Martyred

(John 16:1-4)

martyr
Martyred

Over the centuries there have been many righteous people martyred for the sake of what they believe. In this section Jesus warns those of His followers that this would be the case. He says that some will be put to death for the sake of their faith and their service to God, just as many of the earlier prophets died for their service to God.

What is most disturbing about this piece of scripture, is that it is often those who claim to be followers of the Lord that will be the ones killing the prophets and righteous people of God. This should not be so, but it is clear from Jesus’ own mouth that this is what will happen. Why?

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Have You Been Hurt by the Church?

(Luke 12:41-48)

Many have. This is a serious issue for the church because the church is meant to be a place of sanctuary. It is supposed to be a place where people can come to find peace, rest and joy in the praise and worship of the Lord God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. But there are many who have been hurt by the church and this should not be so. In this section of scripture Jesus explains how some people are hurt and what He obey or elsewill do about it.

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Peter Denies Jesus

(Matthew 26:69-75)

Of all the twelve disciples chosen by the Lord to follow him, Peter was the one he selected to take the gospel to the people after his death. But we see in Peter also all of the failures and weaknesses that man suffers. For despite having followed Jesus for the previous three years or so, Peter denies Jesus in this last hour to save his own skin.

This was exactly as Jesus had predicted. Jesus had said to Peter that not only would he not stand and be prepared to go to the death with him, Peter would deny Jesus three times that night before the cock crowed. Peter along with all the disciples of the Lord was full of bravado. They had all committed to stand with the Lord, but when the crowd came with swords and clubs to seize Jesus, all his disciples fled.

But Peter followed the crowd at a distance and sat outside the courtyard to see what would happen. It was here that his allegiance to the Lord was queried by the maids and bystanders saying he was one of the Lord’s disciples. On each occasion Peter denied it saying, “I do not know the man.” On the third occasion he even began to invoke a curse on himself and swear that he did not know Jesus. It was then that the cock crowed and Peter remembered the words of the Lord and he left there and went out weeping bitterly for he knew he had failed.

How must Peter have felt? How low would he have been at this point? His sorrow would have been immense at the capture of the Lord, but then to deny even knowing him, and knowing that the Lord knew he would do this would have put him into untold depths of grief. It is unimaginable to comprehend Peter’s feelings at this time.

Jesus knew he would fail and had told him so. He knows there will be times we will fail too in our walk with Christ. There will be times when we are called to stand up for what we believe and we will fail to do so. And as Jesus knew it of Peter, he knows it of us too. So we must remember the advice he gave to Peter and take it to heart when we fail and fall.

Jesus said to Peter that when he failed, to repent and turn back to the Lord. He was to first lift himself up in repentance and then to comfort and strengthen his brethren. (Luke 22:32) Even though Jesus knew the weakness that would cause Peter to fail, he also knew the strength and character of this great disciple and that he would bounce back, ready and able to help the rest through their own anguish and failure. He also said to the disciples when he told them they would forsake him to, “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1) So the power by which they were to overcome the trouble in their hearts from their failure was faith. They were to hold fast their faith in God and Jesus Christ and their faith would win the victory over this weakness in their flesh.

It is the same with us today. The power to overcome our weaknesses and failures relies on repentance and faith. When we fall we must first repent and turn back to the Lord. Then we must believe in Jesus and the power of his blood, which has already freed us from sin and the law. This faith in Jesus and the power of his resurrection is what will enable the Holy Spirit in us to change us so that we can be transformed into the image of Christ. We have an advantage that Peter and the disciples did not have, for today the New Covenant is in force and those who have received the Holy Spirit have access to the power of transformation that is in the New Covenant.

So let us not dwell on our weaknesses and failures. Rather let us take the advice of the Lord given to Peter and the disciples. When we fall, repent and believe that the Lord has set us free. When we are tempted, put the matter before the Lord so that he will provide the strength to come through the temptation and to overcome it in victory. And finally let us always give Jesus praise for giving himself for us so that we can have access to this life in him.

