"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW: The MESSIAH and HIS KINGDOM MESSAGE - CH. 7

By James Fire

We have been taught that when examining Scripture, in order to seek out its truth and correct interpretation, we must always look at any given verse in the context of the passage. Sometime later we learned that not only is the context of the passage important, but the entire chapter, and not just the chapter, but the book. And of course, we must interpret any verse not merely in the context of the book in which it appears, but in the entirety of God’s counsel as recorded for us in the Holy Bible.

In other words, a balanced and proper view of any verse of Scripture is ultimately provided when one examines it in the light of all the other Scriptures. When we do this, apparent contradictions disappear; verses that we thought were contrary suddenly align themselves in harmony; Scripture that would have baffled us, informs us instead when we heed the entirety of God’s Word. It should be noted that wrong interpretations, false teachings, heresies and cults are established when there is overemphasis on certain verses, to the exclusion of others.

This is why as Disciples of Christ, our reading of Scripture should never be sporadic, but systematic; that is, reading through the Word, from Genesis to Revelation, and once done, start over. This same practice is recommended for the study of Scripture; one of the important hallmarks of a healthy church fellowship is one that is committed to expositional studies.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW: Conclusion to Ch. 6:14-34 - The MESSIAH and HIS KINGDOM MESSAGE

We now conclude chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew, picking up where we left off previously in vs. 13. The LORD Jesus just finished laying out the model prayer for the disciples to pattern their own personal prayer after, incorporating worship of the Father, petitioning for His kingdom’s arrival, for our personal needs, forgiveness of sins, protection from evil, and a worshipful declaration of the glory of God as elements of prayer.

Once He finishes this lay out, He returns to a crucial point about forgiveness:

MATTHEW 6:14-15
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Why would the LORD reiterate this point? Perhaps because He knew that we would have difficulties in forgiving each other?
To forgive in this context is to allow dismissal, to forego any offense afflicted; when one wrongs another, they are indebted to them for the wrong-doing, and the offended party holds them until rectification is accomplished, but there are times when no apology is forthcoming and so rather than ‘holding a grudge’, we release them for their wrong against us personally.
What is significant is that when we harbor unforgiveness, it is we ourselves that are bound up by it, and not the one who committed the offense. This is spiritually dangerous for many reasons – for one, such unforgiveness can deepen into bitterness (Heb. 12:14-15), resentment and cynicism in general. Another even greater reason is explained in our text above: “…neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Does this mean that if we don’t forgive others, we lose our salvation? That isn’t what the text indicates, because while the trespasses of one who harbors unforgiveness is themselves not forgiven, the LORD states that God is still their Father. Obviously we don’t maintain fellowship with one that we hold unforgiveness towards, and the Father responds in kind. As long as we have unforgiveness towards others, our Father distances Himself from us in fellowship.

We experience fellowship with our Father in worship, and previously the LORD gave us instruction in regards to unforgiveness:

MATTHEW 5:23-24
23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift
.

Certainly this places the responsibility on the one who caused the offense, but the principle applies both ways – we cannot expect to worship the LORD and carry on in fellowship if there is unforgiveness or ill will among the brethren. There is specific instruction for church government regarding the continued unrepentant attitude for trespasses committed against another saint (Matt. 18:15-20).

In the next passage in Matthew 18 Peter asks the LORD how often he should forgive others (The religious leadership determined through Talmudic exposition that three times is sufficient); he offered seven times as a number (more than twice the estimation by the establishment), but the LORD went far above and beyond:

MATTHEW 18:20-21
21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven
.

An interesting number, seventy times seven, which of course is 490 times; we know this specific number in a different context, that is the 70 weeks of Daniel which translates to 490 years, at the conclusion of which, our LORD Jesus Christ shall arrive on planet Earth during His Second Advent. What I derive from the LORD’s admonition to Peter is that we keep forgiving others until the Judge of the whole Earth arrives and let Him officiate over any and all offenses committed against us, His saints. He then illustrates the vital importance of forgiveness we must exercise towards one another as forgiven sinners, now saints in the last passage of Matthew 18:23-35 in the parable of the King and his servant who owed him a debt beyond what he could pay back.

A pastor I knew was fond of saying that he lived his life in a state of ‘forgive-readiness’, that is, before any offense occurs from anyone, he arose in the morning prepared – for the sake of Christ Who has forgiven him all his trespasses – to forgive others as he himself has been forgiven; very wise words to live by!

Our Father has forgiven us all trespasses and sins through the LORD Jesus Christ; how then can we withhold forgiveness from others when we ourselves are forgiven so VERY MUCH?

See Mark 11:25; Luke 17:4; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13; also 2 Sam. 12:13; Psalm 78:38; 85:2; Mark 2:5; and Col. 2:13.

MATTHEW 6:16-18

16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly
.

The same conduct is to be employed as we serve the LORD in fasting as with alms (Matt. 6:1-4) and in our prayers (Matt. 6:5-6). We are not to allow our service to the LORD to be seen in such a way as to draw attention to ourselves or with improper motivation (to receive praise from others, to be esteemed more highly than we ought to be).
Its by keeping such alms, prayers, and fasting intimate and concealed from eyes that would render us praise rather than our Father, we are promised to be openly rewarded by Him, rather than mere human beings – vastly greater rewards and weightier and blessed!

Fasting is often coupled together with prayer and is readily demonstrated in the New Testament. This should silence those who would protest such exercise, assuming that such things were Old Testament, and no longer practiced (Acts 13:2-3; 14:23; 1 Cor. 7:5; 2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27).

PSALM 35:13-14

13 But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.
14 I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother
.

PSALM 69:10-11

10 When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach.
11 I made sackcloth also my garment; and I became a proverb to them
.

ISAIAH 58:6-7

6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?


(Also 2 Chron. 20:3; Ezra 8:21; Jonah 3:5)
Fasting is a service towards God, coupled with prayer (Lk. 2:35-36).

Utilized in the performance of exorcisms (Mt. 17:16-21).

Conducted with sober-mindedness when seeking God’s will (Acts 13:2-3).

Also used as a means to mortify the flesh and bring it under subjection (self control; 1 Cor. 7:5).

When one foregoes meals, what with the time commitments to buying, preparing, cooking, eating and cleaning up afterwards, that time may be employed in seeking God and in a very real sense, is “seek[ing] first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (with the blessed promise that all the things that we have need of, including food and clothing (1 Tim. 6:8) will be added to us!).

ONE WORD OF CAUTION IS ADVISED: If one proposes to go on an extended fast, there are certain precautions you must take:

First of all before you begin a fast, it is advisable to consult your primary caregiver; then you must prayerfully determine what sort of fast to take: there are essentially two kinds:

~ An Absolute fast which means no food or liquids (other than water to remain hydrated; the body cannot survive lack of water much longer than three days without suffering damage, sometimes permanently).

~ A Simple foods fast: typically the bread and water type of fast; this requires minimum preparation and consumption time, so that one is not distracted by more delectable foods (which requires more time in preparing, cooking and eating).

~ Either of these can be a fast to exclude food consumption for a single meal, a single day, or a typical three day fast or even the long term 40 day fast.

