Matthew 13 Pt. 2: The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

Tonight we continue our study of Matthew 13 with verses 24-43. Jesus continues teaching only in parables to his disciples.

He starts with a parable on wheat and tares. The story is that a man sows wheat seed in his field but when he is sleeping, another man comes and sows tare seed in his field as well. So when the seed grows, both wheat and tares come forth. We are familiar with wheat as a food source. Tares on the other hand are not such common knowledge. Tares look exactly like wheat until they mature. The difference in the fruit they bear is that the tares can cause dizziness and nausea when eaten whereas wheat has been a reliable food source for thousands of years and still is today.When the combination of wheat and tares in the crop is apparent, the man’s servants alert him to this. The man knows that an enemy has contaminated his crop with this wheat imposter. Rather than immediately uprooting the tares and risking destroying the wheat as well, the man instructs his servants to reap the whole crop once the harvest is ready and to separate the wheat from the tares. The tares are to be destroyed in fire while the wheat is kept for later use.

Later on in tonight’s passage (verses 36-43), Jesus explains the meaning of the parable of the wheat and the tares. Jesus explains the meaning very clearly and the parable ends up being a very effective way for us to understand what will happen when the world ends/on the day of judgment. God will not prematurely destroy those that heed the devil and the ways of the world but will rather wait until the end of the world to reward and punish people in accordance with their beliefs and obedience. The lesson here? We need to make sure that we are listening to and obeying the right voice. Is it God’s Holy Word? Or am I freely giving in to the desires and temptations that I encounter?

The second parable in this passage is the parable of the mustard seed in verses 31 & 32. Have you ever seen how small a mustard seed is compared with the tree it can produce? The seeds are tiny and the trees can become huge. This parable is told by Christ to show how the holy Word of God can spread to give life and love in our lives and in the lives of others. Take a moment to recall the things Jesus taught in Matthew chapter 5. The Beatitudes showed us meekness, purity and mercy. Later in that chapter we also learned how to love our enemies and freely give of our belongings. By doing such things and spreading the Word of salvation through Jesus Christ, we can become blessings to others. The kingdom of heaven is something that can grow to be a home for God’s people. This is how the Lord’s church is meant to function: a group of believers that love and support one another, all under the care of a loving and righteous God.

The third and final parable for tonight is the parable of the leaven. This is a companion parable to the parable of the mustard seed in that it illustrates how God’s providence serves to increase our faith, love and devotion. A little bit of leaven transforms the meal into bread. Just like that, God’s Word can transform you and me into new creatures when believed and obeyed.

We will conclude tonight’s study with a reaffirmation of prophecy that shows that Jesus was meant to fulfill the prophecy to teach using parables. In verses 34 & 35 the Word affirms that Christ is fulfilling the prophecy set forth in Psalm 78.

The primary application for tonight is to understand that the kingdom of heaven (the church) and the Holy Word of God (the Bible) are both in turn supreme blessings given to us by our amazing God. He has provided for us and has given us a way to increase our blessings. So why not turn to Him in good times and in bad? Why not lean on Him and on fellow Christians when things go wrong? Why not think to praise Him first when things go right?

Remember that God can do more for us than we can even comprehend: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:20-21‬

Please join me in praising Him! 

Matthew 13 Pt 1: The Parable of the Sower

There are numerous valuable parables in Matthew chapter 13. To give them their proper attention, we will study chapter 13 in three parts. Tonight we will start with the purpose of parables and the Parable of the Sower in verses 1-23. But before we begin, please understand and consider this: a parable is a spiritual truth revealed through the telling of a story using everyday, normal people and items.The passage (Matthew 13:1-23) starts with Jesus telling the parable, then providing an explanation of parables in general, then concluding with an explanation of the Parable of the Sower specifically. 

We will start tonight with the middle section where Jesus talks about why He uses parables.

In verses 10-17 Jesus is asked by His disciples why He spoke to the multitudes in parables. Jesus’s answer is that some who hear understand immediately the spiritual application of the practical principles found in the parables. Others though, willfully remain in disbelief and the message of the parables is completely lost on them. These listeners can be identified as the scribes and Pharisees which we have read about in other chapters who, in spite of already not knowing or believing in Jesus, were inclined to believe in Him even less when they heard His parables.

