The End

One thing I miss, is The Far Side. Yeah I know, they live on in posterity  but I have already read them all many times. As we return to Matthew 10 I am reminded that things don’t always go as planned and that they can even get worse on occasion. This reminded me of the words of Gary Larson who famously once said, The beatings will continue until morale improves. Aren’t you glad that Jesus went to the cross in our stead. Isaiah writes in 53:3-6~He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. Like one from whom men hide their faces, He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He took on our infirmities and carried our sorrows; yet we considered Him stricken by God, struck down and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His stripes, we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray, each one has turned to his own way; (NIV)

In truth, we all are pretty selfish. Then Jesus Christ is revealed to us. We realize what it is that He has done for us, and that He did it so that we could have a personal relationship with God. Then, the Lord takes time to teach us His ways and then shares how living in our sin-cursed and fallen world is not always easy. How there are choices to be made and hope to be shared. On such an occasion Jesus told the disciples that they will be brought before governors and kings for His sake, and when they are, they will bear witness to Jews and Gentiles (Matthew 10:18). The fact that not all will accept the truth, is known as persecution. Today, countless individuals across our globe are persecuted for their faith. On the first Friday of each month, we are reminded to pray for them. On Sunday, November 3, 2019, I hope you will join the annual International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. What Christ Jesus tells the disciples, applies far beyond this one moment of outreach. 

After the Resurrection, the disciples experience this very thing in Acts 12:1-3~About that time Herod…laid violent hands on some…He killed James the brother of John with the sword…when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also…(ESV) However, even with these difficult words, Jesus offers words of comfort. Matthew 10:19~When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. (ESV) He says, don’t worry, I got you. Matthew 10:20~ For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (ESV) This is the person and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The power to witness and reveal Christ to others.

Some lazy preachers have misapplied this wonderful promise. I had a student in one my college classes at the Evans-Barr Bible Institute, a 40 year veteran pastor told me he didn’t need to study, but relied on the Holy Spirit for all his messages. You all have seen your pastor in the altar during service asking God to anoint and guide his words. The Lord’s helped in preparation all week long, but still, I am reminded of Pauls words to his young protege Timmy in 2 Timothy 2:15~Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (KJV)

Jesus warns His disciples even their close relatives will betray them and have them put to death (10:21). During the second and third centuries of Roman persecutions, this happened thousands of times. Matthew 10:22~and you will be hated (μισέω miseō) by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (ESV). The phrase is Miseo hypo pas dia mou. Jesus isn’t saying everyone will hate you, rather that people from every class, each group or from the collective of humanity will hate what you are saying, because it is the truth of God.

And the absolute proof of a genuine disciple will be…drum roll please…those who endure to the end. Enduring does not produce or retain salvation. If it did, salvation would be based partially on works. And, salvation is totally and exclusively by grace. Romans 11:6~And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. (NIV) This means salvation is not based on a combination of grace and works because they are mutually exclusive. Salvation is not based on our works in the past, present, or the future. 

Start being the Disciple God called you to be. Our walk of faith requires that we understand the work of the Gospel. We are to prepare ourselves for the opportunities to share, knowing that the Power will come from the Holy Spirit, and understand that there will be rejection. Colossians 4:6~Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (NIV) Today, live as a genuine representation of Jesus Christ to our hurting world. This means our speech should always be gracious, kind, and tasteful.

Wisdom’s Call

First, did you know I have beautiful feet? Yep, that’s right Isaiah writes in 52:7~How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (NIV) Well, the peace part may be a little harder with todays devotion, but, you get the gist. In our faith lives, we are going to encounter lessons we don’t want to learn but are necessary. We will encounter storms that reshape our coastline. 

Jesus tells us here in Matthew 10:16-23 that we can even expect some persecution. As Jesus tells the 12 that He is about to send them out, He reminds them that they are sheep. Matthew 10:16~Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (ESV) So I’m going to the wolves and be like a snake? Christ Jesus said we need to understand where and to whom we are ministering. Wolves aren’t always ruthless, but will turn quickly. So be cautious. 

