Matthew

Strong Foundation

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Have you ever tried to learn something new, and as your tutor tries to help you, it’s like they skip the basics and go right for the more advanced stuff? It is easy to understand why one would struggle if they aren’t able to establish the basic foundation of what they are trying to grasp. At times, I can see the same thing happening with new believers. If you are new in the faith, I encourage you to concentrate on building the foundation first, and that foundation is learning and putting into practice the words and directives that Jesus taught in the Bible. In Matthew chapter 7, verses 24 and 25 Jesus says: 

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”

As you grow in the faith, you may not learn everything you need to know in one church service or one Bible reading session. This isn’t something that is rushed or instant. Just continually stay in God’s word and let the Holy Spirit water the seeds of spiritual growth as they are planted. Try not to compare yourself to someone who is more mature than you, and don’t look down on those who are less. Just focus on building your house on the rock; which is putting to practice the words of the Bible as you learn them. The sign of a strong foundation doesn’t always reveal itself when things are going great, but when problems and life struggles arise and rain and winds blow against your faith. If you’ve been putting to practice what you learn as you learn it, your foundation will become stronger and stronger. No need to try and jump ahead into areas that are well beyond your understanding, just stick to building your house upon a rock, and the Holy Spirit will make you more and more mature as you do.

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You might have heard people say that life is short. I know that I’ve said that myself. But I submit to you, that in some respects, life can be long – especially if you make the wrong decisions. That is why it is so important to build a strong foundation in Christ at the beginning of your walk. If you do, you’ll be able to weather the storms of life because you’ll have the basics down so well that the lies of the devil won’t sway your faith. Jesus says that building your house on a rock is a wise decision. And if you work on strengthening that foundation early in your walk with him, poor decisions won’t cripple you in your journey through life.

Sealed With a Bang

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When I read about Jesus’ crucifixion in Matthew, I’m astonished that even after his death there were still some who didn’t believe. Even before then, in the many events leading up to the cross, it was as if unbelievers had to convince themselves that the miracles Jesus performed weren’t from God, and that his words and actions were somehow contrary to the character of God. As difficult as it might be for us to understand the stubborn ignorance of those in Jesus’ time, it is even more difficult to understand how anyone still wouldn’t have believed after Jesus died, because the covenant he made with us when he died was sealed with a bang. Let me show you what I’m talking about in Matthew chapter 27, verses 50 through 53 which says: 

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.”

How can anyone still think that Jesus wasn’t the Son of God after that display? And if that wasn’t enough, Jesus, himself, rose from the grave and appeared to many. I hope and pray that if you are reading this and haven’t yet made Jesus your Lord and Savior, that you don’t fall into the trap that many did in Jesus’ day. With so much evidence pointing to Jesus as the one and only true son of the living God, it would be beyond ignorance to deny that truth today. It would be the biggest mistake any human can make. All he truly wants from us is our faith. If he has that, love for him and obedience to him are inevitable. So, I encourage you to put your faith in Jesus today. No, people aren’t rising from the dead, rocks aren’t being split open, and the temple curtain isn’t being torn from top to bottom today, but we have evidence that is just as convincing. We have the knowledge of history, and the benefit of understanding what they didn’t know back then. They say that hindsight is 20/20. Please, I encourage you to benefit from their mistakes, and not fall into their same dogmatic unbelief. If you do, you could regret it for eternity.

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After all of the miraculous things that happened immediately after Jesus’ death, it is difficult to understand why some would still choose not to believe. Likewise, in this day in age, after having the complete word of God in the form of the Holy Bible, the historic truths that lie therein, and story upon story of those who have turned their lives to him and are saved, it is difficult to understand how anyone can still deny him. The benefit of putting your faith in Jesus is something that you don’t want to miss. It is the most important decision you could ever make in this life. So please, I implore you, if you have not put your faith in Jesus, if you have not believed in your heart that he died for you and confessed with your mouth that he is Lord, do it today, for tomorrow is promised to no one.

Do To Others

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Matthew 7:12 is a simple verse that most of us have been taught as a child. It is so simple, in fact, that at times I fear we don’t pause to give in any more thought beyond what we did when we initially heard it. Today, I challenge you to really think on this verse and determine how it can be applied in your life. In Matthew chapter 7, verse 12 Jesus says:

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

I don’t know about you, but often times how I treat people isn’t necessarily how I’d like to be treated. It is often how I think they deserve to be treated, or I treat them based on how I’m feeling at the time. But most of the time, I don’t even give much thought to how I’d want to be treated if I were them. Jesus tells us to do to others what we would have them do to us. So, if someone has wronged you, take this scripture to heart. How would you like to be treated if you were them? If someone makes a mistake, or has no friends, or needs a hand, or needs some encouragement, or is struggling in anyway, how would you like to be treated if you were them? Often times our pride, selfishness, or apathy gets in the way of seeing how we’d want to be treated if we were in the place of someone. But Jesus tells us, in EVERYTHING, do to others what you would have them do to you. I encourage you to take these words to heart by looking for ways to treat others the way you’d want to be treated if you were them.

