Religion

Jewish religion is fulfilled by Jesus, God with us

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Read: Matthew 12

“I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would have not condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:6-8)

Reflect:

Jesus is greater than the temple. Up until this time, the temple was the symbolic dwelling place of God, the ritual meeting place of God with his people. But now: Immanuel! God was with his people in person.

Again, Jesus hints at his identity with a reference to Hosea 6:6, which calls God’s people to acknowledge him. It is God whose presence makes the temple great, not the other way around.

Jesus is greater than the Sabbath. He is Lord of the Sabbath, in authority over it. At this time, the Sabbath had become not so much a designated period of rest but a time to be cautious of all that was forbidden on that day. But now: Immanuel! God, who instituted the Sabbath at the time of creation, was with his people.

Jesus was able to establish “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (12:12). If the Pharisees acknowledged God as Hosea and Jesus admonished them to, they would not condemn people innocent of wrongdoing, people who did good on the Sabbath. They too would find their rest and peace in Jesus.

crux:

Jewish religion (both place and practice) is fulfilled by Jesus, God with us.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You designed the temple and provided the materials and the skilful, Spirit-filled workers to build it. You ensured the tabernacle erected in Moses’ time would be replaced by the temple Solomon caused to be built. You brought Ezra, Nehemiah, Zechariah, Joshua and Zerubbabel back from exile to rebuild a temple for your glorious name. You even used Herod, an ungodly Idumean, to redecorate your temple and make it shine with gold.

Yet all this was just building up to the time when your Son Jesus Christ would dwell in the Promised Land, when he would talk face-to-face with your chosen people, when he would bring joy and healing with his very presence.

LORD, help me to feel this same joy. You know I am tired today, but my physical weakness has no bearing on my spiritual strength.

Help me to focus on Jesus and all he has done and won for me: my election and regeneration, my justification and adoption, the indwelling of the Spirit within me and my new life in Christ, my sanctification and the glorification for which I look forward with hope. These are true treasures, far greater than the temple.

Amen.

Miraculous

The miracles of Jesus prove that he is the Messiah

Read: Matthew 11

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see.” (Matthew 11:2-4)

Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. (Matthew 11:20)

Reflect:

Having spoken to his twelve chosen disciples and completed their Basic Training (Matthew 10), Jesus now faces the responses of other people to his teaching and preaching.

Word had spread to John the Baptist, imprisoned for his own politically incorrect preaching. John, perhaps not unreasonably given his circumstances, had begun to doubt his own prophetic ministry. Had it all been a mistake to preach repentance and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ?

Jesus said John must not look to his own situation, but instead look to Jesus and see in Jesus the fulfilment of John’s prophetic message. As John found out more and more about the miraculous deeds Jesus was performing, he would stop questioning his own downfall and start appreciating Jesus’ glory. This is good advice for anyone who doubts God because of the issue of suffering: look instead to Jesus and you will find comfort.

On the other hand, Jesus condemned the people who had witnessed his miracles and yet had not put their faith in him. The more someone knows about Jesus, the more God will hold them accountable for their rejection of him. This doesn’t mean that people who haven’t heard the name of Jesus will be held guiltless – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But “woe” to those who have heard and seen, yet not repented nor believed. Their judgement will be even more dire.

It might seem harsh, but you, dear reader, need to know that this applies to you as you read this blog and see Jesus proclaimed here. It applies to anyone who has ever attended a church service, a Bible study, a Sunday School class, a Youth Group devotion time, a Scripture in School class, a Christmas Carols service. It applies to everyone who ever glanced at a Christian pamphlet handed to them in the street, or turned the other way when they caught the words of the street-corner preacher. It applies to people who grew up with Christian parents but went their own way when they left their parents’ home.

If you know even a smidgeon of the truth about Jesus and have chosen to reject him, then woe, indeed, to you.

crux:

The miracles of Jesus prove that he is the Messiah.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for making it plain and obvious that Jesus was your Son, your anointed King, the Messiah who was to come. Thank you for showing this truth to Matthew, to John the Baptist and his disciples, to the unrepentant towns of Bethsaida and Chorazin – and to me and to the readers of crux.live.

May your glory, the glory of Jesus the Messiah, be known through all the earth.

Please answer my doubts by your Word. Please calm my fears by your Counsellor. Please show me the sins of which I still need to repent.

Please keep my eyes on Jesus, so I will follow him as I marvel at his miracles. Please keep me faithful in my faith and unwavering in my belief, in my everyday ordinary life through all the hours, days, weeks and years until I die or Jesus returns.

Amen.

Likeness

A disciple of Christ manifests the likeness of Christ

Read: Matthew 10

“The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household.” (Matthew 10:24-25)

Reflect:

When I first became a Christian, I assumed it was blasphemous to seek to be like God. After all, isn’t that how the serpent tempted Eve when he told her, “when you eat from it … you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5)?

But then I was introduced to verses like these (10:24-25), where Jesus Christ clearly taught his disciples that they should be like him. Elsewhere, God directly says, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (Six times in Leviticus and twice in 1 Peter.) Paul’s advice is to imitate him (Paul) as he imitates Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1).

