What’s Your Identity?

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John 1:12  Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—

What are you basing your identity on?

Note:   Many of the ideas in this entry can be attributed to a sermon I heard preached by my Pastor last Sunday….I take notes, and so from the notes I’ve written this blog entry and added some thoughts, explanations and examples of my own.  Sometimes, I tell him that I am going to use what I heard him preach on in my blog.  I really enjoy Pastor Jerry’s sermons, and learn a lot from him.  I hope you will enjoy this glimpse also.

Read Matthew 23:1-12  

23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 23:5That is, boxes containing Scripture verses, worn on forehead and arm

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Jesus is pretty clear that his disciples should not be doing things that glorify themselves.  Funny thing is that he tells them to be careful to do what the Pharisees and the teachers of the law say to do, but not to actually do the same things they themselves do.

We all know folks who do this, and at any time we are all guilty of being “hypocrites” or “actors”.  Sometimes, it is unintentional, we simply get new information or change our minds about something that we felt/believed deeply in the past.  Jesus is not talking about the unintentional hypocrisy that happens in those cases.  For example, We have all used the phrase:  “I would never do……(fill in the blank)” and then we have proceeded to condemn someone else for doing that very thing….a few years go by and maybe we have done the thing we said we would never do.  Perhaps…we would “never stay out after midnight because nothing good comes of that….” then we find that we have a job which requires us to stay out after midnight.  This is a very mild example, but this kind of hypocrisy happens all the time.  The problem comes with the self-righteousness that comes along with those kinds of statements. The unloving and condemning/judgmental attitude that comes with the hypocrisy.

That is the very thing that Jesus was warning his disciples against…the “do what I say,  but not what I do” attitude that the Pharisees and the Scribes were filled with.  They were largely filled with their own righteousness, and filled with the need for gratification and glorification by mankind.  They were not focused on serving God, but they were serving themselves in the pretense of “doing it all for God.”

A very unfunny joke I heard last Sunday goes like this: Hypocrites in the church?  No, our church is not full of hypocrites….it is a long way from being full yet.

Yet this unfunny joke does describe many churches and the view of many people about Christian churches and the people who go to them.

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This is a beautiful church I saw while traveling…I really enjoy looking at churches…people put their best into building them to honor God…we should also put our best into building ourselves to honor God.

Another way of saying this is said by Paul the Apostle in  Titus 1:16  

16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

So Jesus realized that people want to be known as something – he knew that this is a need that people have..so he laid out clear instructions to his disciples about this..because if you are known for something then you can be known for the wrong thing….even something harmless can become harmful if it goes to your head.  The Old Testament is full of people who let their own ego take over and it ended up causing harm to themselves and others.  The thing is that some of those people such as King Saul and King David, were actually people who believed in God and attempted to follow God, but because of their self centered nature they failed to be obedient to God…they made the choice to glorify themselves instead of being true to God.

In God’s eyes we are called to be loving servants to others, instead of lifting ourselves up, we should be lowering ourselves down.

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These are reputed to be the “bones of St. Mark”.  I find there is some irony in  that Mark would probably not appreciate the luxurious gold plated place where his bones have been placed…St. Mark’s basilica in Venice, Italy.  Though the place is beautiful to behold for sure.

Even though Jesus was God in the flesh, he emptied himself out and became obedient to the death.

So back to the question at hand…How do you identify yourself?

-by relationship? -by Education? – by position? -by skills? -by bank balance? -by residence?

