Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Searching for a New Allegheny District Superintendent

It's my privilege to serve as the chairman of the search team for the next Allegheny District Superintendent of the EFCA. 

After months of praying, listening, and preparing, our team has officially begun seeking qualified candidates for the fifth Allegheny District Superintendent.

The full announcement of this search is available on the district website.

We've also posted a four page profile of the opportunity and directions for applying. I'm thankful for the district-wide research and in-depth writing help of NL Moore and Associates in the preparation of this profile. We couldn't have done it without them.

If you know someone who might be a good fit for this important but unique role, I'd love to hear about it.

I look forward to helping to find and welcome my new pastor. Please pray that the Lord would lead us to the right person for the job!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

"How (NOT) to be a Leader" [Matt's Messages]

“How (Not) to Be a Leader”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
October 13, 2019 :: Matthew 23:1-12

The Gospel of Matthew is a theological biography of the Lord Jesus Christ.

For 22 chapters (sixty sermons) now, Matthew has been keeping His eye on the ball and showing us the answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?”

I won’t remind you of all of the things Matthew has shown us about the identity of Jesus. We don’t have time to review them all.

I will remind you that we’ve reached the last big section of the book.

We’ve reached what we are calling “Crucial Week.” Often also called “Holy Week” or “Passion Week.” It’s that fateful crucial last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry before His sacrificial crucifixion and victorious resurrection.

From Sunday when He rode into town to Monday when He cursed the fig tree and cleansed the temple to Tuesday when He clashed with the Jewish Religious Leaders who wanted to know by what authority He was doing all of this.

We’ve been walking with Jesus step by step through Crucial Week.

We’re still on Tuesday.

When we left off last time, Jesus had silenced the Pharisees.

He had answered all of their questions with His superior questions, and then He had asked a question of His own, a riddle.

“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”

And the answer was stunning. The Christ is the son of David, but He is also the Lord of David, and even more, He’s the Son of God and the Lord of All!

And it was like Jesus just dropped the mic right there.

The Bible says, “No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.”

Jesus was the last man standing.

I kind of wish that was the end of the book.

I wish everyone said, “Oh, Jesus is the Christ, and He has answered all of his opponents, and He is the son of David, and the Lord of David, and the Son of God, and my Lord, too!”

But that’s not what everybody said.

These folks who can’t answer Him are going to come roaring back by the weekend.

But before all of that happens, Jesus opens His mouth and begins to condemn them.

They are silent, but Jesus is not.

If you have one of those Bibles were the words of Jesus are printed in red, the next 3 chapters just bleed.

Chapters 23, 24, and 25 are the last major block of teaching in the Gospel of Matthew.

We’ve said before that there are five major blocks of teaching:

1. The Sermon on the Mount
2. The Teaching on Missions
3. The Parables of the Kingdom
4. The Teaching on the Way to Jerusalem

And now the fifth and final major teaching on judgment and the return of Christ.

It’s often called the “Olivet Discourse” because a good bit of it was taught while Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives.

I have to tell you that the next three chapters are going to get heavy at times.

Jesus speaks of judgment.
Jesus speaks of condemnation.

Jesus uses heavy and sharp words.

He even uses name-calling. Next week, we’ll see that Jesus calls the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, “Blind guides,” (that’s a sick burn), “hypocrites,” and even “snakes.”

Chapter 23 is a powerful chapter full of strong words from the lips of the Lord Jesus.

They are right words.
Good words.
Righteous words.

But heavy and pointed and piercing.

We’ll see in verse 1 that they are aimed at the crowds and at His disciples.

The crowds to warn them of what is to come in Israel because of these leaders who have done such an awful job.

And the disciples to warn them to not follow the example set by the Pharisees.

We’re going to take our time working our way through this section because it is often overlooked and because God gave it to us for good reasons.

One of the reasons is so that we don’t copy their mistakes.

So that we don’t give in to the same errors.

As they say today, “You don’t want to be that guy.”

You don’t want to be like the Pharisees and the teachers of the law that Jesus rips into here.

So here’s the title I picked for this message:

“How (NOT) to be a Leader”

Looking at how these people behaved who were in spiritual leadership in Israel, I think we can learn some valuable lessons about what not to do when we ourselves are in leadership today.

So, in one sense, we’re learning what went wrong in Israel.

And we’re finding out why Jesus says that judgment is coming soon.

But as we hear Jesus explaining all of what they did so wrong, we should be able to flip that over and see how we could be doing things right instead.

Almost everybody is a leader in some area of life.

Matthew 23 definitely applies to pastors and church leaders.

I feel it when I read this. This applies to me. “Don’t be like this, Matt.”

“See how Jesus feels about this sort of thing? Run the other way!”

But just about everybody is a leader in some area of life, even if you aren’t a church leader.

Husbands are supposed to lead their wives.
Moms and Dads are supposed to lead their children.
Teachers, coaches, supervisors, employers all lead people.
Team captains, study group leaders, line-leaders at school.

Just about everybody is a leader in some area of life.

The question is “Are we good leaders...or not?”

These people had been awful leaders.

And Jesus minces no words in saying so.

Matthew chapter 23, verse 1.

“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 obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”

Here’s number one. What not to do.

#1. PREACH, BUT DON’T PRACTICE.

Be all talk and no walk.

In the old King James Version, Jesus says, “They say and do not.”

“They do not practice what they preach.”

Now Jesus begins by saying that in verse 2 that the “teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.”

That means they sit in the place of authority. And it was their job to interpret the Law of Moses for the people of God.

We might say, “They had the pulpit.”

And Jesus says, “So you must obey them and do everything they tell you.”

Now, He could be sarcastic here.

A lot of good Bible scholars say that Jesus is rolling His eyes here. “Well, they’re in the seat of Moses, so you gotta do everything they say!”

But it’s all wink, wink, nudge, nudge because He’s going to take issue in this chapter with so many things that they say!

That’s possible. Sarcasm is possible.

I think it just means that they are in authority, and when they correctly interpret the Law of Moses, the people need to follow it.

When they are right, they are right.

Just because they get it wrong so often in their own lives doesn’t invalidate the Law of Moses. It was still in place.
But, Jesus also says that we should not do what they do.

Because they preach, but they don’t practice what they preach.

And that’s a bad idea.

Everybody knows that’s a bad idea.

Nobody teaches leaders to say one thing and do another right in front of their followers.

It ruins morale and sends very mixed messages.

Have you ever known a leader who says, “You’ve got to become a good listener.” but they are terrible listeners themselves?

“Calm down!” he yelled. Right?

“Listen to me!” he talks over her. Right?