The Disciples Will Fall Away

(Matthew 26:30-35)

After the last supper Jesus and the disciples went out to the Mount of Olives. In keeping with his desire that there be no surprises, Jesus told the disciples they would all fall away from him that very night. This was to fulfil the prophecy of Zechariah, which said, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” (Verse 31, Zechariah 13:7) Peter said in reply that even if all the rest of the disciples fall away, he would never fall away.

Jesus then operated a word of knowledge saying that not only would he fall away, but also Peter would deny him three times that night before the cock crowed. Peter’s bravado and pride came to the surface then when he said, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of the rest of the disciples said the same.

Did Jesus gain any reassurance from their statements of bravado? Did he expect that they would do as they swore to do and not fall away or deny him? No. Jesus knew that it was just talk and that they would all flee when the time of testing came.

Often today when we are put to the test we too flee. We sometimes turn away from the Lord when the going gets tough and sometimes deny him as Peter did back then. We do this because we are weak or we lack faith and trust in the ability of the Lord to deliver us from the thing causing us problems at the time. When we do fall away as the disciples did, should we worry and condemn ourselves? Let us look at what Jesus did when he spoke these words to the disciples.

We see this same discussion recounted also in Luke 22:31-34. What is interesting in this section is that the Lord, being aware that Simon Peter would deny him said to him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32) Jesus knew that Simon Peter would fall, so he was consoling him here with these words. He was telling him that it would not be held against him for he knew Peter’s weaknesses. Instead though he said, “When you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” That is, when you have repented and returned to the Lord in faith, help your brethren and the other disciples who likewise fled to be consoled. Strengthen them so that they will not suffer condemnation and sorrow over their weakness. So rather than condemn Peter and the rest for their failures, Jesus was saying not to worry about it and move on.

In John 14:1 he shows Peter what he must do when he turns again saying, “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.” He tells them to have faith. Don’t worry about your failures and weaknesses, even when they denied him on the eve of his death. Instead they were to trust God, lift up their hearts and have faith. This was the message to Peter in particular who was to help the other disciples lift themselves when they fell into condemnation over their failure to be strong with the Lord.

The message is the same today. When we fall through our human frailties and weaknesses, we are to pick ourselves up and have faith in Jesus Christ. We have already been forgiven. When we were baptised we were already set free from sin, past, present and future and we were also set free from the law of sin and death. At baptism this has already occurred and Jesus says there is no condemnation in him. If this then is true, why condemn ourselves for our failures? Instead, let us accept the grace of God, repent and return to the Lord, walking in his truth, and learn from the experience so that we may be stronger next time temptation comes our way. We may fall again many times, but as we claw our way back and hold firm to the faith we have in Jesus Christ, we will eventually have the victory through him.

When we do fall, if we are truly seeking to follow Jesus, we suffer a Godly grief. Paul wrote, “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting; for you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10) So when we suffer Godly grief it leads to repentance and then to salvation for our desire is to be cleared of the wrong we had done. On the other hand when we are not looking to the Lord and we suffer grief, there is no one to console and forgive and that leads to death.

The key to this issue of repentance and returning to the Lord as Jesus explained to Peter and the disciples is to have faith. Trust in the Lord, repent and have faith that in Jesus Christ he will cleanse away all our sins and all our misdeeds. We can take comfort over these things as he shows us, “…if we are faithless, he remains faithful–for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13) It is our faith in Jesus that can lift us up and set us free when we repent. It is faith that Jesus told Peter and the disciples to rely on when they repented of their failures to keep their word. And it is faith that will eventually lead us to life.

The Return of the Lord

(Matthew 24:15-28) – Part 2

The last days will be difficult times and a time of tribulation such as has not ever been seen before. Jesus says that when we see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place that those in Judea should flee to the mountains. I believe this is a warning for those who live in the region of Jerusalem and Judea to get out of that place and go to higher ground, and to do so quickly. The prophet Daniel was shown that from the time the continual burnt offering is taken away and the desolating sacrilege is set up there would be 1,290 days. (Daniel 12:11) I believe these are actual days and not prophetic days where a day often means a year. Daniel is then told, “Blessed is he who waits and comes to the thousand three hundred and thirty five days.” (Daniel 12:12) This is a difference of forty-five days.

