To Know Christ More Deeply: Matthew 3-4

Welcome to Day 2 of my walk through the Gospels to become more deeply acquainted with Christ.  This time I read through Matthew 3 and 4.  This is what I discovered:

Jesus is…

  • The Lord
  • Mighty and able to baptize not only with water but the Holy Spirit and Fire
  • God’s beloved Son
  • Someone God is pleased with
  • Worthy of worship

Christ’s coming was planned, the answer to the wrath to come.  In obedience to God’s plan, Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. 

Jesus will separate the wheat from the chaff. 

Jesus was able to be tempted and experience physical things like hunger.   However, he was able to resist temptation because He knew the Word of God.  He knew that we live by the words that come from the mouth of God. 

These are just a few things I noticed. Certainly, my observations are not comprehensive.  They are what I observe as I try to grow more in my relationship with Christ.  One thing I noticed was that, again, we are reminded that Jesus is worthy of worship, just like I observed in Chapters 1 and 2. 

I heard a televangelist the other day say that Christ came to make us have a good life.  I’m not certain she has read even just the first four chapters of Matthew if that’s why she thinks He came.  One thing is clear: Christ was the answer to the wrath of God that we all would face. I think we underestimate just how much wrath was coming our way but for Christ.

Much of what I am learning about Christ so far is about Him: his power, might, obedience to God’s plan, righteousness, and purpose.  So far, the book of Matthew has been all about God and His redemptive plan fulfilled through His beloved Son. In fact, even John the Baptist acknowledged that it was about Jesus and not about John.  To extrapolate that thought out a bit more, it’s about God, not about me.

Humanism is a worldview that focuses on man. I really think the church has been so influenced by humanism that people think that God and His plan revolves around them. This is dangerous thinking. If what God does revolves around me, then I am the glorified one.

That’s backward. Christ came for a purpose. He experienced life as a human for a reason. He came to fulfill all righteousness in obedience to God’s plan to save His children from the coming wrath. God is glorified whether I experience a “good life” or not!

Bottom line: because of all that Jesus is, He is worthy of worship. 

To Know Christ More Deeply: Matthew 1 – 2

My pastor challenged us to get to know Jesus, really get to know Him, not just know about Him.  He suggested we start in the Gospels. So I thought I would take some time to know Christ more deeply by getting more deeply acquainted with Who Scripture says He is.  Here is what I learned from Matthew 1 and 2: 

Jesus is…

The Son of David, the Son of Abraham

The Son of a virgin who conceived by the Holy Spirit

He was born in Bethlehem, his family fled to Egypt, and He was raised in Nazareth.

Jesus is…

Jeshua – the Lord is salvation

Immanuel – God with us

The King of the Jews

A Ruler

The Shepherd of Israel

Worth of Worship

God’s Son

I have always been drawn to His name “Immanuel”.  The truth of God being with us is so very powerful.  Jesus had a purpose for being here.  His genealogy and birth was planned very carefully and purposefully, and He came at just the right time.  Why?  Because God loves us.  He prepared His Son, Jesus, to be many things including king, ruler, shepherd, and salvation.  And what does all this mean to me?  Jesus is worthy of my worship.  And I haven’t even made it to Matthew 3 yet! 

But God

I was dead.

I was hardened.

I was blind.

I was incapable of seeking God.

I was a son of disobedience.

I was by nature an object of God’s wrath.

I was separated from God.

I was unable to please God in any manner, no matter what I did.

BUT GOD

Rich in mercy

Because of His great love

SAVED ME

By His grace

Not because of anything I had done

As a gift

For His Work

According to His purpose.

Now, I am ALIVE!

A Prayer for America in Her Hour of Greatest Need

Dear Lord, We humbly ask for your intercession for our country.  Evil has arisen and is attacking the freedoms we hold dear in this country.  This evil seems insurmountable. Only you can save us! I pray that you “uncover the deeps out of darkness and brings deep darkness to light” (Job 12:22).  Lord, please act because your laws have been broken (Psalm 119:126).  The wicked have perverted justice in our country.  They have accepted bribes.  They have suppressed the truth by their wickedness (Romans 1:18). You hate robbery and wrong but love justice, O Lord (Isaiah 61:8).  Repay the wicked according to their deeds (Isaiah 59:18).  “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).  Let what is hidden be revealed in time to make a difference to preserve America and restore this nation to its Christian roots.  Open the eyes of those who have been blinded, so they will see the truth and act upon it.  Please do not forsake your children who call humbly upon you to let truth be revealed and justice be done.  We are crying to You for help.  Please hear and deliver us out of all our troubles.  Thank you for being near to the brokenhearted and saving the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:17-18).   “To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 16:27).

God is in Control

God is in control. We are not. We like to think we are. We think the institutions and powers of this world are in charge. We are mistaken; they are not. God is.