What areas of your life are tempted to preach one thing and turn around and do another?

You know one of the worst for me has been the times when I have found myself gossiping.

I mean, I’m the guy that wrote the book, right?

And then I hear it coming out of my mouth.

Don’t think about other people and their hypocrisy right now. That’s easy.

What’s yours?

When the kids were little, I was complaining about how they were so rude. They weren’t saying “please and thank you” nearly enough.

And my loving wife said, “The reason is that you almost never say ‘please or thank you’ yourself.”

Ouch. I needed to hear that.

The Pharisees loved to say what everybody ought to do, but then they didn’t do it themselves.

Don’t be that guy.

It’s not wrong to preach. I’m doing it right now!

But it is wrong to say and not do yourself.

One of the things they teach us at seminary is to preach the sermon to yourself first.

And the same is true for parents, coaches, supervisors–whatever area of life you are in charge in.

We must practice what we preach.

Jesus did, right?

Jesus didn’t ask things of His followers that He was unwilling to do Himself.

In fact, He always did more than He expected from them.

Even something as simple as proclaiming out on social media what everybody ought to do, but then not following through and doing it yourself.

Don’t be that guy. Preach, but practice it, too.

In verse 4, Jesus takes it another step further. V.4

“They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

#2. PILE IT ON, BUT DON’T HELP.

Jesus says that these teachers of the law and the Pharisees “tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders.”

I don’t think He means literally.

I think He means all of those extra external traditions that they had come up with.

They piled those on to the backs (so to speak) of the people of Israel.

Remember the hand-washings from chapter 15?

These guys loved their extra and external traditions.

They loved to pile them on.

Jesus is going to get more specific as the chapter rolls out.

They love their rules. They love to pile them on.

But (v.4) “they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

They give you lots of work, but they don’t help.

That’s terrible leadership, and everybody knows it.

Of course, a leader can’t do everything, and followers are supposed to do stuff.

But if a leader isn’t willing to help his followers get the work done, they are not good leaders.

And how much worse is it if the things they are piling on are wrong and bad themselves?!

Is this how Jesus operates?

What a contrast with Matthew 11:28.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (vv.28-30).

He has a yoke.
He has a burden.

And honestly, it sometimes seems heavy.

But it’s not really. It’s easy and it’s light.

And Jesus helps us to carry it!

We are yoked with Him, and He pulls the greater weight.

So this is a great leadership principle.

If you have to pile it on, make sure you are willing to lift a finger.

I love that phrase from Jesus, “lift a finger.” That’s the least you can do.

Moms, Dads, are you lifting a finger? Are you helping with the pile?

Employers, supervisors? Are you helping with the pile? Or are you just piling it on?

That’s how NOT to be a leader.

There’s one more for this morning. It’s number three. What not to do.

#3. PURSUE HONOR, BUT DON’T HUMBLE YOURSELF.

There’s a mistake.

Jesus says that the teachers of the law and the Pharisees loved to be seen and to be honored. V.5

“Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries 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 in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'”

It’s look right into their hearts.

Their hearts are proud, and they love the attention.

Verse 5 is the opposite of what Jesus said to do in the Sermon on the Mount right?

He warned us that this was a tendency to avoid. Matthew 6.

He said, “Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

Giving. Praying. Fasting.

If you do that so that you will be seen by others as pious and spiritual, you have your reward. That’s it. That’s all you get.

But Jesus said if you do it in secret, “Your heavenly Father Who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

Not these guys.

What are phylacteries. Do you know?

In the Torah, the Lord tells the people to put the word of God on their hands and foreheads, so they these guys did it literally.

And some Jews do it still today.

They had little boxes with Scripture verses in them, and they tied them onto their left arm and their foreheads.

Now, I’m not sure that it was ever supposed to be literal.

But these guys make their phylacteries wide.

They get the XXL size Scripture boxes so you can’t miss them.

And the tassels from Numbers 15 that they were supposed to put on the corners of their garment, they get the longest ones they could fine. Dragging on the ground.

The modern equivalent might be carrying around the biggest old Bible you could find.

“Do you see my Bible?”

Or posting on social media how spiritual you are!

To impress people with your piety and spirituality.

“Oh that person must be close to God!”

And just eating up “the likes and shares and favorites and follows.”

Look how they love it.

“[T]hey love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'”

Now, it’s not necessarily wrong to pursue honor.

But these guys want it more than they want God.

In fact, they want to take the place of God. V.8

“But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ.”

I don’t think that Jesus is saying it’s wrong to be called “Rabbi” in every situation. Just like it’s not wrong to call your dad “father” or your teacher “Teacher.”

Or your pastor, “Pastor.”

Notice the logic of each of the prohibitions. In each situation, the person being called by this title is taking the place of the Lord. Do you see that?

“But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' [Hebrew for “Great One” for you have only one Master...And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is [where?] in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ.”

The point is not necessarily what title but what position those people are taking in other people’s lives.

The Pharisees wanted to usurp the rightful position of God in people’s lives.

They wanted to be the authority.
They wanted to be exalted.
They wanted to be honored.
They wanted to be lifted up.

Grabbing all of the attention so that these disciples were their disciples.

Fame and honor was their goal.

In fact, they would have never said it, but they basically wanted to take the place of God.

God will not stand for it.

He will not share His glory with another. V.11

“The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

God will humble the proud.

That’s one of the reasons why judgment is going to roll down on Jerusalem.

Because of the overweening pride of their spiritual leaders.

They pursued honor, but they did not humble themselves.

So God will see to it that they are humbled.

The same is true for leaders in God’s church today.

If pastors like myself pursue honor but don’t humble ourselves, God will discipline us. “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled.”

If church leaders chase after fame and honor and making a name for ourselves (and it’s a real temptation in the church world), that’s all the reward we’ll get.

“The Reverend Doctor Matthew Mitchell. Oooh. Ahhh.” [ Dr. Fathead is more like it.]

But “whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

It’s not wrong to be exalted.
It’s not wrong to be up there.
It’s wrong to try to put yourself up there.

Climb the ladder.
Send out the press release.
Retweet yourself.
“Check me out!”

So many leaders try to exalt themselves on the back of their followers instead of stooping to serve their followers.

“Whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Do you believe that?

Four years ago yesterday, Blair Murray died.

He was a great example of Christian leader who served other people instead of expecting them to serve him.

At his funeral, I preached on Mark 10:43-45.

“[W]hoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Blair was a great servant, and he was following the example of the greatest servant, the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!

[and whoever humbles himself will be exalted!]

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

That’s how to be a leader!

Let us follow Him.

