Wednesday, December 30, 2009

II Peter 2:14 Into the Mind and Out of the Mouth

I use the computer everyday in my job. Sometimes, as part of my assignments, I have had to use the computer to sort through billions of dollars worth of financial transactions to find stuff (i.e.—how much was spent on payroll for each employee, transactions involving small items such as computer equipment). Most of the time, I am able to find what I’m looking for without a ton of problem but I have on more than one occasion put the wrong search criteria in, waited 15 minutes, and gotten nothing out of the data only to realize I made an error. I found out the hard way how the adage “Garbage in/Garbage out” is very true. In much the same way, Peter in this verse shows us how these godless false teachers are corrupted inwardly and how that corruption is displayed outwardly.

First of all, as with all sin, we find that these false teachers depraved character begins in their minds—in the appetites they allow themselves to cultivate. In the previous verses, we’ve seen how their sinfulness is evident in their attitudes and their actions. They do what comes naturally and are so brazen in their sinfulness that they don’t even wait for the cover of darkness. Peter now shows us why they behave this way. He tells us they have “eyes full of adultery”. Now, you would point out, and rightly so, that I said the problem started in their minds but here Peter says “eyes”. That is true. However, what do you look at? Well, you look at what you want to look at, don’t you? You direct your eyes with your mind. Your eyes do not have a mind of their own but rather you focus them on the things that you want to see.

Now, we see these men who claim to speak for God, as we see here, focus their eyes on objects of sexual lusts. They don’t just take casual, passing glances. Rather, their eyes are “full”, which is used here it seems to describe how frequently they lust with their eyes. These men, in positions of trust and responsibility, use that position to abuse those who trust them. In all churches throughout the world this sort of thing has happened. The saddest, most heart wrenching part of that fact is that there are men who have helped to cover up these abuses. While Peter does not specifically say that sexual activity has taken place, these men have at the very least lusted with their eyes, which is just as sinful from God’s perspective. In fact, the verb in this phrase, “having”, is in the present tense which means this is an ongoing activity for them. Also, Peter tells us their eyes “never cease from sin”. Further, since Peter says their eyes are full of “adultery” we know that the looks are not simply a passing glance but rather a lingering gaze. As Warren Wiersbe has written, it is possible for a man to look at a woman, know that she is beautiful and not lust after her (I don’t suggest trying to convince your wife or girlfriend of that-joe). What Peter describes here is a look that is intended to gratify some sexual desire in the mind of these false teachers and it is intentional.

Their depraved character is also evidenced in what they say. From out of their mouths come words intended to entice “unstable souls”. Now, in the context, this could very well be descriptive of false teachers who seduce “weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses” (II Timothy 3:6). However, I believe this could apply to other kinds of false teaching as well. The human heart is wicked and depraved to the core. We want to reject the truth of God’s word and the authority it represents. Satan uses all the means at his disposal in his attempts at “enticing” (delazo [1185]-to bait or trap) us to sin. For some, it may be the promise of a life of comfort (“God never meant for you to be broke or sick”). For others, it may be a license to sin as some suggested in Paul’s day (Romans 6:1). Others still may be beguiled by the suggestion that they can earn their own way to heaven or in someway cooperate with God in their justification and thereby be made righteous through their own efforts. It should be noticed that those who follow are described here as being “unstable souls”. Rather than being grounded and established in the truth, these people are able to be swayed by the false teachers because their doctrine is shaky and unsteady. They may know what they believe but they don’t know why. They would most certainly not be students of the word who are prepared to defend the truth and give an answer for what they believe. These people willingly follow a false gospel because their heart has not been transformed by the truth.

The words and thoughts of these false teachers indicate the depth of their depravity. They are truth godless and not only have rejected the truth but attempt to lead others astray. As we serve the Lord, we must constantly be on guard for false teachers among us so they can be refuted and their false doctrine rejected.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Matthew 7:7-8 God-A Heavenly Father or Cosmic Slot Machine?

Why does Jesus instruct us to pray in the Sermon on the Mount and even show us how we should pray? As we examine these verses, I believe it’s pretty clear that God is our Father and wants us to realize and therefore depend on His love for us. Because of His relationship with us, we can go to Him in prayer with out needs. However, we should not take these verses out of context to insinuate that God sits on His throne, exalted in heaven, wearing a celestial plastic name tag saying “May I take your order?”