The truth is that we spend a lot of time trying to figure out who we are in relation to others – “What do they think of me?”  We all do this to some extent.  Everyone gets a vote in who we are – even strangers – we give them smiles and politeness…or scowl at them if we are having a bad day…even the driver in the next lane forms an opinion of who we are to them….”I saw that really rude driver when I was coming home…”

People through out our lives will sometimes give us nicknames…some are very nice and some are really rude.  I remember that an office I worked in had a woman with really gigantic hair…so she (rudely) became known as “the hair lady”…we have almost all of us come across a person or two known as the “snob or the grouch”…then there are more affectionate nicknames such as “shorty, or cuteness, or pet names we call our kids or spouses.”  Nicknames also can come as short versions of your real name:  Vicky (Victoria), Lexis (Alexis or Alexandra).  Sometimes, nicknames can reveal something about us that we don’t wish to have the world know…such as “stinky”  (some unthinking Mom who said that at the wrong moment and the kid was tagged with it for life!)   I know that when we were going to have our first child I had a sequence of names that I really liked and it was a very nice boy’s name…however, my husband was more on the ball than I was…he said, “No we cannot name him that, if it is a boy, because the initials form the word “GAS”…that kid would be teased unmercifully for life!”  I was shocked to hear the initials. (You are laughing now for sure, but this is a true tale!)

Every day we come to this path choice and our choice is determined by our core longings…do we reveal the false self, the small self or the true self?

Core Longings (Dr. Robert B. Shaw) – Belonging, Purpose, Love, Understanding, Significance and Security.

If we don’t have our core longings satisfied, then we can get into trouble by searching for  ways to have these longings be satisfied.  This leads to creating a “false self.”

There is also the “small self” identity which comes from living below your privilege, living without prayer, living with false humility.

We, who are believers, need to understand that in order to continue to become mature in Christ and stay on the mark as Christians…we need to understand that God is the only “legitimate” source for the satisfaction of our core longings.

We should never get our identity from something that can be taken away from us!

Have you ever met someone who spent their lives so wrapped up in their job that they did nothing else…then they retired..or lost the job..that person is usually very lost emotionally.  They just don’t know what to do with themselves…it is like they lost their entire identity when they lost the job.  The same thing can happen if you use your relationship to identify yourself…what happens if your only identity is “Mom” or “Dad” and the kids do what you have raised them to do…grow up and move out and get independent…again…you can become very depressed… it is hard to see this happen to a person from the outside too. It is hard to help them.  It is hard to redefine yourself.

Here are some things to remember:

Ephesians 2:10  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

(This tells us that God has a plan for our lives, the plan was prepared before we were created!)

Ephesians 1:5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–

(This tells us that part of God’s plan was for us to be adopted into his family through Jesus Christ…that it is his pleasure and his will that we be added to his family of children.)

1Thessalonians 1:4-5  4 Brothers who are beloved by God, we know that He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with great conviction—just as you know we lived among you for your sake.

(This tells us that God loves us and chose us, and he chose people to share the gospel with us, and that the Holy Spirit acts in accordance with the gospel to draw us to God.)

Philippians 4:19-20  19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.  20 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (NIV)

 

So again…I ask…who are you?  Where do you get your identity from?

I am hoping that your answer will be that you are a “child of God”…that is the best and most valid identity any of us can have…and it cannot be taken away from us by anyone or anything…not even by death!

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The Devourer’s of Widow’s houses

IMG_2256Luke 20:45-47 45 Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, 47 who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”

Luke 21:1-4 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

I was having a conversation with my Mother last week and she mentioned the widow’s mite and I felt compelled to go and reread it.  Many times I have heard people quote this story as if it were another of Jesus’ parables and say things like  “The Widow was more blessed than all the rest because she gave everything she had to God!”  I have heard this story used to say that we should give our all to God.

While it is true that we should give ourselves fully over to God I don’t believe that it is in God’s nature, nor is it in scripture that God would like people to starve in order to pay tithe.  In fact, if you look at Luke 20:45-47, it is pretty obvious that Jesus is condemning the scribes for “devouring the widow’s houses”.  Now, I look at that along with Luke 21:1-4 where Jesus is standing there and observing this woman put in all she had to live on and it seems that Jesus is saying that the scribes are actually at fault for making this poor woman believe that in order to be accepted by God she needs to give everything she has to live on…even if it means she must starve.

Now there are other places that we can go in scripture to back up the idea that God takes care of his people and he puts the people and their well being above following the law.

