“The Master and the Mission” in Matthew-23

Integrity of speech should characterize Christians. Truly converted people are expected to tell the truth. Nevertheless, the flesh is weak and sometimes a believer will tell a lie. However, it's not usually what might be called "an out and out lie." (We do know that God will discipline, one way or another, His children. No one gets away with sin). However, what usually takes place, instead of a deliberate lie, is deception. Recall these words of warning from Jeremiah 17:9. He says, "The heart is deceitful above all things." In a difficult situation, do we resort to "fade and evade," when confronted? Do we try to cast ourselves in the best possible light when our behavior is questioned? By contrast, consider the beautiful simplicity in today's teaching by the Master, as He shared God's way with His listeners. "Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: but I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil" (Matthew 5:33-37). This is clearcut honesty and transparency. Our word can be relied on. Instead of reflecting "the father of lies," we reflect Him Who said, "I amthe truth." (From John 14:6). Like many who have preceeded us, let it be said of us, "his word is his bond!" Selah! "….out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." (From Matthew 12:34). "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Psalm 119:11). Let's let His Word purify our hearts! Ron

(Parenthetical) Divorce

The only time divorce is allowed is during what we understand as the engagement period. Then it is only for fornication. In Matthew 1:18, we are told that "….Mary was espoused to Joseph." She was engaged to him. However, this espousal or engagement is different than today, in this way: Joseph was instructed by the angel of the Lord to "….fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife." My understanding is that she was his wife from the moment of becoming espoused. The angel did not say to take Mary as his wife. The custom at that time was to enter into the commitment. After that was done, the bridegroom went to his father's house to prepare a place for his wife. After a period of time (usually for about one year) he would return for her and take her to the prepared place and there the marriage would be consummated. Read carefully John 14:1-3. The church is Jesus' bride. He has gone to prepare a place for her. He will come later for her and take her home to be with Him forever. Jesus is faithful to the church in spite of much unfaithfulness on her part. When we truly receive Him as Savior and Lord, He will never divorce us. Now, there are all kinds of reasons given to try to justify divorce. However, the Scripture is clear. We are even told that God hates divorce. Separation, under specified circumstances, may sometimes be necessary. Nevertheless, in these cases, they are not to divorce and remarry. Reconciliation is to be attempted. If this is not possible, then still no divorce or remarriage. Selah! There are other factors beyond the scope of this article. What if a born again Christian has been divorced? How is the local church to relate to divorced believers? Can a divorced person serve? In what ways? God willing, we would like sometime to devote some articles to these questions. Meanwhile, if you have concerns about this matter, please use "comments" to let me know. I'll try to help, as I'm able. Ron

“The Master and the Mission”-in Matthew-22

Today, we are dealing with a subject upon which many Christians disagree. I only ask that you carefully consider my comments on Matthew 5:31-32. Here is what the passage tells us: "It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: but I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery." This concession was, as Jesus pointed out elsewhere, granted only because of the hardness of their hearts. He added that from the beginning divorce was not intended to take place. He now points out in this passage that for any reason other than fornication, divorce causes the woman who is put away to commit adultery and one marrying a divorced woman commits adultery. What is often overlooked is that this exception is only permissible during what we know as the engagement period. Some will reason that this ruling was given under the Law and, therefore, not binding on us today. However, the teaching on marriage and divorce is consistent throughout Scripture. Because this is such a difficult subject, I plan, Lord willing, to devote one or two articles to the subject and then continue with our overview of Matthew. Selah! There are principles, reasons, attitudes and responsibilities related to this subject that we need to understand. These deserve careful consideration. Please come by tomorrow with an open mind and heart. Ron

