Conflict is a part of life. Its reality. And, this is certainly the case with the Christian life. For those who follow Jesus, conflict is inevitable. Think about it. To say “yes” to Jesus necessarily means to say “no” to something else. Those who have said “yes” to Jesus have entered into his kingdom of light and grace, while those who have refused Jesus’ call to follow him remain in the kingdom of the world — a kingdom that is opposed to the kingdom of God. This is the theme of Matthew 10.
On The Job Experience
In the end of chapter 9, Matthew tells of the need for laborers to bring in the harvest of God’s grace. He begins chapter 10 with the commissioning of these laborers, the twelve apostles. Jesus gave them strict instructions to go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As they go, they will face rejection, hardship, and persecution. They will not be welcomed by all. They will suffer for the sake of the kingdom of God — for the sake of Christ, the one for whom they have gone. This journey will be hard. It will be one characterized by division. What a calling!
But, Jesus promises them grace as he sends them out. He instructs them to not be afraid, to not worry about what they will say in times of trouble and trial. They are to trust God’s provision and presence in their lives. They are to go in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ with his authority and act to accomplish his will. And, they are to be encouraged by the reality of the promised reward for those who remain faithful to the calling. They are to fear God, but not man.
This experience taught the disciples a great deal about dependance upon God’s provision and a life lived in reverent fear of Him. There are times in our lives when our fear of man outweighs our reverence of God. God becomes small and men become large. What men and women think and say about us carries more weight in our lives than what God thinks or says about us. Our reputations in the world are more valuable to us than our reputations before God.
The presence of conflict reveals this tendency in our lives. It shows us where we trust ourselves more than we trust God. It shows us where we are more concerned about what others think of us than what God thinks of us. It shows us where our standing in our community matters more to us than our standing with God. It shows us where we are or are not dependent upon God.
Three Action Items
1. Praise God for the conflicts and challenges of our lives today. Praise him for the brokenness. Praise him for revealing our weaknesses to us.
2. Repent from our sin of making much of men and little of God and turn to Jesus in reliance upon him in the midst of our challenges, hardships, sufferings, and persecutions.
3. Be about the Lord’s business. Go forth proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom of God in word and deed. Pray with someone today. Encourage someone with the truth of God’s word today.
I’m really starting to like this project. Reading through Matthew and processing the Scripture has challenged and encouraged my soul. I have noticed that I am developing a thirst for God’s word and the application of it in my life.
Accessibility and Assistance
When I read Matthew 9 today, two thoughts came to mind — accessibility to God’s kingdom and people introducing others to Jesus. Every one of the seven little stories of Jesus’ interaction with people that the chapter contains has to do with the accessibility of God’s kingdom through Christ. Jesus is accessible to the paralytic. Jesus is accessible to the tax collector. Jesus is accessible to John’s disciples. Jesus is accessible to the man with the ill daughter. You get the point. Jesus makes God’s kingdom accessible to men and women, to you and me. Because Jesus came, we are able to access God through him.
Also, I noted that many received healing and restoration from Jesus because someone brought and introduced them to him. Some people brought a paralytic to Jesus, and Jesus healed him. A father brought Jesus to his daughter, and Jesus healed her. Others positioned blind men by the path Jesus traveled on, and Jesus healed the blind men. Still others, brought a mute demon-oppressed boy to Jesus, and Jesus cast out the demons. People brought the ones they loved, those who were in need, those whom Jesus saw were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” to Jesus. Jesus is the one that people need. He is the only Savior of the world. He is the king of glory. People must be introduced to him, and we are the ones who are to make the introduction possible.
Encouragement and Challenge
I take an encouragement from chapter 9 for my life today. God’s kingdom is accessible to me because God made it accessible through Jesus. I can dome into God’s kingdom through faith at any time because of his grace in Christ Jesus. I am also challenged by the example of those who brought others to Jesus. It is my goal today to find at least one person in my life to introduce to Jesus in some way or another. May God grant me the grace to do it.
Matthew makes it abundantly clear that Jesus brought about God’s kingdom — God’s active rule and reign. Jesus is the king. He is the one who is more than worthy of praise and glory. In chapter 8, Matthew begins to illustrate the activity of God’s kingdom on earth.
A Kingdom of Restoration
God’s kingdom is a kingdom of restoration. The prophets of the Old Testament told of this restorative quality often. And, here Matthew illustrates it in four stories. The first two are stories of miraculous healing. Broken bodies are restored to wholeness. The third story is about Jesus calming a storm. Broken nature is restored by the powerful word of God in Christ. And, the final story is one in which Jesus casts out demons from two men at the Gadarenes. Broken humanity is restored by the grace of God in Christ.
A Kingdom of Faith
In each of the stories, faith in Jesus is front and center. The leper receives healing by God’s grace in Christ through his faith in the Lord’s ability to heal him. Similarly, the Centurion’s servant is healed by God’s grace through the faith of the Centurion who believed that Jesus’ word was powerful enough to heal. Also, Peter’s mother-in-law and others were healed through faith.
