A Just Balance

Today’s Reading: Matthew 17

At the end of Matthew chapter 17 something very interesting to happens. At least interesting to me, I hope you will find it interesting and profitable too. It starts when “they that received tribute money” came to Peter to ask of Jesus “Doth not your master pay tribute?” (Matthew 17:24)

When Peter came to Jesus to inquire of him on this matter. Jesus spoke before Peter and asked him:

What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? (Matthew 17:25)

Peter answered “Of strangers.” That is, they tax not those of their own family but those outside their house.

Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. (Matthew 17:26)

Some think this was Jesus making it clear that because He was the Son of God the tax does not apply to Him. This is why some believe the tax matter was a temple tax and not a civic tax.

Jesus then said “notwithstanding”, which I take to mean some version of, even though I am not required too. Then Jesus said “lest we should offend them” and then proceeded to describe the precise manner in which they would procure the tribute money for payment.  

At first glance the phrase “lest we should offend them” could be taken as a reinforcing statement of what Jesus first said; “notwithstanding”. In this case the “them” would be referring to the tax collectors. Instead though, let us consider for a moment that the “them” was actually in reference to the strangers that Peter mentioned. If this were the case, I think the statement may be more linked to the manner in which they are procuring the payment and not a repetitive statement describing why they are in fact going to pay. After all Jesus just got done explaining why they did not need to. So, if it is in fact about how they are going to procure the payment, the question then became for me, why is this so important? For that answer I turn back to Jesus’s explanation, “Lest we should offend them.” And this is where it got so interesting to me. 

Here is what I think we may be seeing. Coming up with the money to pay the tax is certainly not a problem for Jesus. I think it is reasonable to say He could have done it in any number of ways. One thought is that he would simply lift His hand up to the sky and ask for it to be created. But the issue with creating is that it wouldn’t be fair.

Creating money in any system and increasing the money supply is simply stealing from those who hold money. It is debasing the currency, which basically means everyone else’s money would than be worth less. God pronounces this as a curse and judgement in Isaiah 1:22. Instead, I think Jesus in his sovereignty and absolute authority knew about a coin that no one had a claim to and commanded it brought to Peter. This way they would not offend anyone, or hurt anyone by decreasing the value of their coins, in paying the tax.

There is of course a strong possibility I am way off here. Perhaps reading too much into things. But on the other hand, perhaps this is why the manner in which they paid the tax was described in so much detail and why it was important for Jesus to break down who the groups involved in the tax were and how they all relate to each other. Perhaps it was to continue to lead us in the way we should go. To give us another example of God’s law applied to this world. For me, yet another reassurance that God is all knowing, all powerful, and above all. Praise God!

Here is a link to the scripture: Matthew 17:24-27

 

On Destiny

Today’s reading: Mark 2

This post started as a personal journal entry. I was uncertain on posting it. My hope is that my decision to post it publicly will be profitable for someone out there. Please excuse any lack of ‘flow’ here this was primarily a working document to aid me in testing a feeling I felt prompted by scripture to test:

In my estimation, the world’s version of the feeling:

  • A longing for greatness
  • A longing to have ‘impact’

In my estimation, the Christians’ version of the feeling:

  • A longing to hear “Well done good and faithful servant.”
  • A longing to make the most of the life God has given me.

The dilemma for me has been, ‘which feeling is real?’ Is the Christian version simply a rationalization of the world’s? The Bible tells us that man has a hard time discerning their own heart or motives. (Proverbs 20:5, Psalm 139:23-24, Psalm 51:10) This is the scary part. Our love for the LORD leads us to want to work hard for Him, but it seems that the harder we work, the faster we go, the further off the path we can find ourselves at a moment’s notice. 

At the root of these feelings, the truth to me seems to lie in questions of destiny. When I read two simple words from today’s reading, a command from Christ, the answer seems so simple, the words of our Savior; “Follow me.” From Mark 2:14.

