The Weightier Matters of the Law

The Law of God is vital to our walk with Him. It’s establishment reveals to us God’s standard of righteousness. Through it we know whether we are fulfilling His divine pleasure or if we’re “missing the mark” (cp. Rom. 7:7). When God gives us His word we cannot minimize one passage while esteeming another for “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16, NKJV). Knowing such to be true, how can there be “weightier matters of the law” (Matt. 23:23)?

As Jesus was finishing His years of teaching the arrival of God’s Kingdom, many religious leaders by this point were filled with rage against Him. They believed Him to be a destroyer of the Law of Moses (cp. Matt. 5:18). They believed Him a blasphemer (cp. Matt. 9:1-3). They wanted Him killed!

Jesus had enough. He was done teaching them in parables for the hardness of their hearts. Instead, He was going to set them straight and tell them what they so needed to hear but were too dull to heed; what they so needed to understand but were too blind to see. Instead of talking to them He warned the multitudes—who could discern for themselves—about themin front of them (Matt. 23:1), before condemning these leaders face-to-face for their hypocrisy (v. 13ff). The True Judge—with Righteousness in His breath—pronounced His seven woes (v. 14 was added to later manuscripts) against these “lawyerly” hypocrites.You see, these men placed great burdens upon others—in essence, “shut up the kingdom of heaven” (v. 13)—who wished to enter. In fact, while they zealously sought for people to be added to God’s kingdom, they would “make him twice as much the son of hell” (v. 15)!

So, what was their guilt of hypocrisy? They taught, but did not practice what they taught (Matt. 23:1). Further, they were “minoring in majors and majoring in minors”. In other words, they were meticulous enough to “pay tithe in mint and anise and cumin” yet neglected “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.

In a nutshell, Jesus lived and taught the need to keep whole law (Matt. 5:17). He understood, however, where the greater “weight” of the law resided: in justice, mercy, and faith(fulness). Justice would be exercised (v. 14; Mk. 12:40), rather than devouring the very ones in need. Mercy would be extended to “the guiltless” (Matt. 12:1-8). Living faithfully would demonstrate consistency between the demands upon others to keep the law of God, while practicing the very same thing.

Now, consider your walk with the Lord as a Christian and be careful that you keep all of God’s word (law), but be especially mindful of the weightier matters of the law.

– Mitch

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Hope, Because Jesus Is Risen

Last week we discussed God’s purpose for the suffering we endure in this world. Suffering, in its grand scheme, helps us to look beyond ourselves and see an All-knowing and wise Creator who cares for and comforts those who place their trust in Him for eternal comfort from this sinful world. While this knowledge consoles many, such experiences were never meant to give us a genuine hope. No, it was our risen Savior, who suffered at the hands of this sinful world through whom we enjoy a genuine hope for eternal comfort.

The apostle Paul knew this both from a conviction he long held before coming to know Jesus as the Christ (Acts 23:8), but also because as a hostile enemy of the Lord’s church, witnessed with his own eyes the resurrected Jesus (Acts 9:1-9; Acts 8:3). Because of this he said to the church at Corinth.

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. ” (1 Corinthians 15:1–19, NKJV)”.

The fact and reality is that Jesus died, then rose from the dead according to prophetic scripture and is the reason why we have such a hope that we declare the glorious gospel to the lost. It is through our risen Savior we can trust God to get us through this suffering world, on to a better home. A place where there is no more sorrow and shed tears. Amen.

Mitch

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Sharing in the Sacrifice

What an amazing and wonderful picture the totality of the sacrificial offering was. Read more

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I’m Not Afraid of the Dark Today

For about as long as I can remember, I’ve been afraid of the dark. As a kid, my dad would say, “Take out the trash” even if it was already dark. At our house, that meant a long walk through the backyard. I had to pass the separate garage. Anyone could be hiding in the shed connected to it or even behind it. I had to go into the alley. I had never even watched the movies, but I was certain Jason, Freddy Krueger, or Michael Myers were waiting outside the backyard gate. And if it wasn’t one of those figments, there might be a garden variety thug. After all, someone had stolen clothes off our clothesline in broad daylight; who might be waiting in the narrow darkness?

But my dad told me to man up and take out the trash anyway. Perhaps that was good; I learned to go out in the dark even though I was scared. I’ve learned that my overactive imagination is just that. I try to let my logical and rational mind be in control when I’m in the dark instead of my 10-year-old tv brain. However, I have to admit that even as a 36–year-old full grown adult, I am still afraid of the dark. I generally plow through it, but my mind still convinces me someone or something is there ready to pounce.

You can imagine my anxiety when my family and I went camping in Indiana a few weeks ago. We got there late Sunday evening and I knew if we were to keep the dog quiet, he had to go for a walk. I couldn’t send one of the kids. I’d have to do it. I had to walk down the road, through the state park, without any street lamps. There was only the moon, the stars, and my flashlight. I was certainly not going to admit I was afraid to my wife and kids, so I dutifully started off on my trek. Surely, if something happened, my dachshund would protect me.