By listening to and having faith in the parables, those who had knowledge (Jesus’s disciples) were to be given more knowledge through the parables and those who did not have knowledge (scribes and Pharisees), were to be even more dumbfounded by Jesus’s teachings when they heard the parables.

Now let us look at the message of the Parable of the Sower in verses 1-9. A sower would have been one that planted seeds, for crops or otherwise. A sower went out to sow seeds and the seeds fell on four different types of ground, each producing a different result:

1) By the side of the road – birds came and ate the seeds

2) Among rocks and stones – plants sprung up and grew but soon withered away under the sun because they had no root 

3) Among thorns – thorns sprung up and choked out the plants

4) On good ground – the plants grew and were fruitful

In verse 9, Jesus admonishes honest listeners to pay attention. Moving down to verses 18-23, here we have Jesus’s explanation of the parable. All of the elements of the story are symbols: 

Seed = God’s message of salvation

Ground = People types 

Birds = Satan 

Sun = Challenges to faith

Thorns = Worries of the world & trust in money

Crop = An effort of contribution to God’s kingdom and the rewards of serving God.

Jesus’s explanation is clear and simple. If the reader did not understand the meaning of the Parable of the Sower before, they certainly do now. This parable, at its heart, explains how mankind will receive the good news of God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. Most will not follow for various reasons; but a precious few will hear, believe, obey and work to spread the good news.

Take note of the variety in how people will receive the Word of God. Jesus provides four different types of people, four different possible ways to react to the Holy Word. If we boil it down to percentages, this means that roughly 25% of the people that hear God’s Word will respond with belief and obedience in God and a lasting change in their life. And even among this 25%, some of them will have more to contribute than others. 

It should be noted that Jesus does not say that there is an equal distribution among the different hearers, so we cannot really rely on the 25% as a definite percentage of believers. But we can infer from the parable that the majority of hearers will not be successful believers.

We can learn a few things from this passage tonight:

1) Do not be discouraged if we share Jesus with others but they do not believe

2) Our task is to share Jesus; the believing is up to the listener

3) There is value in knowing if we retain any of the qualities of the unsuccessful listeners Jesus describes: Do I tend to lose interest? Do I get distracted by material things? If so, I can pray to God about these shortcomings and work on seeking Him more decisively.

Jesus’s parables are a way to understand great spiritual truths using common stories. If we think about spirituality in these simple terms, we ingest the meaning more deeply and can begin operating with this godly knowledge. 

Matthew 12: Jesus Continues Disrupting the Status Quo

Verses 1-14:

The Pharisees challenge Jesus again, seemingly they are doing this at every opportunity. The Pharisees were the Jewish ruling high class and any change to their social and religious norms would have threatened their privileged way of life and social status. When Jesus arrived performing miracles and claiming He was the son of God, they did not believe Him. They attributed His powers as coming from Satan and they felt that they were right to challenge Him and stop His ministry. From their perspective, Jesus was a threat to their religious beliefs and way of life.

The examples of “labor” (if you can call plucking heads of grain to nibble on labor) and healing on the Sabbath were instances the Pharisees used to “prove” that Jesus was not from God because God had forbidden any type of labor on the Sabbath. Jesus refutes these charges by appealing to a sense of logic and using righteous judgment. 

For plucking grain, Jesus tells them that David had eaten the showbread in the temple once out of hunger and that this was permissible in the eyes of God. Jesus’s disciples were not harvesting the grain (which would have been labor and against the law of the Sabbath), but in fact they were gathering the grain for the purpose of eating, which was not considered labor of the type that was condemned on the Sabbath.

The Pharisees also asked Jesus whether healing on the Sabbath was also labor and therefore a sin. But Jesus easily shuts down this idea with the illustration of helping a sheep that has fallen into a pit. It is not work; it is saving, helping and healing.

Verses 15-21:

After these things, Jesus begins to withdraw himself from the formal Jewish leadership because of their opposition and lack of belief. Jesus’s withdrawal is in accordance with prophecy and verses 18-21 in Matthew 12 quote a passage in Isaiah 42:1-4. This prophecy indicated what has happened and what was to come: that Jesus would remove himself from the formal Jewish leadership and that the Gentiles (non-Jews) would benefit as a result. We see the result of this even today.

