Category Archives: matthew

The Long and Winding Road

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

-Matthew 1:17 (NASB)

I’m beginning another trek through Matthew and stopped for a bit today to think about the long list of names that begin his Gospel. Patriarchs, kings, ordinary folks, and some notable women run through this genealogy. Lists of names, which are found so often in the Old Testament but much less so in the New, don’t on the surface seem to make for great reading. But I look at these names with a bit of wonder; fallen men and women, some with great but flawed makeups (Abraham, David, Solomon), others with lives that resembled the thief on the cross (Manasseh). In The Gospel of the Kingdom, C.H. Spurgeon remarked, “We will not pry into the mystery of the incarnation, but we must wonder at the condescending grace which appointed our Lord such a pedigree.” All of these share in the long line of God’s faithfulness – a promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12 that in him, “all the families of the earth will be blessed”; to David in 2 Samuel 7 that “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.” Promises separated by hundreds of years …and I find it greatly humbling that now thousands of years later, this long and winding road now puts we who belong to God in this same story.

It’s difficult not to feel a mix of emotions when thinking about each of the names in Matthew 1:1-17 – frustration, anger, sadness, pity. It’s also easy to look at my own life and feel the exact same things. But this genealogy that Matthew preserves for us reminds us that all of us – sinful, wretched, and fallen as we all are, all who come to Christ -by grace through faith- can be assured that He will in no way cast them out (John 6:37). All of us can then rightly take our place in this grand story and be assured He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

Image via Sten [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Shall We Look For Another ?

“Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?'” – Matthew 11:2-3 (ESV)

I’ve begun this year reading through the Gospel of John and am amazed again at the man we know as John the Baptist. It’s difficult to find another person in Scripture who is a better example of real humility. Confronted by priests and Levites during his ministry to explain who he was, John the Baptist stated emphatically that he was not the Christ. Although he had a following of his own, John continually made sure to point these followers away from him and toward Jesus – “Behold the Lamb of God!” he said on more than one occasion to deflect his own disciples to the Messiah. As he is about to exit the public stage, John the Baptist declares, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30). John Calvin commented on this verse that “this zeal of John all pastors of the Church ought to imitate by stooping with the head and shoulders to elevate Christ.”

This is the last we hear of John the Baptist in the Gospel of John. We have other accounts of his ministry in the other Gospels, and one of these has always been a little puzzling to me. We are told in both Luke 7 and Matthew 11 that while John is in prison, he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him the following – “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” This question doesn’t seem to square up with John’s prior testimony, especially with what we read in the first chapter of John’s Gospel.

I wonder what was going through the mind of John the Baptist at this point in his life. Was his faith faltering a bit here ? Did he expect greater earthly results from Jesus’ ministry ? Is it simply that he was just an earthly man, with doubts and struggles like the rest of us (and Jesus’ own disciples, for that matter, who deserted Him as well) ?

Just thinking out loud here without having any real opinion. John the Baptist’s words, “He must increase, but I must decrease” ring loudly in my ears as a picture of what real humility looks like in the life of a Christian. I’m just wondering if anyone out there has any ideas on why he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him those questions. What might be going on here ?

Anxious For Nothing (Pt. 1)

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” – Matthew 6:27 (ESV)

A few weeks ago I received a book from Grace To You called Anxious For Nothing, written by John MacArthur. I started reading it about ten days ago and thought I’d journal here about what I’m learning from this book.

Anyone who knows me well will tell you I’m a bit of a worrywart. It’s something I’ve carried with me from childhood. There are times that the anxiousness goes away and hides for a while, but the tendency to worry always lies somewhere under the surface. I know of course that this type of behavior is something we are directly commanded not to do in Scripture – the examples of Matthew 6:25-34 and Philippians 4:6-7 probably being the most well known. The circumstances of my life the last half of this year have heightened the worry it seems – losing my Dad, changing jobs and continually searching for a new one, family issues – all of these have made me feel a bit unsettled. My mind has trouble shutting off at night and I’m always thinking about what’s coming up, what’s next. I’m definitely not much of a “live in the moment” person these days.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:34 (ESV)

For these reasons I was especially looking forward to reading this book from John MacArthur. In the first chapter of this book, MacArthur relates a scene from Sherlock Holmes and a conversation between Holmes and Dr. Watson. Holmes asks Watson to recount how many steps there are leading from a hall to a certain room. Watson explains that he doesn’t know, even though he’s been up & down those stairs hundreds of times. Holmes responds, “You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed.”

MacArthur asks us to identify with Holmes or Watson in this passage, with the implication that many of us lean towards Watson. How true this is. Each worry that we come across somehow seems different than one in the past. But yet, how graciously did God provide for us the last time we worried so ? Worry, as MacArthur explains, really signifies our lack of faith. I’d also suggest it may be an example of pride as well, thinking this issue or problem is even too big for God to handle – only our worry and anxiousness can help figure this one out.

Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Sometimes I wonder how much of the old has really passed away in my case. God created us in His own image – but how much of our life before Christ is still “hardwired” in, or how much of what makes you “you” is still there and will always be ? Is the fact that we worry less than in years past an example of the progression of our sanctification ? Or is worry in any degree a sin that shows how much we fail to trust God ?

In this first chapter, MacArthur asks us to observe a little more and not just see, and reflect more on the latter part of Matthew 6. Observe the lilies and the birds and see little they lack. Stop for a moment and think about these things. In our daily hustle and bustle, this type of observation often goes right out the window. But it’s crucial to cutting worry off at the pass, and meditating on how much God loves and cares for us.

In the second chapter of his book, MacArthur turns to “avoiding anxiety through prayer”. I’ll get to that next.

No One Knows That Day and Hour

“Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” – Matthew 24:44 (ESV)

No One Knows That Day and Hour

I’ve been reading through Matthew 24 and 25 these last few days and reflecting on Jesus’ words in these two chapters. Over the last year or so especially, I’ve become very mindful of how I’m using my time. Is what I’m doing right now honoring God ? Is this really the best use of my time, to be doing this or watching this game, TV show, movie, etc. ? Would Jesus be pleased if He were standing next to me and listening to the way I speak to my wife, my family, my co-workers ? Am I really ready for that glorious day when He returns ? Many times, I have to sadly admit to myself that the answer is no, that I’ve failed miserably, and that “my lamp has no oil in it” (Matthew 25:3).

Reading through these chapters though has encouraged me to keep up the pursuit, and to continue to be vigilant about what I’m doing. There are an infinite number of things that can occupy our time these days, some of which are good for the soul and some that aren’t. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful.” What a reminder this is in light of Jesus’ parables in Matthew 25.

No one knows that day or hour…
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
“True Christians ought to live like GOOD SERVANTS, whose master is not at home. They should strive to be always ready for their master’s return. They should never give way to the feeling, ‘my Lord is delaying his coming.’ They should seek to keep their hearts in such a frame, that whenever Christ appears, they may at once give Him a warm and loving reception.

There is a vast depth in that saying, ‘Blessed is that servant whom his master finds doing so when he comes.’ We may well doubt whether we are true believers in Jesus, if we are not ready at any time to have our faith changed into sight.” – J.C. Ryle

The Abundance of the Heart


“But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” – Matthew 12:24 (ESV) 

 

I’ve read this account quite a few times now in Matthew, Mark and Luke, and each time I have to admit, I laugh a bit when I read it. I’m amazed at the logic that the Pharisees come up with to actually make this statement. Basically the Pharisees are convinced that Satan himself is behind the destruction of his own kingdom ?! I think beyond that though Jesus gives a good indication of how black their hearts were at this time by his statement in verse 34 – “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” If the Pharisees actually went and said these words, you can imagine what they must have been thinking. The people around them were amazed at what Jesus was doing and they apparently had become so angry and frustrated that they began spewing nonsense.

On the other hand, I consider this a good warning for myself as well. If “the abundance of my heart” contains anger, impatience, and irritability, eventually that will bubble up to the surface, and I’ll most likely say something that I’ll regret. Jesus reminds us in verses 36 and 37 that we’ll have to account for everything we say, and those words will either justify or condemn us. We should instead look to the words of Paul in Colossians 4:6 – “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

Let our words build up and encourage others and not tear down.

The Wrong Hunger

“Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.
So Esau despised his birthright.”
– Genesis 25:34 (NIV)

stew

If you’re following along with the Discipleship Journal reading plan this year, today finds us in Genesis 25-26, Psalm 10, Acts 6, and Matthew 5:1-12. There is a great contrast between what we read in Genesis 25 and Matthew 5 today. In Genesis 25, we see Jacob cooking some stew while his brother Esau is out in the fields, possibly hunting. Esau comes home and is starving, so he asks his brother for some of the stew. Jacob (who always seems to outwit his brother) says sure – just sell me your birthright first. That was quite a price for one meal ! But for some reason, Esau goes along with it. He gets his meal and satisfies his hunger, but then finds trouble for most of the rest of his life. I wonder how often Esau looked back on that meal and considered how shortsighted he was.

On the other hand, in Matthew 5, we find the Beatitudes. Jesus is speaking to the crowds and declares, “”Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (5:6 ESV). The kind of hunger that Jesus is referring to here has nothing to do with stew or lunch or breakfast. He’s asking us to hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God – to seek His ways. He reminds us in John 6:35 that He is “the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

Have a hunger for God today. Seek His righteousness. Read His Word and strive for holiness.

count it all joy

Belief and Conduct

My friend Claire over at One Passion One Devotion had a post today that stuck with me about our beliefs and our conduct. Here’s Claire:

i read a fabulous quote today that resonated in my heart and challenges me all the way through…. when we die (or if jesus comes back first) we come before God to give an account of our life… and at that point the criteria has nothing to do with orthodoxy – right doctrine – what we believe in, but rather it is all about orthapraxis – right practice – how we live.

the challenging part of this is especially in context of matthew 25 –

This is something I’ve become more and more aware of in my own life – realizing there is a huge difference between knowing about God and knowing God. Reading through Matthew 3 these last couple of days has also helped to bring this home. John the Baptist talks about this in v. 10 – “Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” In one of his Gospel sermons, Greg Laurie explained, “I always look for fruit – the only way to know if a conversion is real. The proof is in the pudding.”

In my morning prayers and throughout the day, I’ve been asking God, “How can I best serve You today ? How can I serve those around me, at work and at home ?” I’m not saying I haven’t done this in the past, but I’ve just become much more aware of it now, and how much growth I still need in this area. So often I find I do not have a servant’s heart for those around me. And there is always work to be done for the Kingdom of God.

Heavenly Father, please change my selfish heart to a servant’s heart. Let others see the beauty of Your Son through my conduct. In Jesus’ name I pray.

Amen.

“Could it be that my worth should depend
By the crimson stained grace on a hand
And like a lamp on a hill
Lord I pray in Your will
To reveal all of You that I can”

– Jennifer Knapp, “Martyrs and Thieves”