It is now apparent to me that where people seek, in their hubris, to make themselves like God through their own efforts (as Eve did), they sin. But where we respond to the call of Jesus to follow him, to follow his example, to be like our teacher and master Jesus Christ, to be holy as the LORD is holy… in this, there is no sin, only sanctification.

These verses and others like them are the reason part of my tagline at crux.live is live Christ.

In my character, I am to seek to live like Christ, with the Spirit’s help. In doing so, I should expect to be persecuted, just as my teacher and master was persecuted.

The wider the gulf between contemporary culture and Christ-like holiness, the more Christians will suffer persecution for their resemblance to Jesus. This is what is currently happening to Australian sportsman Israel Folau for his (biblically-based) social media comments. Persecuted Christians need to cling to Matthew 10:32, where Jesus promised, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”

crux:

A disciple of Christ manifests the likeness of Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Your Son was perfect and yet he was persecuted.
Jesus was sinless and still he was slandered.

May I give glory to Jesus Christ in my everyday ordinary Christian life. May I never be guilty of persecuting Christ, and never slander his name.

Please make me like Christ, my teacher and master. Make me compassionate and wise, confident and generous, merciful and hopeful. Make me shrewd and innocent. Help me to manifest Christ’s likeness in my everyday ordinary life.

Do not protect me from persecution, or else how will I know that I am like my teacher? But please, LORD, help me to endure whatever persecution comes and stand firm in my faith to the end. I pray this also for Israel Folau and for all who are criticised for their Christ-like holiness.

Amen.

Acknowledge

I go to the Scriptures to learn to acknowledge God

Read: Matthew 9

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13)

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6)

Reflect:

The Pharisees did not understand why Jesus had come. He was going about as a rabbi, calling people to be his disciples with the words, “Follow me” (9:9). Yet this Jesus was not selective, not discriminating in his choice of disciples as other rabbis must have been. Jesus called Matthew, a tax collector – a greedy Roman collaborator, the Pharisees probably thought – to follow him. The crowds who heard Jesus preach and saw him heal were filled with awe (9:7). If Jesus was setting himself up as a Rabbi among rabbis, why was he choosing a tax collector to be his disciple, then eating with Matthew’s notorious, deplorable associates?

The answer lay in Jesus’ mission. Jesus was there to help, so he met with those needing his help.

In response to the criticism of the Pharisees, Jesus quoted Hosea, who prophesied to an unrepentant people, to show that God values mercy (help for the helpless) above religious artifice. But Jesus’ rebuke was even more pointed than the obvious point that the Pharisees were unmerciful and unrepentant and in need of his help. He told the Pharisees to go and study this passage from Hosea.

If the Pharisees had gone to the writings of Hosea, they would learn that the passage called God’s people to acknowledge him:

“Let us acknowledge the LORD;
Let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains.” (Hosea 6:3)

The LORD had appeared, he had come to them: like winter rain for a parched land, like a doctor to the desperately ill, like a rabbi to the untaught rabble. The LORD had come to offer mercy and the Pharisees were too self-righteous, too enmeshed in their interpretation of the Law to acknowledge the God who fulfilled that Law.

crux:

I go to the Scriptures to learn to acknowledge God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I acknowledge you. You are God. Father, Son and Spirit. You are the LORD, the I AM, Yahweh.

I acknowledge Jesus Christ. I accept he exists and admit he is true.

I also acknowledge that I am a sinner in need of Jesus to justify me.

Thank you that Jesus called Matthew to be his disciple. Thank you for calling me to be Jesus’ disciple also.

May I follow Jesus as I read, reflect on and respond to the words Matthew wrote about his rabbi. May I learn, as Matthew learned, to acknowledge my God, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, my Saviour.

May I, like Matthew, open my house with hospitality so that others may come and meet Jesus and learn to acknowledge him as God.

Amen.

Expand

Limited by his humanity, Jesus was still able to expand the kingdom of God

Read: Matthew 8

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”

Reflect:

Jesus “was amazed.” I read those words and I’m a bit amazed myself. The word “amazed” has connotations of surprise or even shock. How can Jesus Christ, who is the Creator of all the universe, be surprised? How can He who knows all things be shocked?

The ESV says Jesus “marvelled,” which implies he felt a combination of admiration and astonishment. How can the Sovereign God be astonished? What has the Almighty LORD to admire?

I think the key to understanding this statement is to realise that Jesus was both divine and human. His humanity brought limitations upon his divinity. As Philippians 2:7 says of Christ Jesus, “he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Jesus’ human brain, with its finite number of neutrons, was unable to know all things. This was a temporary limitation due to his incarnation.

Crucially, it was the limitation of his divinity brought on by his incarnation that also ultimately enabled Jesus, the God-Man, to die.

Jesus was unable to know the centurion’s thoughts, and so Jesus was capable of being amazed by his faith. Yet Jesus still knew the plan of God to bring other Gentiles (as well as this one) from the east and the west into his kingdom, into the family of Abraham, and declared it in advance.

crux:

Limited by his humanity, Jesus was still able to expand the kingdom of God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are Almighty, all-powerful, Sovereign, omniscient. Yet your Son chose to humble himself, submitting to the limitations of human life in order to expand the bounds of his kingdom to all who have faith in him.

