No Comparison

(John 5:43-47)

What are you looking for? Most people look for some kind of recognition in some way or another. They want to receive accolades, reward, applause, acclaim or something that highlights their achievements. And they don't want this recognition from just anyone, they seek it from their peers or the people they respect. It's all part of the human condition where we seek approval as part of defining our own self-worth or we want to be seen to be the best at…something. But I'm no shrink, so let's not go too far down those paths. But this section of scripture hints at how this seeking of recognition and approval should work for Christians, and what it's like when it goes wrong.

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Team Jesus

(John 4:31-38)

This teaching is an interesting one as it appears bang in the middle of the teaching about the woman at the well. It is interesting because Jesus shows us here that no one person in God’s Kingdom can, should or does work alone. We are part of a team, Team Jesus, if you will. And as a team we all work together for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.team jesus

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Spreading the Gospel

(Luke 4:42-44)

Jesus quite often went into the wilderness and desolate places. It was perhaps the only time he could get a moment of space to pray and speak to God. In this section of scripture he goes into a desolate place but is followed by the people who would have kept him from departing if they could. But Jesus said to them that he had to preach the good news in other towns for that was the reason he was sent.

bible galatiansJesus was sent by God the Father to preach the good news of salvation to all of mankind. He came to commence this ministry and to spread the word and to call others to service as disciples to then continue to spreading the gospel. Clearly it was and is still well received when you consider that from one man, Jesus, there are now in the vicinity of over two billion people who call themselves Christians today.

In spite of the divisions among the churches over forms of worship and differences in doctrine, the fact is that at the foundation of all Christian belief is Jesus Christ himself. The essence of the Good News of the gospel is the fact that Jesus Christ came to offer mankind salvation from sin and freedom from bondage. There is no other way that any person can be set free from the passions and bondages of human nature, and especially from sin, than through knowing Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Sure some people can gain release from physical addictions and bondages like alcoholism, drug addiction, nicotine and the like, but no man by himself can be set free from sin and the desires of the flesh.

The Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ offers this freedom. And best of all, it is a gift. You do not work for it, you cannot buy it, you cannot do anything to get it. You only need to accept it by faith.

But what should you believe? What is the basis of this faith that we are asked to accept about the life and message of Jesus Christ? How do you find this truth when there is such division in the churches over what is or is not the truth of Jesus Christ?

Well far be it from me to condemn the teachings of any of the churches for they all have something to offer, even if it is only a place to find Jesus. But it is important for every person to seek out their own salvation. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit as Counsellor, comforter, teacher and guide so that we can find the truth. So the starting point is to ask Jesus for the Holy Spirit to work in your life and bring you understanding. Read the bible and take in his teachings for the word contains the truth of the Gospel and the words of God to guide all of us.

You may actually need to step outside of the churches to find the truth. The writer of Hebrews shows us this as an analogy when speaking about the death of Jesus. He wrote in Hebrews 13:11-13 the following words:

11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp.
12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.
13 Therefore let us go forth to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured.

When the animals used in the blood sacrifices in the temple at Jerusalem were burned they were taken out of the temple and out of the city to be burned. Likewise when Jesus suffered and died for us he was taken out of the city and put to death. The analogy here is that as the animal bodies were taken out and away from the temple, Jesus too was taken away and out from the temple. The animals gave their blood as sacrifice for sin and Jesus gave his blood as sacrifice for our sin, and much more too. Thus the writer tells us to go out from the temple and perhaps to step away from organised religion so that we can find the Saviour.

Am I saying that Jesus cannot be found in the churches? Absolutely not! What I am saying though is that you may find the Saviour, but to advance in Christ and to learn the truth may require you to look outside of the comfort of the church. There are many things taught in many churches that are not in accordance with the truth of the gospel. To find the truth might require you to stand outside the church because your salvation cannot rely on anyone else but yourself and Jesus Christ.

On the Day of Judgement there will be no advocate between you and God, no priest, pastor, minister, clergy or whatever. On the final day it will be you alone standing before the Lord to give account and thus you may need to step outside the church to find the truth about Jesus and where you stand. Jesus went into the wilderness and sometimes we need to go into the wilderness as well.

(Picture sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by Billy Alexander)

All This For Free

(Mark 10:1)

It occurred to me as I read this first verse of Mark how valuable the word of the Lord is. The scripture says, “And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again; and again, as his custom was, he taught them.”

Mark seems to be making a point here when he says, “…and again…” and also “…as his custom was…” It was customary for Jesus to teach the people. Whenever the people came to him or a crowd came together, it was Jesus’ custom to AGAIN teach them about the kingdom of God.

All This For Free

This is a simply wonderful teaching. The Lord WANTS us to learn and know all things pertaining to the kingdom of God. He WANTS us to know what it is all about and how the gospel works. He WANTS us to understand the mysteries of the New Covenant so that we can live a better life and receive the promise of his kingdom. And it was HIS CUSTOM to offer his teachings to the people anywhere and everywhere they came to him.