What follows are reflections on questions that have helped me test my heart by working through what I believe (what the Bible declares) and how it relates to the feelings listed above in the context of destiny.

High or low views of self?

A high view of self or one’s destiny, in my estimation is cause for alarm. The pride of life is a tool of Satan, a lie that if believed in our hearts can lead to all sorts of usurping and troubles. (1John 2:16, Proverbs 4:23) Still a low view self or one’s destiny is also cause for alarm in my estimation, for this would lead to another set of lies. Believing one has no greatness in them leads to sloth, hopelessness and self indulgence.

What is the proper view of of self?

The proper view of self seems simple to find on its own. God created man, therefore God defines man. God defines each self. The proper view of self is then in Christ and His tidings of goodwill toward man. In other words, the proper view of self is defined in the good news.

How do these longings of destiny relate to the proper view of self?

It seems that these longings in destiny are righteous in Christ. Whereas the lies  in destiny are laid up in self without Christ. Put another way, the world’s definition of greatness is far different from Christ’s (Matthew 18:1-5). Usurping should be replaced with responding in love. Positioning replaced with being positioned by the Holy Ghost. Striving for greatness in the world replaced with striving for greatness in heaven. A proper view of self is that we are great, strong and rich in Christ but lowly, weak and destitute in self without Christ.

How can I maintain the proper view of self in relation to destiny? 

The image below is what formed in my mind from a line in C.S Lewis’ Mere Christianity,

“For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.” – C.S. Lewis

In my estimation, maintaining the proper view of self requires discernment of truth in God’s definition of self. One of the many schemes of the Devil seems to be wrapped up in man’s view of destiny of self; having one believe they hold the Christian view of destiny, yet maintaining the world’s. In this state, a consistent fear and worry about how the past will affect the future or how this or that in the future will keep one from their destiny seems to persist and distract from what one should be doing now to affect eternity.  

I have been taught that often when I am anxious or worried about projects I am working on it is likely because I have not committed them to the LORD. That I am being prideful and working for my own selfish interests. 

Destiny, when considered through this perspective of where time touches eternity, is more of a state of present abiding in Christ rather than a future uncertain state to be won. Our destiny is in Christ and has been won. We experience our destiny by abiding in Christ now.

The more I consider what opportunities from God lay before the present, the more I become obsessed with souls. The more I trust in the LORD, the more I focus on others and their eternity and let the rest go where it will. The more I stay focused on now, and how what I am doing now affects other’s eternities, the more peace I receive in my destiny and impact for Christ. 

O that I might abide in God and go in peace. Praise God that He makes righteous those who believe in Him! (Romans 10:10)

Painting: Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way by Emanuel Leutze

And Peter

Our prayers are with the LaFrance’s.

Yesterday’s post highlighted the tearing of the curtain and the final price that was paid in full for our sin. It represents an opportunity for closeness to God.

In today’s reading (Mark 16) the angel has a message for Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James to carry. He tells them to go and tell it to Jesus’s disciples ‘and Peter.’

When I read this I thought to myself ‘what an interesting way to address a group.’ Knowing that the selection of words was precise I began to wonder why ‘and Peter’? My thoughts went to the message. It’s my understanding that ‘angel’ means messenger. So I can presume this angel had a message. Further, that every message has intended recipients. Also, that carrying a message includes seeing it is received. Could it have been, to ensure the task was completed and all the intended recipients received the message, that special note needed to be made for Peter to know the message was for him as well? that the angel knew Peter would not include himself in the category of the disciples without this special inclusion?