For a three day or 40 day Absolute fast it’s best to reduce food intake by eating smaller meals for about a week prior. This will give your body time to condition itself to the fast once begun.

Once the Absolute fast has started, avoid excessive physical exertion, extended times in sunlight when the temperatures are warm enough that you perspire, do not consume beverages like coffee or other caffeinated drinks, energy drinks, or beverages containing greater quantities of sugar, including fruit juices. Unsweetened fruit juices and water (mixed with Powerade or Gatorade but at a 80% dilution rate than what’s called for in the directions; better yet, purchase some concentrated Aloe Vera juice and mix this in with chilled water) are best.
Do NOT take vitamins for any fast lasting 3 to 40 days because your system has shut down and will not be able to process any such supplements.

Once the Absolute fast is completed, especially for extended fasts lasting from a few days to 40, DO NOT go back to your regular diet because your system has shut down and cannot process the digestion of food. Eating solid foods after an extended fast could actually kill you, and so you must start out with some broth for the first day, and afterwards add some crackers and other easily digested carbohydrates. By day three you should be able to consume vegetables and fruits, and within another day or two a normal diet, albeit with much smaller portions can be consumed. By the end of a week, you should be able to proceed with your regular diet and normal portions.

As with any kind of fasting it’s essential to consult your Medical Health Practitioner for advice and supervision, especially if it’s your first fast. You do not want to go on a fast if you have a medical condition or health issues, serious or superficial.

For more on fasting see the following: What Does The Bible Say About Fasting?


Also refer to these medical precautions before engaging in a fast

MATTHEW 6:19-21
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also
.

The world is consumed with amassing treasures or possessions by the acquisition of wealth, if not in the pursuit to be wealthy, then at least to be very well off and enjoy perhaps an early retirement. These are the things that the Gentiles seek after, that is, the people of this world (vs. 31-32), but for the church of Jesus Christ, we are encouraged to seek after the LORD of Heaven Himself – the genuine Treasure of treasures!

Consider the parable of the rich man whose barns were full of the fruit of his labors:

LUKE 12:15-21
15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
Scripture states that from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Mt. 12:34), and so if one wants to know what’s in a person’s heart, listen to what they love to talk about the most; this may be a strong indication of what motivates their life, what sort of objectives and goals they hope to obtain
.

Since the chiefest joy and treasure for us saints is the LORD Himself, Jesus should figure prominently in our conversation as children of God.
Then what sorts of treasures are spoken of here in this passage, which our Chief Treasure addresses?

I believe they are those works that have been ordained of the LORD which we are commissioned to fulfill in His Name, by His Spirit. Those works, if done ‘Jesus-style’ will be rewarded and those works which are done contrary to the ‘Jesus-style’ will lack any reward. And what is this ‘Jesus-style’? This is answered by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, and that is the agapeo of God Himself as the sole motivator and actuator of those works ordained by God (See Eph. 2:10; 1 Cor. 3:9-15).

Having an eternal perspective on life, knowing that our time on this Earth is so very finite and that we shall inherit the kingdom of God and worship God for all eternity, will shape our conduct and devalue the riches of this world, and keep our focus on those riches which are eternal (Lk. 16:10-12; Mt. 25:14-30) toiling joyfully for the LORD Who purchased us with His own blood!

MATTHEW 6: 22-23
22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!


We are aware of this physical world with our physical senses; the one sense that we seem to acquire most of our information with, is our eye sight (secondly would be our hearing). Our brain analyzes all of our sensory input and interprets it into intelligible information that we then examine with our minds (the mind itself being distinct from our brains as the former is non-corporeal while the latter is; just as a driver is the operator of a car – the former being organic and thinking, the latter functionally mechanical and non-thinking).

That which we perceive and take into our minds will affect our thinking to one degree or another. A sinful mind will be sensitive to perceive methods and means of obtaining desires that will sate their sinful nature; likewise those with a sanctified mind be sensitive to perceive methods and means of obtaining desires that will sate our godly nature.

The idea of “light” and “darkness” being far more than the amount of photonic energy that inhabits a quantifiable space, also represents the idea of that which is good and according to God’s order and its opposite: that which is evil and contrary to God’s order, that is, “unlawful” or that which is considered “iniquity” and its kindred condition of “darkness” (2 Thess. 2:3-10; Rom. 6:18-20; John 1:5; 3:19; 8:12; 12:35; Acts 26:18 and other verses).

Thus this admonition from the LORD is not only about what we look at, but what we allow into our thought life, into our minds. An article FROM the MIND of FIRE is appropriate at this juncture (as previously shared in another chapter in Matthew) is The Six Lethal Levels of Sin.

I believe it was Martin Luther who said, regarding fiery darts of temptation: “You can’t keep a bird from flying over head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” We all have those random thoughts that are inappropriate for the godly saint, but they are like birds in flight that flit in and out again. What’s dangerous is if we latch onto that thought – or that sight that we ought not to be gazing at (As did King David regarding Bathsheba).
It has also been said, “It’s not the first glance that ‘gets you’; it’s the second!”

What captures our interest and our passions indicates where our heart is at; a dog would perk his ears up if you wagged a juicy piece of red meat in front of him, but it would have no attraction at all to a cow, right?
Who we have pledged our hearts in service to will, generally, direct our interests, and drives and passions, which is why the LORD told us that we really can’t have two masters in life:

Either we will be servants of the KING of Kings, the LORD Jesus Christ, or we will be servants of ourselves, that is, servants to our sinful nature – and by proxy, servants of Satan who would counsel us “to do your own thing!” independent of the LORD’s will for our lives.


MATTHEW 6:24-25
24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?


Obviously having food, clothing, houses, furniture, cars, etc. is not a problem for the Christian, nor is a sizeable bank account or niceties that are extraneous to our necessities. The problem is when they begin to usurp an unlawful place in our lives by demanding our servitude to them: when they begin to take a dominant place in our lives and we become consumed with using them, caring for them, bettering them, or getting other items superior to them – all to the exclusion of the LORD Himself, Who should be the Supreme object of our affection, loyalty and obedience.
This is probably why the LORD doesn’t allow me to play LOTTO! If I won, and gained all of that money in an instant, all of that buying power would likely destroy me and my relationship with the LORD.

Yet we need not be wealthy for such materialism to destroy our witness and our walk with the LORD:

1 TIM. 6:9-10
9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows
.

Of course it’s not the money itself that is evil, but the love of money – because such a love adores possessing power. The same heart could very well be drawn into the occult, which likewise promises power for the user.
Lust for money or occult knowledge will lead to the same end result: “…many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”

Rather than such pursuits, Paul tells young Timothy what we should be content with just prior to the above passage:

1 TIM. 6:6-8
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content
.

Getting back to the sermon given by the LORD in Matthew’s Gospel . . .
He then goes on to illustrate how unnecessary it is for us saints to fret and worry about our sources for food and clothing (because as our LORD, He is in charge of supplying such needs).


MATTHEW 6:26-31
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?


“Take thought” and “taking thought” is mentioned here; so is “take no thought” – and the idea here is to fret, worry, having anxious thoughts, troubled with cares” or even to “seeking to promote one’s interests”.

