We once gave a substantial gift to some dear friends who had given us help in a time of need. They became angry at us and distanced themselves from us. It really hurt us, but we have come to understand that sometimes people are reluctant to allow others to bless them. We need to allow others the blessing of blessing us without rejecting their love. The disciples were taught this by Jesus (Matthew 10:40). I remember when I was young playing a solo during a band concert and being very ungracious towards those who tried to pay me a compliment. One of my teachers leaned over to me and whispered a wonderful lesson; when someone pays you a compliment don’t reject it, but simply say thank you. We need to learn to be thankful receivers as well as givers.
Jesus gave four points on hospitality (Matthew 10:40-42). 1) When people welcome us, they welcome Jesus. As we go are we welcomed or not? Are our words Christ's? We all represent Christ and bring his presence with us wherever we go. Do we treat other believers in the way we would treat Christ? 2) Welcome a prophet. The prophet speaks God’s word publicly in contrast to the little ones. Salvation is a gift but those who have done more will be rewarded with more. 3) Welcome a righteous person. In the New Testament righteousness is by faith. Do we welcome Christians? 4) Give little ones a cold drink, an act of hospitality. How do we treat new converts? When others care for us are we gracious guests? Our neighbors need the Gospel. If they welcome us, they welcome Jesus.
Are there certain church teachings that you or I find rather repulsive? How do we treat others who hold doctrines we disagree with, yet follow Jesus? Sometimes it seems like there are large impenetrable barriers between churches. We tend not to like those who are unlike us, who may believe radically different things about Christianity. Yet what did Jesus say on this topic? He said that if someone receives Jesus, he receives our Father in heaven. If we receive a prophet, we receive the same reward. If we are receptive of righteous people, we receive a similar reward to them. And, he said that if we as much as give a cold drink to a newly converted believer, then we will be rewarded. Can we receive each other as fellow believers and not worry about lesser issues (Matthew 10:40-42).
Ours can sometimes be a disrespectful society, from the traffic on the road to the halls of politics. People constantly threaten each other with a deadly weapon by tailgating and otherwise driving recklessly. Even police officers get in on the act. Politicians vilify each other shamelessly setting a bad example which permeates our whole society. Rather than argue the issues many assassinate each other’s character. Granted, we have become jaded because far too many in business and political leadership are scoundrels. Even in the Church, bishops, priests and pastors are often seen as a joke or criticized as undeserving of respect and honor. Yet in Matthew 10:37-42 Jesus revealed his stance on the topic. Receive the one sent by Jesus, the prophet as a prophet, the righteous person as a righteous person, and by doing so we receive Jesus.
How self-serving it must sound for a preacher to suggest that people show hospitality towards those who carry the message of Jesus. Yet, part of the message of Jesus was that particular communication (Matthew 10:40-42). If a preacher is to proclaim the whole Gospel message that person may not leave out anything that Jesus taught simply because it may be embarrassing or uncomfortable. Translated variously as welcome or receive, the Greek word refers to hospitality. God so much identifies with his representatives that a welcome of that faulty, weak fellow human being is equivalent to welcoming a member of God’s own family. As we welcome the preacher in our midst, so are we welcoming the one who sent that person, Jesus. And as we thus welcome Jesus’ representative, we also welcome the one who sent Jesus, God the Father.
|Welcoming but not Affirming|
|The Gospel According to|
a Modern Day Sinner
We may think that the Gospel is left to those with a formal office. There are pluses and minuses in having certain duties exclusive to clergy. A weakness is that we tend to forget that the Gospel is every one's opportunity. In Matthew 10:40-42 Jesus spoke of a variety of individuals spreading the Gospel and his blessing on those who received them. It is worthy to note that Jesus spoke of the Apostles, but also prophets, two more formal places of service in the Church. However, he also spoke of others who brought the message as being both righteous people and even the least of those his followers. The least are differentiated from the righteous. Could it be that God’s work is done by all from the least to the greatest and that even sinners spread the Gospel?
Sugar-coated sermons of popular preachers are for baby Christians. Is Matthew 10:34-39 too strong for us? 1) Are we worthy of Christ, giving him first priority? Can we face the fact that we are at war, a sword is needed? Family division over religion does happen. We love our families, but do we love God more? 2) Do we take up our cross, willing to be vilified for Christ as Rome crucified non-citizens? Do we identify with today’s nobodies like non-citizens? 3) Are we willing to be different, giving instead of taking, dying to selfishness, admitting that we cannot solve our problems, that only God can save us? If we would die for him, will we be bored for him in a church that plays hymns instead of rock-n-roll, offended for him in a church that contains imperfect people?