If so, considering how Peter must have felt, reminds me of so much scripture that had yet to be revealed calling us to hold fast, (Hebrews 3:6, Hebrews 3:14, Hebrews 10:23, 1Thessalonians 5:21, Revelation 2:25, Revelation 3:3) remain salty, (Matthew 5:13, Mark 9:50, Luke 14:34) and overcome in the face of trails. (Romans 12:21, James 1:21, 1John 5:4) Praise God for His Word! It encourages me that we need not be perfect to be useful to God more that we need not try to do it on our own. Such a burden would certainly leave one feeling like they had fallen from the graces of God at the slightest misstep. Knowing that perhaps, Peter struggled with a lie that his poor performances may disqualify him from God’s service is a good reminder that I need to cling to these scriptures.

Indeed we have been purchased in our imperfection. God, knowing the future value, decided on the price and it was highest. By His grace and mercy we are made useful to Him. I’m reminded of a study on the armor of God. Specifically, the shoes.

And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; – Ephesians 6:15

To make ready for battle in the good news that we have made peace with God. We have made peace with God and so we are on God’s side. God is with us! He will not leave us. We should not be without this peace when working for the LORD and fighting the good fight. (Ephesians 6:10) The truth stays us and gives us firm footing to complete the work God has given us to do. (Isaiah 41:13, Psalm 27:1, John 16:33, Romans 8:17-18, 1Corinthians 15:57, Philippians 4:13)

God has given us His armor. May we all use it well. Amen.

 

Photo: Raphael – Christ’s Charge to Peter

Salvation On A Curve

Today’s reading: Luke 13

Jesus is an incredible teacher. He has so much to reveal but it always seems that He waits for the perfect time to do it. Often in response to a question. His ‘answers’ to questions seem to get right to the root of what is really going on. I feel like the space between the question and the answer is often where I find a lesson.

In today’s reading Jesus was asked, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” 

In my estimation, in the space between the question and the answer here Jesus redirects the questioner’s thinking away from comparison and towards personal faith. Almost as if to say, ‘look, it doesn’t matter how many will be saved. What matters is that you be one of them.’ Comparison is empty. Salvation has nothing to do with out doing anyone. Salvation is not on a curve with our peers. We can not gauge salvation by looking to the culture. Praise God, He has revealed to us the truth and the truth stands alone as the standard, unchanging, never moving, the rock of our salvation.

Glowing Box

Imagine a box in a dark room. Inside the box is a source of light that makes it glow. Now a pinhole is made in the box. The pinhole in the box gives off a thin beam of light piercing through the darkness of the room. You move to align your eye with the beam of light to peer inside the box. What you see, you see clearly, yet you can not see all the contents of the box, only what is within your field of view from the hole. What is shown is shown clearly but not all is shown. This is how I have come to understand a parable to reveal the truth. John 16 tells us that while Jesus revealed the truth in parables, He will send the Spirit that will open up the box completely and reveal truth plainly.

John 16 tells us that while Jesus revealed the truth in parables, He will send the Spirit that will open up the box completely and reveal truth plainly.

I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. – John 16:25

The word here translated as ‘figures of speech’ is paroimiais in the greek. Some versions translate this word as figurative language, some as allegories, some as proverbs and some as parables. A paroimiais is a pointed but veiled statement. Throughout His entire ministry, Jesus spoke in mashal which is the Hebrew word for the same veiled but pointed statements. These parables are very clear illuminations of the truth but they purposefully leave much hidden. (Luke 8:10)

An interesting fact, Jesus taught in parables, but from this point forward, from the end of the Gospels on, no one else ever gives a parable. After the cross, the resurrection, the ascension, and after the coming of the Holy Spirit, everything is unveiled. Everything is given to us plainly.

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. – John 16:12-13

When I think of the disciples being given one parable after another, I think of our glowing box and their having another hole made for them to see in. Their box had many holes from all of Jesus’s parables. So much truth yet so much truth still veiled. 

Now imagine our box again. The four vertical corners of the box are split. The box now completely opened up, lays flat on the ground. Everything inside the box is now perfectly visible and accessible.