Verses 22-30:

In these verses Jesus is again charged of using the power of Satan and not of God to cast out demons. We saw Jesus accused of this same thing earlier in our studies in Matthew 9:34. In this instance, though Jesus provides a logical explanation on why it would be impossible for Him to cast out demons using the power of Satan. He could not use a power against itself or else Satan’s power would not last. Also, the Pharisees themselves cast out demons and they did not use the power of Satan. Lastly, the fact that Jesus was doing this indicated that the kingdom of God was near. This meant that Jesus would soon die for the sins of all mankind. 

Verses 31-32:

These two verses serve as a warning, for us as well as the Pharisees. God can forgive all sins through Jesus Christ but the one sin that God cannot forgive is if we were to come to know the truth yet deny it and speak out in blasphemy against it. The Pharisees had the prophecies telling them of Jesus’coming; they had the miracles and his teachings too, yet they still did not believe. Willful denial in the face of God’s truth in Jesus Christ would not be forgiven them. 

The Holy Spirit has given us the Bible, God’s Holy Word, and if we live in direct opposition to God’s Word, we, like the Pharisees, will not be forgiven either.

Verses 33-37:

This passage displays Jesus’s anger at the audacity of the Pharisees. They professed to be good and holy, yet Jesus knew their hearts were corrupted. A stern warning is given by the Son of God here, to the Pharisees as well as to us today: be careful of the words you speak, for they will be used to judge you and you will be required to explain them. 

Verses 38-45:

The scribes are mentioned here in tandem with the Pharisees and they had much in common with the Pharisees. Mostly, they were in charge of writing copies of the books of the Law and they held similar beliefs as well as nearly the same social status as the Pharisees. 

The scribes and the Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign, seemingly to confirm that Jesus was speaking the truth. Jesus rebukes them both with prophecy and logic. 

The prophecy Jesus brings is that the sign He will bring is of His own death on the cross, His burial for three days, then His resurrection. Jesus uses the story of Jonah as a parallel, for Jonah was three days in the belly of the whale before he was spit out and lived. 

Jesus also tells the scribes and Pharisees that the solace of their erroneous hearts will do them no good. Living in their own righteousness and not God’s is a wicked way to live and their end will not be pleasant. After all, if they have not believed that Jesus was the Christ in the midst of all of Jesus’s miracles and teachings by now, they were not going to believe at all.

These same ideas are true for us today: If we live by our own sense of right and wrong and not God’s, we are living in a fantasy, and not in the reality of true life that God has built for us. Only in Him can we have true righteousness.

Verses 46-50:

This chapter ends with Jesus’s appeal to who it is that is truly our family. Jesus wasn’t denying his blood relations with His words in verses 48-50, rather He was using the opportunity to promote unity and strengthen the bonds of love we have together when we are one in Jesus Christ.

Tonight as you study, I urge you to examine yourself and seek only God’s righteousness. There are still scribes and Pharisees in the world today, they just go by different names. Let us try to be more like Jesus and learn how to see through false charges and suppositions and to discern the truth. There are not many versions of the truth; there is only the truth as God has revealed it to us.

Matthew 11: Confirmation & Rejection & Rest

Verses 1-15 – Confirmation:

In the previous chapter Jesus sent out the apostles to teach and preach. John the Baptist at this time was in prison, probably put there because of what the Jews considered to be heretical teaching. But we know that John the Baptist was teaching others about the coming Savior Jesus Christ and that this was God’s truth, not heresy. When John hears about the works of Jesus while in prison, he is curious as to whether these acts are the ones of the Son of God that he had been proclaiming. So John sends messengers to Jesus to ask whether or not he is the Savior, or the Coming One. Jesus sends the messengers back to John with word of His miracles as evidence that Jesus was indeed the coming Savior. 

Jesus then confirms to his followers the truth of what John the Baptist had been teaching. Jesus confirming that John the Baptist spoke truth serves to combat the belief that John was rightfully placed in prison. In fact, John the Baptist being in prison was persecution and an injustice. Jesus confirms John the Baptist and thus all of John’s teachings are justified and supported by the Son of God. 