Jesus rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith after he had calmed the storm. This is interesting. The disciples, who were learning what it meant to follow Christ, found themselves in a boat during a massive storm. Jesus was sound asleep. The disciples panicked, but Jesus remained calm. Jesus trusted his Father in Heaven to care for him, while the disciples failed to trust in Jesus. Their panic resulted from their fear and lack of faith in Jesus. Some in chapter 8 receive the blessings and praise of the kingdom through faith and others received chastisement for their lack of faith.
I take two things from this passage for my life today. They are:
These truths have a tremendous impact on my daily life. I can actively apply them by identifying one issue in my life today in which I struggle to submit to Christ’s reign and then bring it into submission. For instance, if I have a health issue that I is of grave concern, then I can pray that God would give me a clear sense of his size and restorative work in that area of my health. I can also trust that he will be faithful to do all that he has promised to do.
May God grant us the grace to explore our lives and find out where we fail to see him as a big, powerful God and to repent from our failure to trust him with our lives. May he grant us the grace to faithfully pursue him in his grace.
What does it mean to be a disciple? Jesus tells us in his most famous sermon. Matthew recorded this sermon beginning with the beatitudes and then moving into a systematic discussion of the right application of God’s law in Christ’s kingdom.
Salt and Light
Jesus’ disciples are to be salt to the earth and the light of the world. Salt brings flavor and preserves. Light brings clarity and exposure. As Christ’s followers, we are called to both season/preserve the world in which we live and to clarify truth and expose darkness/sin.
Think how you can be a seasoning and preserving agent to the world in which you live today. Think about how you can be effectively used by God to clarify his truth and expose darkness today.
This is challenging for two reasons. First, we are all aware of our own sinfulness and brokenness. We know our personal need for preservation and seasoning. We know our need for the truth to be clarified in our lives and the places where we hide in the darkness. Second, we must be a seasoning, preserving, clarifying, and exposing agent to the world in love. We don’t want to be harsh and overly judgmental in our work for Christ.
So, Jesus teaches us beginning in chapter five the importance of bringing our lives into submission to him, the importance of living a righteous life. If we are concerned with the sin in our lives, we need to deal with it. We need live in a manner worthy of Christ’s kingdom. If we are concerned with the way in which we approach others, we need to ensure that we do it in love – a love that isn’t satisfied with making people feel good, but is concerned with leading them to righteousness in Christ.
Questions of Application
After overcoming his wideness temptation, Jesus called his first disciples — Andrew, Peter, James, and John. He then demonstrated the power and glory of his kingdom. The main point is that Jesus overcame the temptation and by doing so he established his kingdom. He gathered, and continues to gather, those whom he has chosen.
Jesus is the great overcomer of sin. Where the Israelites failed to obey God in their wilderness journey, Jesus succeeded. Where I fail to overcome temptation, Jesus succeeded. He conquered sin and the Devil. And, because he overcame, he became the mediator of a new covenant between God and his people. He is our conquering representative before God. That reality beckons me to come to Christ, to come to the one who succeeded where I failed, who did it before I asked him to do it, who did it before I was born. How can I resist such grace?
Experience and Follow
The place where this text gives us an opportunity to experience life with Christ tied to the place in which it calls us to follow him. Jesus called the first disciples to leave their present lives to follow after him. He called them from a casual relationship with him to one of commitment and dedication. This life of discipleship is a great experience of faith. The disciples had no idea where Jesus was going to lead them. They had no idea what their journey would entail. They had no idea how it would end. They had to trust Jesus. They had to follow him. Their lives are a living picture of repentance. They said “yes” to Jesus and “no” to the world around them.
Jesus calls us in the same way. He doesn’t enter our lives to establish a casual relationship with him. He wants us to be completely dedicated to him. He’s not interested in a casual noncommittal (friends with benefits) relationship. He wants a lasting love relationship with us. To enter a long-term committed relationship requires trust (faith), repentance, and dedication. The following questions can help us with our practical challenge today.
In Matthew 3, we catch our first glimpse of John the Baptist, Jesus’ first cousin. John has an important role as the forerunner of Jesus’ ministry. He was the one who had been given the privilege to announce the coming of the God’s kingdom. Three words stand out to me as I read John’s story.
John came to announce the coming of God’s kingdom in Christ. His purpose was to tell everyone that God’s kingdom was coming, that Jesus was coming. (He had been born and he was preparing to begin his earthly ministry.) John understood his role as herald. He was to proclaim the kingdom arrival and the presence of its king. The gospel is an announcement. It’s an announcement of what Christ has done.
John did not mince words when he preached. He called sin, sin. He challenged people to repent from their sin and to follow God. Repentance was what his baptism was all about. It symbolized a going through the waters of judgment, resting in the grace of God, and committing ones eyes upon righteousness. John told his listener that they needed to repent in order to be prepared to receive the most glorious king who was coming.
John called the religious leaders on their religious presumption. They had presumed that because they were ethnically tied to Abraham that God really wasn’t interested in the change in their lifestyles. Wrong. They presumed on the basis of God’s kindness that they had little to be concerned about. God demands holiness. He opened the door to holiness and true repentance in the baptism of Jesus. Religious presumption is a dangerous thing.