It is my opinion that the reason these people who wait the additional forty-five days are blessed because they will see the coming of the Lord. I believe the blessing referred to by the angel speaking to Daniel is the end of the age and the returning of the Lord. If that is so, then Jesus’ advice for those in Judea and Jerusalem to flee to the mountains makes sense when they see the desolating sacrilege set up in the holy place.

The only place ever referred to as the “holy place” was in the temple in Jerusalem. No other place from a biblical perspective has ever been called the holy place. So that is the place where this desolating sacrilege will be erected, whatever it may be. But why would Jesus tell his people to flee to the mountains at this time? The fact that the man of sin referred to in Daniel and Revelation will set himself up in the temple proclaiming to be God may be justification enough, but he will have been there for several years prior to this time. But it is when the desolating sacrilege is set up that Jesus tells his people to get out of the place and move to higher ground.

I believe the answer is in Zechariah 14. When Jesus was taken up from the earth after he was resurrected and had appeared to the apostles and disciples, he told them that he would return in the same way that he had left. (Acts 1:11) When Jesus was taken up from the earth at that time he had left from the Mount of Olives also known as Olivet. (Acts 1:12) So when he returns we can expect that he will return in the same way and come back to the same place, that is, the Mount of Olives. This is where the scriptures in Zechariah are important.

Zechariah 14:4-5 says, “On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives, which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that half of the Mount shall withdraw northwards, and the other half southwards. And you shall flee by the valley of the Lord’s mountain, for the valley between the mountains shall reach to Azal; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.”

So when the Lord’s feet touch the earth at the Mount of Olives on his return, which is where he left the earth some 2,000 years ago, the Mount of Olives will split in two. There will be a great earthquake when the Lord returns that will split the mountain in two from east to west as the mountain is split to the north and south. At that time the great chasm formed by the earthquake will be filled with water for it will split as far as the Dead Sea in the west and the Mediterranean sea in the east. We see this prophesied in Zechariah 14:8, “On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it shall continue in summer as in winter.”

Again I preface this section by stating that these are my opinions and I am happy to hear any other views on this matter for my own learning and information. Looking at this from a geological perspective we could say that in effect Jerusalem may become a seaport as the waters flow from the Mediterranean, living waters, to the Dead Sea in which no life can exist because of the high salt content. In addition we see that living waters will flow out from Jerusalem to the east and the west. There are significant fresh water aquifers beneath Jerusalem and the surrounding areas at depths of between 500-650 metres. When the great earthquake occurs and the landscape changes according to the prophesy of Zechariah, it is feasible that these aquifers of fresh water will hit the surface and flow from Jerusalem to the east and the west following the crack in the fault line caused by the earthquake.

It is interesting to note also that Zechariah prophesied this earthquake, which God had made known to him. Today we know there is a significant fault line passing through Jerusalem at the Mount of Olives. This fault line runs all the way from Africa through to Syria and is alternately called the “Dead Sea Transform” or the “Syrian-African Rift.” There is no way that Zechariah could have known about this geological fault line and the length and directions it follows. This then provides a proof of the accuracy and more importantly the source of prophecy in the Bible. This knowledge could only have come from God.

So we shall see in these last days at the time of the return of the Lord that there will be great tribulation. But he has pre-warned his people and told us when the clock will start on the countdown to his return. The key is hen we see the continual burnt offering removed and the desolating sacrilege is set up in the holy place. At that time those who are his people in the regions of Jerusalem and Judea should flee to the hills if they are to survive the great earthquake and devastation in the area that will occur upon his return.

Wherever the Body is there the Eagles will be Gathered

(Matthew 24:15-28) – Part 1

In speaking of the last days Jesus gives many warnings and indications of what must happen. Amongst the many signs of the end times there will be great desolation and opposition in the Church. Satan will have his messengers attack the Church from without and within. There will be many false teachers and false prophets arise whose sole purpose is to lead astray the people of God. These false prophets and false teachers are the vultures or eagles Jesus refers to when he said wherever the body is there will the eagles be gathered.