God has a plan, a redemptive plan, for this world.  There is not one single part of His plan that will not take place. There is not one single thing that will be thwarted. God does not sit around wringing His hands worrying about how He is going to handle those leftists today or how He is going to manage a communist takeover of yet another country.  He does not worry if China has warships in the ocean, or if Russia has interfered with another United States election.  He has it perfectly under control. 

Just because we can’t see His plan, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Just because we don’t like what we think His plan might be, doesn’t mean it isn’t good.  God sees everything from beginning to end. Our vision is myopic. We only see what is right in front of our eyes and not beyond.  We are nearsighted.  We have limits.  God does not. 

Examine history. You can see God’s plan unfold throughout time. We do not know where we are in the process of God’s plan, but we can rest assured in the fact that He has it under control. We tend to only think of things as they occur in our time and place.  However, God promises to work all things out for the good of His children. That good may not always be experienced here on this earth but later in eternity with Him. God has the power to do all things, and He will do all that He has planned.

Christmas reminds us of God’s plan in a special way.  It reminds us not to worry because God has everything under control.  Matthew 1:21 says, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  God sent a Savior to save His people in the form of a baby who was born into humble circumstances.  This baby was 100% God and 100% human.  As He grew, He lived a perfect life and then sacrificed that life as a human sacrifice for our sin.  My pastor said it so eloquently, “God has a people.  They have a sin problem.  His intention is to save His people from their sin problem, and only He will do it.”  Scripture says that “all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet” (Matthew 1:22).  If God can and will save His people through the person and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, something that it impossible for any other human being to do, there is not a single other thing that God cannot do. 

God is in control.  We are not.  That’s a good thing because we are fallible, limited, myopic people.  In the famous words of a hymn penned by Helen Lemmel in 1922:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of this world will grow strangely dim

In the light of his glory and grace.

A Matter of Conviction

Last night I had a conversation with my husband.  You see, our church is opening back up on Sunday with a long list of state-imposed rules.

We have never been mask wearers, nor do we believe we should be forced to wear masks by anyone.  We believe there are all sorts of reasons, psychological and health-wise, not to wear a mask.  However, our pastor has indicated that even if we are not afraid, he recommends we wear a mask for others, especially when we sing.  It is not mandatory, but it is recommended.

So back to the conversation I had with my husband last night.  I told him that I was really nervous about going to church.

“Nervous about what?” he said.

“Confrontation.” I replied.

“What are you going to be confronted about?” he queried.

“Not wanting to wear a mask and being told it is because I am not being kind” was my reply.

Our conversation moved to other things.  Fast forward to this morning.  My husband opens the day as follows:

“Do you know how I know that Satan is involved in all of this?”

“How?” I responded.

“You are nervous about going to church because everyone is so divided.  Why should you be nervous at all about going to church?”  he responded.  “The devil is involved.”

So this got me to thinking back to the days when I was actively counseling clients.  So many times, I would have clients that came into my office feeling extreme guilt over things that were not sinful.  This guilt would keep them from doing all good things including reaching out to God, being around people, and going to church.  I would have to explain to them the difference between true guilt and false guilt.

This circumstance is no different.

You see, true guilt is when you stand before a holy God sinful because you have broken one of His Commandments.  We are all truly guilty before God because of our sin.

False guilt is when people tell you that you should feel guilty about something because of what they believe or think.

True guilt brings you to repentance and a restored relationship with God.

False guilt keeps you from God because it comes from emotional manipulation and not truth.  It keeps you from people because there is a part of you that almost believes the manipulation.  This is by design.

Ephesians 6:10-20 (English Standard Version) states, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

It is not wrong for me to not want to wear a mask anymore than it is wrong for you to want to wear a mask.  It is a matter of conviction not a matter of sin.

I am going to church today, and Satan is not going to separate me from other believers with emotional manipulation.

The battle belongs to the Lord!

Faith Not Fear

What has happened in our country, indeed in most of the world, may have surprised many of us.   However, it has not surprised God.  God has a plan and a purpose for everything that happens.

A lot has changed.  Some pills have been harder to swallow than others.  Still, there are silver linings to everything.  There are things that are working out for our good.  For me personally, I have more time to relax with my family.  I’ve been able to write more.  I haven’t felt nearly as stressed out as when I had a lot more on my plate.  I’ve been able to just chill and watch historical dramas with my husband.  I’ve been able to read my Bible for longer periods of time.  I do not feel an urgency to fit everything into my day.

I don’t know how long this will last, but I do know that God works out all things for the good of those He has called (cf. Romans 8:28) and for His glory (cf. Isaiah 48:9-11; Ephesians 1:4-6).

Faith, not fear, is the response we need.  God has this!

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36 English Standard Version).

 

Why are We so Afraid to Live?