The Spirit has given us the perfect account of Jesus ministry in the Gospels, the beginnings of the delivery of His promises in His Church from Acts, the clear and plain explanation of His teaching we get from the theology from the epistles, and the complete unveiling of the future from Revelation. This is Jesus delivering on His promise to unveil all the truth. (John 14:26) This is the perfect and complete testimony of God revealed to us in Scripture. This is the box, the truth, completely opened and accessible to us.

God this morning we thank You for the gift of the New Testament and for revealing all the truth to us in plain ways. We praise You LORD God! God, we confess to not placing the proper value on Your revealed truth and ask that you would give us a strong desire to arm ourselves with your revealed truth and use it to Your glory. May Your Kingdom come LORD. On earth, as it is in Heaven. Amen.

 

A Lesson from the First Missions Trip

Some believe there is a reason that in this account of the first great missionary move of the church there is both the presence of a false convert and a true believer. Perhaps one of the lessons here is that this is a reality of ministry. (Matthew 13:24-30)

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ unto them. (Acts 8:5) After hearing and seeing the miracles, Simon, the Sorcerer, having in the same city proclaimed to be great and having been given heed as the same, believed and was baptized proclaiming Christ. (Acts 8:9-13) Simon the Sorcerer, after witnessing a new miracle, the laying on of hands by the apostles that the believers might receive the Holy Spirit, desired this power for himself and offered to pay the disciples to procure it. (Acts 8:18-19) The Apostles exposed him as false and rebuked him. (Acts 8:20-23)

Here we see the intention of Simon’s heart. Apparently he was not interested in God because solely because he loved God in the true sense of the word, that is; loving someone for what you can do for them, but instead, for a selfish, lustful desire, that is; “loving someone” for what they can do for you. He seemingly was not interested in God except that he might procure the power of God. Except that he might then use this power for himself and sow to the flesh more and more. (Galatians 6:7-8) In this case, Simon the Sorcerer seemed interested in the power of God to fuel his prideful quest of being great among the people. It was found out that is was really all about him and not God.

Perhaps some good questions to reflect on and return to:

  • Do we love God for what we can do for Him (serve Him) or are we more interested in what He can do for us? Are we more interested in God or His stuff (blessing, etc.)? In your heart (your deepest and most subtle desires); Are you for God or is God for you? ‘For’ here being in the useful sense of the word. 
  • Do we love others for what we can do for them or what they can do for us?

Painting: Rembrandt, The Baptism of the Eunuch, 1626

Testimony 101

During Paul’s time in Israel, the law was that capital punishment was reserved for the Roman government, except for one condition. The Jewish religious leaders could execute a prisoner if the prisoner desecrated the Temple. Now Paul did not do anything to desecrate the Temple but since this was the only way to kill him they manufactured an accusation that he did.

Even though it was not the law that inviting a gentile into the temple was a capital punishment crime, their accusation that Paul had done this was a way to extended the requirements for capital punishment to Paul by association. That is, he brought a gentile into the Temple and the Gentile desecrated it so, therefore, Paul caused the Temple to be desecrated and so we can kill him. To put it simply they were out to take Paul’s life.

This is a tough situation to be in, yet Paul’s heart focused on the mob and desired to see them saved. To this end, he delivered His testimony.

And from this account we find a playbook for how he gave his testimony:

  1. He accepted the situation was from God.
  2. He created an opportunity to give his testimony. 21v37 & 40
  3. He did what he could to create common ground and win his audience.  22v1-5 &12
  4. He exalted the LORD so that if the people rejected, they were rejecting God, not him. He made it all about God, not him. 22v6-11
  5. He avoided suffering. (this was a particularly interesting point. 22v25 (The sermon below talks about how Paul didn’t have what the pastor called a ‘martyr complex’)
  6. Love governed his attitude. Throughout he was focused on what he could do for the mob.

 

I often listen to sermons to prepare for these posts. These 6 points are from Paul’s Arrest Part Four: the Attitude of Paul by John MacArthur