In ancient times, serpents, or snakes, symbolized wisdom because they were thought to be smart, cunning, and cautious. Genesis 3:1~Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made…(ESV) Jesus Christ didn’t call us to be a wolf or a snake, rather, we are to pay attention, and be as harmless as doves. When other birds oppose doves, the doves leave rather than fight. Therefore, Jesus is telling His disciples to avoid strife and conflict. He is instructing them to follow what principle we find in Proverbs 17:14~Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. (NIV) 

This means a quarrel is like a leak in a dam. It may start small, but it can quickly flood our lives and wash away all that we have been building. What should we do? Stop the quarrel before even a leak breaks out because you will only end up in court, flogged, or scourged (10:17). Under Roman rule, Jews were allowed to settle most disputes in their local courts. They could convict and punish by scourging, which was forty lashes (less one by tradition) with a whip Deuteronomy 25:3~but the judge must not impose more than forty lashes. If the guilty party is flogged more than that, your fellow Israelite will be degraded in your eyes. (NIV) Paul describe this experience in 2 Corinthians 11:24~Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. (NIV) 

None of us like to go to the whipping post of life, for any reason. And, it remains to us a mystery as to why people cannot see the good that God is calling them to do. I want to encourage you that you are making a difference in the lives of people, even when you cannot see it. Though, they offer snide remarks, grumbles under their breath, or even spew vehemently at us sometimes, this is really aimed at Christ. It’s had sometimes to not take it personal. So, today I want you to do what Christ called all of us to do in Luke 6:28~Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. (NIV) Today, pray for them, pray and ask God to open their hearts to His healing and the Gospel. Ask God to help you let go of anything residual in these situations so that bitterness will not set in on your life. Ask God to forgive and move on to trying to share again, the good news of Jesus.

What to Expect

Have you wondered what God was up to in your life? Have you ever given the Lord a little push back for what He is asking you to do? Listen, God is not asking us or the disciples to do anything that He has not already done. Remember, Jesus Christ was a phenomenal teacher and His miracles confirm our credentials. That is always the purpose of miracles in the Bible, confirmation. 2 Corinthians 12:12~I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders, and miracles. (NIV) Jesus says I got you, take nothing. Matthew 10:9-10~Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. (ESV) Men, maybe we ought to try this on vacation with our wives and daughters. Well on second thought that might get really expensive. This means ministers or pastors are to receive care from those to whom they minister. You may not know, but we did this last week for Jimmy and PJ. Why or how do we? 1 Timothy 5:18~Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain, and The worker deserves his wages. (NIV) You sent them to Roadhouse for dinner and gave them a little extra to say thank you.

Furthermore, Christ Jesus tells His disciples, to search for a worthy person. Matthew 10:11~And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy (ἄξιος axios) in it and stay there until you depart. (ESV) They are to find someone who appreciates their ministry and accepts it as being from God. Matthew 10:12~As you enter the house, greet it (ἀσπάζομαι aspazomai). (ESV) (ἀσπάζομαι aspazomai) is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew greeting SHALOM, which was used as both a greeting and a farewell. It means wholistic peace. Peace to you in every facet of life. Peace in our homes, hearts, families, relationships, work, like Aloha.

Matthew 10:13~And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. (ESV) If the home turns out to be unworthy, Christ Jesus says to take it back and shake-it-off, Swift-ly and leave. This expression is a sign of extreme contempt and the action makes it clear that the listeners are responsible for turning down the Gospel, a serious offense of rejection. Matthew 10:15~Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. (ESV) 

The Lord is saying you had your chance and here, the dust is proof. Remember, God so utterly destroyed those cities with fire and brimstone that there is no trace of them. A part of the power or motivation of being a disciple is knowing the terrible fate awaiting those who do not receive the message of the Gospel. Moreover, being a disciple of Jesus Christ results in the supernatural power to witness.

At the end of Matthew and again in Acts 1:8, we are told to wait for the power. The power is and always has been the Holy Spirit. From the breath of life to power to witness. God says there are some pretty great expectations on our lives. How will you rise up to meet the Lord today at His in-breaking moment? Will you rely on His power to move through your life? Take time today and seek the Lord and remind Him of your great need for Him to move and work in your life. Keep in mind that when we humble ourselves before the Lord, He will lift us up. James 4:10.