The Importance of Spiritual Perspective.  Matthew 24:42-51 “DThrefore be on the alert, for you d not know which day your Lord is coming.”               Not focusing on the future will result in a wasted life in the present. In the mundane of the day, it is easy to slip into a pattern of merely going through the day and living simply in the moment.  It is not that the days are wasted, for we are often devoted to suitable activities; it is just that we fall into the trap of focusing merely on the present needs and circumstances, and the priorities of our spiritual lives become pushed to the side. The routine supersedes the significance.             Having described the events leading up to his return, Jesus now points to the application.  Because he may return at any moment, we are to shift our focus from the daily repetition of life to a focus on the significance and implications of his return.  To illustrate his point, Jesus draws upon two illustrations.  The first illustration is the

The Uncertain Certainty

The Uncertain Certainty. “But of that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Matthew 14:36-41               The one question that has perplexed Christians throughout history is the date and timing of Christ’s return. Throughout the church's history, there have been those who sought to predict when Christ would return.  They argued with certainty that Christ would return on a specific date or year.  Not seeking to be too specific, others have sought to narrow it down to a date but have sought still to narrow it down to a particular decade or period. However, Christ points out that all such speculation is ultimately folly, for no one knows the timing of Christ’s return.             While Jesus warns us that no one knows the timing of Christ’s return, the greater danger is that we assume that Christ will not return. Time marches onward without interruption, so we begin to think that how things have been will continue.  The threat

The Certainty of Jesus' Words

The Foundational of Truth Matthew 24:32-35  “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away.”               The one certainty that we hold dearly to is the certainty of heaven.  It is the one hope upon which we base our lives.  When confronted with the reality of death and the transitory nature of life, we hold fast to the belief that God has something in store for us that is beyond this present life. But there is one thing that is even more certain, more unchangeable, and more undeniable than heaven itself: the words of Christ.              In the previous verses, Jesus described the impending judgment that will come before his return.  Yet this is the one thing that many people reject today.  Everyone affirms the love and grace of God.  We all agree that God is merciful and provides heaven for his followers.  However, bring up the justice and judgment of God, and people will refuse to believe that Jesus would eternally condemn people to Hell.  They want a God who sav