Monthly Archives: February 2016

Parables Of The Kingdom

PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM

 

Like a diamond, the kingdom of God is many-faceted. The kingdom must have been as difficult for Jesus’s disciples to understand as it is for us. Jesus told stories, many of them beginning with the words, “The kingdom of God is like . . .”, to shed light on the kingdom (but only for those who desired an understanding) – what it is like and what it is about.  Each story illustrates only one small part of the whole. He needed to re-programme their thinking from their fixation with Rome and a restored Davidic kingdom to a higher and unseen realm where God is at work to restore everything that was broken by the Fall.

 

Matthew set out a block of these stories in chapter thirteen of his gospel, beginning with the story about a farmer who sowed seed in his field (Matt. 13: 1-23). This is one of the few stories in this group of parables to which Jesus attached an explanation. The meaning of the story is quite clear; one kind of seed, four types of soil, four different responses to the word of God (Luke identified the seed as the word of God – Luke 8: 11). This was how He told it, but what was the point of the parable?

 

This is the surprising part. Jesus explained that one of the reasons why He taught in parables was to confirm the condition of people’s hearts. When people have no desire to know the truth, what they are told only serves to harden them in their unbelief. Their minds are closed to the meaning and value of God’s kingdom because they do not want to know.

 

His disciples were privileged to be given understanding because they had a heart to follow and become like their rabbi. As for the rest, the more stories He told, the less they understood because that was the nature of their hearts.

 

To His disciples Jesus made one thing clear; they were to seek to understand and follow God’s way above everything else. His rule had to take priority over all else because His way as interpreted and lived out in front of them by their rabbi, was the only way that would lead them to the Father. Even His disciples did not understand that He was the way to the Father until He spelled it out for them.

 

Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14: 5, 6)

 

Whatever Jesus had to say about the kingdom of God was, in the end, exemplified in Him. He was the interpretation of God’s rule and the mirror image of the Ruler – the Father. Experiencing the kingdom would not be difficult if they simply stuck to their role as His talmidim because He insisted that the purpose of His coming was, among other things, to show them how to live in the spirit of Torah.

 

This is how He summarised what He expected of them as His talmidim, both in their own lives and in the way they showed others what God’s kingdom is like.

 

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matt. 6: 33)

 

How often we quote this verse without having much idea of what He meant! Once again we must put it in context, both in the immediate context and in the context of the entire Sermon on the Mount. His sermon was about how to live under the rule of God. He described the lives of the people who relinquish their right to make their own rules in favour of returning to the path – the way which takes them to the Father.

 

A large part of what we relinquish is our worldly attitude towards money and things, which was at one time characterised by selfishness and greed. Instead of being preoccupied with making a living or getting rich, we should be focussed on living under God’s rule. Life is not about how to make ends meet because He has pledged to take care of our needs. We have an obligation to demonstrate God’s compassion towards those who are in need, and to do something about it as our response towards God for His compassion and mercy to us.

 

A ”righteous”  person is one who stays on the path and follows the landmarks that take him towards God’s name – His character mirrored and exemplified in Jesus, the replica of the Father. Every opportunity we have to show mercy and compassion, in the spirit of Torah, is another landmark on our path towards the Father.

 

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Do you like this post? Then buy your own copy of my book, Learning to be a Disciple, which is also available from www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com in South Africa. You can also order a copy directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com

Watch this space!

My latest book, The Heartbeat of Holiness, will also soon be available.

 

 

Jesus And The Kingdom Of God

JESUS AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Jesus spoke repeatedly of the arrival of God’s kingdom, both present and future as “good news”. What did He mean by “good news”? What was the good news He announced by His coming? When the Romans arrived on the scene in the already-occupied-by-Greece land of Israel, for the Jews it was bad news. The presence of the Roman authorities was not only an affront to their sovereignty as a nation and their freedom as a people, but it also brought with it many forms of suffering.

They could never forget that they were an occupied nation. The Romans were everywhere, waiting to clamp down on them and quell any signs of rebellion. The people were subjected to severe taxation which left many of them impoverished and resentful of their overlords and those of their own people who worked for them. What’s more, their religious hierarchy were in cahoots with Rome, benefitting handsomely from applying whatever pressure was necessary to keep the peace.

Jesus’s announcement of good news might have sent His disciples’ pulses racing but for one thing – He made no attempt to deal with the Romans. In fact He practised and taught the opposite; He healed people indiscriminately, in response to their faith and not according to their race; He taught His disciples to love their enemies, and to submit to their overlords. That did not sit well with the religious zealots who were more than eager to get rid of the Romans by whatever means it took.