Notice, first of all in verse 7, that Jesus gives us 3 commands (imperative). The first of these is that we are to “ask”. Now, obviously, if we are asking for something that suggests a lack of some sort. I mean, you wouldn’t ask for something that you already had or had enough of. The Greek verb actually has the sense of imploring in earnest. You might even describe it as begging. This is not just a simple request but an urgent one. Jesus also tells us to “seek”. We’re not to just ask, sit on our hands, and wait for the answer to drop out of the sky. If we are so urgent in our needs that we are pleading with God then we will actively look for His solution. We will put feet to our faith. Again, since the verb in the Greek is in the present tense it should be understood that we are to continually seek. We should be persistent.

Finally, if we’re really serious in our prayer to God, we should also “knock”. Notice the progression, not only in activity but in intensity. If you’ve ever been home when someone has come by that you didn’t want to see and you hid out while they knocked on the door you know how irritating a persistent knocking on the door can be. I don’t believe that Christ’s point is that we should annoy God as if such a thing were even possible. I submit that His intention was that we should not give up on prayer and we should constantly and consistently come before the throne of God with our needs.

As we see in verse 7 and verse 8, prayer is effective. God is moved when His children pray and when we “ask…seek…and knock” we can be sure that we receive, find, and discover that the door is opened. But, the question is surely raised, what is it that we will find? Those with an unbiblical “name it/claim it” theology strip this verse from its context and use it to justify asking from a greedy heart, seeking in a covetous manner, and imagine themselves knocking on the door of the vault of heaven’s riches. However, let us remember the context of this command. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has painted a picture of humility, and a sincere, perfect devotion to God as demonstrated by not only the outward action of the person but the inward character of the individual. Now, recognizing that, all of us have to admit that none of us get close to that. I know, in my own heart, that when I get to heaven I want to compare notes with the Apostle Paul about the whole “chief of sinners” thing, because I’m pretty sure I’ve got him beat. If we truly meditate on our unworthiness and God’s righteousness and just how far we fall short of that then I doubt seriously we will treat God as the equivalent of an omnipotent Bellhop. I can’t conceive of someone who recognizes themselves as a sinner who deserves not God’s grace but God’s wrath and that it is only by His sovereign election that he or she is saved they will not pray selfishly. We can and certainly should come to God with our needs, the most preeminent of which is our spiritual need to have our hearts and minds made new and conformed to the image of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Jesus in these verses directs us to persistently seek God in prayer. In fact, He commands it. As we will see in the following verses, we do not go simply as sinners imploring the Almighty Ancient of Days. We are children of God and we can approach Him as such, as we will see in the next verses.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Advent of The Lord part 5

This is the final post in my series on Matthew 2. I pray just as the magi found what they were looking for and rejoice that you too will find joy in this season where we celebrate the birth of Christ.


There is nothing in the universe that will satisfy the human heart like Jesus. People try to find the ultimate pleasure in success, money, physical relationships, power, possessions, and many other things. However, the only way to truly enjoy life to the fullest and find true, lasting satisfaction is in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Only when we humble ourselves and worship Him as our God will we ever truly feel lasting joy. In our scripture passage today, the wise men from the east find just that kind of joy when they find and worship the Lord Jesus.

As we read the scripture, we find that after they conversed with Herod the Great as to how long the star had been appearing, they left immediately. Verse 9 records that when they had heard the king, they departed. These guys were on a mission. They were focused and persistent. They had made a long, probably dangerous, journey and they were very close to their goal. As we read earlier in this chapter, these men had come on this journey to worship God. As impressive as Herod’s court likely was to these foreign dignitaries, it was not enough to delay them from their ultimate goal,

We also note in that verse that these men searched persistently. The verse records that the star which they had seen in the east went before them till it came and stood over where the young Child was. These wise men had followed this star all the way from the east and knew it to be a supernatural sign from God that pointed to the birthplace of the Messiah. They persistently followed this sign. This sign was available to all the citizens of Jerusalem and certainly to the religious leaders. However, these Jews were not the ones to go and greet the Messiah. Instead, these Gentile astrologers were the ones followed this star to the King of kings.

Because they had found the One they were looking for, they were overcome with happiness and rejoiced with exceedingly great joy as Matthew records in verse 10. They weren’t just happy to have found Him. They had joy on top of joy. They were ecstatic. We can imagine these men having spent their whole life pursuing meaningless, empty truth. At some point, they must have been able to read and learn the Hebrew Scriptures because they knew the prophecies concerning the Messiah. At some point, they felt a desire to search for the Truth and find the God who would come as Messiah. While we do not have recorded the particulars of how or why they began their search, they must have gone in response to the Word of God. They found the fulfillment of the prophecies they had read and were overjoyed.