What is even more wonderful is that his price for doing this work was…nothing! Zero, zip, nada, zilch or any other way you want to put it. He gave us this teaching that will lead us to life for free. There was no cost involved and no price to pay because even on that score, he paid the price for us when he died for our sins on Calvary. How great and wonderful is the love that God has for his people when we stop to consider what he has done for us!

In another place I have stated that you earn death but life is free. And this is true for the Bible shows us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Just look at those words for a minute. You earn wages when you do some form of work or provide a service. In this case when you do the “work” of sin you earn the wages of sin…death. But life eternal is given to us as a free gift from God when we believe in his son, the Lord Jesus Christ. How good is that! Life is free but you earn death. I know which one I would prefer.

This is not the way the world today works. The principles of life in this world is, “What’s in it for me.” But in Christ it is, “What’s in it for you.” Jesus does not want our stuff. He does not want our money, possessions or anything else. He wants us. And not for his purposes but for ours, so that he can give us eternal life…for free. You cannot buy the truth of the New Covenant because it is not for sale. If you want the truth, ask the Lord as he has said, “Ask and it will be given.” (Matthew 7:7)

All of this has been given to us for free. In the world of business, marketers talk about a price vs. quality relationship. By that they say that people perceive that if something has a high price there is an expectation of high quality. Well that may hold true in the world of business and consumerism, but in Christ it is the opposite. He gives to us freely of those things that are the best of quality. What could be better than the offer of eternal life for free?

The Lord wants us to know him and his ways. That is why he taught the people at every opportunity and why he has provided us with the opportunity to read the Bible and learn through the guidance of the Holy Spirit today. Let us take full advantage of this wonderful gift while we are able.

(Picture sourced from Stock.xchng.com http://www.sxc.hu taken by Pedro Rezende)

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.

Treasures New and Old

(Matthew 13:51-52)

This section concludes the parable teachings that Jesus gave to his disciples at this time. He also provides a valuable lesson here on the methods by which they were to pass on this information. He describes here how they are trained and were to train others. To understand some of this it was necessary to refer to the original Greek so that the full meaning of the words could be extracted.

First Jesus asks the disciples if they have understood all that he has tole them, to which they said, “Yes.” He then wraps up the section with a comment about the training of scribes for the kingdom of heaven and how they were to teach.

First we should consider the word scribes. Although Jesus often upbraided the scribes of his time, he is now not talking about those men and what they taught. Here he is talking about a scribe in a general sense. In Jesus’ time the scribes were the learned men. They could read and write and had knowledge. There were no printing presses at the time and so the scribes were employed to hand copy documents and books for distribution. It was necessary that they were accurate so that the meaning of the texts were not distorted or lost, and for the most part they were good at this function.

We see then that Jesus is talking about a specific type of scribe, one who is trained for the kingdom of heaven. So these people he is referring to are the teachers and preachers of the gospel. They are the learned people of the good news of the kingdom of God and who are entrusted with the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the means by which people can enter the kingdom of God.

He likens these people to a householder who brings out treasure. However the original Greek word for “householder” is better translated as the “master of the house.” This master is the head of the house who in that house is the person in charge or a person of authority. In relation to the house of God, Jesus is the master of the house and the one in charge. And the scribes of the kingdom of heaven are like the master of the house, who is Jesus. The work of the New Covenant in our life is to transform us into the image of Christ so that we truly can be like the master of the house. So the teachers and the preachers of the New Covenant are to be like Jesus who is the master of the house.

Now the master of the house brings out treasures new and old. If we think about an event about to take place in a great house, say like a wedding, the house is decorated. And the decorations will often be valuable and some will be old, like family heirlooms, and some will be new that were bought for the occasion. These things are taken from the storage in the house, which may have been a locked treasury in days gone by. It is a place where items of great value are kept for just such occasions. The treasures new and old that we have are likewise of great value, for the teachings of the kingdom of God are teachings of life.

When a teacher then is bringing forth the message of the New Covenant, he may and should bring forth this treasure in both old and new things. A teacher needs to use all of the information, knowledge and wisdom they have gained through trial, error, experience and study to bring forth the message. It may be things they have learned many years ago or may be knowledge acquired just recently. It may be examples from the Old Testament or doctrine from the New Testament. Whatever it is, the teacher needs to bring forth what is appropriate for the lesson and time at hand. They cannot just continue to drone about the one thing constantly but as the people learn and grow, the message needs to grow too.

This is a valuable insight into the way that Jesus showed the disciples to teach the new covenant. It is interesting that he used the analogy of a scribe, for the scribes of his time were anything but flexible in their teaching. And in essence he is saying that to bring forth treasures old and new is to be flexible in how they should teach. Not to compromise the message, but to apply it the best way to the situation. The scribes of that time though were rigid and inflexible. They taught the law in a legalistic and rigid manner. But as Jesus showed, they ignored the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy and faith. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23)

Paul knew this too, for he said, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law–though not being myself under the law–that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law–not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ–that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-22) Paul took this message to the people using old and new methods to teach it in a way they could understand the message.

There is wisdom in this teaching for any who teach the gospel not to be dogmatic or rigid. Learn the truth and apply it to your life and the way it is taught. Speak to people using the old and the new treasures of the covenant as Jesus did so that we too can be like the master of the house in our preaching and teaching.