Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Words of Jesus: Matthew Ch 1-5

I am working through the Bible, noting specifically the words of Jesus (see post here for more info). At the bottom, in red, are the words spoken by Jesus in these first five chapters. I've included the entire verse for each, but none of the other verses between. I know it is important to have the context, which I will go back and look at, but my aim here is to really focus in on the actual words spoken by Jesus himself.

We begin with Matthew and the first words of Jesus are found in chapter 3, verse 15. I found it fascinating that the first words spoken by Jesus as recorded in the Bible were related to the law -- "it is right for us to meet all the Law's demands - let it be so now." This is when Jesus was insisting that he be baptized by John the Baptist. We first see Jesus as the fulfillment of the laws -- of all of the OT in the books before. I think that is so cool and I have never really thought about that before.

Some other things that struck me as I went through these first few chapters were the following concepts:
  • Following Jesus's baptism, he begins his 40 days of fasting and tempting by the devil. The words Jesus speaks here -- all in rebuke to the words of the devil - are quotes of scripture. The words of God are his defense and get him through this trial.
  • Jesus begins his preaching ministry following his temptation and the first words recorded here are, "You must change your hearts -- for the kingdom of Heaven has arrived." Wow! The kingdom of Heaven is now on earth. What must we do? Change our hearts.
  • Jesus says to his first recruits, "Follow me and I will teach you to catch men."
  • Next comes the Sermon on the Mount which turns everything upside down. Praised by Jesus is being humble, knowing sorrow, claiming nothing, hunger and thirst for goodness, merciful, sincere, peacemakers, persecuted for the cause. And the rewards for these things are the kingdom of Heaven, courage, comfort, the whole earth, satisfaction, mercy, seeing God, sons of God, magnificent rewards in Heaven.
  • We are the earth's salt - don't let it become saltless
  • We are the world's light - don't hide it; let it shine
  • Let people see the good things we do...why? to praise God
  • In chapter 5 Jesus again refers to the law, reinforcing that he did not come to abolish the law, but to complete it.
I want to look at 5:17-20 more closely...

5:17-20 - "You must not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to complete them. Indeed, I assure you that, while Heaven and earth last, the Law will not lose a single dot or comma until its purpose is complete. This means that whoever now relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men to do the same will himself be called least in Heaven. But whoever teaches and practises them will be called great in the kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you that your goodness must be a far better thing then the goodness of the scribes and Pharisees before you can set foot in the kingdom of Heaven at all!

Jesus says in this version he came to "complete the law." Then he says "the law will not lose a single dot or comma until its purpose is complete. This means that whoever now relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men to do the same will himself be called least in Heaven. But whoever teaches and practices them will be called great in the kingdom of Heaven." This is pretty clear on sticking to the commandments -- all of them. But it also says that this will be so until its purpose is complete. And by Jesus coming as our final and perfect sacrifice and savior, he has made it complete. Through Jesus the purpose of the law was completed. We are free from the law thanks to the completion of it by Jesus.

A few other items of note from the remainder of these chapters:

  • It is not just murder that is is being angry with a brother. In this version it also says "anyone who looks on his brother as a lost soul is himself heading straight for the fire of destruction." We are all lost souls without Jesus.
  • Make peace with your brother before offering anything at the alter. Relationships are more important than sacrifices or offerings.
  • Resolve issues quickly among yourselves...don't leave it to a judge where a worse outcome may occur.
  • It is not just adultery that is wrong -- it is looking lustfully at another
  • These things matter. They matter so much that it is better to lose a figurative eye or hand than to have them lead you astray.
  • Divorce - except on the grounds of unfaithfulness - makes the other an adulteress. Marrying someone divorced also commits adultery.
  • Don't only swear/use an oath falsely, don't use one at all. Let your yes be yes and no be no -- anything more has a taint of evil.
  • Turn the other cheek, go the extra mile if forced to go one, dont' turn away from the man who wants to borrow, give to the man who asks.
  • Love your neighbor, but also love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute you. Everyone can love only those that love them -- it is no credit to you.
  • You are to be perfect, like your Heavenly Father.
Okay. There is a lot in these first few chapters. Imagine reading this for the first time without any commentary or cultural interpretations. It is very direct and it is very much against how we act on the most part. We don't give freely, especially to those who aren't lovely to us. Our heart matters so much more than any outward activity, including sacrifices required by the law. Jesus is already starting to become the completeness of the law and changing how we see and do things.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Words of Jesus