Thank you for the centurion’s faith in Jesus. May he continue to glorify your Name to all who read his story in Scripture.

Thank you for my faith in Jesus, for my husband’s faith in Jesus. Thank you for enabling us to hear the gospel at that long ago Alpha course, for removing the veil from our eyes so we would believe in Jesus as our Saviour. Thank you for bidding us come from the east into Jesus’ kingdom, to take our place at the banqueting table with the patriarchs of our faith.

Please grant this same amazing faith to our children, to our parents, and to the rest of our relatives. Please grant this marvellous faith to the adults and children who attend our church and to all in our local community. Reveal yourself to them that they may come from east and west to your celebratory feast. LORD, I pray especially for the people of the townships of T to our east and F to our west. Please grant that they may come and hear the good news of Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour, and they will be welcomed into your kingdom. May our church be faithful in proclaiming his Name. May our faith in Jesus amaze all who witness it.

Make them come, LORD.

Amen.

Discern

It is wrong to be judgemental, but discernment is right

Read: Matthew 7

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5)

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them.” (Matthew 7:15-16a)

Reflect:

Jesus’ words hold a conundrum. He tells the crowd not to judge. Yet he follows this up with a series of instructions for godly discernment.

Jesus says we need to judge ourselves, examine our own faults and failings before eradicating them. Only when we judge ourselves may we judge others in ways that help them. Jesus says we should judge others enough to determine if they are “dogs” and “swine” (words which may possibly have been cultural slurs for Gentiles and religiously unclean people). Then when we’ve judged we can decide whether the sacred would be wasted on them. Jesus says we should judge prophets, people who claim to speak God’s message. We are to judge them by their “fruit”, the results of their life and ministry. When we have judged them, we’ll know whether to listen to their words or reject their message.

All this judging is perhaps more correctly described as discernment – distinguishing between right and wrong, righteous and unrighteous. In all this discernment, we must be careful, because God will judge us just as harshly and strictly as we judge others.

crux:

It is wrong to be judgemental, but discernment is right.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You have set a plumb line in the heavens. Your Son said, “No one comes to the Father, except by me.” You say through the apostles, “No other name is given to men by which they must be saved.”

Your Son spoke of ferocious wolves, of weeds planted among wheat, of rootless plants that flourish briefly before falling away. Not all who claim to know you and say they speak truth do so. Please make me faithful, honest and righteous in all I say and do to glorify your name.

Please grant me discernment to know when to listen and when to block my ears.
Please grant me discernment to know when to agree and when to disagree.
Please grant me discernment to identify the planks in my own eye as well as any false prophets in my own denomination.
Please enable my discernment to be godly and wise.

Amen.

More

Devotion to God in all his glory means despising wealth with all its worries

Read: Matthew 6

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (Matthew 6:24-25)

Reflect:

A crowd has come to hear Jesus teach on a mountain, just as Moses once gathered the Israelites to hear God’s voice thundering from Mount Sinai.

Jesus asks the crowd, “Is not life more than food?” Of course life is more than food, but you’d never know it from the dozens of wanna-be-chef shows on TV; the hundreds of cook books on bookstore shelves; the decades many women spend dieting.

Jesus also asks, “Is not the body more than clothes?” Yet so many people today believe the body is not more than clothes, at least, not more then clothes and cosmetics. That’s why we have aphorisms like, ‘The clothes make the man.’ It’s why so many countries are allowing people to surgically alter their bodies to match the clothes they want to wear, whether it be through breast enlargement, stomach staple shrinking, or so-called gender-reassignment surgery. It’s why millions, probably billions of dollars is spent worldwide on advertising that is mostly aimed at making women think their body, clothes and cosmetics are inadequate.

Many people do actually seem to believe that the end goal of life is nothing more than to acquire delicious food and delightful clothes. Jesus disagrees.

Jesus says people who follow this life are worshiping an idol. These people are worshiping Money.* Jesus says there is another choice, a better choice.

I have chosen this better choice: to be devoted to God, to serve God, to love God. I consider money, food and clothes to be rubbish in comparison to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (just as Paul wrote in Philippians 3:8).

crux:

Devotion to God in all his glory means despising wealth with all its worries.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

It is tempting to go along with the sweeping tide of my surrounding culture, to be swept into building my life around the things money can buy, things my culture trains me to desire.

I like nice clothes. I like fine food. I appreciate living in a country where true poverty is rare. But LORD, I don’t want these things to be the foundation for my life. That isn’t a ‘good life’ at all.

I need my life to be built on the firm foundation Jesus Christ laid with his blood.

I need to find my satisfaction and enjoyment in your grace, your providential care, your loving-kindness to me.

Please help me, LORD, to love you and hate money. May I love you and not forget your benefits. May I love you and celebrate this glorious eternal life you have given me. May I love you and appreciate every spiritual blessing that you have given me in Christ. May I love you.

Amen.

 

Rhetorical Ramble:

That’s what the ‘therefore’ is there for, to link these two verses:

“You cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…”