So, if the good news was not about ridding Israel of Roman occupation and re-establishing the glory of the Davidic kingdom, what was it about? To understand His message, we must go back to the Old Testament. Isaiah prophesied of a day that was to come when Jerusalem would be restored after the devastation of captivity. He offered good news to the people of Zion.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say in Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’ Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. (Isa. 52:7-8)

“Your God reigns!” That was the good news but what did it mean and when would this happen? God would finally dealt with their core problem – sin – and deliver them once for all from the ravages of sin through His Suffering Servant. Isaiah graphically described, in fifteen verses (Isa 52:13- 53: 12) the nature of this deliverance – the sacrifice of the innocent for the guilty so that the guilty may be forgiven and be reconciled to God.

Inherent in Jesus’s message of good news was the restoration of God’s authority over His people when their sin was atoned for and removed once for all. This was not about Rome. This was about an occupation far more sinister and far-reaching than Rome’s. Their hearts were occupied by a usurper whose power over them had to be destroyed by exposing his deception and breaking his hold over them so that they could return to the God who had called them into a covenant with Him.

Jesus announced that the time had come for this to be accomplished. God was at hand to establish His reign in their hearts once again. Through them, He would extend it into every corner of society and every part of the globe until Jesus returns to dispose of the devil and establish His eternal kingdom on earth.

Adam and Eve sold out to the deceiver who aspired to usurp God’s place as Lord! Over the millennia, the devil has done everything in his power to own and keep this title by enslaving the human race through the sin, sorrow and suffering that came with their disobedience. The good news Jesus brought was truly “good news”. God said, “Enough is enough! Satan has had his day and now the time for deliverance has come.”

God’s reign is intended to restore righteousness and justice in the earth where evil reigns and destroys. When Jesus is acknowledged as Lord by every person who has ever lived and every angelic being, good or evil, Satan and all evil will finally be disposed of to the place where he belongs. All creation will know that Jesus is Lord and not the devil or any of the false gods he has hidden behind from the beginning of time.

The new era of the kingdom of God was ushered in when Jesus came, which He demonstrated by His words and works. The kingdom of God is among us now, but not yet in its fullness. It will only come fully when Jesus returns to reign over His redeemed people and a renewed and restored earth.

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Do you like this post? Then buy your own copy of my book, Learning to be a Disciple, which is also available from www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com in South Africa. You can also order a copy directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com

Watch this space!

My latest book, The Heartbeat of Holiness, will also soon be available.

 

 

 

 

A Solid Foundation For Life

A SOLID FOUNDATION FOR LIFE

What was the point of Jesus’s teaching?

It was to provide a solid foundation for their thoughts and actions as the rabbi’s talmidim. The Hebrew mind did not accept information that did not issue in a response. Theology without making a difference was pointless. The western mind wants to answer all questions, solve all riddles and problems and explain everything in logical sequence. The Hebrew person looked for a God he could lean on.

Jesus told a simple story to illustrate the difference between the wise person – the one who accepted the truth of what He taught and put it into practice, and the foolish person who knew that what He taught made sense and worked but didn’t do it anyway.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock . . . But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand . . . (Matt. 7: 24; 26)

The bottom line of His illustrations was the foundation. Without a solid foundation, even a so-called “good” person who lives a “good” life will fall apart when the storm rages. The foundation upon which one builds one’s life provides the strength and stability or not when life turns sour. There are people who claim that, though they don’t go to church, i.e., they do not claim to be disciples of Jesus, they “live by the Sermon on the Mount.” Is that possible?

No, for several reasons:

  1. Their philosophy is built on the erroneous idea that, by living “good” lives, they can erase God’s wrath against sin. They ignore the fact that sin does not make them bad; it makes them dead. However good they think their lives may be, they are dead to God and separated from Him and have no hope of being acceptable to Him outside of Jesus.

 

  1. Jesus was speaking to His disciples – those who had made a commitment to follow Him. It is only within this context that living the life He portrayed is possible. This kind of life begins with His sacrifice for their sin and the forgiveness and reconciliation to the Father that He made possible. It issues in a commitment to follow Him and walk in His way. They need the Holy Spirit who enables them to build their lives on the truth of His Word.

 

  1. To accept the words of Jesus here without accepting the rest of what He taught as authoritative and binding does not work. What He taught throughout the gospels is as binding as what He taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Everything else flows from His simple instruction: ‘Follow me.’ One cannot pick and choose what one will obey and what one will ignore. To follow Jesus meant to embrace His yoke in total and to live and teach it without alteration or one would immediately be disqualified from being a disciple.