Fear robs us of life’s fullness. In Matthew 10:26-33 Jesus also addresses fear and gives five thoughts in overcoming it. 1) Realize that everything concealed will be disclosed, even threats and injustices done to us. 2) Be bold by speaking and loudly proclaiming the gospel. There is something about hearing the sound of our own voices that gives us courage to continue. 3) Realize that the most anyone can do is take our physical lives but not our eternity with God. 4) Know that there is someone who cares enough about each of us to know the number of hairs on our heads. That someone knows when every sparrow falls from the sky and values us far more highly. 5) Acknowledge Jesus openly before others. Don’t be a Christian who hides their faith. Openly admit our faith before others.
In Matthew 10:24-25 Jesus speaks of Christians being besmirched and slandered as he was. He was called Beelzebul (meaning, lord of dung) a popular corruption of Beelzebub (lord of the flies) in ancient times, an idol worshiped in ancient Ekron and representing Satan the devil. When we in the Church are not being persecuted and being lied about and falsely accused as Jesus was, does that mean that we are perceived as too weak to be a threat to the evils of our society? Is the message of repentance from corruption and wrong-doing not loud enough to be heard? Have we capitulated to the sins of the world? Are we afraid? Have we been cowed into silence by popular immorality? Why are we not suffering in some way? Have we failed to tell the message of repentance and forgiveness?
Have you ever been insulted? When some people are insulted they allow their blood to boil. They lose their cool and get very angry. However, Jesus said that for the Christian an insult can actually be a compliment. How, you ask? Quite simple! In Matthew 10:24-25, Jesus coached his first students, saying that if he was called the prince of demons, then his followers would be called even worse names. So, next time that we are insulted, keep our cool and analyze the situation. Was the insult the result of being a Christian? If so, then that is actually a good thing. A verbal assault from an adversary might be unwitting praise. Use it to be encouraged. Maybe it is a litmus test of genuine Christianity in our lives. If so, take the verbal abuse as a wonderful compliment.
Have you ever been threatened because of your faith? In some parts of the world it's a daily occurrence. However, even in free countries Christians can be threatened by a boss to engage in corrupt business practices, or even be threatened by friends and family members who want us to compromise our beliefs. Christians have even been occasionally mistreated by graceless church leaders who want them to kowtow to a particular belief structure which may violate their conscience. What did Jesus say about threats? He told his first disciples that they should respond by shouting their faith from the rooftops for all to hear. There is a time to flee persecution and a time when the faithful response is to act even more overtly, not to proceed with cowardliness, but to intensify efforts with wholehearted fearlessness (Matthew 10:26-27).
Some people hate Christians. In North Korea and a few dozen other countries Christians are sometimes murdered for their faith. Even in countries with relative religious freedom, Christians can occasionally be in mortal danger. Jesus encouraged his first students that murderous persecutors could not touch their souls. Only God can destroy both body and soul. So, where was God when Christians in the early church were murdered for about the first 300 years? Where is God today when some governments persecute or passively allow persecution? Jesus comforted his first pupils by saying that God is aware of even a sparrow falling and knows how many hairs are on our heads. If we should ever have to pay the ultimate price for our faith, Jesus encourages us to have faith in God's ultimate care of our soul (Matthew 10:28-31).
Is Christianity is a religion of peace? Yes. So, why did Jesus say that he did not come to bring peace but a sword? Jesus explained that faith sometimes divides families. He warned his first students that they would have enemies right within their own families (Matthew 10:34-39). Are we any different today? How sad it is when a marriage partner opposes our faith, or if a son or daughter rebels against the beliefs of their parents. Yet, that is part of the journey. It was in faith that God allowed our first parents to choose an opposing way of life, and it is in faith that we allow dearly beloved family members to choose a way of life that conflicts with everything we stand for. If we follow Jesus, family conflict with those who do not is inevitable.
According to studies, children with fathers at home are more likely to finish school, far less likely to be in poverty, survive infant mortality, less likely to be in jail, drugs or delinquency, or to be involved in early sex and teen pregnancy, and far less likely to be abused. Child welfare says that fathers are not mere afterthoughts as second adults in the home but have a significant impact for good on “cognitive ability, educational achievement, psychological well-being, and social behavior.” Understanding the role of fathers must begin with the best role model for all men and only perfect Father, God in heaven (Matthew 6:9; Matthew 28:19-20). We honor our parents and receive the promise of longer lives (Ephesians 6:2). This translates into a respect for authority which fosters healthy societies and people who honor God.
The hearts of mothers are naturally turned to their children, but from conception there is a disconnect between fathers and children that should be united over time. In today’s world that is not always the case, especially as the male role in families has been disparaged and minimized. Malachi 4:5-6 addresses this issue. A prophet (perhaps in the spirit of) Elijah will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Unless this is done, the prophet declares the result as utter destruction. Those churches which do not fulfill this Elijah role, but diminish fatherhood are slowly sinking into utter destruction. In the role of Elijah the prophet the Church must turn the hearts of the fathers and children towards each other and hallow God’s self-declared role as Father (Matthew 28:19-20).