Birds are migratory (either locally or regionally) and never in any one place for long (except of course when there are young to care for), but without ‘farmland’ to grow crops or ‘livestock’ (for birds of prey) the LORD feeds them.
Lilies are among the most exquisite flowers of beauty; even our LORD, the Creator of them, told us that Solomon in all of his glory was not arrayed like one of these! Without royal tailors, God Himself furnished such clothing for grass.
He then admonishes us with a question: Are you not “much better than they?” Some of the more radical environmentalists today would say, “No!” but I would rather heed the words of our heavenly Father, given to us by His Son!

The LORD stated in John Ch. 4 when He addressed the Samaritan woman:

JOHN 4:13-14
13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life
.

And so it is with all the physical, material things of this world. They may bring satisfaction and pleasure for a while, but who ever partakes of them, whatever they may be, will thirst again. There is nothing of this world that can bring everlasting contentment and even more significantly, peace of mind and fulfillment.

Even spiritual enterprises will never satisfy; in fact, these will prove far more dangerous than many things from the material world because there are only two sources of spiritual reality: God and Satan (with no third or neutral source) and what ever is not of God spiritually speaking, is by default, of Satan.

We were created by God and for God, but since the human race fell into sin, we’ve been separated from God and so the only way we can know fulfillment is by following God’s will -

1 TIM. 2:3-5
3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus
;

Once saved, we are able to partake of communion with God, having the sin issue dealt with and no longer in rebellion against the will of God, but repentant and surrendered to the LORD Jesus Christ, our LORD and Savior; that communion and its subsequent fellowship with our Creator is what He wanted in the first place in the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve! This is a well of everlasting life that provides rivers of living water, well able to quench the thirsting soul in its desperate search for meaning, purpose and fulfillment in this weary world (John 4:14; 7:37-39)!

Again, FROM the MIND of FIRE, another suitable exhortation.

MATT. 6:32-34
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof
.

Gentiles here might become a synonym for ‘secularist’ in this case, one who is a materialist, only interested in the acquisition of those things that make one’s earthly life better, or even superior to others.
Where these sorts may pursue the ‘best of everything’ we saints need to find that which is adequate to our needs, functionally efficient for the sustaining of our lives.
Whereas the Gentiles may be passionate about building their own kingdoms of affluence and prosperity, we saints are passionate about the kingdom of God, seeking its best interests – not our own – by serving the King of this domain, the LORD Jesus Christ: with our hearts, our minds, our souls and our strength, loving Him as our chiefest joy and object of adoration.

Note that the LORD doesn’t say that we shouldn’t seek those things that the Gentiles seek; only that we are to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness FIRST. Once done, in seeking for these other far less important things, they shall be added to us at the generous hand of our Abba Father, who is certainly not opposed to being generous with His children!

It is a terrible misfortune and a deplorable blight on the church that we should equate such gain and materialism with “the blessings of God” as has too many in the leadership of the Word of Faith movement who themselves declare that “gain [indeed] is godliness” and who “will be rich [monetarily]” (as quoted above in 1 Timothy).

A three part series on this aberration of Christian beliefs known as the Word of Faith Movement was written by Anne Kisly for TTUF. You can read the first part here.

LUKE 16:10-12
10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?

And what are “the true riches”?

COL. 1:27
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory
:

HEB. 11:26
Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward
.

As Christ is by far the greatest treasure, incorruptible and reserved in heaven for us to enjoy and cherish for all eternity, why not indulge in His grace and Spirit now, rather than being distracted by such earthly and material blessings which at best can become a distraction or at worst, bring hurt and sorrow into our lives?

As Paul said with fervent devotion and passion:

PHIL. 3:9-11
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead
.


If our focus is on Christ, then whether blessing or burden, triumph or trial comes our way, we walk with the LORD daily and “take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil (trouble, trial, hardship, turmoil, etc.) thereof.” ~ Matt. 6:34

We are now finished in our examination of Ch. 6 and will embark on Ch. 7 in the next study! At the conclusion of this next chapter, there is an issue of ‘foundations’ that will be addressed. I am prayerfully considering sharing some insights on foundations from notes I took down during a personal retreat last year when I and my room mate visited Sedona, AZ in an article FROM the MIND of FIRE.

Until then, may the LORD keep us in His grace and peace – the truly blessed treasure and inheritance of the saints of God! Maranatha! Even so, Come quickly LORD Jesus!
Read more!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW: Ch. 6 - The MESSIAH and HIS KINGDOM MESSAGE

By James Fire

While the Beatitudes and Similitudes have been covered in Chapter Five along with more of the Sermon on the Mount, the Sermon preached by our LORD is far from complete; it continues still for another two chapters. 

Thus, this constitutes the longest, continuous teaching by Jesus Christ in Scripture (It’s interesting to note that Levi Matthias whose Gospel account we are now studying was a tax collector; this would mean he would be very skilled at dictation and likely wrote these discourses from the LORD on site while He addressed the people). 

We are about to begin Chapter Six now and there is much to cover.
The chapter begins with and maintains a warning against religious externalism and hypocrisy while also giving instruction on the proper method and purpose for prayer; also benevolence, fasting, forgiveness, service, and perspectives on eternal versus temporal values are considered.

We must remind ourselves that these teachings revolve around the central focus of the Kingdom of heaven, of which the LORD Himself is King; that is the Messiah of Israel. Yet these teachings are also in a profoundly spiritual sense applicable for the church as well, guiding and governing our attitudes and motivations through the power of the indwelling Spirit.
Without further ado then, let us begin the study.
MATTHEW 6:1-2
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.


 Alms refers to charitable donations to the poor, something that the Jewish people were admonished to see to by the LORD Who gave such commandment (Ex. 22:25 and 23:11 for example). However, such charity was not to be paraded before others in a boastful and, or arrogant manner. In this passage the LORD clearly tells His hearers that they were not to give alms to be seen by others but only one chapter earlier, He also told them:

MATTHEW 5:16
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven
.

Is this a contradiction? How can we not allow ourselves to be seen by others doing charitable and good works (MT. 6:1) and at the same time, allow these good works to be seen (MT. 5:16)?

I believe it has to do with the intent of the heart – for those who do such things, seeking the praise and “glory of men” (MT. 6:2) will result in no reward from the Father. Yet those who seek to truly please God will be seen of Him and receive reward from Him, and yet when seen by others, they will glorify God – not the one's doing the good works, because the doers of good works will direct attention to the LORD Who enabled them to do such. 

I believe that when done with the correct motive, people will be rightly directed to give God the glory rather than to those who are simply being obedient and loving towards God. The Holy Spirit, by Whose power we are able to conduct ourselves in these godly ways, Himself always directs attention to the LORD and never Himself (JOHN 16:12-14).

Apparently as the LORD admonished people to not sound a trumpet before themselves when giving, it must have been a practice by some to do this very thing! Quite literally they were “blowing their own horn” to draw attention to how much they were donating for the cause!
Our offerings and service to God must be with the right motives, otherwise they are of no value whatsoever (1 COR. 13:1-8).


We cannot assume that God is pleased by the amount that we give in our offerings on Sunday mornings or to charitable organizations, but by how much of a sacrifice the offering is. Two people could donate twenty dollars each. For one this sum could represent a mere 1% of their income; for another, it could represent 50% and offering it cost them far more than the other. The LORD said as much elsewhere, regarding the poor widow and her two mites (Mk. 12:41-44). 


