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Saturday, January 18, 2014

More Lessons from Jesus

More Lessons from Jesus

from Matthew 7




Jesus had so many things to tell his followers – not just his followers back then, but all those yet to be born who be would follow Him.  Jesus looked far into the future and spoke about his beloved followers down through the ages in every generation who would hear his lessons and try to follow them. He told the disciples: “I have sheep that are not of this sheep fold.  I must bring them in also.  They will listen to My voice.” (John 10:16)


All of Jesus’ lessons are recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke and/or John of the New Testament.  So for the last few weeks we have started going through the book of Matthew and discussing some of Jesus’ lessons that we find there.  Today we will read the 7th chapter of Matthew and review more of Jesus’ lessons that are recorded there.  Sometimes Jesus jumps from one topic to another.  So we will do the same as we follow His teachings.


Jesus continues his lessons by telling his followers not to judge others.  “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  (Matthew 7:1-2)  Jesus teaches that the critical judge may be judging a person who has a speck in his eye when the one doing the judging has a plank in his eye.  I think that Jesus is intentionally exaggerating to show that since we are all sinners we must stop short of final condemnation. We humans cannot judge other people’s motives or see into their hearts like God can.  (James 4:11-12)  We all know how bad it feels when a critical unloving person judges us harshly.  Jesus is commanding us not to do that to other humans.


Scripture says that believers are not to avoid all judging since Christians need to judge themselves and sometimes offending church members.  (1 Cor. 5:3-5, 12, 13)  Scripture says that Christians are to “test everything.”  (2 Thess. 5:21)  Scripture repeatedly tells believers to evaluate carefully and choose between good and evil people and things.  (1 Cor.5:9)  We are to test and be careful of those who pretend to be like angels of light.  (2 Cor.11:14) and we are to be on the alert for false prophets.  (John 4:11)  


We are commanded to love one another.  (John 13:34-35)   When we love others we may see their faults but we are more generous with our understanding of their problems.  Love drives out the critical unloving judgmental spirit.  I personally made a New Year’s resolution this year to react to the people I don’t like with an open loving spirit instead of my usual judgmental spirit.  To stop being negative of the people I love to hate.  It has made a big difference already for me.  Try being extra nice to each person you dislike.  Greet them with a smile.  Pray for them.  Think of them in a positive way and see if it doesn’t help you be a less judgmental.


Jesus continues his lessons with this:  “Do not give dogs what is sacred and do not throw your pearls to the pigs.  If you do they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”  (Matthew 7:6)  What is Jesus trying to teach us here?  Bible scholars believe that the pearls here represent the gospel.  The “Pearl of great price” in another Bible passage referring to our precious faith in Jesus.  (Matthew 13:45-46)  And the “dogs” and “pigs” Jesus is speaking of are the heathens - the people who are vicious and laugh at the Christian faith.  We must not continue preaching the gospel to people who continually ridicule it.  We must not allow others to treat the blood of Christ as cheap.  (Matt. 13:11, 15) 


Jesus continues teaching by inviting us to ask Him for the things we need in this life.  “Ask and it will be given you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives, and he who seeks finds: and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  (Matthew 7:7-8) 


Jesus reminds us that when children ask their parents for bread or fish they can usually count on their parents to give them bread or fish and not a snake or a stone.  That if our earthly parents gave us gifts, how much more will our heavenly Father give us good gifts?  Jesus is teaching us to ask God trusting Him to answer our prayers and take care of our needs.  (Matthew 9-12)


 Do we sometimes forget to ask our heavenly Father to give us what we need?  Are we missing out – struggling with less because we are trying to take care of our problems on our own?  Next time you are nervous about a job you have to get done or fearful that you cannot meet a challenge that is put in front of you: ask God to give you the ability – to be there with you – and see what a difference it makes!


Next Jesus tells us to enter through the narrow gate.  “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life,…”  (Matthew 7:13b-14)  At another time Jesus told his followers, “I am the Way the Truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by Me.”  (John 14:6)  


Here is Jesus’ next lesson.  “Watch out for false prophets.  They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them.  Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?  Like that every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree cannot bear good fruit…by their fruit you will know them.  Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father…  (Matthew 7: 15-21)


Have you heard of proud mean-spirited so called Christian leaders who claim to have special spiritual secrets, while controlling their congregation with rules and fear and taking large sums of money from their “flock”?  In every generation we must contend all over again for the faith.  Satan is constantly attacking the Church by sending these false prophets - wolves in sheep’s clothing and we must check out what our churches are teaching as well as how our leaders are behaving.  A false prophet will most likely not have a humble spirit and he/she will not confess that Jesus is Son of God and Savior – that He died and raised from the dead and He came in the flesh.  Jesus warned his followers over and over again to watch out for false prophets.  So we better be alert! 


And Jesus’ last lesson is the one about the wise and the foolish builders. (Matthew 7:24-27)  The wise builder builds her house on a rock and the foolish builder builds her house on the sand.  And all seems well for both builders for awhile until the rains come down and the floods rise up and the winds beat against the houses!  And the house on the sand blows away in many pieces.  But the house on the rock stands firm because its foundation is built on the rock.


And Jesus is the Rock. (1 Corinthians 3:11)  Jesus is teaching us the supreme importance of building upon the right foundation.  We are to build our lives on Him and when the storms of life come down and the rivers rise and the winds beat against our little life, it will stand because it is built on the Rock.     


Jesus was persecuted and eventually murdered on the cross because of the lessons He taught. He especially infuriated people when He held himself up as the “Narrow Way” and as the Son of God and Savior.  Huge crowds followed Jesus but many in the crowds eventually turned away from Him because of what He taught. They fussed that his lessons were too hard.  One day when a group got up and left while He was teaching, Jesus turned to his disciples and asked if they would leave Him too. (John 6:66)  He was hoping that they would stay with Him.  I have a feeling He still asks his followers that same question today.  Will we stick with Him even when the lessons are hard?  How will we answer that?  How will you answer that?          



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