I take two challenges from this chapter. First, announce the presence of the kingdom. The king has come. Announce the good news to the world. When you make a public or private announcement of the kingdom, you are proclaiming what Jesus has already done. Find someone to whom you can be a herald of God’s grace in Christ. Second, beware of religious presumption. Be on your guard. Confess the entitlement sins you bear before the Lord. Repent from that sin. Make sure that you take spiritual inventory of your life daily.
(This is going to be difficult. Confessing entitlement sins is not fun, but it has to be done.)
Jesus is the king of the nations. He’s the king of the world. He didn’t simply come to the Jews like many thought he would. He came for the Gentiles too. The fact that the wise men saw a star tells us that God intended to draw them to himself. He called them to himself. He pursued them long before they ever pursued him. In the same way, he has pursued our souls. A God who pursues us in this way is irresistible. “Jesus sought me when a stranger wondering from the fold of God, he to rescue me from danger interposed his precious blood.”
Two words came to mind as I read chapter 2. Grace and Providence. God is gracious in his dealings with the wise men. He pursued them. He welcomed them. He protected them on their journey and from Herod. God exercised his providence in the way he ordered the events of Jesus’ early years to preserve his life. God is in control of all of history. He orders the events of history in order to accomplish his purposes. And, he does this in a way that preserves our choice to follow him. This passage allows us to experience both his grace and providence.
Herod and the religious leaders in Jerusalem were physically and religiously close to the birth of Jesus. Bethlehem wasn’t far from Jerusalem. Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem; yet, the leaders in Jerusalem didn’t recognize Jesus. It is possible to be close to Jesus and still not know him, not recognize him, not live unto him. Our challenge today is to seek out the king of the nations, to intentionally stop and interact with him. We can do this by offering simple “arrow” prayers as our day progresses.
An example of an “arrow” prayer is, “Lord, thank you for ordering my life. You are a God of grace. Help me to see you in everything.”
Matthew wrote his Gospel to present Jesus to us as the true Heaven sent king of kings and to challenge us to give our lives for this king, His kingdom, and His glory. Chapter 1 has two main sections. The first 17 verses deal with Jesus’ genealogy and verses 18-25 tell of Joseph’s visit from the angel and Jesus’ birth.
Come (How does this passage bid me to come to Jesus?)
Jesus has two names. One, Jesus, means “God will save,” and the other, Immanuel, means “God with us” (21,23). This means that Jesus came to be with me and to save me from my sins. What an amazing truth that is! I couldn’t get to him, so he came to be with me. And, he came to be with me personally, to build a relationship with me, to know me. I am compelled to come to him because he came to me.
Experience (How does this passage help me to experience life with Jesus?)
God’s faithfulness is written all over chapter 1. Jesus is presented as the “son of David” and “the son of Abraham” (1). He is the fulfillment of the promises God made to His people in the Old Testament. Because God was faithful to fulfill his promises, I know He will be faithful to keep all the promises he has made to me. That’s comforting to my soul. It encourages my rest in Him. He’s a covenant keeper. All God’s promises are “Yes and Amen in Christ” (1 Cor. 1:20).
Follow (How does this passage challenge me to practically follow Jesus?)
God fulfilled His promises with the impossible. Jesus was born of a virgin. That is impossible, but yet it happened. My challenge today is to look for the impossible ways in which God shows up in my life — Where is He? What has he done? What are the new and startling ways in which he is fulfilling his promises by his wonderful love and grace? When I see the evidence of God at work in my life, I’m going to write it down. Then, I’ll make a special point to thank God for his miraculous grace in my life.
During 2014, it is my goal to read and comment on the entire New Testament. The plan is simple: read one chapter a day five days a week and make a few points of personal application. In some cases, this will be a rather easy and painless endeavor. However, at other times, I am confident that there will be great toil, conviction, and inner reflection as the Scriptures penetrate my life and challenge me in direct ways.
I would love for you to join me on this experiment. I am not sure where God will lead us, nor am I sure about what he will teach us, but I am confident that his grace will sustain us. I am also certain that we will be more devoted followers of Jesus at the end of 2014 than we are now. That is, if we are willing to let God speak into our lives and to discipline ourselves to follow through with the plan.
I will begin on January 5, 2014 with Matthew 1. See you then.
Yesterday I mentioned an online article about inviting people to church. This link will take you to the article. I encourage you to take a moment to read the brief article. My favorite line in the article is, “Every invitation to church is an ‘I love you and I want this indescribable love, peace, and joy for you because I genuinely care about you.'”
If you’ve had someone on your mind recently that you wanted to invite to church, invite them. If you meet someone new, invite them to church. Invite them because you love them. Invite them because you want better for them – you want them to know Jesus.
If you’ve received this email and you haven’t been to church in a while, then this is my special invitation to you to join us Sunday morning. I want you to know and grow in Jesus! It’s my greatest desire for each and every one of you. May The Lord bless you in his grace. Christmas is a great time to experience God’s grace and love in Christ anew.