Their joy is ultimately expressed in their worship. Worship should be a natural expression of our love for God. These men, upon seeing God in human flesh, fell down and worshipped Him. We see in verse 11 as much as anywhere the true motivation behind the journey of these men. Yes, we had heard them say they were here to worship, but here we see them express their feelings by their actions. I know in churches sometimes people will stand with the congregation during the hymns and not sing. Perhaps they feel that singing is reserved for those who have beautiful voices. I submit to you that after what God has done for us by choosing us and sending His Son to be a sacrifice for our sins, we should sing no matter how we sound. We should worship through our giving, through our service, and through out attention as His Word is preached to us. Praise God for the example of these Gentile men who fell prostrate before our Lord and worshipped Him as God Almighty. We also observe that they gave Him gifts that recognized His Kingship, His Priesthood, and His role as sacrifice by giving him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We should reflect on their sacrificial giving and recognize that worship is only truly worship when it is performed out of love from a heart that is thankful. When we remember the grace of God and how He drew us to Himself, our hearts should rejoice as these men’s hearts did and that joy should overflow into love and praise for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Advent of The Lord part 4

I will be posting the exposition I did a few years ago of Matthew 2. I felt it particularly appropriate for this time of year. I pray that you are encouraged.


In Genesis Chapter 3, we read about the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. When God pronounced His curse on the serpent, He said that the Seed of the woman would crush his (Satan’s) head while Satan would bruise the Seed’s heel. This conflict between Satan and God is carried on throughout Scripture. Time and time again, we find Satan attempting to thwart the plan of God to bring salvation to the world. Time and time again, we find Satan used the same means in his attempt to do so. Through various means, he tried to kill the Jewish people since the promised Messiah would be Jewish. We see in the book of Exodus, the wicked Pharaoh was motivated to kill all the Jewish males in an attempt to exterminate the Jewish race. In the book of Esther, we see Haman try to have the Jewish race killed by the King of the Medeo-Persian Empire. Although we know Satan has no way to be able to defeat the plans of God, we see examples in scripture of him trying to do just that. In Matthew chapter 2, we see this all too familiar strategy attempted again by this wicked Roman ruler.

We can see how carefully Herod the Great laid his evil plan out. We see in verse 7 of chapter 2 that he secretly called the wise men. Most of the time, if someone is trying to do something secretly, it’s usually not something good. Oh, sure, someone could be trying to set up a surprise party or hide a Christmas gift for someone special. However, most of the time, if someone wants something hidden it is because it is something they are ashamed for people to see. We know the end of this story and what Herod wanted to do to our Lord Jesus. Even if we didn’t already know that, however, the facts we know in history and what we have read so far in chapter 2 would cause us to be suspicious at his secret consultation with these wise men. We also observe the manner in which he questioned them about the star. The verse records that he determined from them what time the star appeared. In the Greek, the way determined is used indicates that he thoroughly questioned them to find out precisely how long the star had been appearing in the sky. This same word is translated carefully in the next verse. Herod wanted to make sure he knew not only where his target was but how long he had been alive. We see him methodically planning and plotting with a sinister precision that would even impress Lex Luthor.

In fact, his method of planning his crime is not the only way he resembles a comic book villain. He even employs henchmen. I imagine once he found out where the Child was born, he thought it would be too obvious or cause too much of a scene if he went there himself. Perhaps he was afraid the people would revolt against him in favor of this new King. Whatever his motivations, he did not travel to Jerusalem himself. Instead, verse 8 records that Herod sent the wise men to Bethlehem with instructions to search carefully for the young Child and when they found Him he wanted them to bring back word to him. Again, he wanted no stone left unturned. His instructions were for them to make a thorough, accurate, exhaustive search to find exactly where this new King was living. This agent of Satan did not want to miss his intended target. In the ultimate act of hypocrisy, he tells them that he, too, wants to worship the Christ. We should remember that not every person who claims to be a Christian is truly a Christian. People use the name of Christ and the church sometimes to try to hide their less than pure motives. The epistles are replete with examples of false teachers who try to use their ministry for their own greedy purposes. I know that sort of thing still happens today. What we see in Herod, then, is just another example of a lost person trying to use religion as a cloak for his own sinful desires.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Advent of The Lord part 3

I will be posting my exposition of Matthew 2 over the new few weeks in anticipation of the celebration of our Lord's birth this season. I pray that you are encouraged.