He warns us not to be quickly shaken by these people and these times. They will perform pretended signs and wonders to lead people astray. They will say things indicating where you may find Jesus saying, “He is in the wilderness” or “He is in the inner rooms” or he is someplace else. But Jesus says to ignore them. Don’t listen to them and don’t follow them for they do not know what they are talking about. When Jesus returns it will be such a spectacular event and on such a grand scale that no one in the world will miss it. He likens it to the lightning flashing from one end of the sky to the other and it will not be missed by anyone. (Verse 27) You will not have to go looking for Jesus when he returns as he will literally be larger than life, bigger than any Hollywood blockbuster could ever make him and obvious and apparent to every person on the earth.

But coming back to the eagles, these false teachers and false prophets are likened to birds of carrion. You find eagles and vultures out in the deserts and bushlands where there are dead bodies. Animals that have died in remote places from natural causes, killed by other predators or even hit by cars are the food of these carrion birds. They live off of the flesh of the dead.

These false teachers and false prophets are the same. People who choose to follow falsehoods and refuse to seek or accept the truth are spiritually dead. Even these churches, which may have the appearance of being alive, are spiritually dead. The Lord showed such a thing can exist in the prophecy to the church at Sardis in Revelation 3:1-6. He begins that prophecy saying, “‘I know your works; you have the name of being alive, and you are dead.” Such a church as this is ready to be attacked by these carrion, the false teachers and false prophets. In that section of Revelation there is a warning to beware and repent and so come back to the Lord before falling prey to these vultures.

Individuals will follow after any teaching and forms of belief in the last days, for they choose not to seek the truth by coming to Christ. The apostle Paul was aware of this when he wrote to Timothy saying, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4) Today we see all manner of teachings that are false. There are philosophies, New Age teachings, occult, humanism, atheism, worship of the things of the earth and more, all of which are false teachings designed to lead people astray. And in the church there are polluted teachings that mix some of these things in as well as mixing up teachings from the Old and New Covenants to produce a mumbo jumbo of teachings that have the appearance of religion, but do nothing to set people free from bondage to sin that is at the heart of the New Covenant.

It is the false prophets and false teachers who promote these things to lead people astray. Why do they do these things? Because they are vultures and eagles feeding off the bodies of the spiritually dead who will not listen to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their end will be with those who are doomed to eternal damnation.

So the warning is clear to all who choose to follow Christ. Seek his ways and learn from him so that when confronted by strange and diverse teachings you are not led astray.

Trouble for the End Times Church

(Matthew 24:9-14)

There will be trouble for the end times church as Jesus tells us in this next section. The church will have trouble and individual Christians will suffer for it. There will be a sifting of the wheat from the chaff in the end times and there will be no fence sitting, as these end times will be times for making a stand.

Jesus says that Christians will be delivered up to death and many will fall away. Those who were their brothers and sisters will betray some, and all Christians will be hated by the nations of the world for bearing the name of Christ. These are drastic times for the church and for Christians. Any who proclaim the name of Jesus will be in difficult circumstance. In spite of these fearful warnings though, we must stand firm and fear not. It is the Lord’s battle and he will wage it according to his plans. If some of us die in that battle for taking a stand for Jesus, then so be it. Our reward will be to stand with Jesus on his return and not suffer the loss of our eternal salvation. We will not be cast out as like the sinners and those who choose to oppose Jesus Christ.

These will be times for bearing testimony to Jesus Christ. They will be times for endurance as it is those who endure to the end who will be saved. They will be wicked times and we will see wickedness multiplied. And because of the increase in sin and wickedness in the world we will see that the love of people for their fellow man will grow cold. People will not readily extend a helping hand to those in need, they will not condemn those who do evil, they will fear retribution and so turn away their eyes when they see a wrong committed and they will ignore or reject the plight of those who have been wronged. This is all part of this prophecy of Christ for these end times and we are seeing many of these things happening today.

