Forgiving Your Brother

(Matthew 18:21-22)

The power of forgiveness is an incredible thing. Jesus teaches us here that forgiving your brother in Christ is an important part of the Christian teaching. Forgiving your brother should be unlimited, which is the point Jesus is making in this section.

However when we look at the Luke version of this scripture we see that this is a conditional forgiveness. Forgiving your brother is not automatic but follows a process. The Luke version of this uses the words of Jesus rather than the words of Peter and says, “Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4) So we see here that forgiving your brother is based upon their repenting of their sin.

The process follows this path. The first step is if your brother sins rebuke him. Tell him his fault and how he has wronged you. It would be remiss not to do so for how would your brother learn? Then if he repents of the sin or the wrong he has done, forgive him. We are not meant to hold grudges for grudges lead to bitterness and bitterness to division among brethren. No, instead forgive him wholeheartedly and welcome him back as a brother.

Now this forgiveness is unlimited. The point Jesus was making was that there are no limits to how many times we should forgive our brethren, on the condition that they repent. As he said, “I do not say to you seven times (in a day) but seventy times seven.” (Verse 22) Now it is highly unlikely that your brother may sin against you seventy times seven, that is, four hundred and ninety times in a day. But if he does and turns and repents, we must forgive them. And if he does it all again tomorrow and turns and repents, again we must forgive them.

We do not know what may be driving our brethren to act in this way. The Lord may be dealing with far worse things than the issue that we are seeing in that person. Our responsibility is to provide a caring environment to help them while they work things out with the Lord. And caring for your brethren also means helping them to see when they have done the wrong thing so that they can learn and put the matter before the Lord in prayer for a resolution. The resolution though may not be instant, and thus the need for forgiveness when they repent.

Finally we need to understand that we too need repentance from time to time. We came to the Lord as sinners and needed forgiveness and release from our sins, and we have all sinned far more against the Lord than we have one another. Yet he has forgiven all of those sins of ours and comforted us with his love and grace, bringing us into the presence of God. If then he did such a great thing for us, then we must likewise do the same for our brethren. If they sin, rebuke them, and if they repent, forgive them. Then we can truly become like sons of the Father, as Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Miracles don’t Change the Heart of Non-Believers

(Matthew 11:20-24)

You would think that if miracles were performed in front of the eyes of people they would change. If you saw something totally amazing that could only have been done by the power of God, that you would listen to the one doing those things. Well man just doesn’t seem to be like that, as Jesus showed many times.

In this section of Matthew 11 we see Jesus upbraiding the towns and cities where he had performed many of the marvellous and mighty works God allowed him to do. In these cities and towns the sick were healed, lepers cleansed, demons exorcised, the dead raised and many other mighty works. While he did these he was preaching the word of God. But these cities on the whole did not turn around and repent and follow the truth. They were amazed at what was done, but not for the understanding of God’s word, but rather for the spectacle of the miracles. To them it was more like a show than a confirmation of the true Gospel of God, and a call to change their lives.

Jesus expected this to be the way things went anyway. He knew that some would follow but most would not, and he knew that even miracles would not turn people around. Jesus taught this in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16. Lazarus lived on the street in utter squalor and with nothing at the gate of the rich man who lived in the lap of luxury. Lazarus though was a good man despite his afflictions, whereas the rich man was proud and arrogant. They both died and Lazarus went to Paradise to be comforted with Abraham, while the rich man went down into Hades to be tormented in hell. A conversation ensued between the rich man and Abraham with the rich man first pleading arrogantly for Abraham to send Lazarus with water to quench his thirst. He was still arrogant and proud, thinking that Lazarus was nothing more than a slave to do his bidding. When Abraham said no, the rich man pleaded that he would send Lazarus back to earth to warn the rich mans five brothers so they would not suffer. In verses 28-31 we see Abrahams response.

28 “…for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’
29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’
30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'”

When Jesus upbraided the cities and towns for their lack of repentance, it was this same situation as Abraham spoke of with the rich man. Abraham said, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.” The words of Moses and the prophets were the words of God. Similarly the words of Jesus are the words of God. Unless a person listens to and acts upon the words of God when they hear them, then no amount of people rising from the dead, miracles or mighty works will change their minds and bring them to repentance.

Miracles will confirm the truth of the word to believers. They confirm that what they believe in is the truth and this is from God. But non-believers will not believe even if they see miracles. Consider the miracle of Creation today. Non-believers are seeking “scientific” explanations for the Creation of the heavens and the universe. They are looking for “scientific” ways that man was created, let alone all of the animals, insects, plants, fish and so on. They do not believe that God created the world and everything in it, and everything was made in their species and according to their kind from the beginning. Instead man chooses to accept evolution and the gradual changing of species over countless generations and eons until we get to where we are today.