We observed in the last study of Matthew 2 how the birth of our Lord Jesus caused uneasiness in the heart of Herod the Great and the people in Jerusalem. The advent of the Prince of Peace caused them to panic for different reasons. Herod was afraid of a political rival and the people were afraid of Herod. However, one would expect the religious leaders, who were fervently anticipating the arrival of the Messiah, to have a proper response. Surely, they would praise God for finally sending the “Consolation of Israel” and fall down to worship Christ. We will see, as we study God’s word that, sadly, this is not the case.

We read in verse 4 of the text that Herod gathered all the chief priest and scribes of the people together and he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. This was a fairly startling move for this man and it reveals something of his motivations. We know that the news that One had been born King of the Jews troubled him. We also know that he was not Jewish and from things we can read in history he was not a person of faith. We know, therefore, that the reason for his inquiry was not godly nor were his motives pure. In fact, being a Roman official and an outsider to Jewish life, he actually condescended himself in asking this information from the chief priests and scribes. Josephus records that when Herod was named the Roman provincial governor of Jerusalem, he killed many of the scribes that were in Jerusalem. He, like most Romans, felt these people in Jerusalem were beneath him. Therefore, it must have humbled him to have had to ask these people for this information. He appears willing to humble himself somewhat if it means that he can thwart the Messiah’s rise to power.

He certainly looked for the information in the right place. We observe that he inquired of the chief priests. There was only one chief priest ordained at a time so, in reality, this could have included not only the current chief priest but also so of his predecessors. The priesthood had become something of a political office and sometimes they were disposed of at the whim of the local governor. These men were responsible for the service and maintenance of the temple. As such, they were important figures in Jewish life and could actually only come from one family. The scribes were the lawyers. They were professionals who devoted their time to the study of the law. In short, Herod called together the religious and judicial leaders of the nation in his haste to find out where his rival was born.

The fact that he was able to find any of these men should come as a surprise to us. They had just heard the news that the star announcing the birth of the Messiah had been seen by the magi. They knew the scriptures. If anyone in the city of Jerusalem should have been running to greet the Lord, it should have been these men. Instead, we find them having been assembled by this godless, evil man to assist him in his attempt to find the Messiah. They were able to do this with no trouble at all. Quite simply, scripture records that they said to him “In Bethlehem of Judea” and they noted that it was written by the prophet. They quoted the substance of the prophecy. Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. They also recognized the source of the prophecy was the revelation of God through His prophet. These guys could have made 100 on a Bible pop quiz. If they were on Jeopardy and the category was “Old Testament” and they hit the daily double, they could confidently say “I’ll bet all of it, Alex.” They knew, in a head knowledge kind of way, everything that a person needed to know to understand the significance of the birth of Christ. Instead of seeking Him our, they were indifferent. They were content to be called as consultants to this Gentile king who they hated rather than welcome their one, true King.

They even go so far as to quote from the Old Testament to substantiate their claim. In my day job, I’m an auditor. That is an accountant that has specialized in the task of telling other people how to do their jobs. Basically, when an auditee presents me with information, I never take their word for it. I always look for corroborating evidence. In a sense, that is what these men do here. They quote from Micah 5:2. We see in their quotation that is recorded in Matthew 2:6 that they knew the humble beginnings of the Messiah (You, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah.) They also know from Scripture the character of the Messiah. They quote that the Messiah shall be a Ruler. The word ruler translates the Greek word hegeomai which means leader and has the sense of royalty. However, even though He would be the Messiah and would rule with a rod of iron, as noted in Revelation 19:15, He would be tender and compassionate with his subjects. These men further quoted that this Ruler would shepherd My people, Israel. We know that in the book of John, Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd in chapter 10 and David proudly proclaimed that the Lord was his Shepherd in the 23rd Psalm. There is no more selfless, tireless kind of caretaker than a shepherd and that is exactly the kind of Messiah that was revealed in this prophecy.