Verses 16-24 – Rejection:

The first part of this passage has Jesus explaining how John the Baptist and Jesus are being rejected. John was teaching the truth of Jesus’s coming and Jesus was teaching the truth of God’s kingdom, but their messages were rejected by the majority of those that heard them in the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida. Both John and Jesus were condemned and judged so that John was accused of having a demon and Jesus was accused of associating with sinners.

Adversely, Jesus condemns the condemners, likening them to children who do not listen because of their willful ignorance. Their consequences are to be great, just as it is for those today that do not heed the gospel call. Jesus calls us all to Him. If we ignore Him, we too will suffer great consequences.

Verses 25-30 – Rest:

In this final passage of the chapter, Jesus offers the solution of willful ignorance and the solution is to hear and seek Jesus Himself. In Jesus we can have true rest. This rest is not for our tired bodies but rather for our broken and striving spirits. When we humble ourselves to believe and follow Christ, the load of life gets easier because we can cast our cares and worries upon Jesus. This means that things we worry about can be given to Him; instead of spending mental energy worrying about the outcome of one thing or another, we simply can pray about it and trust that Jesus Christ, who is in God the Father will oversee the outcome for us. 

The mystery of the relationship of God and Jesus is hinted at in this passage also. God and Jesus are one in another and everything Jesus says can be wholly trusted and believed because it was all given to Him by God. 

Join me in trusting in Jesus’s strength. Jesus offers true peace. As long as we are willing to humble ourselves and follow Christ, our burden will be light.

Matthew 10: Sheep Among Wolves

Verses 1-15:

Jesus identifies the twelve apostles, gives them power to remove unclean spirits and to heal sickness and disease. When the apostles are listed in this chapter, most of them are mentioned with details about their relations, name or occupation. The relations would have had more meaning to the 1st century reader in terms of context, but we can still garner some meaning from these clues. The apostles are listed in pairs, probably in accordance with how they were sent out. Brothers went with brothers for the strength of familiarity. Judas is mentioned last.

1. Simon (Peter)

2. Andrew (brother of Peter)

3. James (brother of John, son of Zebedee)

4. John (brother of James, son of Zebedee)

5. Philip

6. Bartholomew

7. Thomas

8. Matthew (tax collector and author of this book)

9. James (son of Alphaeus)

10. Thaddeus (first name was Lebbaeus)

11. Simon (the Cananite)

12. Judas Iscariot (the traitor)

Jesus’s primary command to the apostles was to go out and spread the word that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. To the apostles and their audience, the meaning of this statement, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” was probably a mystery. They would have been able to tell that God was working through them because of the miracles but the idea that God’s Son had come in the form of a man to seek and save the lost was a concept that would take some time to be understood. Nevertheless, Jesus wanted to spread the word that God’s plan was coming to fruition. Here are the details of Jesus’s instructions to the apostles as they went out to send the message:

– Do not go to the Gentiles (non-Jews)

– Do not go to the Samaritans

– Go to the lost of Israel (Jews)

– Preach that “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”

– Perform miracles (heal, cleanse, raise, cast out)

– Do so freely

– Take no money, bag, extra clothes (they will be provided)

– Stay with people worthy to receive you

– Depart from the unworthy

The apostles had their work cut out for them. Through Jesus’ command we can see that they could have expected to be welcomed or shunned depending on their audience. We also know that the Jews (the primary audience for this excursion) had a leadership that resisted and thwarted Jesus at every turn. Add in that the apostles were going to be personally working miracles and the sense of adventure becomes overwhelming.

Verses 16-26:

In these verses Jesus provides comfort and warnings. Warnings come in the form of men that will persecute, including going before governors and kings. They will be scourged in synagogues and family divisions will also occur. Jesus comforts them with the knowledge that the Holy Spirit will direct their speech in times of trouble and also encourages them not to fear demons.

Verses 27-42:

These verses are some of the most important and profound of Jesus’s words in my opinion. Take special care with reading verses 30, 32, 33, and 39. Jesus explains the intimate care and love that God’s has for us and that love is contrasted with the absolute devotion that is required of us as children of God. 

Jesus brings words of truth and light and as such, our fear should not be for bodily harm or death but we should instead fear the doom of our soul. Are we ashamed of Jesus? Are we ashamed of our faith? If so, Jesus will deny us. But if we speak of and claim Him, He will claim us before God. 