“The Master and the Mission” in Matthew-21

One of the most difficult passages in the Bible is where Jesus said, "And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell" (Matthew 5:29-30). I believe that Jesus was saying that we need to deal firmly and immediately with anything that tempts us to sin. I heard many years ago about a place in Canada where the penalty for stealing was the cutting off of the hand. If I remember correctly, it only had to be done once or twice and stealing in the Province became almost non-existent. However, we need to remember the admonition in I Corinthians 10:13 which tells us that, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." This is the way to resist and escape sinning. Instead of a physical approach, we are to crucify the flesh (i.e; our old sin nature–a subject for another day). Selah! The bottom line is that sin is to be taken very seriously and we are to seek His victory over "the world, the flesh and the devil." Ron

“The Master and the Mission” in Matthew-20

Matthew 5:21-28 is rather startling! Look at what it says: "Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Who doesn't feel guilt when thinking on this explanation of the commandments? (But isn't that the purpose of the Law? Is it not intended to make us aware of our need for Jesus' offer of salvation)? Yes, however, something else needs to be considered by those who are saved. The righteousness of the religious leaders was external, without the heart being much touched. Perfect compliance with the Law (which is impossible) would only be submitting to rules imposed on us from outside. In the passage above, we are being encouraged to experience, from the heart, a righteousness that is a response of love and gratitude for Jesus' forgiveness and cleansing. We desire, from our hearts, to honor Him and cooperate with the Holy Spirit's working holiness into our lives and purging impurities out and we have joy in doing so. Selah! This kind of heart righteousness is desired, not dreaded! Ron

“The Master and the Mission” in Matthew-19

Yesterday, we thought about the Law's demands for perfect obedience and for our obligation to keep it perfectly, right down to the tiniest detail. We learned of the utter impossibility of being able to perfectly comply with these demands. This would mean that there is no way to escape paying the penalty for constantly failing to keep the Law. However, Jesus, acting as our substitute, kept the Law perfectly and paid the penalty for all of God's broken Laws by His death on the Cross. Since He is infinite, every genuine believer is credited with what He did, as if they themselves have kept the Law perfectly. Since, in actuality, we haven't, we are also credited with His payment of our just penalty for failure. In Verses 19-20 of Matthew, Chapter 5, we read, "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." How can we have a righteousness like that? The solution is that we have the perfect righteousness of Christ credited to us. God sees us as perfect. This astounding blessing is what has been called our "position" or "standing." But what of our condition or our "practice?" Once we are saved and credited with His righteousness, the Holy Spirit, using the Word of God, engages in a lifelong work of bringing our "practice" into harmony with our "position" or our "state" into harmony with our "standing." Christ's righteousness, working for and through us, far exceeds any and all supposed righteousness that man considers sufficient. Selah! If we do not see the practical outworking of holiness in our lives, we best be sure that we have truly been saved! Ron

“The Master and the Mission” in Matthew-18

Jesus gives a list of qualities in Matthew 5:1-12 that reflect Himself and that offers His own some great rewards. He then goes on to remind His listeners of their opportunities and responsibilities as salt and light. We have these same responsibilities and opportunities in our daily lives today. Next, in Verses 17-18, we come up against a great Truth. "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Far too many believers have no real grasp of the significance of this brief portion of God's Word. Those who receive Jesus as Savior and Lord today are not under the law. However, God's laws must be kept in order to enter Heaven. Before you accuse me of heresy, let me explain. We can't keep the Law! If we break one law (and we break the first one in importance) we have broken them all (James 2:10). We all fall short. (See Romans 3:23). Therefore, if we are ever to see Heaven, we must have help. Jesus, as explained in today's portion, has kept the entire Law perfectly as our Substitute. His fulfilling of the law and all its demands has been credited to us who are born again. Do we then forget the Law? As a means of being saved, absolutely! Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit produces, in and through our lives, the righteousness that the Law demands. This righteousness of the Law is to be "fulfilled in (not by) us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (From Romans 8:4). This is accomplished by the Holy Spirit using the sanctifying Word Of God. Selah! Our response to the work of the Holy Spirit is to carefully read, study, apply and obey Biblical teaching. Ron