***

Previous Messages in This Series:

01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet
57. Whose Image?
58. Acing the Test

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

"Anxiety: Knowing God's Peace" by Paul Tautges [Review]

My friend Paul knows anxiety.

He has lived with crippling anxiety that has at times been debilitating.

Paul also knows Jesus and has met Him in the midst of his anxiousness.

In his new devotional book (just released today!), Paul leads readers on a 31 day journey through (not around) anxiety into peace. His short daily readings are carefully written, encouraging yet realistic, and saturated with Scripture.

Paul offers no silver bullets (rats!) but also no false assurances that will leave readers disappointed. Instead, he gently points anxious people to the Person and promises of God.

I was encouraged to see how much attention Paul gave to the bodily dimension of anxiety. He recognizes the complex interplay between body and spirit, and while focusing on the soul does not discount the physical. He is open to the judicious use of medicine.

The point of the book is to know peace through knowing Christ, and that comes through on every page. It will reward reading and re-reading. Paul Tautges can be a faithful companion on this journey as he has walked the path himself. Recommended.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

"What Do You Think About the Christ?" [Matt's Messages]

“What Do You Think About the Christ?”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
September 21, 2019 :: Matthew 22:41-46

It is Tuesday of Jesus’ Crucial Week. Tuesday of Holy Week or Passion Week, the week in which Jesus Christ was crucified.

And for the last chapter and half, Jesus has been tussling with the Jewish religious leaders.

They don’t want Him to be king, so they have been trying to trap Him with trick questions.

But Jesus has not only answered their questions perfectly, but turned their questions back on them.

Everybody has been astonished at His answers and confounded by His returning questions.

And in today’s passage (verse 41 through 46), Jesus asks one more big question to finish them off.

Here’s the title for today’s message:

“What Do You Think About the Christ?”

As near as I can tell, Jesus is standing in the temple courts, and He’s straight up asking the authorities what they think about the Messiah.

The Gospel of Matthew is a theological biography of Jesus of Nazareth.

And we have seen again and again and again that the chief question that Matthew is trying to answer by giving us this book is “Who Is Jesus?”

We keep saying, “Keep your eye on the ball.”

I almost titled this message, “Keep your eye on the ball.”

Of course, that could be the title of most of these messages.

“Keep your eye on the ball.”

And what is the ball?

Who is Jesus?

And now, Jesus is bringing the identity of the Messiah (in Greek “Christos”), the Christ, right down to center stage in the temple courts.

“What do you think about the Christ?”

That’s the first question that Jesus asks in a series of leading questions, leading them to...silence. V.46 says that “No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.”

This was a “mic drop moment.”

Where Jesus was the last man standing.

All because He asked them what they thought about Psalm 110.

This is going to be a two-finger sermon.

Do you know that point in a sermon when the preacher says, “Keep your finger in that text and turn with me over to this text?”

This is one of those sermons.

You’re going to want to put one finger in Matthew 22 and another finger or a bookmark or whatever in Psalm 110.

If Psalm 110 was a website, you’d find hypertext links to it throughout the New Testament.

By one count, it is linked to 37 different places in the New Testament. Sometimes a full quote, sometimes just an allusion.

But it’s the New Testament’s favorite Psalm–all of the authors love to refer back to Psalm 110 because they saw the Messiah in it, and they saw Who the Messiah is.

And so did Jesus.

So put a finger in both of those: Matthew 22 and Psalm 110. And we will probably flip a few other places as we go.

Because Jesus leads the Pharisees in a little Bible study.

Let’s read the first verse and the first and second question in the second verse.

“While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’”

How you answer that question makes all of the difference both now and forever.

What do you think about the Christ?

What do you think about the Messiah?

If you get that question wrong, there are major consequences to suffer.

And if you answer that question correctly, there are major blessings to be enjoyed.

It’s a very important question.

“What do you think about the Christ?”

We’re going to think in terms of four correct answers to that question from this passage.

“What do you think about the Christ?”

Specifically, Jesus asks the Pharisees, “Whose son is he?”

“Whose son is the Christ?”

What is their answer? V.42

“‘The son of David,’ they replied.”

Is that right?

Yes, it is.

Point number one:

 #1. THE SON OF DAVID.

The Messiah is the Son of David.

The Christ was to come from the lineage of King David.

The Pharisees are quite right.

We can see that in many places in the Old Testament. A ruler was promised to come from the tribe of Judah. David came from the tribe of Judah.

David was promised an eternal dynasty of kings in 2 Samuel 7.

And for years, Israel looked for one of David’s sons to fulfill all of the promises that were given to David.

It kind of looked like Solomon might, but then he disappointed.

And then his son disappointed.
And then his son disappointed.
And then his son disappointed.
And then his son disappointed.

Remember the Books of Kings?

But still the promises remained.

And the prophets foretold of the restoration of David’s kingship in the Christ to come.

Remember the branch from the stump of Jesse in Isaiah 11?

Remember the promise to the little town of Bethlehem in Micah 5?

Remember all of those psalms that talked about the Davidic king in terms that were too big to be fulfilled in any of the sons of David that have come so far?

The elders just studied Psalm 2 in our monthly elders’ meeting. Read Psalm 2 some time to get a glimpse of the Messiah to come.

And how He will be the Son of David.

Now, turn to Matthew chapter 1, verse 1.

Do you remember what pains Matthew took to tell us whose son Jesus is?

Matthew 1:1, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David...”

Do you see the link?

The Pharisees correctly say that the Christ is the Son of David, and Matthew has shown us that Jesus is the Son of David.

Now, I’m not very good at math, but I think that means that Jesus is the Christ.

They’re not going to be happy about that.

Here’s the application for us though:

God always keeps His promises.

And that means that I can trust Him.

Jesus will never disappoint.

He is the fulfillment of all of God’s promises.

They are all “yes” in Him.

If we hold on in faith, we will see that all of God’s promises are fulfilled in Jesus.

Because He is the Son of David.

What promises are you hanging onto today?

Do you know the promises of God?

I don’t know how people get through their days without the promises!

Yes, we often have to wait.

They had to wait for Jesus to come. Many thousands of years.

And we are still waiting for Jesus to come again. A couple thousand years.

But we can see that God always keeps His promises because He promised a Messiah from the line of David, and Jesus is a Messiah from the line of David.

Now that would be enough for us live a week on if we meditate on it, but Jesus doesn’t stop there.

In fact, Jesus introduces some cognitive dissonance at this point. Verse 43.

Jesus has asked whose son is the Christ, and the Pharisees have correctly answered, “The Son of David,” but in verse 43:

“He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him 'Lord'? For he says, ‘'The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’' If then David calls him 'Lord,' how can he be his son?’”