Prior to the end coming Jesus says there will be many false prophets who will lead many astray. If we are not solidly grounded in the truth and the word of God, then we may also be led astray. It is essential to learn the truth of the gospel now. At this later time it may be too late. Urgency is of the utmost importance. This is not like a school exam where you can cram it all in the night before. Learning the truth of the Christian message and having the truth of the New Covenant take effect in your life takes time. To become mature in Christ is a long road and you cannot expect it to happen overnight.

There will be opportunity to hear the truth of the gospel in the end days amongst all of the false teaching in the church and in the world. For Jesus says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.” (Verse 14) The key words here are “this gospel.” There are many gospels in the world and many are tainted by the opinions of some preachers or church positions. There are some that are simply polluted and false that are designed to do bring gain to the preacher. But Jesus says that “this gospel” must be preached before the end. He is talking about the gospel of the truth. He is talking about HIS gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ that leads men to freedom and to peace.

At present the true gospel, like the true church is hidden from the prying eyes of man. The true gospel is the message of salvation from sin, death and the law and sets man free from all of the things that bind him up both under the law and in the nature of the human passions of the flesh. Only through the gospel of Jesus Christ can a man be set free and only through faith and the grace of God is this achieved. At the right time this true gospel of Jesus Christ will be made plain and open to all of mankind. The time is not yet right for when it does go out and is preached to all of mankind, then there will be a polarising effect such as has never been seen before. Everyone will have to take a position either for or against Christ when this gospel is preached. Those who stand against it will make war on those who stand with Christ. But Christ’s soon to come return will shut them down and prove where the truth stands.

These are interesting times we live in for many who are here today will see these things unfold. These will also be times of trouble and in this section we are called to endure for the sake of Jesus Christ. No person can hide their head in the sand over this matter and these teachings. They will happen whether we like it or not. We must make a stand and we will be forced to make a choice. The choices are clear to be with Christ or against him. There is and will be no middle ground. You must choose where you stand and then do something about it to seek the truth of Christ and the transforming power of his gospel.

Signs of the Close of the Age

(Matthew 24:1-8)

As Jesus left the temple his disciples asked him about his second coming and the signs of the close of the age. His response is particularly of interest to us today for we are living in the age when these prophecies are beginning to be fulfilled. These and other prophecies in the Bible point to this age as being the beginning of the time of the end and the fulfilment of the signs of the close of the age.

In this section Jesus specifically mentioned a number of signs. He prefaced his remarks with a warning saying, “See to it that no one leads you astray.” This is a warning we must pay particular attention to. Although at any time the opposition to Christ and Christians has been strong, in these last days it will intensify.

Jesus says that many will come claiming to be the Christ and will lead many astray. We have seen numerous cults from the deadly ones like the Jonestown massacre and the Branch Davidians through to men setting themselves up as if they are Christ. The work of the antichrist structures in the Churches are also testimony to these times. The coming of antichrist movements were already being seen in John’s day as he indicated in his latter letters. They are even more evident today. An antichrist structure in a Church occurs when a man takes the place of Christ. Any Church that has a man set up as the head of the church is an antichrist structure. Jesus is the head of the Church and no man has the right to take his place. An antichrist structure will lead the people in the church away from the truth into all kinds of error, and you will know these false teachers by their fruit. They will bring the people into bondage and take away the freedom that is in Christ Jesus. They will deny Jesus by taking his place at the head of the church. Thus it is essential that we focus on seeking the truth and looking to the Lord so that we are not led astray. There is only one source of truth and that is from Christ.

Jesus then showed the disciples several of the signs of the end. Specifically he said there would be wars and rumours of wars. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There would also be famines and earthquakes in various places.

These signs have never been more apparent than they are today, and especially just at present. Recent deadly earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand are just the culmination of an extended period of increasing seismic activity in the past century. We saw a couple of years ago the earthquakes that led to tsunamis in Indonesia where several hundred thousand died. Current estimates of those dead or missing in Japan are in the order of tens of thousands. Never have we had the number or intensity of earthquakes as we are seeing at this time.

Consider also the wars and skirmishes in Afghanistan, Iraq, and uprisings of the people against their governments in the Middle East including Egypt, Libya and other places. Never have we had the number of wars and rumours of wars as are occurring at this time.