For instance:  Mark 2:23-27 

23 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.

24 And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?

25 And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungered, he, and they that were with him?

26 How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?

27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:

(1Samuel 21:7 for the scripture about David and his men.)

When we look at Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Many times you will hear folks say, “Blessed are the Poor” and then leave it at that…the complete statement is Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Now that is a completely different idea…there is nothing in the Sermon on the Mount which is talking about wealth or poverty of material goods.  Everything is talking about attitude toward God and toward others in life.

When I read the idea of the Poor in Spirit…I think it is about being selfless in your attitude in life.  You are always looking toward the needs of others, and what God wants you to do…not always yelling about yourself and your rights in this world.  That is what it means to me when I read the “poor in spirit” statement.

God continually condemns self centered people who walk all over or manipulate others for their own gain!  There is a lot of misconception about wealth in the world of Christianity.  The reason misconception continues is that there are many Christians who do not read the Word of God for themselves and study it.  Relying solely on someone in the pulpit to tell you how to be a Christian is a huge error!  There are a lot of folks who take things out of context and support their beliefs instead of taking it in the context in which it was written and finding out what God is really like.

There are very sincere Christians in all walks of life..both wealthy and poor…God has no problem with the level of your pocket book….only if you love your wealth more than you love him and those around you is there a problem.  The Bible says, “Love of money is the root of all evil”, not: “money is the root of all evil.”

1Timothy 6:10 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.

This is why the scribes were condemned…it was love of themselves and love of money to the point where they actually “devoured widow’s houses”.  They were hypocrites in the worst way, they gave “some” of their wealth, but made the widow feel that she had to give “all” of her goods in order to measure up.

Have you ever done that?  Seen that someone was giving a lot and so felt the need to put more in than you could really afford…more than you had previously decided on because the amount you were able to give seemed “insignificant” by comparison to what you knew the other person was giving?!! God says that he loves a cheerful giver…he wants you to give what you feel you can… to honor him.  He does not want you comparing yourself with the person next to you.  He wants your love and trust in him. That is why it is best if all giving is done quietly and personally.

I went to a large church as a visitor with someone once, and that person told me that whenever they went to their church they felt that they should always bring the “checkbook”; when I attended with them I understood why they felt that way…the buckets (literally) were passed about 5 times down the aisles during their worship!  Now some folks who are new or unsure of their Christianity would feel pressured to always put something in each time it was passed in order to not be “embarrassed”…I wonder what Jesus would think of his followers treating his sheep like that in his name?!!  Well, we don’t have far to look…looking again at the verses in Luke 20 and Luke 21 above it seems clear how Jesus would feel about these things.

The Bible is very clear on the status of widows and orphans from Old Testament through New Testament the attitude is the same.  Those who are most vulnerable in society should be protected and cared for either by their relatives or by the church if there are no relatives to care for them.

Exodus 22:22-23King James Version (KJV)

22 Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.

23 If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry;

For more from the apostle Paul on the care of widows and orphans look at 1Timothy 5.

Jesus – The Light of the World

plane-flying-into-veniceJohn 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Read John Chapter 8.  Jesus talks about what it takes to be a child of God, and that he is the Light of the World, He also talks about forgiveness at the beginning of the chapter dealing with the adulterous woman.  Lately I came across the connection between Genesis 1 and Revelation 21 and it gave new meaning in my heart and mind to what Jesus meant when he said he was the light of the world.  

In Genesis 1:3 we read that God said “Let there be light” and there was light; but it was brought to my attention that God didn’t actually create the sun and the moon to mark the days and nights and give light to the earth until the fourth day of creation…..so this light on the first day can be realized to be the “light of Christ” or the “light of the son”…a supernatural light.  Yet when we are taught about Genesis this really is not ever pointed out…it seems to be one of those “ah ha!” type things that God reveals in his own time….just like when you look at Revelation 21:23-25 you see that when Jesus says he is the light of the world…it is meant literally…it states that when the new Jerusalem comes down out of the sky it will be lit by the Lamb of God.   It says that there will be no need for a sun or a moon to give light.  This also gives us some new deeper meaning about when God says that he is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  Genesis is the beginning of our Holy Scripture, and Revelation is the end of it.  At the time of creation the Light of Christ is there revealed to us in scripture, and in Revelation it is clearly laid out to us that the Light of Christ will still be there enduring and as bright as ever…so that no one will have to walk in darkness.

