Fortified

After confronting the Pharisees and scribes about their hypocrisy, Jesus explains that our hearts are the origin of defilement. Then He withdraws. Matthew 15:21~And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. (ESV) Known as southern Lebanon, it’s about 40 miles to this Gentile region where Christ will minister and reveal how faith can be Fortified.

The first thing we need to do to help fortify our faith is to become a person who is persistent in prayer (15:22-28). One thing we all need to be reminded of is that our requests, needs, and desires must be made through or in persistent prayer. The Apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:6~Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (NIV) Not being anxious can be pretty hard. That is why as we journey through this Gentile territory, we meet a Canaanite woman who comes persistently to Jesus. Now the Canaanites were bitter enemies of the Jews when Israel was settling the Promised Land. 

The woman comes to Jesus and cries out, “Have mercy!” Matthew 15:22~ And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, Have mercy on me, O Lord (κύριος kyrios), Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon. (ESV) Despite her pagan background, she calls Jesus by His messianic title, Son of David. She also reverently addresses Him as Lord (κύριος kyrios), meaning master or controller, you got what I need. She says I know who you are and I call on you.

Now Jesus ignores her at first. Matthew 15:23~But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” (ESV) Matthew 15:24~He answered, I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (ESV) We know His answer is meant to test the woman’s faith, for Jesus does minister to Gentiles. In Matthew 8:5-13, He heals the Roman centurion’s servant with a word. Moreover, He chats up a Samaritan woman who He offers living water to at the well in John 4:7-29. All the more this woman cries.

As she comes before Christ, she kneels, and says, Lord, help me. This is an all too familiar picture. Where we, as believers kneel before our Lord to plead our desperation in great prayer and supplication. As Jesus answers her, He uses three points of reference known to the Jews. Saying in Matthew 15:26~And he answered, It’s not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. (ESV) Now for us, who are not Jews of the day and don’t understand this reference, it would seem that Christ is without compassion. Yet, we know that Jesus cares for us and that we are to cast all of our cares and concerns upon Him. It was the psalmist who first penned in Psalm 55:22~Cast thy burden upon Jehovah, and he will sustain thee: He will never suffer the righteous to be moved. (KJV) 

What burden is there in your life that needs to be cast on Christ. Why not embrace the 21-Days of prayer and fasting this year to set a tone for your faith and life moving forward. Go ahead and cast the burden that you have been toting around on Jesus. He cares for you and will be the one who sustains you. Let the Lord become your strength today.



Metamorphosis

Yesterday, we finished our discussion by learning that we are a tree of righteousness. Today, we want to recognize the root of defilement that wants to creeps into our lives, if we are not careful (Matthew 15:10-20) Next, as Jesus calls the people to Him and tells them to listen and understand. Matthew 15:11~ it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person. (ESV) If Pharisees and scribes think eating without ceremonially washing their hands defiles them. Jesus is about to upset their apple carts as He explains defilement is not an external matter, such as only eating certain foods or washing hands. 

Christ Jesus says people are defiled by who they are on the inside. Wait, you mean defilement is about our hearts? Yes, it is a spiritual matter. Why do you think the Lord didn’t punish David who ate the bread of Presence in 1 Samuel 21:6? It is because David’s heart was right and human need is always more important than tradition. So Christ Jesus says, it is what comes out of our mouths that defile us. Because our words reveal the condition of our hearts! Pharisees and scribes know God’s Word, therefore they ought to have known what God says to Samuel when he almost anoints the wrong person to replace king Saul. 1 Samuel 16:7~But the LORD said to Samuel, Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him…(NIV)

The disciples come to Christ Jesus and say, you know you just offended them right? Our Lord Jesus Christ is certainly aware He’s offended them, but it is necessary to reveal the truth. He responds to His disciples by talking about weeding life’s garden Matthew 15:13~Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. (ESV) That means traditions can become a weed in our lives that choke out the good growth God has planned. Matthew 15:14~Let them alone; they’re blind guides. and if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit. (ESV) The Pharisees and scribes are blind to the true meaning of God’s Word. The pit was a hole, or cistern, dug in a field to provide water for animals. A blind man walking through such a field would fall into the pit. It speaks to their spiritual condition and needs. We are to be light and reveal the help and hope that is found only in Jesus. Romans 2:19~if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark (NIV). 