 

  1. It is not possible to do what Jesus taught without doing it in the spirit of Torah which is contrary to the natural man. By birth we are selfish, self-centred and inward-looking. It takes the miracle of God’s grace through the power of the Holy Spirit to change a person with the “evil eye” to one who has “the eye of light”.

 

  1. Jesus was not looking for followers who would merely mimic His words and actions. He was indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit without whom He would have been just like every other human. His followers are those who are “in Christ” and Christ is “in them” by His Spirit. He is and provides the very life of Jesus without whom it is impossible to be His disciple.

If the foundation of one’s life is not based on a relationship with Jesus which issues in a transformed life indwelt by the Holy Spirit, no amount of “doing good” will gain acceptance with God or sustain one in the storms of life.

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Do you like this post? Then buy your own copy of my book, Learning to be a Disciple, which is also available from www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com in South Africa. You can also order a copy directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com

Watch this space!

My latest book, The Heartbeat of Holiness, will also soon be available.

Be Real With God

BE REAL WITH GOD

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; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him as stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him? (Matt. 7: 7-11)

This could well be a part of Jesus’s teaching on prayer but for one thing – the context. If we ignore the following parable, we might think that He advocating persistence in prayer, which is a reality about prayer in other contexts, but not in this one.

So what is He talking about?

His story seems to indicate that God values a transparent two-way communication in our dealings with Him. When a child asks straight out for what he wants, a father will not be devious and give him what he has not requested. If earthly, fallible human fathers treat their children well, how much more will a perfect heavenly Father give the best to His children?

The issue is: If God is open and honest with us, how open and honest are we with Him? We fool ourselves if we think that we can fool Him by our words while at the same time try to conceal what’s in our hearts. Be real with God. Jesus taught Bartimaeus, the blind man, this lesson when He asked him,

What do you want me to do for you? (Mark 10: 51)

Jesus was not stupid. He knew what Bartimaeus’ problem was, but He wanted him to verbalise it. Why? Because it was important for the blind man to admit his need. Jesus drew him out to ask for what he wanted. He wanted him to play open cards with Him so that He could respond to him according to his heart need.

This lesson is not only applicable to our interaction with the Father. It is equally important that we be transparent with people as well. This does not give us a licence, however, to be brutal in our honesty. There is a way to be open with people that invites trust, not offence. Jesus put it this way:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matt. 7: 12)

Let’s take this a little further. What about the way Jesus spoke to and about the Pharisees? Was He not being brutal in His transparency? Was He contradicting His own principles? Did He expose the wicked hearts of the Pharisees in the spirit of Torah?

In order to uncover His purpose, we must check His motive. What was His intention when He spoke to them as harshly as He did? There may be several reasons but let’s look at a few.

  1. They were the spiritual leaders of the people. They were the educated ones who were responsible for interpreting, modelling and teaching the Had Jesus remained silent, He would have given them permission to continue being hypocrites, teaching one thing but contradicting what they taught by their behaviour. By publicly exposing their hearts, He warned them about what they were doing and, at the same time, the people who admired them for the wrong reasons. They did not follow the teaching of Torah which they expected their followers to do.

 

  1. The Pharisees thought they were the watchdogs and critics of the people. They did what Jesus warned His disciples not to do. They judged others by their own standards and heaped guilt and condemnation on those who failed. That was not to be their role. They were to lead by example, not alienate by condemnation. Jesus alerted the people and warned the Pharisees that they were themselves under condemnation for what they were doing. This was their opportunity to repent.

 

  1. Jesus offended their minds to expose their hearts. Their reactions to Him revealed what was in their hearts. They were not interested in walking in the way of Yahweh. They enjoyed the praise they received from people while living their wicked lives in secret. Jesus told them the truth so that they would have an opportunity to repent, and so that they would have no excuse for what they did when they came into judgment.

John the Baptist was equally brutal in the way he spoke to the religious leaders. He called them “a brood of vipers” – not a very flattering title or a way to “win friends and influence people”! Luke concluded his report with these words:

And with many other words, John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them. (Luke 3: 18)

Good news, John? In this case, the context makes it clear that John’s harsh words were part of the good news he was telling them. If his hearers knew what was in their own hearts, perhaps they would realise that what John taught about Messiah was true – that He had come to take away the sin of the world and to give them the Holy Spirit who would separate out the wheat from the chaff in their lives.

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Do you like this post? Then buy your own copy of my book, Learning to be a Disciple, which is also available from www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com in South Africa. You can also order a copy directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com

Watch this space!

My latest book, The Heartbeat of Holiness, will also soon be available.