In John 8:12  we read this: 12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Isn’t that an awesome thing to realize that Jesus is the light of the world…he is much better than any flash light or sun light because when you are in Jesus’ presence there are not even any shadows cast from his light….no darkness at all.  Everything is revealed in the light of Christ…darkness is separated from Him and cannot be in the presence of his light.  It tells us this in Genesis also in verse 4.  We have to get away from thinking that all Genesis one is telling us is just about the 24 hour day….as with Jesus’ parables there is always a lot more to it than just what we first understand.  In order to understand these things you have to understand the character of God…and God reveals himself in his Word…it is a continual revealing…as we grow more mature in our relationship with him, he reveals more about himself.

Just like when you meet a new person you don’t instantly learn everything about them, but through the maturing of the relationship you learn more about their character and the person that they are little by little…that is how you build trust in your human relationships, and that is how you build trust in the Lord also.  Though unlike our human relationships which are generally not perfect,  God will never let you down…he will go through hard times with you and strengthen you as you go.  You will continually build trust as you trust him and your faith will grow as you bath yourself in the Light of Christ.

Genesis 1:1-19 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry groundappear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered watershe called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so.12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

Revelation  Chapter 21 

sunset-in-mediterraneanA New Heaven and a New Earth

21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

The New Jerusalem, the Bride of the Lamb

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gatesand its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia[c] in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits[d]thick.[e] 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.[f] 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.

22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful,but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Footnotes:

  1. Revelation 21:1 Isaiah 65:17
  2. Revelation 21:4 Isaiah 25:8
  3. Revelation 21:16 That is, about 1,400 miles or about 2,200 kilometers
  4. Revelation 21:17 That is, about 200 feet or about 65 meters
  5. Revelation 21:17 Or high
  6. Revelation 21:20 The precise identification of some of these precious stones is uncertain.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Bible verses above from Biblegateway.com  

Honest Prayer

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Psalm 99:5 Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy.

Read Matthew 23 

A Warning Against Hypocrisy

Matthew Chapter 23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees

13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14] [b]

15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it.22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’[c]

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 23:5 That is, boxes containing Scripture verses, worn on forehead and arm
  2. Matthew 23:14 Some manuscripts include here words similar to Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47.
  3. Matthew 23:39 Psalm 118:26

(From Bible Gateway.com… the NIV)

 

In Matthew 23 we find that Jesus is very condemning of the actions of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees.  He tells his Disciples to learn from them by following what they say because they know the law well..(they are sitting in the seat of Moses).  However, Jesus warns his Disciples not to act the way these men act.  These particular Pharisees and teachers of the law whom Jesus was talking about (Jesus and Paul the Apostle were both Pharisees by the way)  were men who failed in their responsibility to God.  They were supposed to be teaching the people about who God was, that he was a God of Justice, Mercy and Faithfulness.  

Instead they were teaching people the letter of the law, but not the Spirit of the Law.  The Spirit of the Law is supposed to bring you closer to God.  Following the Spirit of the Law also brings you closer to your fellow man.  Just look at the characteristics of God given by Jesus, Justice, Mercy and Faithfulness.  If we use those characteristics in dealing with each other we also draw closer to each other in love.  It is nearly impossible to understand Justice, Mercy or Faithfulness without having love involved also.  I am not talking romantic love here, but the love of your fellow humans..compassion.  I mean who doesn’t want to be around and spend time with someone who is compassionate and gentle, merciful and forgiving, and fair?  That is God and those are God’s character traits…we are told to be like that to each other.