Even though it is unpleasant, we should also be ready to abandon the closest family relationships for faith in Jesus. I need to be willing to sacrifice my life and the things most important to me for the sake of my faith in Jesus Christ. 

This inspiring and enlightening chapter concludes with the continuing admonition to be selfless, giving, true and kind. 

Subtle Selfishness: Ananias & Sapphira

Let us turn to Acts 5 and Ananias & Sapphira. Please read Acts 5:1-11 in preparation of tonight’s study.

I think we can agree that Ananias and Sapphira had good intentions. In the enthusiasm of religious activity, worship and sharing that occurred after Christ, Ananias and Sapphira were energized to do their part. They sold some land and gave some of the proceeds to the apostles but kept the rest for themselves. Right there we can pause for a moment and recognize that there is nothing wrong with this act. If they had given just a portion of the money they received, that is fine: We give what we can, as according to our blessings.

But where they went wrong is that they wanted the apostles and the peripheral believers around to believe that they had done this great thing in giving all of the proceeds of the land they sold to the apostles. Peter knew this sin and exposed both of them at different times to show them that they had sinned in lying and testing the Holy Spirit.

In a profound and immediate judgment from God, Ananias and Sapphira fell dead separately when their sin was publicly revealed. Acts 5:9-11: “Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. 11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.”

Instead of public praise, they received public judgment. They experienced the inverse of what they were seeking.

It would have served them much better to have just been forthcoming about the amount of money they were giving and that it was not the whole amount for the land sold. It was their land that they owned, perfectly within their right and judgment to give what seemed best or sensible to them. But they wanted more than the simple satisfaction of having honored God and others through giving. They were seeking to honor themselves and increase their own standing.

Matthew 9: Miracles & Challenges

Take a few moments to read Matthew chapter 9 this evening. In this chapter we see the rising tide of Jesus’s popularity as a healer and a spiritual leader. We also see Him begin to encounter some resistance from the scribes and Pharisees. 

Verses 1-8 show us Christ healing a paralyzed man despite scribes charging Him with blasphemy. In verses 9-13, Jesus recruits Matthew and is again charged with sin, this time by the Pharisees who said that He was spending too much time with sinners. Jesus’s perfect response was that the healthy do not need a doctor; the spiritually sick would benefit more from His presence. 

Jesus’s remarks in verses 14-17 can be confusing. What it boils down to is that there will be a time and place for His disciples to fast, but not at that moment because Jesus was still with them. Regarding the talk of the wineskins, the meaning Jesus was imparting was that they should not let traditions (fasting) be more important than the coming new law of grace and repentance that would commence after Jesus’s death, burial and resurrection. His disciples and the disciples of John did not yet fully comprehend the meaning of Jesus’s arrival on earth. They believed in His divinity and had faith in His power, but the details were still to come. Step by step, Jesus is helping them understand using metaphors and parables.

Verses 18-38 show Jesus healing many more people. One woman is healed through her faith, a girl is raised from the dead, two blind men are given their sight and another man has a demon cast out of him. Jesus’s compassion blooms for the people in the closing words of the chapter as He considers their needs.

The scribes and Pharisees were the spiritual elite, the Jewish leaders that had a status quo to protect. Through His preaching, miracles and claims, Jesus was seriously disrupting their religious status quo. They had traditions and their own power to protect, which was threatened by Jesus whenever He forgave sins and healed the sick and afflicted. They did not want to believe that He was who He said He was. So they charged Him with blasphemy and with using the power of demons. It is the beginning of the conflict that will end his earthly life. But the real cause for Jesus’ death is not the persecution of the Jewish elite. Jesus died willingly for mankind so that we can be reconciled to God for our sins.

Matthew 8: Faith & Fear

After the sermon on the mount, this chapter gives us more insight into Jesus’s ministry. We see Him teaching and healing people, confronting and defeating demons. His interactions reveal His divinity.

Verses 1-17

Jesus heals the afflictions of many people in this passage. A man is cured of leprosy, a servant is cured of paralysis, Peter’s mother-in-law is cured of a fever and many more with sicknesses were healed that night. We also learn that Jesus is healing those possessed of demons. Notice the methods Jesus uses in this passage: with many he touches them to heal, and with the demons and the centurion’s servant he heals by only speaking it. 