Finally we are seeing issues with food crops. The intense weather systems are destroying crops in some places. Outcomes from the Japan earthquake with radiation contamination of foods and the contamination of the seas from nuclear reactor problems are impacting the food chain. Locust plagues in some places are the worst they have ever been. Drought has killed off many stock animals and crops which have then been washed away in flooding rains in Australia. All of these are the pre-cursors to times of famine.

We are in interesting times for as Jesus said, these are just the birth pangs of the signs of the close of the age. What we are witnessing is the beginning of the end. The time is getting short and the day of the Lord’s return is coming soon. Our challenge is to be prepared for his return, and we shall see in the next few sections that this is a clear message the Lord is giving to us in this last generation. He is telling us that we must be prepared, for these are just the beginnings and it will get worse.

Now is the time when all God fearing people need to have their wits about them. Now is the time when we will be called upon to bear testimony to the truth. There will be tough times ahead and tremendous opposition as the time draws near. The activity of Satan will increase and his lies will permeate everything in this world. He will not be obvious but will be very deceptive and will lead many astray. Satan is the master of deceit and cunning and that is how many will be captured. We who follow the Lord need to learn what is pleasing to God so that we can stand in the face of his opposition. The Lord will be faithful and will stand with us. However he also warns that some will face death for their stand as Christians. This is not a time for the faint hearted but is a time to consolidate and be prepared to stand up for what is right. His aim in telling us these things in advance is to ensure that we understand and have the knowledge that these things will happen so that we should not fear, unlike the rest of mankind.

In spite of these bad times ahead Jesus said that we must not be alarmed. There will be many disasters ahead as we see the fulfilment of these prophecies. As these things unfold we can be assured that his return will be soon. If we stand with him to the end, standing up for the truth and righteousness we will be rewarded and reap eternal life. There is no middle ground and no fence sitting in these times. We must be prepared to make a stand for Christ regardless of the consequences and be prepared to forgo all the things of this life, including life itself if necessary, for the vastly greater reward of life eternal with him. Focus on the Lord so that you can become strong in his might, ready, able and willing to stand with him in these final days.

Killing the Prophets

(Matthew 23:29-39)

The greatest hypocrisy Jesus condemned the Pharisees and scribes over concerned killing the prophets. They said that had they lived in the days of their fathers they would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets. However Jesus condemns them out of their own mouths.

He shows that they witness against themselves. In their statements they have shown their guilt for they witness that they are the sons of murderous fathers. Their fathers killed the prophets and righteous men sent by God to aid his people. And they would do the same and worse. Already they had consented to the death of John the Baptist. They were about to condemn Jesus and have him put to death. And they would also stone Stephen and put to death James the brother of John when the apostles commenced their ministry.

Indeed they were not only just like their fathers, but they were worse. As Jesus said, all the righteous blood shed would come upon his generation. It was their generation that would put the Christ to the stake and to this day they have been condemned.

They opposed the Lord and the prophets of God down through the generations because they wanted the power to themselves. They sought to rule and control the people for their own gain and benefit. They misused the power they had, which was given to teach the people the ways of God. Instead they used and abused the people and it would be required of them. This was the message he showed to them in various parables. It was stated in the parable of the vineyard let out to tenants (Matthew 21:33-41). It was also the essence of the parable of the marriage feast in Matthew 22:1-10. And yet still the Pharisees could not or would see the evil in their hearts and turn for repentance.

This persecution of God’s people by those who claim to be his but are not is still occurring. Many have been thrown out of churches, excommunicated and shut out because they chose to follow God rather than the false doctrines of religious teachers. Many have suffered when they need not have because they failed to recognise these falsehoods for what they were.

A church or religious leader has tremendous power. They have power over people’s lives and people listen to them for guidance, advice and teaching. If this power goes to their heads it is a dangerous situation, both for the teacher and the flock of God. That is why the Lord says through James, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness. For we all make many mistakes, and if any one makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also.” (James 3:1-2) Above all else they must find the truth themselves and then communicate it to those in their care. They cannot afford for error in the ministry and so must take the greater pains to validate what they are teaching. Their teachings must align with the truth of the words of God. It must be scripture based and it must lead to life and freedom in Jesus Christ.