A liberal agenda is to replace God the Father (Matthew 28:19) with God the Mother. No father can replace a mother’s role of intimacy, care, and nurture, but a Swiss study found that if a father does not go to church, and his wife does, only one child in 50 will go to church. But, if a father goes regularly, regardless of his wife’s attendance, two-thirds to three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers. Can we continue to feminize our churches and keep the men and consequently our children interested? Have we hurt the Church by neutering, devaluing and excluding fathers? Has the absence of Christian male role models contributed to the decline of many churches? As some churches conspire against any patriarchy are they also robbing God the Father of honor due to his name (Matthew 6:9)?
What about those who were abused by a father and find it difficult or even offensive to think of God as such? What about priests who do not deserve the title father? What did Jesus mean to call no man on earth father (Matthew 23:9)? Abraham (James 2:21) and Paul (1 Corinthians 4:15) were titled father. We should honor father and mother, but none compare to God as Father. Rather than reject God as Father, we ought to learn from Him what all human fathers ought to have been. Biblical imagery is not ours to change or abolish at whim. God wants us to understand Him as our Father, not abusive us as some on earth have been, but as a wonderful Father and origin of eternal life through Christ in the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20).
God is Father because as Creator He is like human fathers in some ways. The Bible reveals the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) as three with one name (Matthew 28:19). A father is a parent in a way that a mother is not. The Son is also God yet distinct from the Father, begotten. The Father is unbegotten. In the Trinity each Person is God yet different. The Son is begotten of the Father and the Spirit proceeds from the Father. Equality, difference and hierarchy are not necessarily contradictory. Jesus never speaks of God as His Mother. Mary is His Mother and He taught us to also address God as Father (Matthew 6:9) by adoption (Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:4-7; Ephesians 1:5-6). God’s Fatherhood is the model of how fatherhood should be (Ephesians 3:14-15).
A father gives to procreation and a mother receives the father. A man reproduces outside of himself, while a woman reproduces inside of herself. This brings about two different relationships to the children. A child is initially more detached from the father and more attached to the mother. Fatherhood symbolizes in some ways how God is transcendent, apart from His creation as motherhood pictures his immanent, intimate presence in creation. Does this transcendence have priority over God’s immanence in creation? Is Father-language necessary to avoid implying pantheism which reduces God to the level of His creation? Calling God Father does not negate motherhood or maternal imagery of God. Is God trying to teach us that calling him Mother would negate fatherhood and create an idolatry of His creation? Scripture certainly speaks of God mostly in paternal terms (Matthew 28:19).
Why does God reveal Himself as Father (Matthew 28:19)? What is He telling us? Is God in some ways like a human father even though without gender and without human limitations and faults? Is God as Creator like a human father? Does God care for His creation as a father should care for his children? But, mothers do that too. Does the difference between a father and mother help? How is God Father in a way that He is not really Mother? A father procreates different to a mother. The father impregnates a woman and determines the gender of the child. The father has priority as the source of impregnation while the mother has priority as first nurturer. God is the first source of creation while Jerusalem above (Galatians 4:26) is our Mother, the first nurturer of the saved soul.
Is there no more room for God’s revelation, only human agendas? Is Christianity just philosophy? Is it our work to reconstruct as we like, to change the Our Father into Our Mother (Matthew 6:9)? Do Jesus’ teachings and example compel us to accept other language for God, even though he never explicitly called for it? Was a patriarchy really a domineering, women-hating culture as portrayed by those with an agenda? Is revealing God as a loving, compassionate Father in error? Did Jesus intend a “depatriarchalizing” of the church? When feminine language is applied to God it is used in the same manner that we say a man may act like a women. The primary metaphor for God in Scripture remains masculine. Why is God never called “She” or “Her”? The biblical writers’ speak of God primarily in masculine terms.
Labels: Matthew 06
If God inspired the analogy of being a Father (Matthew 28:19) and some disagree who has the problem? Was Jesus wrong to call God Father and even Abba, Daddy? Ought we Christians deny Christ’s revelation as to how we see God as Father? Was his revelation just culturally bound by the sexism of the day? Was Jesus wrong to uncritically reinforce such patriarchal terms rather than correct them for future Christians? He certainly corrected other inadequate teachings and stepped over cultural prejudices against women. Jesus frequently addressed God as the Father and if we ignore that, what else do we ignore of his teachings? Jesus’ mother was Mary not God. If God wants to be understood in patriarchal terms who are we to argue? Do we make God over in our image or receive his self-disclosure as the Father?