These men knew all these things. They knew where He was to be born and, after the visit of the magi, they knew when He was born. Instead of going to look for Him, they remained in their lofty positions of power and influence in Jerusalem. Friends, let us pay careful attention to this. A person can know a lot about Jesus and the Bible and be lost as a goose. I would dare say there may well be some very well educated theologians that go straight into Hell and not all of them may be liberals. It isn’t head knowledge that saves a man or a woman but a real relationship with Jesus Christ. These men, by their indifference to the Messiah, prove their lack of a true faith in God.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Advent of The Lord Part 2

In anticipation of the celebration of Christmas, I will be posting my exposition of Matthew 2 over the next few weeks. I pray that you will be encouraged.


Matthew records that when Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled. The word, translated troubled is the Greek word tarasso and it means to agitate, disturb, or stir up. It is used to describe the emotional condition of the disciples when Jesus walked on the water to meet them in the boat during a storm. It is also used in John chapter 5 to describe water being stirred. One might say that the things he heard from the questioning magi caused him to fret. We should ask ourselves “Why?” Why would news of this sort cause this man to be agitated?

The answer lies in history. The Jews had been under foreign rule since about 500 years before Christ’s birth when the Babylonians invaded Judah and conquered the people, Rule passed from Babylon to Medo-Persia to Greece and, finally, to Rome. The Jewish people hated being under the control of a foreign ruler and, as such, were somewhat difficult to control. Occasional revolts against their rulers were not uncommon. So Herod was in a tense political environment, to say the least. He was a descendent of Esau and, therefore, a foreigner. Therefore, the Jews hated him and he knew that.

In addition to the tense political situation, we have to remember that Herod was a ruthless, power mad despot. He killed two of his sons and their mother because he feared they were a threat to his power. Upon being promoted to king in Jerusalem by the Romans one of his first official actions was to kill many religious leaders in Jerusalem. The Jews knew him to be ruthless. He was also wildly ambitious and jealous. Therefore, when he heard the magi were asking about the one who had been born King of the Jews, he was thrown into a jealous fit. He couldn’t stand the thought of someone else bearing his title and he feared the people of Jerusalem would support the usurper.

We see, however, the people did not have the reaction he feared that they would. In fact, Matthew records that all Jerusalem was troubled with him. Of course, we know that they were aware of the evil this man who had been set over them as king was capable of because of his ruthlessness and cruelty. However, all Jewish people were expectantly hoping for the arrival of the Messiah. They knew His arrival was imminent because of the prophecy in Daniel 9:25. Their hearts longed for what they expected to be a political emancipation from foreign rule. Instead of rushing out to find where this Messiah was born, we see that they are troubled. In contrast to Gentile philosopher kings who brought word that the promised Messiah had been born and traveled many hundreds of miles to do so, God’s chosen people, the Jews, wouldn’t so much as travel less than 20 miles to their south to find their true King. Their fear of this Gentile king led them to ignore their Messiah who was God in human flesh. Instead of turning in faith to God, they kept their eyes on their circumstances and robbed themselves of the joy of greeting their Messiah.

Which side do you and I fall on? Are we like the Jews who were so worried about their circumstances to seek after God? Or do we have the faith of the wise men who followed a star on a treacherous journey because they were desperate to find God. Do we allow worldly concerns to become more important than seeking God and His Truth, no matter how hard the voyage.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christians-Our Present Condition

Our present condition is summed up in one word that begins verse 12 of chapter 3 in Philippians: “Not”. We’re not there yet. We’re in this world and, as our Savior told us, we will have trouble. As Peter told us, we will endure fiery trials. While spiritually we have been sanctified positionally, we grow and mature as Christians as we walk the Christian walk and become more and more sanctified practically. In the 12 verse, Paul states “Not that I have already attained or am already perfected”. Now here was the greatest evangelist, theologian, and pastor that has ever lived who was a mature teacher and preacher of God’s truth and he realized that he was not yet perfected. If he realized that he still had growing to do, how much more room for growth do we have as Christians. He says that there is still a goal in his sights-a prize to be won. He says “Not that I have already attained” and in verse 14 he says his goal is “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. He pictures this prize he seeks to attain as something external to him. He uses a word lambano (2983) which is often translated “to take”. He sees this prize as a goal in his future that he wants to lay his hands on. He also sees a personal transformation that will occur when he is redeemed. Paul says that he also is not “already perfected”. In the New Testament, the idea of perfection means to be complete or finished. Paul recognized that, in this life, we should grow more Christ like but we will never attain perfection until we are with Christ. In Romans 8:29, Paul writes that God “predestined [us] to be conformed to the image of His Son”. Paul also says that Christ intends to “present [us] to Himself, a glorious church, not having a spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing”. Eventually, we will be perfect and complete. However, in this world, we’re not there yet.