Now that’s a lot of people being referred to and it’s important to get all of the persons straight. Who’s talking and who’s talking about whom.

And Jesus is taking them back to Psalm 110.

Do you have Psalm 110? Keep a finger in Matthew 22, but look at Psalm 110.

I think that Jesus is pointing out something the Pharisees had never seen when they studied Psalm 110.

Do you have that experience reading the Bible?

You’ve read this story a thousand times, and you never saw this detail?

Psalm 110 is clearly messianic.

It’s clearly about the Messiah to come.

I don’t know how you can read it any other way.

It may have been read originally to refer to Solomon and to the other Davidic kings.

I think you can read it in a certain way if you get into the shoes of an Old Testament reader and see it as being in some ways about David’s son and sons to come.

But, but the shoes here are just too big for any of those guys to fill.

Heather and I were talking about this last night.

Whenever you read Psalm 110, especially after reading the New Testament, it’s impossible to not see the Christ in this psalm.

And the Pharisees thought of it as a Messianic Psalm themselves.

Most Jewish interpreters of that era read it as a prophetic oracular psalm speaking of the Messiah to come.

Let me read it to you:

“Of David. A psalm. The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth. The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’ The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth He will drink from a brook beside the way; therefore he will lift up his head.” (NIV 1984)

Wow. What a prophetic psalm!

Now, here’s what Jesus points out to the Pharisees.

Who wrote this psalm?

What does the superscription say in verse 1?

“Of David.”

King David wrote this psalm.

Jesus says, “David, speaking by the Spirit” wrote Psalm 110.

And we all know that Psalm 110 is talking about the Messiah.

So, whose son is he?

Look at verse 1 again and see who is talking.

David says, “The LORD (that’s Yahweh, that’s God, that’s the covenant Lord of Israel, the LORD) says to “my Lord.”

My overlord.

Who is he talking about?

That’s the Messiah.

David says that God is talking to the Messiah who we thought was supposed to be David’s son, but is apparently David’s Lord?!

#2. THE LORD OF DAVID.

This is hard for them to understand. Jesus asks (other finger), Matthew 22, verse 45:

“If then David calls him 'Lord,' how can he be his son?’”

Now, to understand how confusing this was for them, you have to understand how they thought about the relationship between fathers and sons.

They thought that fathers were always greater than sons.

Sons come from fathers so they achieve their greatness through them.

And you fathers are all like, “Yeah.” looking down the row.

“Are you listening?”

In their mindset, the sons may achieve amazing greatness, but the fathers can always take some credit for that just by being the head of the line.

It’s not our notion.

I don’t tell my three awesome sons that they derive their greatness from me.

They would just laugh anyway.

But that’s how these folks thought.

And but Jesus is blowing their minds.

He is saying, notice who wrote Psalm 110.

It was great David.

And we know that he was talking about his son the Messiah.

That’s right. The Messiah is David’s son.

But David thought that the Messiah was going to be greater even than him.

And that he couldn’t take credit for it.

That David himself would call this Messiah his Lord.

Younger in age but superior in rank.

And that idea left the Pharisees speechless.

This Messiah was to be great David’s greater Son.

So much that David would have to bow before Him.

They are really not going to like this.

Because it means that they are going to have to bow before Jesus.

Jesus is clearly claiming to be the Messiah.

The ride in on the donkey on Palm Sunday made that obvious.

And so He is clearly claiming to be greater than David.

Descended from David but dominating David.

And I would argue, not just dominating but divine.

Look at what God told David’s Lord in verse 44 of Matthew 22 or verse 1 of Psalm 110.

“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

Come over here, and sit here. Right here. Right next to me.

At the place of power.
At the place of honor.
At the place of majesty.
At the place of authority.

“Sit at my right hand,” says Yahweh.

Whom would Yahweh say that to?

Whom does God talk to like that?

I guess He might use that kind of language in a qualified foreshadowing way to talk about the King of Israel, maybe.

But the author of Hebrews says He doesn’t even talk like that to the angels. Hebrews quotes Psalm 110 and says, “To which of the angels did God ever say, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’?” Answer, “None of them.”

This is how God talks to God.

This is how God the Father talks to God the Son.

The Messiah is:

#3. THE SON OF GOD.

He’s not just the Son of David.

And not even just the Lord of David.

He is the Son of the living God.

“Sit at my right hand.”

Wow. Just wow.

Do search in your Bible app this afternoon on the words, “right hand,” and look at all of the references in the New Testament.

The New Testament authors recognized the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of Psalm 110 verse 1.

On the day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter closed his sermon with Psalm 110.

He said, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.’"

Keep your eye on the ball.

This is Who Jesus is.

And this should shape every second our lives.

The Apostle Paul says that it should affect what we think about every day.

Colossians 4 verses 1-2.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and [what?] sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Fix your eyes on Jesus.

This is Who Jesus is.

He is the Son of God!

That’s what Christians believe.

We aren’t just following some guy.

Certainly not just some dead guy from long ago.

We are following the risen and ascended Son of God who is seated at the right hand of God.

And that means that He is:

#4. THE LORD OF ALL.

“Sit at my right hand” when?

“Until I put your enemies under your feet.”

Psalm 110 promises the ultimate victory of the Messiah over all of His enemies.

The LORD is going to do it.

He will use methods and means. He will use His people, the church. He will use the Cross and the Resurrection.

And He will use His Spirit.

And He will bring justice and final judgment.

All of His enemies will ultimately fail.

Read Psalm 110 and have your imagination lit on fire.

I’m not sure what all of the phrases mean, but I can tell that they are good!

V.2 The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth.

V.5 The Lord is at your right hand [I think that means the Father will be at the right hand of the Son, meaning that He will sustain Him]; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.

Read Revelation 19 to see how this is finally fulfilled.

“He will drink from a brook beside the way; therefore he will lift up his head.”

And be refreshed. And enjoy His victory and vindication.

The Son of God will win over all.

He will be victorious.
He will be undefeated.
He will be vindicated.
He will reign and rule for ever and ever and ever. Amen.

In the Ancient Near East, when a king won a battle, He would often put his foot on the neck of the king he just defeated.

The ultimate flex.

The ultimate in photo-ops.

Proving symbolically that He ruled over His enemy.

In Psalm 110, the LORD says the David’s Lord that one day every enemy of His will be His footstool.

The Messiah will be Lord of all.

Interestingly, He does this by being a priest and offering a special sacrifice.

Jesus doesn’t go into it in Matthew 22, so we won’t linger there.