 

Jesus And Judging

JESUS AND JUDGING

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. (Matt. 7:1)

First of all, as Jesus’s disciples, we must differentiate between making judgments on people based on our own behaviour and discerning by an objective standard. The issues are: “Is it legitimate to judge?” and, “By what standard do we judge?” There is a difference between judging and discerning as Jesus showed in the following verses.

“Don’t judge. Don’t throw pearls to pigs. Watch out for false prophets.” These are not contradictory but complementary statements.

Our judgment of other people comes from our expectation of them which is often based on the standards we apply to ourselves. How often I have found myself measuring another by my own attitudes and behaviour and finding that they fall short! Included in this kind of judging is the attitude of condemnation. Jesus made clear that judging another in order to condemn is not in keeping with the mercy which is the basis of God’s dealings with us and which reflects the spirit of Torah.

This kind of judging is what the hypocrite does. He sets his standard – himself – and forgets that he does not measure up to his own standard, but is eager to condemn another for his failure to measure up. Underneath the judging, once again, is the attitude of contempt towards a lesser person, which is abhorrent to God.

Does it mean that all judging is wrong? If I mean judging in order to condemn because I think I am better than someone else even though I do the same things as they do, yes, it is wrong. Jesus condemned this kind of judging.

However, we are not to be mindless in the way we relate to other people. There is a form of judging which is both legitimate and necessary in order to protect us from people who have no intention of obeying the truth.

Do not give to dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. (Matt. 7: 6)

Jesus’s reference to dogs comes from Proverbs 26:11.

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.

Peter used the same illustration to show that people who have heard the gospel but choose not to believe it and who return to their evil ways are like dogs that return to their vomit and pigs that go back to wallowing in the mud after they have been washed. Not only do such people return to their evil ways, but they also reject and ridicule the gospel, persecute those who preach it and teach false doctrine to lure people away from the truth.

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them, bringing swift destruction on themselves . . . Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,’ and ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud’. (2 Peter 2: 1; 22)

Discernment is judgment, based not on ourselves but on the objective standard of God’s Word. It is legitimate to check on the validity of a prophet’s words. In the early church, the standard was based on the disposition of Messiah, not on the validity of what the prophet said. If a prophecy was delivered in the disposition of Messiah – that is, in keeping with His yoke of humility and gentleness – the prophet was judged to be a true prophet. If not, he was dismissed as a false prophet. What was the standard of judgment? The fruit of his life. Did his life exhibit the disposition of Messiah? Did he live and speak in the spirit of Torah?

Jesus condemned the hypocrites because their profession contradicted their fruit. A diseased tree cannot produce healthy fruit. A thorn bush cannot produce grapes or figs. A person who claims allegiance to Jesus, and even does miracles, is not necessarily a true talmid of the rabbi. Fruit is evidence of the nature of the stock from which it comes.

Jesus vividly illustrated the way in which true fruit is borne in the life of His disciples.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing. (John 15: 5)

The way we judge people can be very subtle. Take for the example the godly father who disowns his daughter for wayward behaviour. She comes home pregnant out of wedlock, or is busted for doing drugs and he reacts with “righteous” anger. He kicks her out of the house because she has brought disgrace on the family name, and he believes that he has done the right thing.

But wait a minute. Has he not appointed himself as a judge? By what standard is he judging her? Is he acting in the spirit of Torah? Has he forgotten that God has already taken care of her debt? Has he the right to inflict punishment a second time? Where is the mercy which is the weightiest in God’s character?

When we judge, criticise and condemn, we make our home or our church a dangerous place for sinners. The home and the church ought to be the safest place for people to fail because it is the environment where God’s Word is put into practice in the spirit of Torah. If we or our children cannot be safe at home or in the church, where will we or they find safety?

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2: 12-13)

If mercy does not temper our attitudes towards people who fail, we will ourselves fall into the “sin” trap, adding our sin to theirs by what we think of them and the way we treat them.

Let’s paraphrase Jesus’s words:

When you judge, criticise or condemn others for not measuring up to your standard, you place yourself in danger of receiving the same judgment as you pass on them. Make your world a safe place for others to fail by extending mercy and forgiveness instead of building a “holy” wall between yourself and them.

Be careful whom you trust. Measure people by the standard of God’s Word. Don’t waste the truth on those who have no intention of believing the good news. They may turn on you and throw God’s gift back in your face. Don’t follow those who lives don’t match their words. They are false prophets and their intention is to destroy you. Use God’s Word as a measure, not yourself because you are as fallible as the people you condemn.

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Do you like this post? Then buy your own copy of my book, Learning to be a Disciple, which is also available from www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com in South Africa. You can also order a copy directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com

Watch this space!

My latest book, The Heartbeat of Holiness, will also soon be available.