So, what do we do? Paul set an example that I think we should follow. He said “I press on”. We do not cooperate with God in our salvation and it is through His power that we are able to become more Christlike. However, we must exercise our spiritual muscles to develop them. When I use a pen to write, that pen lays the ink on the paper but I am the one doing the writing. In much the same way, Paul tells us to “work out” our own salvation but that God is the one working in us. The Greek word Paul uses here that is translated “press on” is dioko (1377) and it is used to describe an athlete exerting maximum effort in a competition. It is the same word that Paul uses in verse 6 of this chapter to describe persecuting the church. In other words, the same effort and intensity that Paul showed in his effort to imprison and kill God’s church was the same effort and intensity that he displayed in his pursuit of godliness. This was not a passive, halfhearted kind of faith. He was chasing this prize. As he states in verse 1st Corinthian 9:24, we should run as if we were trying to win a prize. We should follow Paul’s example then and “Go for the gold” in our pursuit of God.

Paul also displays intensity in how he describes his goal. He says that he presses on in order that he “may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me”. The word translated “lay hold of” is katalambano (2638). The preposition kata is used to show intensity of the verb lambano which he used earlier in this verse. When he said lambano it was translated “attained” and he was expressing the idea that he wanted to take the prize. Now, he has said he would “press on” (chase after) this prize so that he may “lay hold” (seize, take as his own) of it. He also recognizes that ultimately this desire to become more godly is given to him by God. In His providence, God chose Paul before the foundation of the world just as He also chose us. Paul recognizes that he was chosen as an instrument of God’s sovereign will and that it was Christ who “has also laid hold of” Paul. We read in the book of Acts how God called Paul on the road to Damascus. He intervened in Paul’s life and took Paul as His instrument to share the gospel with the Gentiles.

As Christians, we are being transformed by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. In this life, we will never reach perfection. However, we are called in the Bible to give our effort to putting into practice the faith that we believe. We do not live godly lives to obtain salvation. We live godly lives as a result of our salvation. Let us pray for a desire like Paul to “press on” and win the race.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

We Wish You A Merry Christmas

Santa and his Elves are not real, but the dancing skills displayed by my family and I in this video ARE real!!

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

The Advent of The Lord part 1

The celebration of the birth of our Lord is just around the corner. I will be reposting over the new few weeks exposition that I did a few years ago of Matthew Chapter 2. I hope you are encouraged.


Matthew records events that occurred after Christ’s birth to give us a clear picture of the kinds of responses people had to His birth. In chapter 2, we see Christ sought after, feared, ignored, and worshipped. We ever see innocent people murdered in an attempt to kill Him due to jealousy.

In verse 1, Matthew records that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was south and slightly east of Jerusalem. It was a small town but it was important for several reasons. First of all, it was the birthplace of King David. Secondly, the town had prophetic importance. As noted in Micah 5:2, the Messiah would be born in this town. Therefore, the location of Jesus’ birth was significant.

Additionally, Matthew records the ruler who reigned at the time. Herod the king was the man assigned to govern this area by Rome. Essentially then, he was a governor. The Jews hated this man. First of all, he was not Jewish but a descendent of Esau and, therefore, a foreigner. Secondly, he was known for ruthlessness and cruelty. Because the horrible man was set over them as king and he represented Roman rule, he was a constant reminder that Israel was under the political rule of another country.

Into this tense political climate came wise men from the east. The word wise men is magios in the Greek. It referred to men who were devoted to the study of the sciences of that day as well as philosophy and religion. Since these men came as the result of seeing a star, it is reasonable to assume that they spent at least some of their time studying astronomy or astrology. We also know the general location these men came from because Matthew records that they came from the east. Many Bible scholars believe these men were Persian. In any case, it was fairly obvious that these wise men “weren’t from around these parts.” These men left their homes and went on an arduous, possibly even dangerous, journey to follow this phenomenon. Very likely, it had taken them a long time to reach their destination. They were obviously motivated by some intense driving force. As our Lord noted in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” The faith and persistence of these men is an example to us.