But Psalm 110 says this Davidic Ruler will not just be a king but king/priest, a royal priest in the order of Melchizedek. Remember him?

He was the king/priest of Salem a foreshadowing of how someone could be both king and priest at the same time.

Like Jesus.

And the sacrifice of King Jesus was the sacrifice of Himself.

Jesus is Lord of all and He is the Savior of all who will put their faith in Him.

Have you trusted in Jesus as the Christ?

Keep your eye on the ball. This is Who He is!

Have you put your faith in the Son of David, the Lord of David, the Son of God, and the Lord of All?

Because this is Who He is. And this is what is going to happen.

“Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”

Satan, sin, and even death.

Paul quotes Psalm 110 in 1 Corinthians 15 when he talks about the resurrection.

He says “For [Christ] must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he ‘has put everything under his feet.’”

It’s already happened in the Cross and one day, it will happen fully and finally and forever.

Because Jesus Christ is Lord.

That’s what we should think of the Christ.


***


Previous Messages in This Series:01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet
57. Whose Image?
58. Acing the Test

Monday, September 16, 2019

"J-Curve" by Paul Miller

This morning I finished reading J-Curve by Paul Miller. It was one of the most profound things I've absorbed in the last several years. Highly recommended.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

"Acing the Test" [Matt's Messages]

“Acing the Test”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
September 15, 2019 :: Matthew 22:23-40

This is Crucial Week for Jesus.

On Sunday, He rode into town on a donkey signaling His kingship and humility at the same time.

On Monday, He tossed tables in the temple, protesting the profiteering going on His Father’s house.

Here on Tuesday, He has been tousling with the Jewish Religious Leaders.

They have been trying to stump Him and stop Him.

Asking by what authority He is doing these things.

And He answered their question with a question.

He answered their stumper with a stumper so that they didn’t want to answer.

And then He told three parables that made it clear that is doing all this all on the authority of Who He is as the Son of God.

But they haven’t stopped trying to stump Him and stop Him.

They asked if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar.

Trying to put Jesus between a Rock and Hard Place.

But Jesus doesn’t stop when it gets hard.

And He answers their question with a question.

“Whose image” is on that coin?

So “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s?”

And whose image is stamped on you and me?

I want to title this sermon, “Acing the Test.”

Because that’s what Jesus is doing, isn’t it?

Every question they come at Him with, He answers.

Often with a bigger and better question!

Jesus is acing the test.

And, as it turns out, is giving a test right back as He does.

Last week, the question came from the Pharisees and the Herodians, an unlikely combination, but politics makes strange bedfellows.

Neither the Pharisees nor the Herodians wanted Jesus to be their Lord.

The next question is going to come from another group, one we’ve heard about already in the Gospel of Matthew back in chapter 3 and chapter 16.

It’s the Sadducees.

The Sadducees were a group within the ruling class of Israel that had a distinct set of beliefs.

They only believed in the first 5 books of the Old Testament. What we call the Pentateuch or the Torah. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

That was their Bible.

They didn’t accept the rest of the Old Testament as inspired and authoritative for today.

And they also didn’t believe in the doctrine of the resurrection. V.23

“That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.”

The Sadducees did not believe that there was going to be a resurrection from the dead.

And so, as the saying goes, they were “Sad, You See!”

Actually, they were not very sad in general. They were rich and successful and powerful. So they were often earthly happy.

And they scoffed at the idea of the resurrection.

In fact, they thought that anyone who believed in the resurrection was ridiculous.

They said that the resurrection wasn’t taught in the Torah, and therefore it didn’t exist.

And they went further than that. They actually didn’t believe in the immortality of the soul.

They thought that when you die, that was it.

Those were the Sadducees. And it’s their turn to take a swipe at Jesus.

They come up to Jesus to play stump the chump.

They want Jesus to be laughed at and mocked and discredited.

So, they bring their best game. Their best stumper of a question.

This is a question that has always worked for them so far. They’ve used it to stump the Pharisees before. They think it’s a killer question.

And they think that it will stump Jesus.

Let’s read the question, and then we’ll pray before we see how Jesus answers. V.24

“‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?’”

There’s the test.

You know that Jesus is going to ace it.

How will He do it?

Have you ever had anyone scoff at what you believe?

Have you ever had someone treat your beliefs as ridiculous, as absurd?

It can really make you feel bad.

It can make you feel like there is something wrong with you.

That maybe you’re missing out on what everyone else knows.

Maybe it’s your view of creation.

Maybe it’s your understanding of marriage.

Or maybe it’s even more basic. Just that you believe the Bible.

And someone has scoffed at you as ridiculous for believing that stuff.

Do you really believe everything in that book?
Don’t you know that it was written a long time ago?
Don’t you know that science has disproved all of that?
Do you really believe all of that sin stuff and miracles stuff?

That’s why a lot of us are reading that Confronting Christianity book right now.

Because the questions that people are asking out in the culture these days presuppose that Christianity isn’t just false but harmful.

And that there must be something wrong with you if you believe in it.

You believe there is a God who made everything?

“Well, then who made God?”

As if that question really was a stumper.

Have you ever been tempted to disbelieve what you believe because of a scoffer?

How about the resurrection?

Do you believe there is a resurrection to come?

Do you believe that one day those who have died will come back to life?

Do you believe that?

The Sadducees did not.

And they thought they had a stumper of a question to PROVE it.

To make it seem as ridiculous as it clearly was to them.

Look at their test again in verse 23.

“‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses told us [in Deuteronomy 25] that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. [That’s called Levirate marriage, and it was part of the Torah, the law. The point was to preserve the family name]. Now a hypothetical test question.] Now there were seven brothers among us [1,2,3,4,5,6,7]. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother [Levirate marriage]. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. [2,3,4,5,6,7. You say, “What sad thing for that woman.” Or maybe you say, “How come all of her husbands died?” That’s a deadly woman!] Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?’”

Do you understand the question?

I’m sure that they think their hypothetical test question has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no resurrection.

Resurrection is ridiculous!

You just die and turn to dust, and that’s it.

The end. Finis.

Resurrection is ridiculous.

I mean, either there is no resurrection or in the resurrection, there will be rampant polygamy and confusion.

No, resurrection is ridiculous.

Now, how would you answer them?

Would you answer them?

Would you be tempted to just give up on the resurrection?

“Yeah, maybe it’s not true after all.”

“It does kind of sound far fetched.”

Or maybe you would say, “Well the resurrection is taught in the rest of the Old Testament. It’s really clear in Daniel 12, verse 2. ‘Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.’”