Yet giving must always be done willingly, cheerfully and from a heart of love for God (2 COR. 9:6-8; PS. 96:7-9).


Religious show in order to impress and to receive honor from others is forbidden then; it's a form of hypocrisy that leads to even deeper and more dangerous forms of pride (PS 10:4; PROV. 11:2; MK. 7:21-23; 1 JN. 2:16). We must maintain purity by none other than the Holy Spirit (1 TIM. 1:5; 2 TIM.2:22). Our prayers, charitable deeds, church attendance, Bible reading, etc. are all to be done with proper motives – for the love and worship of God, not for the love of praise and worship from men! The former will bring eternal glory, the latter only temporary praise.

It's been said before: “Reputation is only what other people think about you; character is who you really are when no one but God is watching your actions.”


MATTHEW 6:3-4
3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly
.



In Eastern culture the right hand is symbolic of approval; whereas the left hand represents rejection. When the LORD told us to not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing, the obvious meaning is that we ought to be discreet in our ministry, not seeking the 'lime light' as it were. Yet I also see how we are to conduct any ministry and service in a manner that will receive approval of our Father and not rejection. Of course any ministry and service we do for the LORD must be by the empowerment of the Spirit and not by our own power, with the motive of love, thankfulness and obedience to the One Who has redeemed us all with His own blood!

We see this very thing in MATTHEW 25:31-46 at the LORD's judgment between the sheep and the goats (note in vs. 33 that the sheep are at His right hand, and the goats are on His left). Likewise we also must seek approval in our ministry to the LORD and the only ministry He will approve of is that which is in accordance to His will (and performed by the anointing of the Spirit) and with a right heart (love, gratitude, obedience; see also 1 COR. 13:1-3; 2 COR. 9:11-13; ROM. 6:16). 

We cannot allow our 'left hand' – the flesh which can never be approved by God, much less received – be involved in ministry as we walk in the Spirit, as it were with our 'right hand'. God promises to reward us “openly” for such quality service accomplished in a humble, Spirit-led manner.

MATTHEW 6:5-6
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly
.



Prayer is very much the same idea as alms; to be done with right motive and purpose; not for show and to put one's supposed spirituality on display to be admired by others (thus the need for prayer closets and doors to shut us in for privacy).


I was recently asked whether or not it was right to pray over meals in public, at restaurants. Of course it's absolutely acceptable to pray over meals in public (we have a little tradition when my fellow saints and I go out to eat, that the first one served gets the honor of saying the grace), just so long as one's intent is indeed to glorify God and not to impress others with one's facade of spirituality. Attitude is everything in prayer – which must be conducted by the saint with a heart of humility, sensitivity, contrition and seeking to please God and not oneself.
An excellent example of this can be seen in the parable between the publican and the Pharisee:


LUKE 18:10-14
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted
.

The two extremes in the social spectrum of Jewish life in the days of Jesus' earthly ministry: the lofty and extolled position of the Pharisee – the professional 'Law Keepers' who were believed by the people to be in God's 'inner circle' as it were; and the publican who was despised as the lackeys of the Roman Empire, collecting taxes (and then some!) for the government (with a little extra on the side for themselves).


Both men go into the Temple for the purpose of prayer. Take special note of vs. 11!
vs. 11: “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself . . .” 


His prayers were just bouncing off the ceiling! He wasn't even really praying to God (as he no doubt thought he was) but only “with himself”. Notice the boasting that follows in vs. 11 and 12 and how he denigrates others who don't live up to his own hypocritical standards! By vs. 13 we switch to the publican and I get the idea that if we had stayed with the Pharisee, we would have heard more of his boastful listing of all the ‘good’ things he did.

The publican merely asked for mercy, knowing his own heart and understood that he was not worthy of even lifting his eyes to heaven. The LORD underscores that it was this 'despised publican' rather than the self-righteous Pharisee who was justified before God.

The stiff backed pride of the self-righteous and self-esteem will always find them cast down into the dust, whereas the humble, on bent knees shall know the heights of God's grace and mercy as no other can! This is an essential truth for those who desire to be heard of God and to please Him. 


Rather than groveling in the mud and being humiliated until God is smugly satisfied with such and then deigns to perhaps answer a prayer, to be of a humble heart is simply to acknowledge the truth that God in His supreme holiness is Someone we are wholly unworthy of, that we are by nature sinners and if we are to have any dealings with Him, it cannot be based on justice (because if God enacts justice upon a sinner like me, I am doomed!) but on His grace and mercy.

Humbleness is truthfulness by which I admit that I am a sinner worthy of hell, and entirely unworthy of God. By the same token, I can also admit in total truthfulness that I am a saved saint, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, a child of the King and by Jesus Christ's work, one who is wholly acceptable at the throne of God and incredibly honored to address Him as Abba.

And as I spend time in secret, praying to Abba Father, He in His tender generosity “rewards [me] openly”.

MATTHEW 6:7-8
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him
.

“. . .vain repetitions . . .” is an interesting phrase, particularly in light of the current resurgence of contemplative prayer.
The words “vain repetitions” means “to stutter, to prate tediously, to repeat over and over, to use many idle words, to babble.”

In the Contemplative Prayer/Spirituality Movement and the broader association of the Spiritual Formation Movement*, the repetition of key words and, or phrases is the very means by which one enters into an altered state of consciousness, an emptying of one’s mind (“vanity”) and in so doing, receive visions, inspiration, knowledge from 'God'. It is Hindu-style meditation practices dressed up in Roman (“desert fathers”) Catholic clothes and by no means is it contemplative (which involves thought) nor is it prayer (which is communication with God). It is a dangerous occult technique which can actually invite demonic influences, oppression or even possession or at the very least, spiritual deception.

* See this article by AMOS37 ministries on how Spiritual Formation books and practices are becoming mandatory on Bible college campuses and seminaries!

While Roman Catholic churches are picking up this practice from its ancient shelf and dusting it off for modern use, Evangelicals are shockingly accepting and participating in these spiritual exercises!

For more on this, reserve some time later on and see the following four articles:


IS THIS CHRISTIANITY TODAY? ANCIENT-FUTURE HOLY WAYS OR HERESIES?

BEWARE OF PRAYER – Of the Contemplative Kind: Part One

BEWARE OF PRAYER – Of the Contemplative Kind: Part Two

MYSTICISM IN THE CHURCH: CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER And Her Evil Sisters



MATTHEW 6:9-13

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen
.

On the issue of prayer, I have often pondered the functionality of prayer. Many have asked before, If God already knows our needs, then why do we need to pray? Others bring up the fact that if we all exercise our free will, then how do our prayers affect them as we direct our intercessions to God for the purpose of repentance and salvation?


While we may uncover some answers from the Scriptures to these and other questions relating to prayer, there are many other things about this legitimate and God-ordained spiritual exercise that we will never know in the course of this life time; perhaps once we arrive in heaven, in our glorified state we shall have the wisdom to understand the finer, more mysterious elements of prayer.
For now, we know that we are obedient to God by praying to Him on all things. Prayer is a form of worship in that we are giving something to God, namely our attention, our petitions, our submission and our acknowledgment of His supreme and almighty power.