To be honest, I doubt the earth has been around long enough for this to even occur. Science estimates the earth at about 4.6 billion years old (Source: http://www.extremescience.com/zoom/index.php/geologic-earth-history). But how old is the beginning of life? Again science suggests the first single cell organisms appeared some 3 billion years ago and did not change for another 2 billion years. Then these cells became multi cell organisms and began the process of evolution starting around 1 billion years ago. So in the past billion years we went from single cell organisms to complex life forms and rational, reasoning, thinking man. Is it rational and reasonable to think that all of that could happen in one billion years? And where in the fossil records are all of the crossover species? For years science has tried to locate the crossover between apes and man, but what about the crossovers for every other species as they all evolved according to science? The fossil record should be littered with crossover species if evolution is to be believed, but there is not a single crossover to be found.

Why is that? Because they don’t exist! Science cannot believe the miracle of creation and yet chooses to accept the fairy stories of evolution and call it fact when even a non-scientist can see it cannot hold water. Even using scientific method to look at the fossil records, as they do, is positive proof of the absurdity of evolution. They cannot show the existence of a single crossover species when there should be millions of such species in the fossil record if evolution were true.

This is exactly what Jesus was speaking of when he said that even if they saw miracles they would not believe and repent. And it is for such lack of belief and repentance that he upbraided the towns of Chora’zin, Beth-sa’ida and Caper’na-um where he did his mighty works. From this we must learn to listen to the Lord, regardless of miracles, and repent so that we can find the truth for ourselves and follow him.

You might also like:

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Nothing Impossible
Are Christians Mad
Seeing But Not Believing
Hope Of Salvation
Forgiving Your Brother
The Parable Of The Two Debtors
Repent And Believe In The Gospel
If I Touch The Hem Of His Garment
Not Dead Only Sleeping
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Who was John the Baptist?

(Matthew 11:7-15)

Jesus described John the Baptist saying, “…among those born of women there has risen no-one greater than John the Baptist.” (Vs. 11) This is high praise indeed coming from the Son of God, especially when we consider what John must have appeared like to the common man.

John the Baptist lived in the wilderness and not in the towns or cities. He wore rough clothes made of camel hair and he ate nothing but locusts and wild honey and drank only water. A sparse and rather unusual diet indeed. Had he lived today he would have been called an eccentric, or possibly a nutter given what his appearance looked like and his way of life. And yet Jesus said of this rather rough and wild looking man that there was no-one greater than he amongst all of mankind.

In spite of his obvious eccentricities John the Baptist had a message that he preached and that message was from God. He taught the people about the ways of repentance and to prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord. And the people went out into the wilderness to hear what he had to say and to be baptised for repentance in the Jordan. The people recognised that the power of God was with John and so they went out of their way to go to him and hear the words of God. Even the Pharisees came to him to hear and be baptised, and John showed up their hypocrisy as Jesus later did too.

The message of John the Baptist about repentance is as important today as it was then. All who come to God must be repentant as this is the very first step of a relationship with Jesus Christ. Repentance from sins is one of the six key foundation teachings of the New Covenant as defined in Hebrews 6:1-2. It is by repenting that we are made ready to receive the truth of the New Covenant and to accept Jesus. Jesus said of John that, “This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.'” (Vs. 10) The words John spoke to the people about repentance and baptism were to prepare them for the coming of Jesus and the ministry that was to follow.

Jesus also asked the people why they went out into the wilderness. Was it just to see the sights? That is, did they go to see, “A reed shaken by the wind?” (Vs. 7) No, they went to see and hear the words of John the Baptist. Now as mentioned already, he must have looked a rather odd person, and so the insight we can gain from that is that the word of God can come from anyone or anywhere. When Jesus said in verse 8, “Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses,” what he was showing here is that it is not necessary to wear fancy suits and to dress to the nines to get or to receive the word of God. In fact those who “dress to impress” are not doing so for the Lord but for man or for vanity.

Fancy clothes, fine jewellery and so on do not impress God and neither should we be. God is concerned only with the condition of our heart and our faith in his son Jesus Christ. Just because a minister dresses well does not guarantee that his teachings will be any better than one who does not. Ultimately we must look past the man and listen to the words, for this is what God does and what we must do too.

Finally we see that Jesus said in verse 13, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John…” In this statement Jesus is defining the end of a period of time. He said, “All the prophets and the law prophesied until John,” and thus he showed that the end of the Old Covenant period ended with John. From that point on when Jesus began his ministry we saw the coming of the new age of the New Covenant period. And it came violently and with violence, for the New Covenant did not come into force until the violent death of Jesus Christ when he was sacrificed for our sins and raised for our justification.