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(Now there are some people who want to judge God and say that God is not always fair…but for those people ask yourself…are you really qualified to judge God?…if you are…then doesn’t that mean that you are taking on the position of God?  Just think about that a bit…it is a hard thing to wrap your mind around…but either Jesus is the Lord of your life….or he’s not..if he’s not, then that means you are trying to be the Lord of your own life…that never actually works out well. -Just refer back to the story of Adam and Eve and see how it worked out for them)

Jesus wanted his Disciples to follow both the letter and the spirit.  He wanted his Disciples to know that the law was not just something to be talked about and taught to others.  It was to be followed by his Disciples too.

The Pharisees were telling everyone else to follow the law, and making it so hard on the average Jew that they were having trouble following them all! However, they, the Pharisees themselves, were not following all of the laws that they were putting upon others.  They were sinning themselves, the sins of pride, and self indulgence, and hypocrisy.  Yet they were busy bodies who were constantly telling other people how they should live, and criticizing what others do.

Jesus tells them that they are all shine, and no substance…they look nice on the outside, but the inside is rotten.  (I think we have probably all met people like this.)  I really love the phrase used about the white washed tomb filled with the bones of rotting corpses (unclean things)…slight paraphrase there, but the meaning is very clear.

The Pharisees in question were clearly hypocrites (aka actors) they were putting on a constant show of “whoo, my poop don’t stink because I am so very Godly..it wouldn’t dare stink….I always look and smell like roses!”  That is what is meant when Jesus says talks about their garments and phylacteries….he is saying that they are making them larger and longer to make them seem like they are more important to them and make themselves seem more holy.  Kind of like if you see someone who is carrying around a Bible and quoting scripture  all the time, but then you hear them tell a whopping lie to someone.  That would probably be the equivalent situation in our time.

If you think about it there are a lot of people who are running all over telling everyone how Christian they are, but then they just don’t act like they know God at all when dealing in their day to day life.  They are just giving God the nod of their head on Sunday and the rest of the week doing whatever they want.  In other words they are not taking God seriously, are they?

Jesus gets on them about the importance they place on the gold in the temple instead of the sacredness of temple itself, and why the temple is sacred.  Now that happens a lot even now.  People put more emphasis on the building they are worshipping in than they do God whom the building is for, or God’s people who are in the building.  That is a sad situation for sure….if a person takes their focus off of God for a second or two, then it is easy to end up with your focus on the wrong thing.  People get panicky whenever they are trying to hold onto something that they perceive that they may lose….at times like that it is easy to get side tracked from God.

This idea of “swearing on the gold in the temple” has carried over into more modern days, and is still around now.  Back in the time of Martin Luther the monk (not Martin Luther King Jr.) the church sold “penance” to people.  Martin Luther did not agree with this and was verbal about it. The church allowed people to buy forgiveness and many rich men took advantage of this to use their money to get away with doing whatever they wanted. 

Today, there are still many Christians who have wealth and believe that as long as they tithe enough money or spend enough on charities they are excused from their actions. 

Jesus did not agree with this and he condemned people who where praying or acting holy  for the sake of pretending to be Holy, while having the education about God to know that this is wrong. They are ignoring what they know in pursuit of themselves and their own glorification on earth. 

Jesus states that these Pharisees are greatly damned for their actions. In other words, the more they know, the more they are expected to represent God to the people, so the greater their damnation when they misuse what they know for their own gain.   It is really important to be honest in your dealings with God and with others. 

Keep in mind that God knows what you think and what you are doing, what your real motivations are.  The only person you are fooling with your behavior is yourself.  The Pharisees fooled themselves.

Respect for God’s House

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Matthew 21:13 It is written, he said to them, My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.

God’s house is a house of prayer, and needs to be treated as a Holy place.  Nothing ungodly should be taking place there.

Read Mark 11:15-19 Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the temple, and stated that His house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations, and that they had turned it into a den of thieves.