We find further evidence that these men were people of faith as we examine the inquiry they made when they arrived in Jerusalem. They went around to people saying “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” Again, we see these men were persistent in the manner in which they asked. As John MacArthur observes in his study Bible, the word saying is a present participle in the Greek text. This indicates that they were probably asking everyone they met this same question. They were also fully cognizant of Whom they were asking about. They identified Him as the king of the Jews. Evidently, they were aware of the position of royalty this baby boy was born into. They also must have read and been familiar with the Hebrew prophecies and knew the Messiah would be born under a sign; a star. While this star looked like it might have just been a heavenly body, it was probably supernatural since it led these men here and would eventually settle over the house where Jesus was living. They knew the Old Testament prophecies in Isaiah 60:3 and Numbers 24:17 that the sign of the birth of the Messiah would be a star. Finally, we see their faith further evidenced by the purpose of their visit. They came not as political envoys or curious men, but as people who were in fact seeking God. They were Gentiles and, therefore, outsiders to the Jewish community. They were not seeking religion nor were they Jewish proselytes. Instead, these men went on this long journey to find God in order that they might worship Him. Let us pray for God to draw us even closer to Himself as He drew these wise men. Let us also pray that he would give us a heart to seek the truth as persistently as these men did.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christians-Our Future Hope

Christians live in two realities in a sense. Of course, we live and minister in this world as Christ Jesus said in John 17:15 “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world but that You should keep them from the evil one.” However, Paul notes in Ephesians 2:6 that God has “raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Quite simply, we are strangers in this world and we long in our spirit to be completely redeemed and at home with our Lord and Savior. The fact that we are not home here even though we reside here creates a tension in our lives. The apostle Paul, in the above verses, explains to us this struggle in his own life and gives us insight into what he does in response to this kind of “dual” existence.

Paul writes in Philippians 3:11 “if, by any means, I may attain resurrection from the dead”. He is concluding a thought he began he began in verse 8. In short, since his conversion, Paul came to realize that his man-made righteousness was not sufficient to please God and that true righteousness was found only in Jesus Christ. He says in verse 9 that this righteousness comes “through faith”. When we read Paul’s statement in verse 11, we must keep the facts about his conversion in mind. In other words, he does not say “if” in order to suggest that he doubts the truth of his salvation. In fact, he says “if, by any means, I” with a sense of humility. Paul was humble and realized the kind of life he had lived and was grateful that God would chose to save him. In 1st Timothy, he called himself the chief of sinners. Paul also says, in this phrase, “by any means” meaning that there is no other way that he is going to be saved. If God saves someone, he always accomplishes this by faith. Therefore, Paul is not expressing doubt about his future but proclaims the source of his hope about the future. In others words, the “means” he mentions in verse 11 is the “faith” he mentions in verse 9.

He acknowledges that his ultimate redemption is still in the future. He says “I may attain resurrection from the dead”. In my study of this passage, I have read theologians who debate what resurrection Paul is referring to. Is he talking about the general resurrection before the White Throne judgment or is he talking about the resurrection of the dead at the Rapture. To be perfectly honest, I don’t claim to know and I’m not 100% sure it even matters. I mean, at the end of the day, when we stand before God after we are resurrected we will be fully, completely redeemed. We won’t hurt anymore. There will be no more death, no more sin, and no more pain. We will praise Him forever more and live in perfect fellowship. Paul recognizes that he has not arrived at that destination of being resurrected. The word “attain” translates a Greek word katantao (2658) which means literally “to arrive at”. Paul is saying, then, that he has not “arrived” at the resurrection. We can be encouraged by this statement of Paul as he reminds us that our redemption is still ahead. The best is yet to come.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

II Timothy 3:14-A Sermon on Discipleship

Here is a sermon I preached back in May of 2009. I had posted a link where it could be downloaded but I found a place to host the audio so that I could embed it here free. I pray that you are encouraged.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am no longer serving at the church that I preached this sermon at nor am I affiliated with that church in any way.

II Timothy 3:14-Christian Discipleship -

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

II Peter 2:13 False Teachers-Their Conduct Part II

We are called to live as salt and light in this world. Truthfully, many people have speculated as to exactly what Jesus meant when he used the metaphor of “salt”. I submit to you that He meant we should be distinctive as Christians. People should see our conduct and see that we live differently because of our faith. As Peter continues in this verse, he further describes the conduct of these false teachers. As we will see, it is decidedly not Christlike.