In disappointment, Christ Jesus asks if they’re still without understanding? Saying in Matthew 15:17~Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? (ESV) This means food going into the body can’t defile a person because it passes thru and gets expelled. But what is in our hearts can come out of our mouths. Listen to how this is rendered by Mark 7:19~For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body. In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean. (NIV) Enjoy that pork BBQ today, for Daniel is coming.  

Mathew 15:19-20~out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone. (ESV) Are you guilty of any of these sins today? Don’t be too quick to answer as Jeremiah 17:9 reminds our hearts are desperately deceitful. All you have to do is look at our great nation as living proof! There’s no power on earth that can change our hearts. It takes a heavenly intervention. One born from a spiritual metamorphosis, a change from the inside out that alters our heart

Hear me clearly, only Jesus Christ can bring true and lasting change. We can go and get an education, make lots of money, take different medicines to help us, or even adapt to a more sophisticated culture, however, none of these will change a single heart. Today, I want each of us to pray the prayer of Psalm 26:2~Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; (NIV) As you move out from your devotional time, keep asking the Lord to help you walk the straight and narrow as you prepare for the Daniel fast next week.



Worship: What it is all about

As Jesus is teaching the people, He is taking to task the way the Pharisees and scribes have been enforcing man-made rules in the life of believers. He has discussed the ceremonial hand washing and the given of all possessions to God, just to keep everything to ourselves. Now He adds some depth to His lesson as He adds in the prophecy of Isaiah 29:13~The Lord says: These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they’ve been taught. (NIV) Matthew 15:8~You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men. (ESV) Who among us is able to carry the weight of salvation, of living before God

What Isaiah said about people of his own day applies to hypocrites of Jesus’ day, and ours as well. Remember the Greek word (ὑποκριτής hypokritēs) rendered hypocrites originally meant actors or people who hide behind masks. When we claim to honor God but our hearts are far from Him we are hypocrites. There’s nothing Christ Jesus despises more than people hiding in plain sight. His harshest words are always directed toward hypocrites. Many today are like the Pharisees and scribes, they knew a lot about God, even quote His Word, but they don’t know God in a personal way. They’ve never truly lived exposed before Him. Thus, they worship Him in vain. Matthew 15:9~and he said to them, You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! (ESV) 

Christ Jesus describes the only way God wants to be worshipped in John4:24~ God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. (NIV) Every believer ought to commit that to memory. Because worshipping God in spirit means that worship is not external, rather it is an internal act with outward manifestation. It is to begin in our hearts and radiate out of our lives. Worship’s neither ceremony nor rituals adapted over time. It does not begin at 11 AM or end at 12 noon. 

Of the Psalms, only Psalm 90 claims Ole Mo’s pen, though tradition gives him credit for 11 Psalms, 90-100. and its Psalm 100 that helps us formulate a method of worship. Psalm 100~Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (NIV) Worshiping God in truth is to worship Him in a way that is consistent with His Word, which is truth. John 17:17~Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (NIV) Traditions are not necessarily bad. But, when traditions are honored above the Word of God, they are an offense to God, a barrier to worship and fellowship with God, and they hinder our spiritual growth in Christ our Lord. Can you carry your weight? 

Perhaps today is a day of release, where you take time to release to God what seems to weigh you down as you exchange it for the garment of praise. Isaiah 61:3~To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified. (KJ21) You, my friend, are a tree of righteousness, sure you may feel, at times, like a little sapling, but you are still a tree. Take time to give God the praise He deserves, worship Him today and joy will flood and fill your life. Try it for yourself!