Friday, August 12, 2011

Jesus Gave Three Responses To The Pharisees' Challenge

1) He wasn’t going to be their puppet and try and come up with some miracle that they would accept. Instead He would give them the ultimate sign in just a few years, the resurrection of the dead, victory over death and hell
"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:40)
The prophet Jonah had experienced something similar when he was spit up onto the beach near Ninevah.

God told Jonah to warn the Ninevites that they were about to be destroyed by God unless they repented of their sin. Jonah’s bizarre appearance, bleached out by the stomach juices of a fish, must have unnerved them. The Ninevites were fish worshippers. To them Jonah was like a man resurrected from the dead, and they believed his message – all Ninevah repented.

Jesus was infinitely greater than Jonah. When Jesus rose from the dead, that would be the Pharisees’ call to repentance. But they didn’t.

--> How much worse it is now that the resurrection has been established. The Ninevites will judge those today who ask for irrefutable proof when the resurrection stands proven these last two thousand year

2) The Queen of Sheba traveled at great expense to marvel at Solomon’s kingdom and his wisdom.

Jesus’ wisdom was infinitely greater than Solomon’s, and His kingdom infinitely more wonderful. Yet the Queen of Sheba would stand one day in judgment over the Pharisees who had the Son of God Himself right in front of them and remained nonplused.

--> How much worse for those today who can put their hand on a Bible wherever they go, hear good teaching on the t.v., the radio, the internet, go to any number of worship services on any day of the week, yet remain unmoved.

3) Jesus revealed their dangerously empty hearts. The Pharisees had continued the legacy of Ezra’s day,
+ Keeping Israel clean from idols,
+ Slavishly observing the Sabbath,
+ Obeying every possible nuance of God’s law to tithe,
...To fast,
......To keep the holy days.
"When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.

"Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.

"Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.

"That is how it will be with this wicked generation." (Matthew 12:43-45)
It's not enough to live a clean and disciplined life and mouth a lot of holy words.

Jesus said there must be someone who lives in the home of your heart, as the owner. Otherwise Satan will just move right back in again, and matters will be even worse.

The new owner has to be stronger than Satan. The new owner is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. Demons can't possess a Christian because of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Whoever is not with the Lord Jesus Christ is against Him
The miracles of Jesus point to who Jesus is. However, an unwillingness to believe reveals a hard heart.

Failure to believe the message of Christ has serious consequences, because there is no neutral zone.

You are either with Jesus, in the kingdom of God or you are with His enemy, Satan, under his rod of death and bound for his eventual destination of hell. Jesus has pre-eminence over even death and hell, and only He has the power to release you from the strong man’s house.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Jesus warned the Pharisees that their words gave evidence of the evil in their hearts. The sin against the Holy Spirit is not a matter of speech; the words spoken are only evidence of a sin-filled heart
"Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.

"You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good?

"For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him." (Matthew 12:33-35)
Jesus wasn’t talking about a single act, He was talking about their whole way of being, their harvest of bad fruit. The Pharisees had no sense of their personal sin.

Everybody will one day have to face all the things they said in those unguarded mome when the real you comes out. It’s not the words. It’s what’s inside you that matters.

Being called vipers, having their sin pointed out, being called to judgment was something the Pharisees could not stand.
Never mind that
+ Jesus spoke with authority,
+ That everything He did, including even just being born was fulfillment of scripture,
+ That the power of God in the miracles authenticated everything Jesus said,
+ And that God’s Holy Spirit was approving and affirming all Jesus taught.

They wanted to find a way to get out of having to accept Him and what He had just said to them. They wanted to reassert their superiority and authority over Him. So they said,
"Teacher, we want to see a sign from you." (Matthew 12:38)
Don’t you and I get the same thing today from people who don’t like what they’re hearing?
Give me one good intellectual argument for believing the Bible,
...Give me some proof that the Bible is true, that it’s reliable,
......Give me some irrefutable evidence that this is God’s word,
.........That it’s divine,
............That it’s relevant,
...............Or has anything to do with me....

Or how about this: before you and I judge the Pharisees, think about the times we’ve asked God for a sign because what we already know from His word was not to our liking.

--> Unless God makes my spouse initiates conversation, I’m not going to say I’m sorry.

--> If God doesn’t let me get caught, that must mean He’s okay with my doing (whatever it is).

--> When have you ignored God's word on something and asked for a sign instead?

People look for signs, but God looks for obedient faith.

Their hearts were committing adultery against God. They pretended to be faithful to God, to obey God’s laws and to worship Him. But in reality they were in love with their own position in life, seeing themselves as the cream, owners and rulers of God’s people.

In reality they kept the people away from God by making Him seem like a mean and cruel master who valued sacrifice over mercy.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What Is The Unforgivable Sin?