Or maybe you’d just say, “I don’t care what you think” and walk away.

Or you’d be silenced and not know what to say.

How would you answer this test?

How do you answer people and think about things when what you believe is under attack as ridiculous?

Well, our Lord Jesus was not intimidated by the Sadducees in the slightest.

In fact, in acing this test, Jesus basically says, “That’s a dumb question. You don’t even know what you’re talking about.” v.29

“Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.’”

Man, how would you like to hear that from the Lord?

I know that I wouldn’t!

In fact, let’s make that our first application point this morning.

Let’s do the opposite of these Sadducees:

#1. KNOW THE SCRIPTURES AND THE POWER OF GOD.

Jesus says that’s where they went wrong, and we don’t want to follow them.

Do you know the Scriptures?

I’m amazed at people who say they want to be Christians but are happy to be ignorant about what the Bible actually says.

We believe that this is God’s Word.

That’s why we have Sunday School classes and Family BIBLE Night. We had a great first night for Family Bible Night on Wednesday, but we were missing a bunch of kids.

We want all of the kids in preschool and elementary and youth to come out on Wednesday Nights for ABC Kids, Kids for Christ, and Youth Class.

And the adults, too. That’s why the adults study the Bible. Joel is going to lead a study this Fall on the attributes of God. What is God really like? Come to Prayer Meeting to find out.

And that’s why we have Link Groups. And why there is Bible at Link Groups.

That’s why we encourage everybody to own a Bible and read their Bibles.

Because Jesus says we need to know the Scriptures and the power God.

Have you been in your Bible this week?

Do you know what it says?

Are you memorizing 1 John 5:11, 12, and 13?

No wonder we are weak when people call us ridiculous if we don’t know our own Scriptures, God’s Word to us.

If you don’t know where to start, talk to me after church. I’ll get you started.

The fact is their Bibles taught the resurrection.

We mentioned Daniel 12. But it’s in Job and Isaiah and the Psalms, too.

And Jesus says, “It’s implied in the Torah, too.”

“You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”

Something’s absurd around here, but I don’t think it’s the resurrection.

It’s your assumptions. Your test is absurd.

God has the power to change everything and to bring back the dead to life!

V.30

Jesus says, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

You’re assuming that nothing is going to change.

Things are not going to be just like they are right now.

The age to come is going to be different.

I just listened yesterday to Jim Panaggio’s message from Back 2 School Sunday. That was good stuff, wasn’t it?

This age and the age to come.

The age to come is going to be different because of the power of God.

The resurrection is going to come, and it’s going to change nearly everything.

There will be no more marriage.

“At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

News flash: There will be no more marriage in the new heavens and the new earth.

Everything that marriage is supposed to be a foretaste of now will be fulfilled by then.

And while there will be no marriage, it will be better than marriage.

So, don’t worry folks who have not yet been married. You will not miss out on a partner for eternity. There are no partners for eternity.

And don’t worry if you’re in a bad marriage. This life is short, and you won’t be married in the world to come.

And don’t worry if you have a fantastic marriage. The resurrection will be so much better!

And don’t scoff at that like the Sadducees did.

They couldn’t imagine a world without marriage–and certainly couldn’t imagine it being better.

But that was their problem. No more marriage.

Life will be very different in the resurrection because of the power of God.

Do you believe in the power of God?

Do you know the power of God?

At a funeral a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a younger man afterwards, and he said, “I’m afraid to die. I’m not afraid of dying, but I’m afraid of being dead.”

And I said, “I have the exact opposite problem. I don’t want to go through dying, but I’m not scared of death.”

He said, “Why, not?” And I was able to briefly share the gospel with him.

That because Jesus died for our sins and then rose again, and I trust in Him, I don’t have to worry about what it will be like when I’m dead.

He said, “But just laying their in the ground.”

And I said, “My body will lay in the ground, but the Bible says my soul will go to be with the Lord. And then one day, my body will get back up and be united with my spirit, and I will be resurrected.”

And he thought I was talking about reincarnation, but I was like, “No, not as somebody else, but as me, raised and transformed to be like Jesus.”

I’m not sure he could follow me in that.

But that’s what Christians believe.

It is not absurd if you know the power of God.

V.31. Jesus takes it even further.

“But about the resurrection of the dead–have you not read what God said to you [in the Torah], 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.’”

Know the Scriptures!

Jesus uses Exodus here. Chapter 3 at the burning bush.

That’s in the Torah.

What did God say?

'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'?”

He didn’t say, “I was the God of Abraham.”

“Abraham had been dead for hundreds of years by the time God met Moses at the burning bush.

But God says, “Abraham? Yeah. He’s right here. Yep. And I’ve got eyes on Isaac and Jacob, too.”

“'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.’”

And He’s promised to bring the dead back to life.

So they will rise.

Abraham will rise.
Isaac will rise.
Jacob will rise.

All of the dead in Christ will rise.

And live forever.

Because of the power of God.

Do you know the power of God?

Just yesterday I listened to Abe Skacel’s message on Psalm 40.

Wasn’t that good?

“We are dependent on a dependable God.” That’s what he said.

“We are dependent on a dependable God.”

So we can trust Him.

He’s good and powerful enough to keep all of His promises.

Do you need to hear that today?

Know the Scriptures and the power of God.

V.33  “When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.”

Jesus had aced the test.

He did it by basically refusing to take the test!

Now the Pharisees were probably happy that the Sadducees had been put in their place on the resurrection because the Pharisees believed in the resurrection.

But I’m sure they were unhappy that it was Jesus who silenced the Sadducees because they did not want Jesus to be their king.

So they muster up courage to come at him one more time. V.34

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’”

I’m not sure why they think that this will stump Jesus.

Maybe they are hoping He will say something that gets Him into trouble with the Law. Maybe saying that something in the Law was not important.

Or maybe it’s just because they have always thought that this was as stumper themselves.

There are like 614 commandments in the Law.

Which one is the most important?

We know the answer to that one, but I read this week that nobody had ever put this together like this before Jesus.

He knew His Bible, and He knew what it said and what it meant, and how it all comes together.

So He just simply aces the test. V.37

“Jesus replied: ‘'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”

#2. LOVE YOUR GOD AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR.

That sounds simple, but it’s really profound.

And the Pharisees hated to hear it.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

In other words, with everything within you.

That’s from Deuteronomy 6:5. The Sadducees would’ve had to accept that, too.

That’s the first 4 commandment of the 10 commandments.

Love the Lord your God.

Notice that little word, “your.”

That’s an important little word.

We are not called to love just any God.

But the God of the Bible.

And we’re supposed to make Him ours.