I love to read and study God’s word. Unfortunately, I find the academic knowledge part a lot easier than the love part. Not that I’m not a loving person…I think I am…I love easily, but I struggle with really loving God. I think. I really want to know and understand God, so maybe that counts for something. That desire has led me to read, and read, and read, and study, and study, and study and facilitate studies and repeat. There are a lot of conflicting messages and angles out there and just as many different “areas of focus” and “platforms” we “should” have if we want to call ourselves Christians. Normally I take the approach of not knocking this. We are all unique parts of a bigger body, each with different roles and functions (Romans 12:3-5, 1 Cor 12:12-26), so I wouldn’t be surprised if each of us were uniquely called to see and interpret scripture with passions for different mission fields, where in its totality God uses it to convey his word and truth. The Bible mentions people suddenly getting it when God opens their eyes (Luke24:13-35 is one instance) – they finally see the truth as it is instead of the fuzzy or hidden things they saw before. So perhaps God opens different people’s eyes to different things…things He specifically wants them to focus on and share with other believers or non-believers. God is big and we are small, so it isn’t a strange thing to me that we can individually only understand so much. But every once in a while (ok, probably more than I would like to admit), my cynical side comes out and I wonder if some of these people are using scripture to support their agenda, rather than using scripture to understand God’s agenda. I know this is happening, at least to some degree, because God tells us in the Bible it is and to be on guard about it. In fact, it tells us a lot to look out for it…

Matthew 7:15
Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Matthew 7: 21-23
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have wenot prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Matthew 24: v 4-5
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

Mark 13: v 21-23
And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not:
22 For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.
Acts 20:28-31 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
Romans 16: v 17-18
Now I beseech you, brethren,mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are suchserve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

Galatians 1: 8-10
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

Ephesians 4:17-19
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

1 John 4:1
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophetsare gone out into the world.

2 Peter 2:1-3
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

2 Peter 2:18
For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

2 Timothy 3:1-7
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

2 Timothy 4:2-5
"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 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."

In fact, several of the churches in the Revelation letters to the churches (Rev. chapters 2 & 3) are admonished for falling prey to false teachers and being lenient about truth, letting ungodly practices and beliefs creep in. It is a big thing we need to look out for and we have been given plenty of warnings about it.

So here is the thing I really want to know the truth – however hard, or challenging, or difficult to understand –I want to know it. I don’t want to be swayed by false prophets and teachers who sound good. I want to be a person after God’s heart, I want to see people and circumstances and decisions and everything else as God does. I want truth to be so obvious to me that I don’t even second guess discernment of false teachings and untruth. Bible scholars and teachers are great, and there are many wonderful, Godly teachers, but I want to gain knowledge myself and I think it is possible.

1 John 2:27 -Now as for you, the anointing that you received from him resides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, it is true and is not a lie. Just as it has taught you, you reside in him.

Proverbs is full of verses about wisdom and knowledge. God tells us we can ask for wisdom and discernment and judgment for ourselves. Solomon asked for wisdom and God was pleased, making him the wisest person (2 Chron 1:10-12). We can ask for wisdom too and it will be given to us.

James 1:5 - But if anyone is deficient in wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him.

So asking for wisdom I am going through the New Testament, but in this case specifically and only looking at words spoken by Jesus. Now let me just go ahead and say that I believe the entire Bible and all of its authors and writings were divinely placed there and inspired and the Bible is the word of God in its totality (2 Tim 3:16). At the same time I started this project, I was also reading through the One Year Bible. I get that the words of Jesus alone are not the end of the story, but this is where I felt a huge call to dig in. Jesus was the Son of God. He is God. He is the Word become flesh (John 1:14). He is the way, the truth and the life – no one comes through the Father unless through him (John 14:6). He also said anyone who has seen him has seen God (John 14:9). I wanted to hone in on what he had to say. I'll post my thoughts and notes as I go and use the label, "words of Jesus".