Is there common ground that unites Christians? The logia, the sayings of Christ are the thing upon which most Christians agree. Christians are divided over so many issues and teachings. Yet, Jesus commanded that his disciples teach what? He charged them with teaching what he taught them (Matthew 28:19-20). So often we teach a whole host of other things instead. Yet, that is what unites us. No matter whether we are Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant or Pentecostal, we believe in what Christ taught. So, if there is a priority in the Bible, it is the words of Christ, what we call the logia. And guess what! When we focus on Jesus and what he taught, all the other issues seem to fade into the background. We actually find common ground that wonderfully unites us all. Ain't that just fantastic?
God is Spirit, has personality, is life, good, unchanging and inhabits eternity. In the Bible God is one, and the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have one name (Matthew 28:19-20). God is not one person with three personalities because Jesus prayed to the Father. God is also not three Gods but one, indivisible and yet three persons. Jesus calls God’s angels his, judges the world, is the resurrection, the life, is the Word which was God, and he is called Lord meaning God in the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit is also a person. He makes decisions, teaches, guides us, makes the things of Jesus known, convicts the world of sin, can be grieved, blasphemed, possesses a rational mind, can be lied to, resisted and we can have fellowship with him. God is three and one — a mystery.
What is top of the list of the Holy Spirit’s gifts? In all the hype and divisiveness caused by different views of what the Bible means by speaking in tongues in the church, a very important gift of the Holy Spirit is overlooked. Jesus prophesied that the Holy Spirit would flow like rivers of living water from within (John 7:38-39). Proverbs 18:4 speaks of the mouth being deep waters and it is not tongues but another gift of the Holy Spirit that is emphasized, “the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.” It is in wisdom that the Gospel must be preached and in wisdom that Christians will gently lead their non-Christian neighbors to the Lord. The Holy Spirit gives an untold number of gifts to believers, and top of the list in 1 Corinthians 12 is wisdom.
To understand Jesus’ prophecy of the Holy Spirit flowing like rivers of living water from within (John 7:38) we view two similar Old Testament passages. Psalm 1 praises the law, a shadow of the cross, given on Pentecost. Those who delight in God’s law are like trees planted by rivers of water. Ezekiel 47:1-12 describes water flowing from the altar in the Temple in Jerusalem and making the desert to the south productive. An allegorical interpretation of such Old Testament passages, such as that used by the Apostles, might lead us to an understanding of the Holy Spirit flowing from heavenly Jerusalem into and out of Christians as a blessing to others around them. Do we touch others’ lives in such a way as to bless them? Do we love our neighbor enough to quench their spiritual thirst?
In desert survival a rule of thumb is not to drink from pools of stagnant water, but to look for a source of running water, sometimes called “living water” (John 7:38). Drinking from the living water that Jesus gives, satisfies our thirst permanently. The only requirement is belief in Jesus. The Holy Spirit flows from God to us and out of us to others. When we have salvation we are satisfied. Christianity is not meant to be a selfish religion practiced in isolation from others. The context seems to indicate that what we have received from God ought not to stay within us, but should flow out of us like living water, rather than staying still and becoming stagnant. Does this mean that faith not shared with others becomes stagnant? Is there a difference between stagnant and living faith?
Jesus said let anyone who is thirsty come and drink (John 7:37). Thirst often means earnest desire. Deceptive advertising promotes popular sugar-laden drinks, but the greedy food industry lines its pockets and our thirst is not satisfied. Just as the benefits of water far outweigh artificial drinks, so do the benefits of true religion outweigh counterfeits. According to WebMD, water keeps us slimmer, boosts energy and lowers stress due to dehydration, builds muscle tone and prevents cramps, reduces wrinkles from the inside, aids regularity and reduces kidney stones. It truly satisfies. In a parched land, thirst was well-known. God promised Israel living water (Proverbs 18:4; Isaiah 58:11), like water for a thirsty land (Isaiah 44:3), water without price (Isaiah 55:1), a powerful symbol of life. Physical water truly satisfies physically. Belief in Jesus satisfies forever.
In John 7:37 we read of Jesus standing up to speak loudly on the last and greatest day of the festival. That describes the final eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles, an autumn festival commemorated with small booths made from leafy boughs and observed since the Exodus from Egypt. Traditionally, each morning the High Priest and a procession went from the Temple to the Pool of Siloam and filled a container with water. They re-entered the Temple through the Water Gate. Another priest carried wine for a drink offering. They poured their offerings out at the base of the altar. The water, symbolizing the Holy Spirit poured out upon men, flowed down the Temple steps into the outer courts. This Jewish feast tradition was used by Jesus to illustrate the Holy Spirit’s working as rivers of living water.