After our LORD told us what prayer should not be (“vain repetition”), He then goes on to tell us what it should be by giving us a model to follow. Note in vs. 9 the LORD says, “After this manner therefore pray ye . . .” This is not (necessarily) a prayer that we should pray verbatim, but a guide to show us how to pray. 


It's perplexing to me that right after the LORD told us not to pray in vain repetitions that people have turned this model prayer into that very thing (here I am addressing the tradition of the rosary and how they will repeat this and other prayers with persistent redundancy)!

9 "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name."


Prayer should always be prefaced with worship. Our hearts and minds should be wholly directed to the One with Whom we have to do, and be uncluttered of the daily baggage of our routines so that our focus is not distracted in any way. Worshiping God prepares our hearts and minds for this holy duty and privilege, and so as our LORD stated: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed (holy) be thy name...” 


This is not some abstract 'God' as a kind of impersonal force; nor is this a tyrannical pagan god that demands the sacrifice of the proverbial virgin to be plummeted down an angry volcano, until It is sated in the blood of the victim.
This God we worship is a Father to us. The very nurturing, caring, providing and protecting nature of a father is amply and best demonstrated by God Himself. The very best of fathers ever found anywhere on this planet offer mere glimpses of the perfect Fatherhood of God.


It's in this very spiritual truth: “Our Father Who art in heaven” that should bring to us a settled, restful and powerful peace of mind, knowing that any need or even crisis that we will ever face is something that we can bring to the attention of our Father (Who loves us supremely) Who art in heaven (the domain where God visibly demonstrates His almighty power over all His creation).


This God as the Almighty and Holy and Wise and Loving Father has both the motive and ability to care for us in the best way that He knows (and Father knows best!) – growing us up with spiritual maturity, stamina, faith, integrity and a heart that reflects His own.


“...hallowed be Thy Name.” Names have often reflected the nature and character of a person in biblical history. The Name of God is holy, and this is His essential nature. His nature is one which is the very opposite of evil and sin (EX. 3:15; 20:7; 33:19; DEUT. 16:2; 1 SAM. 17:45; 2 SAM. 7:26; PS. 20:1, 5, 7; PS. 29:2; PS. 96:8; 102:5 and many other references).



This is why sins are not merely 'mistakes' but heinous crimes against the very Sovereign, Holy and Almighty Throne and Government of heaven. Sin is spiritual treason which will not and can not be tolerated by the God of holy justice.
Any and every crime against His throne must meet with justice and due penalty and as the Scripture states, “the soul that sins it shall surely die” (EZEK. 18:4). Scripture clarifies this kind of death that the unsaved shall suffer, namely “the second death”:


REVELATION 20:6, 14
6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death
.

REVELATION 21:8
8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death
.


Ray Comfort of Living Waters ministry often asks people on the street in his interviews: “Have you ever once in your life told a lie?” To which he invariably hears “Yes” in answer. “What does that make you?” Ray asks. Answer: “A liar.”


Note the list above and observe how “all liars” are also going to suffer this second death. Perhaps now we can see how any chance of gaining approval from God and the blessedness of heaven are IMPOSSIBLE by our own human efforts. Our salvation is in JESUS CHRIST ALONE, BY HIS GRACE (EPH. 2:8-9)!


It's really a profound truth that we have no idea what its like to live in a totally holy environment, completely pure of any sin, or corruption or evil, but this is not only the domain of God, it is the very essence of His being!
We saints long for holiness (or we should at any rate!) because it’s as we grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 PET. 3:18) we grow in holiness and are then able to have more intimate fellowship with our LORD and Savior. 


It's a prayer that's worthy of our time to petition God in bringing the church back to a conviction, yearning and walking in holiness and purity because without it, we will never see His face (MATT. 5:8; HEB. 12:-15). Thank God that we are positionally imputed the holiness of Christ in His righteousness and salvation (ROM. 4:4-11, 20:24); may we yield to His work in us and grow in what saints of old have referred to as 'practical holiness', that is, holiness for every day living!

10 "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven."


We the church are kings and priests to our God and so it is entirely suitable to pray that His kingdom would come and fill this fallen world, taking the reign back from the god of this world (Satan) and establishing His domain of righteousness. This is what it’s all about: God dwelling with us, having fellowship with us and governing this world with us, His bride at His side. For Israel, this kingdom represents the kingdom of David, or the kingdom of Israel (“the kingdom of/from heaven”) and it shall see its fulfillment (See 2 SAM. 7 and PS. 89 for Scripture on the Davidic Covenant, covered previously in this study) once the Messiah returns and replenishes the earth with reborn splendor.

The kingdom shall NOT be established by the church that would take power away from the nations, compelling them to follow the ways of the LORD in some form of utopian, ‘Christianized’ society as the Dominionists* and Emergents** believe. The kingdom shall be established when the Messiah (“the stone cut without hands” arrives and decimates the one world order ruled by the Beast of Revelation; see DAN. 2:34, 44). Instead, the kingdom established by the Messiah shall be freely given to His saints (DAN. 7:27).

* Dominionism Exposed by Deception in the Church ministry

** See Lighthouse Trails ministry for information on Emergent Church and New Spirituality information; also look at articles here on TTUF using the search engine.

For the church the kingdom is represented by the kingdom of God, which includes the kingdom of heaven, but also all other aspects other than those that involve the Earth. Once the Earth and Heaven of the present (old) order are passed away and a New Earth and New Heavens are created, all shall be submitted to the kingdom of God just as the Son will then be subject to the Father in all things (1 COR. 15:28).


Once God's will shall be done perfectly in the Earth with no variation or distinction from His will being accomplished in heaven, the manifestation of His Kingdom will be realized. The very fact that rebellion and evil are still very much among us means that God's perfect will is not accomplished here, but once Satan, and sin as well as evil and corruption are done away with, such perfection will be unimpeded! Thank You LORD!


11 "Give us this day our daily bread."

Daily provisions are petitioned for here; note it is not weekly or monthly, but daily. Why is this so? Perhaps because the LORD desires for us to keep uppermost in our minds how very dependent we are upon Him. We cannot even breathe but by His Divine provision. Our needs represent more than merely the physical, but the spiritual as well: thus “bread” here may connote “the bread of Life” (JN. 6:35 – the Word of God – as much as or even more so than physical bread.
Consider the words of Job:

JOB 23:12
12 Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food
.

Just as the children of Israel were commanded by the LORD via Moses to go out in the morning and gather manna for their daily provisions (See EX. 16:1-36), so too we are to gather in the Word of God for our daily spiritual nourishment. It’s vital that this partaking of God’s Word be on a daily basis, for the Word is all in all to us: our Light and Love, our Bread and Water, our Milk and Meat, our Refuge and Strength, our Counsel and Comfort and so much more!

Who doesn’t need these things on a regular, daily basis? What saint among our ranks can prosper without feeding on this truly heavenly manna? Never mind if you cannot understand everything you read in the pages of Scripture – the LORD will provide understanding in all that you are required to know in order to conduct yourself among the days challenges and opportunities. Understanding of the Word, if followed by obedience, will lead to greater and deeper understanding.