But what is this terrible thing that Jesus talked about next,
Was it limited to the Pharisees, or can such an unforgivable sin be committed today, and if so, how?

The context of this passage is the Lord's indictment of the Pharisees for attributing the origin of His power and the validity of His claims to the devil.

The unforgivable sin is the rejection of the true power behind The Lord Jesus Christ's miracles. To assign miracles to Satan, not the Holy Spirit, is to reject the One who draws us to Christ. To repudiate the work of the Spirit, and reject the witness of the Holy Spirit was to remain in their sin. Notice what Jesus says in verse 32, such a thing “will not” -- not “can not” but “will not” -- be forgiven. God will not where you will not.

As long as you’re concerned that you’ve committed the unforgivable sin, that is a sure sign that you haven’t. Satan, the accuser and father of lies, will try to convince you that there is something that really could separate you from the love of God. He will try to make you discouraged, convincing you that you’ve gone too far.

But experiencing grief over sin is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said the sin He was talking about will not be forgiven.
* Can a believer do something that would forfeit his or her salvation?
* Can God change His mind about something like that?

Go back to Romans chapter 8. Right at the end of that chapter the apostle Paul declares that nothing – nothing on earth, nothing in heaven – can separate us from God’s love.

Salvation does not find its power in your and my faithfulness; it is rooted in the faithfulness of God to His own Son Who died for us!

When Christ died on the cross, how many of our sins were future?
-> If all our sins were future
--> And Christ died for all our sins,
---> Then no future sin can cancel out what Christ has accomplished.

Since the whole debt has already been paid, no sin can separate us from God. Think of the great comfort in what Jesus was saying. Every sin will be forgiven except the one you and I will never commit! All others will be forgiven!

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jesus' Response to the Pharisees In Three Parts

1) Satan is a formidable enemy. Sometimes a person tries to resist evil without first submitting to God, and Satan pays no attention to that. Jesus said
"If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?" (Matthew 12:26)
Satan wouldn't be very likely to drive himself out, because that would divide his own kingdom and weaken his base of power. Only someone more powerful than Satan would be able to rescue the people in his possession – only the power of God Himself could do it.

Anyway, this accusation was illogical from the Pharisees’ own point of view too, since there were Jewish exorcists - you can read about them in Acts - who were apparently successful.

Jesus asked them,
"And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges." (Matthew 12:27
2) Satan is a terrible enemy, but he is not omnipotent, as God is. He can’t do everything. In fact, he can only do what God will permit. The devil and his demons have been defeated by Christ's triumph at the cross. Death and hell no longer have any hold over God’s people.
"But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." (Matthew 12:28)
Only God has the power and the authority to drive out Satan, or to hold him back. All throughout the New Testament, demons recognized Christ as the Holy One of God, and were afraid of Jesus; they had to obey His authorit

3) Jesus was the only one strong enough to tie up the strong man and rob the world of the people he oppressed,
“Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house." (Matthew 12:29)
and bring them into the kingdom of God where they would be free for all eternity. There is no neutral place.

Either you belong to Jesus, who has come into the strong man’s house to rescue you and free you from him, or you are a prisoner of the strong man
“Whoever is not with me is against me" (Matthew 12:30
What’s more, you are either with Jesus, gathering those who want to be free, or you are against Jesus, preventing others from being rescued
"...and whoever does not gather with me scatters" (Matthew 12:30)

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Pharisees Accuse Jesus of Working With The Devil

The man who was brought to Jesus was in pretty rough shape. He was blind, he couldn’t speak, and he was being oppressed by a demon. When Jesus delivered him,
All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” (Matthew 12:23)
but the Pharisees accused Jesus of using the devil’s power,
They said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” (Matthew 12:24)
From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was driving out demons from demon-possessed and demon-oppressed people. And just as early in the Lord's ministry, the Pharisees had begun dismissing this by saying that Jesus had been driving out demons by the permission, or the power, or both, of the prince of demons.

Satan is a real person. Interestingly, a lot of people don’t believe this – The Barna Research group found that in 2007 more than half of all adults surveyed in the United States, 57%, said that the devil, or Satan, is not a living being but is actually only a symbol of evil.

In that same survey Barna discovered that nearly half of all born-again Christians, 46%, denied Satan's existence.

Yet both the Pharisees and Jesus acknowledged that Satan was a real person, the prince of demons whom they referred to as Beelzebub, which means "lord of the flies" in Hebrew, and was meant as a mockery of the actual title "Prince Baal."

Scripture talks about a spiritual being, an angel named Lucifer, who was accompanied by a large angelic force in a rebellion against God. Isaiah 14 describes the thoughts that went on in Lucifer's mind, "I will make myself like the Most High." He was the most powerful, the most beautiful, of all the angels. His name meant "light-bearer," "shining one," "Son of the Dawn," and he aspired to the throne of God.