So many people these days seem to be afraid to live.  They are told there is a corona-virus pandemic, so they panic, store up a bunch of food and supplied, and stay hold up in their homes.  There is a lion in the streets, so they turn in their bed, ignoring the world around them.  The big bad wolf is coming, so they hide in all sorts of structures hoping to keep him from eating them up.  The sky is falling, so everyone comes up with their own ideas about what everyone should do to protect themselves.  School gets canceled.  Sports get canceled.  Stores shut down.  Socialization and interaction decrease if not stop altogether.  People watch the world through little screens in the comfort of their own homes believing they are being protected from a scary virus not realizing what the real enemy is: fear.  People have become afraid to live.

The true irony is that people are afraid to live because they are afraid to die.  The fear is so strong that it cannot be overcome by rationality.  It is as if normally sane people have become mad.  People this afraid are very easy to control.

The real answers will not be found in the government dictating what we can and cannot do.  Government control will only intensify the fear.  Put the people in a panic, and they will do whatever you want them to.  There is a wealth of history that shows us what is the end result of this ideology!  (Do the words “Heil Hitler!” ring a bell?)

The real answer is found in understanding that there is a sovereign God who is in control of this world!  All things that happen fall under His direction and His will and are for His glory.

There are many false things in this world.  There are many versions of what is “true”.  What is real though is that Jesus Christ is God, and He is greater than anything that can happen in this world.  If you know God, you know the truth.  If you know God, you will not be pulled around by the nose rings by fearmongering, panic, and the general craziness of this world system.  If you know God, you will know truth and love and the balm of healing these provide in a time where unrest and panic abound.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (I John 4:18 English Standard Version).  Everyone is afraid because they do not know the source of true love.  They do not know the source of eternal life:  God.  Without knowing God, they will die in their trespasses and sins.

Why is everyone so afraid to live?  It is because they ultimately are afraid of the final punishment: death.

Working Out the Wrinkles

Lately, I have been enjoying ironing.  It is a mundane task, and perhaps that is why I enjoy it so much.  It is simple.  There is no stress.  I apply a little heat and a little pressure.  Presto!  All the wrinkles come out.  The finished product is a crisp, clean shirt ready for one of my boys to wear.

As I was ironing today, it got me thinking.  I have a lot of wrinkles in my own life.  Things that make me not so crisp and clean.  Thinks that make me less than I ought to be.  I come by these wrinkles naturally.  They are part of my sinful nature.  I cannot work them out on my own.  I need someone else to iron them out.

You see, for a shirt, wrinkles do not come out on their own.  They do not just magically disappear.  They need to be worked on.  They need heat and pressure applied to them to come out, especially the stubborn ones.

My wrinkles are the same.

Fortunately, because I am a child of God, the Holy Spirit is right there ironing out my wrinkles to make me more like Christ.  He gently applies heat and pressure at different moments in my life.  God works out my wrinkles according to His purposes and for His glory!

Perfect analogy?  Perhaps not.  Yet somehow there is satisfaction and comfort in contemplating how a mundane task in life can point to the handiwork of God!

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31 English Standard Version).

Just Learn to Love Yourself…Not!

“When we learn to love ourselves, we can love God and others.”

This statement generally sends me off the deep end.  Oh, if you could just love yourself, everything would be wonderful!  If you could just learn to love yourself, you could be right with God and man.

Hogwash!!

Loving ourselves is what gets us into trouble to begin with!  I mean, without realizing that we are sinners in need of a savior…that we are not okay without Christ, and we are in fact dead in our trespasses and sin (cf. Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13)…we are lost.  I know a lot of people who love themselves, and this is why they feel they do not need Christ.  Satan loved himself and thought he could usurp God.  God doesn’t say, “Love yourself first, then you can come to me.”  He says, “You have sinned and fall short of my glory” (cf. Romans 3:23).  He says, “You deserve death for your sin” (Romans 6:23).  He said, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  True love comes from God first and is given to us through Christ.

What if instead of falling for the psychology of the world, we understood who God is and who we are in Christ first?  After all, love comes from God (cf. I John 4:7-9…note that in this passage the love referred to is for others not oneself). I love who I am in Christ because of the work Christ did on my behalf.  I do not love myself.  There is nothing inherent in me that makes me lovable apart from the work Christ has done in my life.  Christ’s righteousness transferred to me is what makes me capable of loving God which in turn makes me able to love others.  I am last on that list if I make the list at all (cf. Philippians 2:3).

Sometimes I think that the study of psychology puts blinders on our eyes so that we are evaluating God’s Word through it as opposed to evaluating psychology by God’s Word.  If Satan can twist things just a little, he can keep more people from truly knowing Christ.  It’s like having a glass of cool clear water which is good to drink and refreshing.  However, if you put just a drop of arsenic in it (something you cannot see which poisons the water), a drink from the glass leads to death.

Let’s not fall for the tricks, the slight adjustments to truth, which are propagated by the spiritual forces of evil (cf. Ephesians 6:12).  Satan has a way of making things that lead to death look good.  Just something to think about.