Daily then let us subsist on the Bread of Life, seeking first God’s Kingdom for our lives and our loved ones, and all other provisions shall be added to us by our LORD’s omnipotent Hand.

12 "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."

Our LORD said that the one who is forgiven much is the one that loves much (LK. 7:47), and since the LORD has forgiven us ALL of our trespasses, which were nailed to His cross at Calvary, then our love for Him is great! For the sake of this LORD of ours that willingly sacrificed Himself on our behalf, we are motivated to forgive others of their comparatively smaller offences.

Now to put this in perspective, there are those who’ve been the victim of rape; others have conceived children together, and perhaps the biological mother without the consent of the father had an abortion; deep and bitter wounds are inflicted upon those who get a divorce – these and others are obviously and seriously tremendous issues. How can one find it in their hearts to forgive their offenders in such desperate cases?
Humanly speaking, this is practically impossible. Yet in the light of our own offenses against the Infinitely Holy God, these grievous acts, terrible though they be, are not to be compared to those transgressions against the Holy Throne of God. Yet through the LORD Jesus Christ, we are completely and absolutely forgiven of these trespasses, being declared “not guilty” by our Holy Judge, and beyond this, given the Spirit of God, transformed from sinners to saints, from heinous rebels to beloved children by the act of the Spirit of grace!

The Spirit of God can and will enable us to forgive even the worst of crimes committed against us and, or the ones we love. For those who tremble in weakness, unable to find it in their own will to offer such forgiveness, call upon the Name of the LORD and He shall hear your plea and grant you the power by His Spirit to render forgiveness, even to the undeserving.

Forgiveness frees the offended from shackles of bitterness and hatred, even if it does nothing for the offender; but in the best cases, such an expression of mercy has a profound effect on both.
For a real life example of this, read the story of Corrie Ten Boom and how she offered forgiveness through the power of Christ to a concentration camp guard who was personally responsible for much of the misery that Corrie and her deceased sister had endured for so long.

See also LK. 17:3-4; LK. 23:34; ACTS 13:38; ACTS 26:18; ROM. 4:6-8; 2 COR. 2:10.

13 "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."

The LORD is a strong tower and refuge for us (PS. 46:1; PROV. 18:10), He who presides over all of the affairs of our lives, observing each and every turn upon every road we will travel on. He knows every pitfall, every occasion of stumbling, every opportunity for sin – and we may petition for His protection and guidance in avoiding such temptation. The best way to deal with temptation is to ‘not be there when it happens’. That is to say, “. . . put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof (ROM. 13:14)”.

There are safeguards and blessed parameters we can establish about ourselves through the wisdom and prudence of God, and He has offered us valuable lessons for such in His Word, by the life time examples and experiences of saints who’ve gone before. Such as David of the Psalms:

Six Lethal Levels Leading Into Sin

Not only has the LORD, our Deliverer rescued us from the power of sin, death and hell, but also from the power of “the evil one” and his kingdom of darkness:

COL. 1:12-14
12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins
:



The Kingdom belongs to the King; the power belongs to the Almighty; the glory belongs to God – and so it is a worthy expression that ends this model of prayer for us disciples.

In this model prayer we have the opening address to God as our Father, recognizing Him as the authority that reigns from heaven (vs.9).
We bring adoration to Him Who is Holy, for His very Name is hallowed (vs.9).
We petition Him for the kingdom to come, for we understand that until it arrives, this world shall continue further into perdition and depravity in ever increasing and destructive ways (vs.10). 


God’s will is the very best, and once His will is accomplished on Earth and indistinguishable to His will as it is done in heaven, this world will indeed be a paradise (vs. 10).


Man has had thousands of years to prove his abilities of self-rule . . . and has failed miserably! Thus the kingdom and the will of God are most assuredly needed and necessary, for we are as sheep without a shepherd (MK. 6:34)!
We petition the LORD for our needs for He is the LORD Adonai – He who is Almighty in His abilities to provide for any need (vs. 11-12).


We seek His guidance and counsel through this perilous journey of life, surrendering our will for His and following where ever He leads – so that we may safely traverse this world and avoid – in as much as we are willing to die to self – the teeming and tempestuous temptations (as well as the tempter!) all about us (vs. 13).
This model prayer ends as it began – with praise and adoration for our worthy LORD (vs. 13)!

Now that we have completed the examination of this model prayer and all the blessings thus far revealed in Chapter 6, we shall stop here and continue on in verse 14 in our study of MATTHEW. Until then, the LORD Bless and Keep all of you saints in JESUS Name!
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Monday, November 18, 2013

TYPHOON RELIEF EFFORT IN THE PHILIPPINES



TYPHOON RELIEF EFFORT:

Jane Marie Arabiana was a child seventeen years ago, when she was "adopted" by my husband through Compassion International in the Philippines. Now an adult, Jane Marie has renewed contact with us, her "American Family", and we are seeking help in collecting donations for the relief effort to aid those who have been devastated by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).  The TRUTH Under Fire has join the effort along with Whitestone Christian Fellowship and are asking for your help!

Those devastated by the recent typhoon are in desperate need. There are hundreds of thousands of displaced Filipinos. In some areas, there is total devastation. No water, no food, no medical supplies, no shelter, no communication. Literally, everything is wiped out. If you watched the news, you have seen the shocking pictures.

Jane Marie has offered to receive donations on behalf of her local church, The Independent Baptist Church of the Philippines in Cebu City. They are actively involved in collecting and purchasing supplies such as water, food, basic hygiene care, clothing and other necessities to be loaded on trucks and shipped to the more devastated areas.

Our desire is to get these donations into the hands of workers on the ground, to those who can provide relief immediately...and that every penny be spent on the victims.

If you would like more information about donating directly to the Philippine Relief Effort, please message me in our Facebook group, or my personal page.

If you would like to make a donation, please do so through Paypal to the following account:

Paul Kisly - pwk5@cornell.edu -

All donations will then be sent through Western Union directly to the Philippines, in care of Jane Marie. She is our trusted contact, and will facilitate the transfer of funds directly to the relief effort through the Independent Baptist Church in Cebu City.

Will you prayerfully consider contributing to this effort? We pray that local churches in the Philippines will rise to the challenge, minister to the needs of the suffering, and share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ!  May we see the Hand of God at work, and may we see the outpouring of the love of God to the suffering people in the Philippines, through the Church.

Read more!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW: Ch. 5 - The MESSIAH and HIS KINGDOM MESSAGE

By James Fire

Chapter 5:31-48

We now conclude chapter Five in Matthew in this fourth and final part; we begin this segment by addressing the issues of divorce, oath taking, non-retaliation protocols and others as well.
Let us return to the mount where the LORD is giving His sermon, picking up at verse 31 . . .


MATTHEW 5:31-32
31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.


Here is the standard that the LORD upholds regarding the sacredness of marriage (See Matt. 19:3-9). In God’s eyes the marriage ‘unit’ of husband and wife become ‘one’ (a singular unit) and that which God has joined together, humans should not set apart.