Jesus praises the centurion for his simple yet effective faith. We can imagine Jesus, surrounded by many people yet sought by the centurion. The centurion sees the difficulty in having Jesus travel to his home, so suggests that Jesus just heal his servant from where he is. The centurion’s faith is impressive to Jesus because this deep faith was not found in the Jews. Jesus uses the centurion’s faith as a springboard to teach His followers that all people will be able to worship God. Unfaithful Jews, however, God’s chosen people, ironically will be cast into Hell for their lack of faith.

Verses 18-22

Two parallel ideas are present in these verses. The first is that those that would follow Jesus at that time would not have had a place to sleep each night. The comforts and responsibilities of home and family they would have to leave behind if they were to follow Jesus. Jesus knew that some would be unwilling to give these things up to follow Him.

The second idea is that the same sacrifices are required of us as followers of Jesus today. Forsaking what we own materially, and other matters that seem important to us often are unimportant when compared to the sacrifice and privilege involved in following Jesus.

Verses 23-27

In these verses Jesus calms the sea, something that no regular person could do. Notice that Jesus was sleeping at the time. He was not worried and had no concern for His life or the lives of the disciples in the boat. Once awoken by the disciples out of fear for the weather, Jesus recognizes their lack of faith as he quiets the sea. He had that ability. How amazing!

Also notice the contrast in conditions. The storm is described as a great tempest at first, then as a great calm. Jesus was able to not only scale back the awful storm, but to bring the ocean to a state of calm serenity where no one feared for anything. This idea, just like in verses 18-22, is an application for us. The torment, guilt and chaos that sin brings into our life can be healed by Jesus. He replaces it with peace, strength and gratitude.

Verses 28-34

Two men possessed by demons cross paths with Jesus. The demons inside the men recognize Jesus for who He is immediately and are afraid. They are so afraid that they propose their own punishment. Jesus permits it and the demons go into the herd of pigs that then drown in the sea. Jesus’s power is evident to them.

This chapter shows us the impression that the Son of God makes on the world. He heals, saves and judges. Jesus is undeniable. You will either accept or reject Him in your life. Whatever your choice may be, He sees what is in your heart. 

Matthew 7 Pt. 2: Understand What the Will of the Lord Is

Tonight we conclude our survey of Jesus’s Sermon on the mount with verses 15-29 of Matthew 7. There are three ideas to explore tonight and they are each important to us in a different way.

The first has to do with recognizing false prophets and liars. How can you spot a liar? Look at the outcome of their previous efforts, at their track record. What have they previously accomplished? Do their current claims match the pattern of their life? If things do not add up, it is right to be suspicious and judge using righteous judgment. Although we can apply verses 15-20 to spotting liars, Jesus primary intention is to educate us on spotting false prophets. This means people that come teaching God and spiritual matters that do not have a foundation in truth. In Jesus’s time and in the years after His death, there were many men that professed to speak the word and will of God. But unless they spoke exactly the facts as Jesus and the apostles, they were false prophets:

““Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”‭‭ Matthew‬ ‭24:23-27‬

Even today it is very important that we listen with honest ears. Men and women continue to change and pervert the word of God today. Some bend it so that it suits their own ideas. Some want something from the listener other than their belief in Jesus. Some want money or an alignment of spiritual matters with their politics. God’s word is holy and true and if something that someone is teaching cannot be found in or supported by the Bible, then it has no place in our spiritual lives and should in fact be rejected.

We can trust Jesus’s words because He is the Son of God sent to earth to do God’s will. We can trust the apostles because they spoke as the Holy Spirit gave them the words to do so.

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” ‭‭John‬ ‭16:13‬ 

We can wholly trust God’s Word as absolute truth. We can have full confidence that the words and ideas we read in the Bible are meant for us, God’s direct communication to us. What a comfort!

Tonight’s second idea is in verses 21-23 and is a progression of the idea of false prophets. Jesus tells us that many people will say that they know God, that they are working for God and that they are doing His will. But unless they are truly doing God’s will, God will deny them. How would they know whether they are doing God’s will? By making sure it matches what is in the Bible. 