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Jesus says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” It is difficult to intuitively look beyond ourselves to see how we would want to be treated if we were in someone else’s place, so I encourage you to actively pursue this goal. That means that we will have to consciously make an effort to consider how we would want to be treated if we were someone else. Another place in the Bible Jesus says that all of the laws and commandments are summed up in just two: Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength, and the other is to treat others as you yourself would like to be treated. So, what do you say we get to it? It may take an active effort on our part to even consider how we would like to be treated if we were in someone else’s place. But, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I believe that it will become second nature over time.

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All In

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Several years ago, I listened to a pastor preach on what he felt it meant to be a Christian. He said that if everything in the Bible is true, why aren’t we doing everything we can to live a dedicated life for Christ while also leading others to Jesus? He was basically saying that being a Christian should be an all or nothing thing; that we should be “all in”, or what’s the point? I know that Jesus would agree, and maybe even go one step further, like he does in Matthew 16:25-26 which says: 

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

The stakes are high. The Bible tells us that it is better for us to be hot or cold when it comes to our commitment to the faith. In other words, we should be all in or all out. If we are just lukewarm, or dabbling with lackluster commitment, then what’s the point? What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? We only have about 80 or 90 years on this earth if we’re lucky, but our soul will live on either in heaven or hell. Jesus tells us not to fear man who can only destroy the body, but to fear God who can destroy both body and soul. So, I challenge you to take your faith seriously. In the end, it doesn’t matter what you gain in life; fame, fortune, or all of the fleshly desires anyone can ask for. What matters is your soul, and only God can save that.

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Jesus reminds us that “whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” When choosing to follow Christ, every believer should count the cost, knowing that the decision for Christ may very well cost them everything. Sure, you may obtain many desires of your heart here on earth, but every believer should be ready to let any, or all, of it go for the sake of Christ. There are people literally losing their lives for Christ. Is it asking too much that we dedicate ours to him by taking our faith seriously? I encourage you to evaluate your faith. Are you all in, all out or somewhere in between? And if you’re not all in, then what is the point of following Christ at all? After all, it is your very soul that is at stake.

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Plank Eye

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As humans, it can be so easy to judge what others are doing wrong, whether it is sinning or just making bad decisions. We can gossip about them all day long and generate scenarios of what they should do in order to correct their mistake, convincing ourselves that we could never end up in their predicament. As we look on from our high perch, we may feel that somehow, we have a better vantage point in how to view their problem than they do. And as a result, we might feel qualified to give advice on how they could correct their issues or avoid their sin. Self-righteousness is a human shortcoming that, at some point, will affect us all. But things get a bit more difficult when we turn the magnifying glass on ourselves and examine our own failings. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 7:3-5:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Jesus warns us about judging others, and here, he gives us a lesson in self-righteousness. If you find yourself perched on your high branch, surveying the faults and sins of others, I encourage you to remember this portion of scripture. Jesus doesn’t say that we shouldn’t help remove the speck from our brother’s eye, but far too often, we pretend that there isn’t a plank in our own. And until we remove the plank from our own eye, and get our house in order so to speak, we’re really not in the position to remove the speck from our brother’s eye. So, I encourage you to really examine the words Jesus speaks here, and see if you have, or are currently falling into this trap of hypocrisy.

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It is human nature to have an opinion about how others are running their lives. It is a sinful and fleshly reaction. But even if we internalize our thoughts and feelings, often times we feel that we are somehow entitled to judge others. I challenge you not to fall into this trap. Jesus tells us to consider our own sins, and shortcomings, with honest spiritual eyes before we consider judging someone else. This scripture reminds me of the account of the woman caught in the act of adultery. Jesus tells the villagers that the one who is without sin should cast the first stone. Knowing that we all have sinned, and have the propensity to sin again, we should guard ourselves from being one with a stone in our hand. Because until we are free from our own plank, we aren’t qualified, or as Jesus puts it, we can’t see clearly to remove the speck from our brother’s eye.

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