To belong to Him personally.

Is God, “your God?”

Personally?

And do you love Him?

That means, does He come first.

Because it’s the first and greatest commandment. It’s what we are called to do with our lives.

Love Your God.

And the second is like it, “Love your neighbor.”  Like you love yourself.

Do you love yourself?

Yeah, you do.

Even those who “hate themselves” do so because they have a twisted form of corrupted self-love.

Jesus puts these two together as vitally connected.

Love God and love your neighbor.
And then He says that the whole Bible. The whole Old Testament (Law and Prophets) can hang off of these two commands.

All of ethics can be boiled down to that irreducible core.

Love Your God and Love Your Neighbor.

It’s not easy.

It’s not always simple.

It’s not always clear what love is calling us to do in some situations.

We need the rest of the Bible to flesh it out for us.

But this is the core.

Love your God and Love Your Neighbor.

How’re you doing at that?

Where are you falling short?

How can you grow?

I’ve run out of time, but I’ll mention one place that I think we can grow in our love for our neighbors, and that’s in how we talk about them online.

I see lots of rants. Lots of complaining. Lots of ridiculing of various people, especially politicians, on Facebook.

Who is your neighbor?

James says, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness.”

Like we learned about last week.

God’s image.

We are made in God’s image.

And how we talk about each other shows whether or not we love those who are made in God’s image, and whether we love the One in Whose image we are made.

Where do you need to grow?

Love Your God and Love Your Neighbor sounds great until you have to do it.

Especially when your neighbor turns out to be your enemy.

What about then?

That’s when we find out that we need a Savior.

We find out that we will never ace this test on our own.

We need someone who has aced it for us and gives us His perfect score.

The One Who shouldn’t have been getting tested, and certainly shouldn’t have been put on trial and crucified.

But was and aced the test and came back from the dead to give us life.

We need Jesus.

And praise God, we have Him!


***

Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet
57. Whose Image?

Sunday, September 08, 2019

“Whose Image?” [Matt's Messages]

“Whose Image?”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
September 8, 2019 :: Matthew 22:15-22

The Gospel of Matthew is a theological biography of the most compelling Person has ever lived, the Lord Jesus Christ.

As we’ve studied it together these last two years, we have kept our eyes on the ball and learned about Who Jesus really is and what that means for us as His followers.

We’ve learned about His amazing genealogy. We’ve learned about His miraculous birth. We’ve learned about His baptism under John and the words spoken by the Father over Him, “This is my Son whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

And we’ve seen Jesus begin His ministry by proclaiming (like John did), “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

He starts talking about this kingdom, and we learned through His teaching what that kingdom is like.

It’s a surprising kingdom. It’s an upside-down and inside-out kingdom that you may not have seen coming, but it’s full of blessing and flourishing.

And we’ve seen Jesus do miracle after miracle as a foretaste of the glories to come.

And all along, Jesus has been calling people of all walks of life to come and follow Him. To be His disciples. To put our trust in Him and follow Him with our lives.

He called a tax-collector named Matthew to do that. And He’s calling us to follow Him today.

In fact, He’s sending us out to call others to follow Him. There is a major missionary theme running through the gospel of Matthew. Followers making new followers.

To follow the Lord of the Harvest.
And the Lord of the Sabbath.
And the Lord of Marriage.
And the Lord of All.

And all along, Matthew has kept his eye on the ball and showed us Who Jesus is.

And it all came to a head in chapter 16 when Jesus asked them the question, “Who do you say that I am?”

And the answer was, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And from that time on, Jesus has been heading towards Jerusalem and this last fateful week. Holy Week. Passion Week. The Crucial Week where Jesus is on an unswerving course to the Cross.

The One Who was transfigured, and the Father said it again then, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

This One Who was transfigured was going to be disfigured.

This One Who healed others was going to suffer under shame.

This One Who saved others would not save Himself.

This One Who should be served instead serves and gives life as a ransom for many.

We’ve seen that Jesus knows what is coming.

Jesus is choosing what is coming.

That’s why on Sunday, He rode into town on a donkey.

And they were shouting for the Son of David! “Hosanna!”

Then on Monday, He was tossing tables in the temple, protesting the profiteering going on in His Father’s house.

And then He’s doing a miracle of destruction (one of the very few) and withering the fig tree because it wasn’t producing its expected fruit. And that’s a picture of the fruit that He expects from us.

And then on Tuesday, this story today also takes place on Tuesday, Jesus begins to wrestle in public with the Jewish Religious Authorities.

They want to know by what authority He is doing what He does.

And Jesus answers them by asking questions that revealed their bankruptcy.

“John’s baptism–where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?”

Remember that?

He kind of put them between a rock and hard place, didn’t He?

They said, “We don’t know.” Because they didn’t want to know.

And then Jesus basically answers the question with three parables that all show that His authority comes from God.

Parables that call people to repent while there is still time.

Because time is running out.

And the kingdom is coming because the king has arrived.

Well the Pharisees are not yet done.

They are not happy about how this is going, but they are not giving up.

In today’s story (verses 15 through 22), they try to spring a trap on Jesus.

They try to put Jesus between a Rock and Hard Place.

{Pro-tip, never try to put Jesus between a Rock and Hard Place. It never goes well for you.}

But these folks have not yet learned that lesson.

Jesus silences them, basically with a question. He turns the tables on them with a simple question and a simple statement, but very profound.

It’s boils down to this, “Whose Image Is This?”

“Whose Image?”

They think they’ve got Him cornered.

They don’t like what He’s been saying.

They especially didn’t like that part where He told the story about the Son who was killed by the wicked tenants and how the owner of the vineyard came back and killed those who killed His Son.

And they especially didn’t like the story when the king destroyed the city because they had rejected His Son and refused to come to His wedding banquet.

They didn’t like where this was going, and they had to get rid of Jesus.

So they lay a trap. Verse 15.

“Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’”

There’s the trap.

First off, notice who is there trying to lay the trap.

The Pharisees and the Herodians.

Those two are not natural allies. They are natural adversaries.

The Pharisees were known for being very nationalistic and very religious.

The Herodians wanted the family of Herod which was placed in power by the Roman Empire to prosper.

Those are two very different goals.

But neither of them wanted Jesus to be their king.

And so they bring a “gotcha” question to Jesus.

First, they start by trying to flatter Jesus which is really funny.

Because He is immune to flattery, and yet everything they say about Him is actually true.

They don’t mean it, but it’s true!

We know that “[y]ou are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.”

That’s true.

Jesus is not impressed by status or reputations, and He more truthful than the day is long.

