Archive for June, 2017
“And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22).
Based upon the claims of this verse, and others like it, we have all delivered up prayers in our time of distress, conjured up as much faith as possible, and waited on God’s response, only to be disappointed. The health, wealth, and prosperity gurus would have us believe our faith was somehow lacking. Consistency, however, would demand they say the same regarding Jesus’ Gethsemane prayer, or Paul’s thorn in the flesh petition. No, the believing prayer is one that sees beyond the temporal benefit to the providential purposes of God. When we pray with such confidence, it will most certainly be received.
“Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, ‘How did the fig tree wither all at once?’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea’ it will happen’” (Matthew 21:20-21).
Jesus needs the disciples to stop being amazed and start having an amazing Kingdom vision that believes possible what others view as impossible. While we may not speak to mountains, we speak daily of the mountains that seek to block our path. When we do, do we speak with the confidence of faith? To doubt is to live as though God does not exist. We are called to be possibility thinkers for a God who does the impossible.
“Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, ‘No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.’ And at once the fig tree withered” (Matthew 21:19).
We are barking up the wrong tree if we think faith can exist apart from bearing fruit. Tragically, church attendance, religious jargon, even prayer and bible study can become leafy expressions, offering the impression that fruit-bearing is being accomplished. It’s the difference between showy religion and a faith that shows.
“Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:15).
The language of childbirth paints a vivid picture of the evolving path of sin’s destructive course. While we would never consider impeding the gestational development of a child, James point is that the birth cycle of sin—from the conception of lust to the fruition of execution—is a process that can be aborted, broken, and stopped. It’s the pro-active approach to living as a victor instead of the conditioned approach that exists as a victim.
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” (James 1:13).
“In the beginning” saw not only the birth of creation but also the origin of placing blame. Adam blamed both God and Eve, while Eve sought to blame the serpent. We are part of a long, rich history of passing the buck. That God cannot be tempted by evil literally means he is “inexperienced in” such things. To be sure, the source of our temptation is to be found neither above us nor below us, but in front of us. It is the reflection we see in the mirror.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
There is no better analogy of what happens when we enter into a relationship with Christ at conversion than the birth of a child. Conversion marks the start of a new life that never before existed. Also, just as we did not birth ourselves physically, neither can we birth ourselves spiritually—it is a work of God. Finally, both birth and the new birth of conversion brings us into a family. It is a celebration of life.
“For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them” (2 Peter 2:21).
With knowledge comes responsibility. To be entrusted with Divine Truth; the knowledge of the resurrected and exalted Savior; the Pearl of great price, is significant. It has been handed down from generation to generation and now rests with us. We must not act ignorantly with the knowledge we have been given.
“And looking at them Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’” (Matthew 19:26).
Hearing the demands set before the rich young ruler and the expectations of the law, one is left wondering, like the disciples, if salvation is even possible (v.25). That’s the very point Jesus is making. The demands of God’s word make us keenly aware of our need for a Savior. Apart from him there is no life. The cross of Jesus says that God has accomplished for us what we could have never achieved for ourselves.
“Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me’” (Matthew 19:21).
Don’t miss the healthy tension this verse creates. I don’t want to so particularize Jesus’ words as something pertinent for this man alone, that I miss out on what it can mean for me. I am no less vulnerable to the clenching vises of greed and covetousness than this man. Thus, the hypnotic intoxication of investment is broken by the divesting call of “follow Me.” In daily so doing, we discover the only true investment.
“Then he said to Him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not commit murder; you shall not steal; your shall not bear false witness; honor your father and mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 19:18-19).
It’s telling that Jesus would focus this inquiring young man’s attention to the second table of the law; those dealing with human relationships. While anyone can offer a subjective confession to the primacy of God, emphasized in the first table of the law, it is our dealings with real people that bear the more objective evidence of how our faith is being borne out. It is this neighbor love that speaks the real “God story” of our lives.