Read Acts chapter 3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

17 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’[a]

24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’[b] 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

Footnotes:

  1. Acts 3:23 Deut. 18:15,18,19
  2. Acts 3:25 Gen. 22:18; 26:4

The disciples John and Peter go to temple to pray during the time of prayer.  Although you are to pray without ceasing, this is more that you should be mindful of God during the course of your day.   There are times when you should spend time only thinking of God and talking to God through prayer, without doing anything else at the same time.  Life can get in the way of our prayer time if we let it.  We can become guilty of treating our prayer time with God as an after thought…you know, something you do in a half minded kind of way…just putting it right in there while you are multi-tasking and never giving him the personal one on one attention that we need to really be fully in God’s presence.  

When I was growing up a lot of attention was paid to not “setting anything on the Bible.”  This was an act of respect in my parents eyes for the fact that the Bible is the living word of God…that it is Holy scripture.  I don’t find anything wrong with this stand on things, but for me I feel that the ultimate respect that you can pay God’s word is to read it and learn it and have it written on your heart.  All the other treatments of God’s word become empty things if you don’t have a relationship and have it in your heart.

Personally, I do set things on my Bible as I am usually carrying a lot of things in my arms when I am coming and going from my home with the Bible to church and back.  It is really hard to not have anything on top of it…it doesn’t really bother me much because I do have it written on my heart and I am using that Word.  When you use something it usually gets a bit of wear on it.  You can tell folks who really use their Bibles because unless they just bought a new one..it is usually full of stuff that is falling out of it, and quite worn looking.  I think God would rather it look that way than to keep it crisp and new and sitting on your coffee table.  Now I am not saying that everyone “must” memorize chapter and verse and be able to recite scripture and include where it is located in the recitation.  The idea of writing it on your heart is more like knowing it so that if you are in a situation where you are tempted or don’t know how you should handle things…then you can have a scripture pop into your head…the Holy Spirit can remind you of it and help you to know what to do and how to act in any given situation and remain in a Godly position.

Jesus did this when he was being tempted in the desert…Satan would say something to tempt Jesus, and Jesus responded to Satan using scripture to refute what Satan was saying.  If you don’t read it then you cannot truly have it written on your heart…you cannot truly be a doer of the Word as well as a hearer of the Word.  (James 1:22-25)

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Now if we go back to the stories above of Jesus over turning the money changer’s tables in the temple courts and the contrasting story of the newly healed lame man who entered the temple courts “walking and jumping and praising God” some people would be very upset at the idea of the man jumping around in the temple courts and say it was disrespectful.  I don’t believe that God would see it that way at all….this man was so grateful for his healing that he could not contain his joy!  It was flowing out of him with childish excitement.  It was so pronounced that it attracted attention…this caused people to come running to see what was going on there.

Peter looked at them, and took the opportunity to remind them of who God was, and that they should not be surprised at God’s ability to heal….and that the healing came through the promised Messiah that they had rejected.  Peter acknowledged that their rejection was done in ignorance of who they were rejecting and he told them that they should change their hearts and turn away from that ignorance and embrace who Jesus truly was…that Jesus was the author of life and that in their ignorance they had “killed the author of life”…now if someone is the author of life, then certainly they would be able to heal would they not?  It would be a little thing to them to do so.  Peter was quick to give the credit to God and not to take it for himself.  That is so important when you are doing something that God has given you to do…be sure to give God the glory and honor for using you to do that deed just as Peter did in this situation.  Knowing God, acknowledging him, obeying him and giving him the glory for all the blessings in your life is the ultimate paying of love and respect to God.  At least that is my thinking…because the word says that if you love God then you will obey his word, and God will come to make his “home” with you….essentially when I read this I understand it to be that you become the “house of God”  in a much more literal and important way than a building will ever be.

John 14:23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;

Shouldn’t the “house of God” have the “Word of God” inside of it? Isn’t that just respectful?

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As for the money changers…they didn’t understand this concept at all because if they had understood then they would have known that God wanted us to love each other, not cheat each other. Jesus was walking among them in living flesh and they still didn’t get it!