It is a good thing for a person to say they love God. It is a great thing when someone reads the Bible and is baptized and saved. But it is a very sad thing when someone thinks they are on the right path but have not given the proper consideration to what God expects from them as His child. In this case, ignorance brings a penalty: “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” Matthew‬ ‭7:22-23

These two verses have in them such a sad loneliness and desolation of spirit that they should spur us to take every word of God’s book with absolute seriousness. It’s true that we do not see many people prophesying or casting out demons, but the intent of the teaching stands: whatever is done in the name of God should be done with full knowledge of the truth.

The third and final idea in tonight’s study and the last in Jesus’s mountain sermon in Matthew is found in verses 24-29 and has to do with thoughtfulness and wise action. If we build our life and behaviors on God’s holy word, there is no storm of life that we cannot handle. God’s word provides us with strength, hope and fortitude.

But if we build our lives on empty ideas and false beliefs, we are easily defeated. Without God’s truth and surety, we have no backbone to withstand the trials of life and temptations of Satan.

Looking at these three ideas tonight, you can see how one flows into the next and how they build upon each other:

1. Beware false teaching because it will corrupt your understanding of God’s will and will lead you away from God

2. Those who teach and do things apart from God’s will have an eternal penalty

3. Make sure that when you believe and act on God’s instruction, you are doing so with the right understanding of what His will is

May you always seek the true will of God. May God bless you. Seek Him and everything else will fall into place.

Matthew 7 Pt. 1: Judgment, Treatment and the Path

We will study Matthew chapter 7 in two parts: half this week and half next week. Tonight’s study is comprised of verses 1-14. 

Forming an opinion is natural. That is why the first passage in verses 1-5 is challenging. Comparing ourselves to others can happen without intention and while not necessarily bad, as it can teach us things about ourselves, it can be unhealthy. When comparison turns into judgment teetering on condemnation, then we are elbowing in on God’s perfect judgment. Whether someone else is right or wrong has no bearing on the destination of our souls. In fact, we are highly unqualified to judge another person. It is better that we leave it up to God to judge with His righteous and effective judgment.

Jesus’s words are very clear about how we will be judged ourselves in direct proportion to how we judge. As in the illustration of the speck/plank, we need to be aware that we might have worse character defects than the person we judge.

We have to acknowledge that we will never be perfect in this. It would be silly and impossible to assume that we will never again judge a human being. As mentioned earlier, it happens naturally. The tone of our judgment has to be managed so that it is helpful, not hurtful for ourselves and for others. If the results of our judging someone is that we help the person, then we judge rightly. Righteous judgment like this can be particularly helpful with those closest to us, family and close friends. 

What it boils down to is that we cannot control others; we can only control ourselves. Why do we dwell on other’s faults when we have some of our own that need work? Once we improve ourselves, we are more qualified to help others (speck/plank again). We should also be smart in the use of righteous judgment. If it does no good, if it is resisted and denied, then we can find a better use of our time.

The next passage in verses 7-12 reveal God’s love and grace in a way that is enlightening. After having considered the weighty matter of judgment, Jesus instructs that God wants to provide. His love for us is great and willing to give: we need only seek Him and make requests through prayer. God behaves to us as a father to his children, with love, provision and care. If we obey Him, seek Him, and ask Him, we will receive His blessings. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

Verse 12 is the source for what is known as the golden rule. However we should like others to treat us, that is how we should treat others. Do we want people to be friendly, welcoming and kind towards us? Do we want them to ignore us? Judge us? Talk about us behind our back?

Lastly for tonight we review verses 13 and 14. All scripture is important and has weight, but these two verses seem particularly heavy with meaning. They describe and compare the way that most of the people in the world live with the way we should live if we want to go to heaven:

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

As most of us probably know, living in sin is easy. And it’s fun. It would be foolish to deny that sin does not bring pleasure and happiness (even if the happiness is fleeting). It does not take a lot of effort to do what we want to do as individuals with our lives. That is simple. What takes effort is finding that path of righteousness in life and staying on it. Sacrificing our own desires for God’s desires. Praying every morning and night and studying the Bible daily are the two best ways I know of to stay on this path to heaven.