And yet many preachers continue to teach bondage as did the scribes and Pharisees. Bondage to the law, bondage under sin, condemnation and a ministry based upon works. These are not the teachings of Christ or the New Covenant. They are teachings developed by men for their own devices and to achieve their own ends. The aim of ministry should be growth. Not necessarily the growth of the church in terms of great numbers, but rather the growth of the individual to maturity in Jesus Christ. Ministry should bring us all to that place described in Ephesians 4:11-14.

11 And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,
12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;
14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.

If the ministry of any minister is not leading to this end, they are not teaching the truth of the New Covenant. Thus it is essential that we all learn the scripture, learn the truth and seek the Lord to guide us into all truth so that we may be able to stand. As a simple test of ministry and teachings, Jesus came to give us freedom, not to bring us into bondage. If the ministry being fed to you is bringing you into bondage in any way, you must question it and resist it. We are not captives in Christ but free men. Let no one put you back into slavery under false teaching.

Temptations to Sin are Sure to Come

(Matthew 18:7-9)

As we live in this world we must understand that there are many temptations to sin in the world. Jesus was well aware of this for he knew that temptations to sin are sure to come and in this section even said it was necessary that temptations come.

Everyone in this world suffers temptation. It is how they respond to temptation that is important. If we are to suffer temptation then it is important that we understand a little about what it is and how it occurs.

Temptation occurs in this way. “…but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15) Temptation is external to a person, but it is the internal issues of human passion and desire that allow temptation to bring forth sin. If we are tempted we are at a decision point to resist the temptation or to succumb to it, which leads to sin.

Jesus was aware of how this felt for he too was tempted while on the earth. It is written of him, “For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18) So when we are tempted we have an advocate to help us and we can look to Jesus for support in the time of temptation. He understands our plight for he has been tempted in every way that we men and women are tempted, plus a few others. He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness to prove he was the Son of God, he was tempted through his hunger, and he was tempted with power and many other things as well.

In overcoming temptation we can go to Jesus. We can also appeal for salvation from temptation at the time of the temptation by walking in the Spirit. We see that in Jesus we have a great high priest who can help us in our time of need. The bible says, “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)
We also receive help in temptation as Paul wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) The way of escape at the time of temptation is to walk in the Spirit. It is to go to the Lord in prayer to seek strength to overcome the temptation. Paul in this verse echoes Jesus words for he says that we need to be able to endure temptation. That is, we must still go through the temptation and endure it, but that through God we will not be tempted beyond what we can bear.

Jesus describes how important it is to overcome temptations to sin. He indicates the kind of drastic steps that might be considered if temptation were out of control in a person’s life. A thief who could not resist the temptation to steal might consider cutting off their hands to prevent them from stealing. A person tempted through anger to kick out at another and harm them might consider cutting off a foot to stop them. Now while these may seem drastic, and they are, they illustrate how important it is not to succumb to temptation. Jesus is not telling us to cut off our hands or feet or to pluck out our eyes, but we must take drastic steps and measures to overcome temptation. If we fall snare to temptation and fall back into sin, then the temptation will rob us of our eternal salvation and life with Christ. That is why it is essential that we be prepared to punish every disobedience of our own and to take the most severe steps to fight against temptation. Our eternal salvation may be at stake.

People will tempt us. Satan will use other people to put temptations in our way. Jesus bemoans these people saying, “…woe to the man by whom the temptation comes.” (Verse 7) It is bad enough that we need to go through temptations, but it will be worse for the person bringing the temptation. And we need to be on our guard to ensure we do not put a temptation in the way of others. Peter was used of Satan to try to tempt the Lord Jesus as we see in Matthew 16:21-23. What should we do if we land in such a place? Repent and turn to the Lord for his forgiveness, support and help.

Temptations are necessary and must come to test us and strengthen us. But we need to learn how to resist temptations through the power of walking in the spirit and with the help of the Lord Jesus, knowing that he has already been through these things, but without sin.