We know that God’s work will always produce godly fruit, and if indeed any joining brings forth godly fruit, we can be assured that such joining is God’s holy work in matrimony. If no such godly fruit is forthcoming, repentance is in order, but if this does not occur, such a marriage can never produce fruit for the glory of God.
*~While Moses did permit a writing of divorcement among the people, the LORD Jesus explained that this was due to the hardness of the people’s hearts, but “in the beginning it was not so”. He referred to Adam and Eve, and how He “called their name Adam” (Gen. 5:2), referring to their humanity in general, but specifically how they two became one (Mark 10:6-9).

The foundation and stability of any nation is the family unit. The families of any nation are the building blocks which establish the house of a country. The core of any family is the marriage, and the marriage, according to the plan and good will of God is comprised of husband and wife – there are no alternatives to this plan, no option ‘B’.

The model of husband and wife mirrors the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. Each have their respective roles – the church is to love, follow, obey and serve the LORD, while the LORD commands, leads, ministers to and loves the church to the point of laying down His very life for her!

This is why homosexual couplings and marriages cannot hope to receive the blessing of the LORD.
This option ‘B’ does not rightly reflect the relationship of the marriage partnership. Having either both males or both females, one has a model of ‘two Christs’ or ‘two churches’; an anti-thetical and unbiblical model of marriage. Of course since the legalizing of ‘gay marriage’ in this nation (and nations across the globe) a plethora of options has opened up – multiple partners, union with minors (children), even bestiality is not considered ‘off limits’ any more!

Unchecked sin and rebellion inevitably leads to confusion and lawlessness, resulting in a chaotic ‘anything goes’ mentality which in turn leads to the absolute ruin of any society that adopts it.


When the marriage and family in households are destroyed, this will eventually de-stabilize and destroy any nation’s freedom and prosperity, particularly in the spiritual sense. This is why one of the objectives in establishing a Socialist state of the Marxist sort is the ruination of the marriage (and family) so that children will become wards of the State, rather than look to their own parents as the authority and caretakers in their lives.

Needless to say, God hates divorce and the destruction it brings. In as much as any marriage is a type or model of Christ and His bride, a divorce ruins the example of this modeling and is both a mar and an affront to God’s institution of marriage.


This is why a call must be made for all parents to repent (particularly fathers!) who are guilty of selfishness and ego, to lay down their lives before God and confess their negligence in their responsibilities as husband and wife: to live their lives pleasing and obeying God’s Word, to lay down their lives for one another by yielding to the Spirit of God in all things, and to conduct their duties as parents in raising their children in the “fear and admonition of the LORD” (See Ephesians 5:1-6:9; 1 Cor. 7:1-16).

Those who have suffered through a divorce know how bitter and sorrowful an experience it can be; it seems that the children invariably blame themselves for it, believing that if they had only behaved better, their home would have been safe. As a result of divorce, children often begin to adopt rebellious ways, expressing their hurt and anger for the betrayal that they feel – how they were ‘let down’ by their parents.
The married couple themselves, who were ‘one in the eyes of the LORD’ being divorced, have in a spiritual sense, splintered themselves, causing damage psychologically and emotionally. Relationships with other (future) partners can often suffer due to past experiences and pain.

Many statistical studies have shown that children of divorced parents have a greater risk of divorce themselves than those whose parents have remained faithful. Young married couples whose parents on both sides have divorced show the highest and most likely risk of divorce.


There are situations that are not in accord with God’s perfect will, the ideals of which the Bible speaks clearly on, and Christians ought to understand what their obligations as well as their options are in such situations.
Is it right for a Christian to seek a divorce from an unsaved spouse? Or vice versa? What if both partners enter into marriage as unsaved souls, but afterwards one comes to faith; can divorce then become a valid option?

For answers to these and other questions please review the following article (Note: Not all statements made here are necessarily endorsed by TTUF) –

On Christian Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage

MATTHEW 5:33-37
33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:
34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:
35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Once again, we hear the LORD say, “…ye have heard that it hath been said . . .” and this of course was due to the fact that very few could read the Scriptures in those days, as they were written in Hebrew, and only the religious leaders could read Hebrew (in those days in Israel most people spoke Aramaic or even Greek). Thus they could only hear the priests and scribes read to them (mostly in synagogues) from the Word of God. Distancing the people from the Scriptures allowed for ‘editing’ by the reader and by doing so, caused misunderstandings and uncertainty among the people.

Yet the LORD Jesus came to ‘set the record straight’ as it were, and tell the people: “But I say unto you . . .” Not only did this clarify the intent of the Scriptures, stripping them of the religious and Talmudic interpretations of countless numbers of rabbis, which the leaders in Israel weighed them down with; but this also showed the people that the LORD was THE authority over what the Word meant in its literal sense. Indeed, the Word was explaining the Word!

On the issue of oath taking and swearing (as in a legal instance for example), people are not to appeal to higher authorities in seeking to legitimize one’s own statements; rather one should endeavor to be a truthful person of integrity so that their word alone carries legitimacy, without the unnecessary appeal to those authorities and powers established by God.
How often we have heard children in seeking to convince their parents of their earnest statements employed the “I swear to God” exclamation?

We Christians of all people should be truth sayers, and always couple such with grace (John 1:17) and love (Eph. 4:15).

PSALM 15:2

He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart
.

ZECHARIAH 8:16

These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates
:

EPHESIANS 4:15

But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ
:

Christians should be well known as those who walk (live) in truth and whose very integrity exemplifies truth.
If we are to engage in spiritual warfare (a necessity in our day and age!) then an essential piece of our armor is the belt of truth (Ephesians 6:14). Integrity may be seen as ‘internal truth’ and rules the life of a believer (note Psalm 15 quoted above).

MATTHEW 5:38-42
38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away
.


The issue raised here is that of evil, vengeance and retaliation. Note that the smiting referred to is on the right cheek, not the left. Why is this significant? Since most people are right handed, any strike on a person’s right cheek would have to be back-handed; a gesture meant more for insult than for physical harm.

This is not to say that if we are assaulted violently because of our love and allegiance to Christ that we should “resist . . . evil” and yet Christians ought not to assume that self defense or that of our loved ones is prohibited to us. We are only obligated to conduct ourselves as ambassadors of Christ where our witness in the Gospel is concerned and any hateful response to Christ in us, should be met appropriately as such ambassadors (obviously this does not include assault and battery due to robbery, rape; marital, senior or child abuse). See Romans 12:17; also Lev. 19:18; Prov. 20:22; 1 Peter 3:9.

Under the Old Testament, the judicial system was very strict and according to just Law; the Christian is commanded to a higher standard of grace as is demonstrated in these verses. We are to “turn the other cheek” and offer our cloak when sued for our coat. On such legal matters where offenses are committed against one another, the apostle Paul had given the Corinthian church an admonition and rebuke as found in 1 Cor. 6:1-8.
Roman soldiers had the authority to commandeer a passing traveler to carry their gear while on the road – thus, compelling to “go a mile” is the obligation that any in the Empire would have to fulfill at the bidding of the military. Yet the LORD tells us to “go with him twain”.

We love and serve “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10), and as we follow Him, we are to do likewise, and exhibit grace to others (remembering that grace by definition is “unmerited (undeserved) favor”).
Peter once asked the LORD:

MATTHEW 18:21-22
21 . . . Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven
.