So He’s not thrown off when they throw out the trick question:

“Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

What’s the answer to that one?

I know what I want to be the answer!

I don’t like paying taxes.

Do you see why this is a trap question?

What is the Rock and what is the Hard Place?

If Jesus answers that paying taxes to Caesar is wrong, then He’ll get into trouble with Caesar. With Rome.

The people will love it.

But the Empire will not.

And Jesus will get in trouble.

The Herodians would report Him to the Romans.

But the Hard Place?

If Jesus says that it is right to pay taxes to Caesar, the Pharisees will report Him to the people.

And He’ll lose popularity as being in league with Rome.

And that’s exactly what they want.

They want Him to lose popularity.

They could do something about Him if He wasn’t so popular.

But did you hear those people when He came in on the donkey?

The Pharisees care so much about popularity.

They don’t really care about truth.

So, they think they have Him.

But they never have Him.

“Is it right for to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

What is the answer to that one?

What if we don’t like what Caesar does with our taxes?

Well, Jesus sees right through them.

He knows that they are trying to flatter Him and butter Him up.

Jesus never goes for that.  Don’t try it with Him.  V.18

“But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?  Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar's,’ they replied. Then he said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.’ When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.”

Jesus says, “Give me a coin.”

Interestingly, they have one. Right? They have already answered their question for themselves. They carry around these coins.

These are Roman coins.

This is a picture of one.

This is one minted during the reign of Caesar Augustus.

During Jesus’ day, Tiberius was Caesar. And his coins said in Latin on them, “Tiberius Caesar, Augustus, son of divine Augustus.”

How do you think the Jews would have felt about coins like that?

But they had ‘em.  They used ‘em.

They paid their taxes with them.

This tax is specifically the poll tax. It wasn’t the taxes that the tax-collectors picked up, these were just the “privilege to breath” taxes that went right to the Caesar.

“Privilege to Live” taxes.

And they normally cost one denarius. Which is what Jesus now held in His hand.

And asks, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

The 2011 NIV has “image” instead of “portrait.” The ESV says, “likeness.”

The Greek word is “eikon.”

Image.

“Whose image?”

They probably hated to spit out “Caesar.”

But Jesus has no problem saying one of the most profound sentences ever uttered:

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

And that’s our two application points for this morning.

#1.  GIVE TO CAESAR WHAT IS CAESAR’S.

Now, this does not mean that Caesar (or Rome or any government) owns all of the money and God does not.

Just because your face is on something, that doesn’t make you the owner of everything your face on.

Ultimately, we know that God owns everything.

But it does mean that Jesus thinks that the “state” is legitimate and has a legitimate claim on our submission.

We should pay our taxes.

Paul takes this idea and fleshes it out more fully in Romans 13 where He say:

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.”

Of course, that doesn’t answer all of the questions we have about relating to civil authorities, but it’s pretty clear in the main.

Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.

We, as Christians, should be making every effort to pay what we owe.

One “conscience-stricken taxpayer” wrote the IRS, “Dear Sir, My conscience bothered me. Here is the $175 which I owe in back taxes.  P.S.  If my conscience still bothers me, I’ll send the rest.” [Hughes, pg. 268]

And, of course, it’s bigger than taxes. Jesus is saying that we need to be submissive citizens to our government.

Not if the government asks us to worship it.

Only Jesus is Lord.

And not if the government asks us to sin.

We must obey God rather than man.

But even if the government is wicked, we must submit to its authority.

Pay your taxes, drive the speed-limit, obey the laws–even the ones you don’t like.

When Paul wrote what I just read to you in Romans 13, the Caesar was Nero.

Nero was thoroughly wicked.  He was Hitler-level wicked.

But Paul urged the Christ-followers in Romans 13 to be submissive to the government authorities whenever they could in good conscience.

Give to Caesar What Is Caesar’s.

That was a very unpopular thing for Jesus to say.

Jesus was getting close to Hard Place, steering away from the Rock.

But He was unafraid of doing the right thing, of saying the right thing.

And that’s not all He said.

He didn’t just say “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” did He?

No, He was much more profound.

I think that second part of His statement is bigger and more important and deeper and more meaningful.

#2. GIVE TO GOD WHAT IS GOD’S.

He’s talking about us.

This is a US quarter, a 25 cent piece.

It has George Washington’s face on it.

Give to Washington what is Washington’s.

Jesus asks, what IMAGE (that’s an important biblical word, isn’t it? what IMAGE) is stamped on YOU?

The image of God, right?

Genesis chapter 1. The Imago Dei.

“So God made man in His own image.”

We are the image of God.

Is that image lost with the Fall?

No. It’s cracked. Like a throwing a rock into a mirror. It’s still there.

It’s not what it’s supposed to be. But through Christ it’s being restored. It’s still there.

Whose image is stamped on you?

So what does God want?  He wants you and me.

Give to God what is God’s.

And I think that’s what amazed the people when Jesus answered like this.

Not only did He give a straight, unpopular answer to the question, but He took the answer in a direction that forced people to consider whether or not they were giving themselves to God as He deserved.

Rome may deserve some taxes for providing good roads and building aqueducts and providing some protection from outside forces and minting useful money.

But God deserves so much more!

Do you think of yourself as devoted to God? Belonging to God? God’s rightful possession?

I think that one of the major mistakes in our thinking, especially as Americans, is that we often think of ourselves as our own possession.

“It’s my body.”
“It’s my bank account.”
“It’s my bonus.”
“It’s my car.”
“It’s my computer.”
“It’s my thought-life.”
“It’s my relationship.”
“It’s my life.”
“It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.”

But that’s ultimately not true.

All humans (even nonChristians) are stamped with the image of God.

“Give to God what is God’s.”

So here’s the application question for today:

What are you holding back from God?

If you had to write it down. Maybe it’s just one thing.

Or maybe there is a long list.

What are holding back from God in yourself?

Give to God what is God’s.

You’ve got His image.

He wants you.

He wants a life-changing relationship with you.

He loves you.

And He wants you to love Him back.

To trust Him and obey Him and want His glory to be magnified.

He wants YOU.

And you owe Him.

Because you, if you are a Christian, are double-stamped.

Not just stamped at creation with the image of God, but stamped with redemption.

Because Jesus bought you back.

Give to God, what is God’s.

You are double stamped.

Because Jesus paid your debt.

And it wasn’t just a little denarius tax.

It was the whole enchilada.

It was all of your sin and all of my sin and all our shame heaped upon Jesus.

And He paid the penalty.

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”

Give to God what is God’s by ownership and by redemption.

Give yourself to God.

Don’t hold anything back.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:

01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet