All the Change we need

Did you know that Jesus didn’t come to earth just to save us; He came also to change the way we behave. Jesus is all the change we need. Not only does He change us through His teaching, but the life of Christ offers us a wonderful example of how to live fully engaged in a deep, meaningful relationship with the Heavenly Father. Living a Christlike life requires that we follow His Biblical example in at least three areas.

The first area we find Jesus bringing about change in our lives is by telling us to Keep-Away From Legalism. (Matthew 12:1-8) Ever played a really good game of Keep-Away? As a child, my dad wasn’t much for games. Still, on some rare occasions after fending off our best efforts he would with great and blustery turbulence, meet us, or should I say beat us at our own game. When our exuberance wained and we proceeded to descend upon other prey, he would set his glass carefully on the table and fix us with a glance that would have skewered a pig. His grand stature of 6’5” of twisted steel and sex appeal, towering shoulders and head above all engaged in serious play. 

With recoiling long rifle like arms and the strength of ten, boys who were simply unmatched and outgunned. Like Goliath, he towered high above, dominating us into submission. The game of keep-away felt more like tackle, shove, and poomp (the sound a rubber ball makes as it flattens against one’s body) then touch. This was the unbridled passion of a father, his son, and a murder of neighborhood friends. Inevitably, someone would cry foul, attempting to assuage the loss by yammering on about rules. Nothing like good old-fashion legalism to ruin a good game of keep-away. 

Jesus and His disciples are still in Galilee, probably near Capernaum. It is Sunday afternoon, and though it seems they are out for a stroll there is purpose afoot. As they proceed through a grain field, the disciples of Jesus are hungry. Like most itching for a snack, they pluck from what is near. Matthew 12:1~At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungered and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat. (KJV) 

Like the audible escaping of air as a tire quickly flattens, the Pharisees were rubbernecking this very moment. It was an iPhone at the ready, expeditiously posted to the book of faces, as new memes popped up on Instagram, and the Twitterverse exploded like the death star. Many would’ve pondered the wise words of ~Slim Pickens~ What in the Wide, Wide World of Sports is a-goin’ on here. Matthew 12:2~When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” (ESV) For the Law said that there was to be no reaping of grain on the Sabbath (Exodus 34:21). 

However, what we are witnessing is not technically reaping. There was to be no canning, storing, or housing of this corn. Jesus’ disciples are plucking and eating. That my friends is not harvesting, nor is there a plow present so it is not earing time. Though they were going through a whole mess of ears. I know it can seem confusing, but the disciples are being caught by the legalist police. I am quite sure that we have all played good cop, bad cop. Sometimes when it suits us, we slip into our role as we attempt to play the Fairness Police. This is our humanity, we want rules that others have to live by, and at times of necessity or just our own whimsical occasion, that we can side-step. Jesus says to us, just quit it. Stop being legalistic and let grace win.

I bet there is someone you probably need to share the two hardest words in the English language with. I’m sorry, I know it’s a contraction, but these are the hardest words for us to say to people. So, who has the Lord laid on your heart today that could use an I’m sorry? Why not pray and ask God for the courage, for the words, even for the timing to let them know. I bet it makes their day, and builds your faith.

Positively Accepting

We have been considering the three types of responses that people have towards Jesus. We have discussed the Critically Castigate, the Persistently Indifferent, and now we look at the Positively Accepting. (11:25-30) While the first two groups have not been very edifying, Jesus turns to praise. Saying in Matthew 11:25~At that time Jesus declared, I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; (ESV) Now the wise and understanding refers to the proud and arrogant Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes. The phrase little children again indicate those who respond positively to God’s truth, found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. A great description of these two kinds of responses is found in James 4:6~But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. (NIV)

On Wednesday night during our study on the Prologue the opening of our world by God, I shared one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It’s found in Genesis 4:7~If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it. (ESV) Only those who are willing to humbly receive God’s truth and do right, will understand and be accepted. Matthew 11:26~yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (ESV) Pride keeps more people out of heaven than anything else. 

Jesus says in Matthew 11:27~All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows (ἐπιγινώσκει ἐπιγινώσκω) the Son except the Father, and no one knows (ἐπιγινώσκω epiginōskō) the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (ESV) (ἐπιγινώσκω epiginōskō) means thoroughly aquatinted and accurately known. God knows His Son and the Son knows His Father intimately or completely. So, to whom does Jesus choose to reveal the Father too? Matthew 11:28~Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (ESV) Jesus says to us if you are tired of carrying the weight of your salvation, the burden of your sin and guilt if your works are weighing you down. Just Come! Just be My disciple.

The truth is that salvation is acceptance by Jesus Christ because we have come and humbly said we are a sinner. We asking Jesus to come and live in our hearts and tell Him that He is the Lord overall and that we are going to do our best to do what is right. If you have ever wanted to be accepted, all you have to do is turn to Jesus. Perhaps right now you want to do just that. I bet you can even think of someone in your life that craves acceptance. What they truly desire is Jesus. Romans 8:22~We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (NIV) 

Why not take this devotion as an encouragement to talk with the Lord and when you see the one he has laid on your heart, do what is right. Christ continues to encourage our positive response as Jesus says in Matthew 11:29-30~Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me…For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (ESV) God is not looking to blister or irritate you. No, the Lord wants you to know that He is here to be fully, intimately known by you. All you have to do is respond.

Expect a miracle

We have looked on as Jesus has compared His generation to a generation that seems eerily familiar for us today. This part of the generation does not want to bother with anything that they are not truly interested in and possess no need for things off of their radar. As Jesus turns to speak about them He references another city in Galilee that is even worse than those previously mentioned. Yikes! 

Matthew 11:23~And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. (ESV) I want us to understand that Jesus’ 3-year ministry operated out of Capernaum. He lived there, and returned there, and ministered there, in Capernaum. Matthew 4:12-13~When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali. (ESV) 

Think of Galilee as a state. It is mountainous and rugged. The counties that fill-up the area of Galilee, encompass a good bit of Jesus’ earthly ministry. You may remember the tribes of Israel, named after two of his sons, Zebulun and Naphtali. The Old Testament shares how they received stakes in the promise of God, and this was their family land. In this area is a city where Jesus spent many nights in a town called Capernaum. You may remember Capernaum as the place where Jesus was approached by a Roman Centurion soldier who showed a great amount of faith, asking Jesus to heal his soldier with just His Voice. All you have to do is say the word. Capernaum is also the place where Jesus shows up at Pete’s mother-in-law and He has to touch her because she was so sick she could not entertain any company. (Matthew 8:5-17) Yet, Jesus refers this place to Hades, a place often used in the New Testament to denote the home of the unsaved dead. Jesus was saying judgment is coming. 

What wonders has the Lord worked in your life? I bet God has given to each of us many signs of what His desire is for us to do and how we are to participate with Him, in faith. Jesus says in Matthew 11:23~…For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. (ESV) Almost everyone is familiar with the name Sodom. It is a synonym for sexual immorality. Genesis 13:13~Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD. (ESV) They pursued unnatural desire. Jude 7~In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. (NIV). 

As a result of this persisting in sin, the Lord responds in Genesis 19:24 ~Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah — from the LORD out of the heavens. (NIV)? Jesus tells the people in Capernaum, it will be more tolerable for Sodom, than you. But they do not care, because they are indifferent. The people of Capernaum knew about the Messiah because He lived among them. They witnessed His miracles with their own eyes, but they still would not follow Him. Today, all that remains of Capernaum is just ruins, while other cities in the same region remain active towns.

Take time to reflect on all that God has done in your life. Spend some time just thanking Him, loving Him. I think we often get so busy that we forget to give the Lord our praise. So today, just push the caving-in world out and worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. It will keep you from becoming indifferent about your faith.