He wanted God's possession of and dominion over all the universe, with earth as his footstool.

Jesus said He saw Satan, which means "adversary," fall like lightning from heaven when God cast him out.

Demons are also real, and powerful. A third of God's angels became demons when they were cast out of heaven with Satan and made this earth their dark world. Since that time Satan has been referred to as
- The prince of darkness,
- The father of lies,
- The accuser,
- The beguiling serpent,
- A murderer.

The Bible describes him as a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, and the demons as having the primary purpose of possessing or oppressing humans and tormenting us.

The New Testament describes demons as causing physical as well as mental ailments. They have superior knowledge, supernatural strength and an ability to foretell the future. The devil is fierce, powerful, evil and all the more dangerous because he is a spiritual being; he is invisible.

Satan continues his rebellion against God, seeking in every way to usurp God's position as king. As soon as he had successfully enticed the first man and woman to disobey God, he took ownership of the world and now receives worship from it.

Jesus acknowledged that the world, that people themselves, are occupied by a strong man who possesses them. Satan's rod is death, and he leads the whole world into sin and corruption, using the world to oppose God.

And this was the Pharisees’ official verdict concerning Jesus. No, they said to the gathered crowd of people. This is not the Son of David, the Messiah we’ve been waiting for. This man is possessed of the devil.

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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Blended Gospels: Jesus Casts Out A Demon

Then [Jesus] went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, "He is out of his mind."

Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, "Can this be the Son of David?"

But when the Pharisees, and the scribes who came down from Jerusalem, heard it, they said, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons."

Knowing their thoughts, [Jesus] called them to him and said to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, it is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.

"And if Satan has risen up against himself, Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? He cannot stand, but is coming to an end.

"And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

"Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.

"Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

"Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come but is guilty of an eternal sin—

"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

For they were saying, "He has an unclean spirit."

[Blended Gospels, Matthew 12:22-37, Mark 3:2022-30, ESV]

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Friday, August 5, 2011

God Does Not Leave Sin Unpunished

When John was beheaded, all the seventy people Jesus had sent out with the gospel had also just come back to debrief with Him.

They were very tired, having not even had time to eat. It was Passover, there were many more thousands of people than usual in Jerusalem at that time. Emotions were already high. John’s death made matters even worse.

They had to have felt shock that John had been killed in such a terrible way, grief that they had not been with him, anguish over God allowing a good man to die and a bad man to prosper, sorrow and loss over such a dear friend.

What crash of emotions after the heady successes they had experienced in the mission field! So often it happens that way, after a spiritual success Satan rips the rug out.
* What to do you do when something knocks you to your knees?
John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it, laying it in a tomb. Then they went and told Jesus. (Matthew 14:12, Mark 6:29, blended gospels)
John’s disciples knew they could come to Jesus in their trouble and sorrow, knowing He would give them His deep understanding and loving sympathy.
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place (Matthew 14:13)
At first glance, you might miss the significance of Jesus' response. Let it sink in.

Herod had many opportunities to change, but refused until it was too late.

Jesus moved out of Herod’s province and into Philip’s province next door, taking the gospel message with Him.

Not long after this, Herod was badly defeated in war by his ex-father-in-law, the king of Petra. (Remember him? Herod had quickly divorced the king of Petra's daughter so he could move Herodias into the palace.)
In His judgment, God allows sin to run its course
In fact Rome had to come bail Herod out. Many people saw this as God’s judgement against Herod. Years later his nephew, Herod Agrippa (who also happened to be Herodias’ brother) gained control of Judea and was crowned a king.

Herodias made Herod so miserable about not becoming a king too, that he went to Rome to ask Caligula, the new emperor, to make him a king. Instead, Herod was stripped of his power and his wealth, and exiled to the savages of Gaul for the rest of his life.

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Night John The Baptist Died

Finally, one night, Herodias recognized her opportunity. It was right before the Passover, and Herod was having a big party. There was drinking and carousing, and high spirits.

Herodias knew she could manipulate her daughter into getting what she wanted. So she sent Salome into the party to do some pole dancing, hoping a drunk and lustful Herod would make rash promises.

He did.

There are two lessons for us here.
1) The first is from Herod. He was distressed. But his pride and his lust for Salome got the better of him
– He didn’t want to appear weak in front of his drinking buddies,
- And the apostle Mark says he didn’t want to refuse his stepdaughter,
So he immediately sent out the execution order.

What do you do in the heat of the moment?
* What influences your decision-making process?
* Do you step back?
* Do you pray?
* Do you think the situation through with biblical principles in mind?