It was the custom and teaching of the religious leaders in Israel that one should feel obligated to forgive others no more than three times. Peter decided it would be to his merit to suggest seven times (twice that of the religious requirement, plus one to spare!). Yet the LORD Jesus ‘maxed out’ by saying seventy times seven – or 490 times! Can we then justify ourselves if someone offends us 491 times or was the LORD making another point?
It’s an interesting number that He used; where else do we see this number 490? The obvious reference is to the seventy weeks of Daniel, at the conclusion of which, the LORD returns, sets up His Kingdom and brings about Judgment Day when every wrong ever committed will be redressed with appropriate punitive actions taken – apart from those who have trusted the LORD Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior.

Of course if someone were to ask or borrow from us all that we have, we must balance this admonition from the LORD towards charity with our stewardship over that which the LORD has entrusted to us, and allow His wisdom to guide us in the depth and to the degree of charity to bestow on the needy.


MATTHEW 5:43-44
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you
;


The Roman Empire was considered the ultimate enemy of Israel, whose leaders chaffed at the idea of being a mere province, when they desired the restoration of glory to their nation as in the days of old. They wanted their Messiah warrior who would overthrow their enemies and re-establish the kingdom.
And yet here was Jesus, admonishing them to “. . . love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you . . .” etc, etc.

A message they did not relish, and so they killed the Messenger. However, we the church empowered by the Holy Spirit are able to hear this admonition and obey it – certainly not by our own power, but by God’s enabling grace.

Forgiving As The Messiah Forgave

Also consider the following:

Still Learning To Forgive by Corrie Ten Boom


The love of God is far more powerful than the hatred generated by human beings or even fallen angels; the LORD only looks for hearts yielded and willing to be used as vessels of said love, and affect the lives of those who would otherwise never know the love of God and be changed by it.


MATTHEW 5:45-48
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect
.



Just as children inherit the character traits of their parents, we too will share in the character traits of our Heavenly Father; that being the case, we will conduct ourselves similarly when confronted with cursing, hatred, violence and persecution. The natural man (unregenerate) will naturally respond favorably to love, to blessing, to benevolence; yet we who are regenerated by the Holy Spirit shall respond just as our Heavenly Father responds to the evil of this world – sending sun and rain, blessing and gifts to all, not in the sense of approval, but in unmerited favor that exemplifies the nobility, goodness, kindness and generous good will of God.
Apart from the grace of God such high ideals are impossible; only the perfect can obey such directives. This must lead any thinking person to conclude that it’s impossible to obey such lofty, actually celestial ideals as these.

I can remember my mother telling me she read the Bible with a neighbor friend of hers (before I was even born) and when she read verse 48 of this chapter, she slammed the Bible shut with anger and frustration, saying, “What’s the use? I can’t do this!”
And she was right! Within the parameters of our human condition such things are impossible – we could never be perfect even as God the Father is perfect.
Only Christ Jesus, God the Son is perfect to such a degree, and its by faith we trust that He will work that perfection (spiritual maturity) into us as we grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:19; 2 Peter 3:18; Heb. 6:1).

Perfection in this sense refers to a spiritual maturity in full fruition; it represents the child of God that has yielded completely to the ministry of the Spirit in the conforming of the saint perfectly to the image of the Son of God so that there is no visible distinction between the LORD and the Christian.
Have any of us arrived at this highest paramount perfection? Paul admitted he hadn’t:

PHILIPPIANS 3:11-13


11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before
,


Once the resurrection of the saints has occurred, whereupon we receive our glorified and incorruptible bodies, our redemption will be completed; we shall no longer struggle with our sin nature, because such is inherent with our natural bodies as the progeny of Adam and the fall he brought to the human race.
Yet we are not to become idle and wait for perfection to come on that Day; but like Paul “reach forth” and –

PHILLIPIANS 3:14-15


14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you
.


This is in no way apprehended by the Christian other than by the agency of the Holy Spirit and being conformed to the very image of Christ by dying to self-will and allowing the resurrected Life of Christ to reign in us, transforming us.

ROMANS 8:29-30


29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified
.

ROMANS 12:1-2


I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God
.


This is nothing short of the very sanctification of the saint, the ongoing, perpetual, never ceasing action of grace (in action) in the life of the believer that is conforming us – our character, our conduct, our words and manners to the LORD Jesus Christ, despite the ongoing pressure of this sinful world to conform us from without to the rebellious attitudes and actions of fallen humanity. This conformity is acting upon us from outside, while the transforming power of God happens within us – our minds as a result of His indwelling Spirit and grace.

Essentially then, we saints are in the mode of being perfected by process while looking forward to the Day of our redemption (of our bodies) when we shall obtain complete perfection in Christ.

ROMANS 8:22-23


22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body
.


Thus ends (finally!) our study in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter five. Let me extend my thanks for your patience in waiting for this installment as it has been some time in waiting since the last one!
May the LORD Jesus bless us with Himself, in increasing ways of His manifestation of the transforming power of His grace, in bringing about our increased sanctification and Christ-likeness to our blessing and the blessing of those with which we live out our lives! Amen!
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Saturday, October 5, 2013

This Little Church Went To Market

by A.M. Kisly

The evangelical church of today is surrounding itself with man-centered philosophies and teachers that are presenting a diluted social gospel, ripe for itching ears. 

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
" (2 Tim 4:3-5)

In a little book called, "This Little Church Went To Market", Mr. Gilley confronts today's believer about the unbiblical methods used to evangelize the lost and thereby altering the course of biblical Christianity.  Rather than stay with the only true standard of doctrine and spiritual growth found in scripture alone, unbelievers are being misled by false evangelism, unchallenged by the gospel, not convicted of sin, provided with a comfortable (worldly) environment where they can be entertained and fed pop psychology sprinkled with Christian terminology.  This is not the gospel of salvation.  This is not the truth we are to feast on.  This junk will do nothing more than feed the fleshly desires of sinners. 

These churches are mass producing false converts with false doctrines for the sake of "church growth" and mega churches which line the pockets of false teachers. 

 
One reviewer said, "This book is a damning indictment of the market-driven churches that are so popular today. Having extensively studied the issues Gilley writes about in this book, I am comfortable saying that this is the best introduction to "the church in the age of entertainment" that I have read. Gilley contends that the church has sold out to our culture so that the influences of the culture have become the influences in the church. The most significant forces pressing against the church are entertainment, market driven philosophies and psychology. These three are largely absent from the Bible, yet are startlingly prevalent in evangelical churches."

 
As I was listening to an interview online by Search the Scriptures radio broadcast, with Tom McMahon and his guest, Gary Gilley (author of the book)
I realized that there cannot be enough warning and admonition against false teaching and false teachers deceiving so many.    This book is being freely offered by the author in pdf format, and because of the importance of the message, we are making this free offer available to all of you.

Free Book Offer:
 

This Little Church Went To Market, by Gary Gilley - pdf download

Search The Scriptures 24/7 Radio Program:

Search The Scriptures 24/7 with T.A. McMahon - Guest: Gary Gilley, Pt. 1 

Search The Scriptures 24/7 with T.A. McMahon - Guest: Gary Gilley, Pt. 2 










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