First of all, in their conduct they show themselves to be soiled. The church of Christ is called to live holy lives, worthy of the calling with which we have been called (Eph 4:1). When sin is discovered in the church, it is to be dealt with (Matthew 18:15-17). In fact, it is the purpose of Christ to present the church to Himself as a bride not having any defilement whatsoever (Eph 5:27). In contrast with this purity, these false teachers pervert the truth of God’s revelation and live with their pleasure as their first priority. Therefore, they are rightly called “stains and blemishes”. They defile the church with their false doctrine and their sensual lifestyle.

Further, instead of preaching true doctrine, these false teachers conduct themselves by using subterfuge to gain an audience. In fact, they are proud of that fact. Peter here says that they spend their time “reveling in their deceptions”. I can picture them sitting around in meetings with other ministers, patting each other on the backs, forming little more than a mutual congratulation society. Instead of preaching truth, they ensnare people with a false gospel that does not and cannot save. In fact, the sadder truth is that not only do these false teachers preach lies but they believe them as well to the point that they take pleasure in them. They were able to gain popularity then and we can see that false teachers are still able to gain popularity today. Some of the most successful preachers (Olsteen, Warren, Schuller) preach doctrine that flatly denies scripture. However, they are “reveling in their deceptions” all the way to the bank.

Finally, we see their conduct was sensual. Peter says the false teachers would “carouse” with others. The word “carouse” means to feast lavishly. Now, there is nothing wrong with having money and enjoying that money because God has blessed you with it. However, if the first thing that you think of is “How can I use my resources to bring pleasure to myself” may I suggest that your priorities are not in line with God’s will. We should be willing to spend ourselves—our time, talents, and assets—to further the kingdom of God. These false teachers prove themselves to be interested only in their own indulgence and they themselves are blind to the truth and spend their time deceiving others.

We are called to be distinctive in our behavior to bring glory to God. Our Christian witness demands that we submit to the Lord and not the desires of our flesh. Of course, we can only do that with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. May we pray for God to conform us to the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fearless by Max Lucado-A Guest Book Reivew

I have been lucky to be married to a wonderful, smart, beautiful woman for now 13 years. Recently, as part of the Book Review Bloggers Program at Thomas Nelson, I was able to obtain a copy of Fearless by Max Lucado. I ordered the copy because my wife said she wanted to read and review it. So here, for the first time in cyberspace and on this blog, is my MUCH better half, Patricia, and her review of the book.

Fearless by Max Lucado is an entertaining read. It is the sort of book one could likely sit and read in one or two evenings. Fearless addresses the issue of, (obviously from the title) fear. Lucado seeks to identify and describe instances of fear as well as how each should be dealt with by a Christian.

While scripture is used in the book, it is, at best, glossed over . Scripture is used primarily to highlight or emphasize the author’s points. For instance, Lucado relates an experience of a journey to the local animal shelter to retrieve the family’s pet stirring emotion within. He wanted to take every lost pet home with him. This “urge helps me understand why Jesus made forgiveness his first fearless announcement. Yes we have a disappointed God. But, no, God has not abandoned us.” He states. Three scripture references follow to further drive home his point. Additionally, in the chapter titled “I’m Sinking Fast”, Lucado lists three instances in which humans might long to hear “I am here” from family and friends who are near. Again, he links these to scriptures which indicate God saying these three coveted words.

Further, the author tends to add supposition and conjecture into scripture. For instance, Luke 8:51 is quoted next to a heading “He united the household.” When Jesus went to the house, he let only Peter, Joh, James, and the girl’s father and mother go inside with him.” In the case of Jairus (Luke 8:51), Lucado supposes that perhaps the mother has not been mentioned previously due to her having been at Her child’s bedside or because the child’s illness driving a “wedge between Mom and Dad”. God does not give us any details about the dynamics of the family. It seems that Lucado adds such conjecture to appeal to those in such circumstances today, instead of allowing scripture to speak for itself.

What’s more, Lucado often treats scripture with a degree of irreverence. He quotes Matthew 8:23-24. Then, he paints an image of Matthew poring over a thesaurus for the perfect term to depict the storm. Additionally, Lucado refers to the same setting as a “dinner cruise” transformed into a “white-knuckled plunge. Finally, he pictures the disciples shuffling cards for a “midjourney game of hearts”.

This lack of depth, postulation, and irreverence add to the overall feel that the book’s primary purpose is one of entertainment or self-help. For a true Christian looking for spiritual nourishment from the meat of the Word, this is not a book to spend time on.