Herod didn’t take time to consider the consequences, he acted immediately.

He wanted to appear powerful, more powerful even than God’s prophet.

He wanted to appear a man of decision.

He wanted to take young Salome to his bed.

His conscience was bothering him, but he was used to indulging his emotions and his appetites, even when it was wrong.

2) The second lesson comes from Herodias. What a powerful influence you and I have on our children!

There’s no hint Herodias’ conscience was bothering her. In her world sex was how you got what you wanted, so she was teaching her daughter the ropes.

Remember that Salome had grown up in the decadent world of the Roman wealthy and nobility: debauched parties, open prostitution of girls, boys and women, gladiator games.

Sex in the bath houses, orgies, "toga parties," these were all part of the notorious ancient social scene. Watching people be sliced through, heads flying off, wild animals tearing victims to shreds was part of her regular entertainment. Dancing for her father and his lascivious party boys, then receiving John’s head on a platter may have just been one more thrilling episode in her life.

What are you and I teaching our kids without even thinking about it?
--> What are they learning about sex and violence from t.v.,
...from movies,
......from video games?

Clearly the culture of Rome had corrupted and desensitized Herodias and her daughter. What are we letting the culture around us desensitize us to?

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Background on Herod

On the night that the Lord Jesus was born, Herod the Great ruled all of Palestine.

Herod the Great was the one the wise men came to asking about the baby and the star.

Herod the Great was the one who ordered the slaughter of all the baby boys in Bethlehem. It was no big deal to him. He had numerous sons and daughters of his own, by ten wives, and he killed them, too, when he thought they were getting in his way.

When Herod the great died He divided Judea into three portions and, with Rome’s permission, divvied these portions out among three of his surviving sons:

--> Archelaus got Judea and Samaria;

--> Philip got Trachonitis and Ituraea;

--> and Herod Antipas got Galilee and Peraea.

--> A fourth son, named Herod Philip, received money as his portion and lived in Rome.

It was at this time that an angel came to Joseph and told him it was safe to move back to Nazareth.

The year before John the Baptist was beheaded Herod Antipas went to Rome to visit his brother, Herod Philip and began to admire Philip’s wife, Herodias.

We’re going to see a biblical principle played out in what happened next.
Sin begins with what is cherished in the heart
The Bible says that we are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us. Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead [James 1:14-15] Herod and Herodias had a lifestyle of indulging their sinful desires. Their sin was full blown, but we all have sin to deal with, and there are lessons to be learned here from their bad example.

Who knows who seduced who, but Herod and Herodias ended up having an affair, and Herod brought her and her teenaged daughter Salome back with him to Galilee.

One problem.

Herod was already married to a princess whose father ruled Petra, right next door to Palestine. Herod divorced this wife to get rid of her and sent her back to Petra so he could move Herodias into his palace.

John the Baptist boldly denounced what Herod and Herodias had done, and that made them mad.
* How do you respond to someone who has just pointed out sin in your life?
* Do you get mad?
* Do you want to get them back?

For the next ten months Herodias nursed a grudge against John the Baptist and wanted to kill him. The only person standing in her way was her new husband.

See, Herod liked to listen to John even though what John said often puzzled and even sometimes offended him.

- And he was afraid of John since he knew that the Baptist was a righteous and holy man,
- and he was afraid of what the people might do if John were killed, since the people considered the Baptist a prophet.

So Herod protected John.

He imprisoned him in one of his palace fortresses, but he let John’s disciples have free access to minister to John.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Blended Gospels: John The Baptist's Death

Finally an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee.

For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you."

And he vowed to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom."

And she went out and said to her mother, "For what should I ask?"

And she said, "The head of John the Baptist."

And prompted by her mother, she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter."

And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother.

When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and buried it, laying it in a tomb, and they went and told Jesus.

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.

[Blended Gospels, Matthew 14:6-13, Mark 6:21-29, ESV]

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Blended Gospels: Women Support Jesus

Soon afterward Jesus went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities:
1) Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
2) and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager,
3) and Susanna,
4) and many others,
who provided for them out of their means.

[Blended Gospels, Luke 8:1-3, ESV]

Just some observations that will help to clarify truth from tradition:

1) Luke is the only one to note, in his gospel, that certain women supported Jesus' movement out of their own means. This is one of many specific references about the importance of women to the Lord, in Luke's account.

2) In particular, Joanna, being the wife of Herod Antipas's manager, was probably affluent andm for that matter, influential as well. Note that the Lord Jesus had an inside source to Herod's affairs.

3) Luke included both Mary Magdalene and Joanna among the women who discovered the empty tomb in Luke 24:10.

4) Notice that Luke did not identify Mary Magdalene with the sinful woman described in the previous story.

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