You’ll never guess what I encountered. First, there was the mountain lion that stalked me. I know it was there because I heard it repeatedly snapping twigs just past the reach of my flashlight. Then there was the bear I’m certain I heard growl from within the woods. A wolf pack considered eating my little wiener dog and me for a late night snack. Not to mention my old friend Jason was tramping through the woods (did I mention the campground was on a lake?). To top it all off, a serial murderer had escaped from the prison we passed a couple of hours away from the campground and was hiding in the woods lusting for my blood. All of this was within the first hundred yards of the walk. Frankly, it was enough to make me scamper back to the cabin, taking my chances with a barking dog. But I couldn’t show fear to my kids. I tried to let my logical brain be in control.

Then something very interesting happened. I decided to quit taking matters into my own hands and I started talking to God about my fear. I don’t mean I started thinking about God, I mean I verbally decided to talk to God as if He were walking right next to me. I know you are expecting me to say that I got this amazing sense of God’s presence and knew He would close the mouths of the mountain lions if they were really there. That, however, is not true. I didn’t get that feeling.

Something even better happened. I remembered Romans 8:28 (dare I say, God’s grace brought it to my mind): “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

It hit me like a falling tree; my fear was actually a manifestation of my lack of faith in what God said in that verse. I realized, that for my all my belief in God, I wasn’t believing Him when He promised to work everything out for my good.

I can hear the reactions now, “But Edwin, bad things have happened to Christians. Some have been attacked by animals while camping. Some have been killed by crazies.” Oh, I know. My faith and courage were not borne out of some misplaced notion that God promised to never let anything I might think is bad happen to me. No, my faith was that anything God let happen to me would certainly be for my ultimate good and His glory.

The question in my mind suddenly became, “Am I willing to let God decide what is actually for my ultimate good and His glory or am I going to quake in fear that His decision may not be the one I want Him to make?” That was when the fear subsided. At least for that night, I was willing to say, “I’m doing the right thing right now, I’ll be happy to be used by God in whatever way He chooses.” As all of that fell into place, fear vanished. It wasn’t that I no longer heard strange noises or had visions of attacks. Rather, I had come to grips that if that was what God wanted to let happen to me, then I would trust Him that it would all be good. I was able to have not only a nice walk through God’s nature, but a wonderful talk with the God of that nature.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that means I’ll throw caution to the wind and take late night strolls through a crime ridden inner cities, “Whatever God wants to happen will happen.” I also remember Jesus’ response to Satan in Matthew 4:7, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” However, if at some point in my service to Him, walking in those inner cities at night is what I’m called to do, then I’ll start praying to grasp Romans 8:28 all over again.

I can’t say that I always grasp that point, but for today, I’m not afraid of the dark. How about you?

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Peter’s Objective Faith in Jesus

Peter provides a great example of faith in Luke 5:4-7. Jesus had been teaching from Peter’s boat. When finished, He said to Peter, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

Before going any further, let’s consider this. Peter is a fisherman, Jesus is a carpenter turned itinerant rabbi. Sure, He’s a very good teacher, but Peter is the fisherman. Peter knows when it is the best time to catch fish and if it were the best time, he would have been out fishing instead of washing his nets when Jesus arrived on the shore. On top of all that, Peter had been fishing all night and caught no fish.

Picture this. You are the experienced fisherman. You fished all night, the best time to catch the fish. You caught nothing. You’re tired, ready for bed. You’re disgruntled and you’re hungry. Now some guy who hasn’t fished a day in his life says, “Go out and try again.” What do you say? “You’re crazy. I’m going home and going to bed. Maybe we’ll have better luck tonight.”

But that isn’t what Peter said. Peter said, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”

Why on earth did Peter do that? Because he had an objective faith in Jesus.

Many people have a subjective faith. That is, their faith is subject to their own experiences. Peter could have relied on his own experience. He could have pointed out how ridiculous the idea of going to the same area they had fished all night and letting out the newly cleaned nets really would be. But he didn’t; he relied on Jesus.

A subjective faith says I’ll believe something as long as it fits in with what I have seen, felt, heard, experienced. It says I’ll only believe what Jesus, God, or the Bible said if I can prove by my experience that it is possible or find some proof that fits with what I’m willing to believe based on my experience. This is a subjective faith. That is, it is subject to how I feel about it. If something doesn’t fit with what I am willing to believe, I just won’t accept it.

Peter didn’t have a subjective faith. His faith in Jesus was not subject to his own experiences. Something about Jesus caused Peter to put faith in Him despite his own experiences. Therefore, despite his own experiences, feelings, thoughts, background he lowered the nets. His objective faith proved right. The nets were laden with fish.

Here is the point. Peter decided that Jesus was greater than His own experiences. Peter decided that Jesus was greater than what he had seen and felt before. Peter had decided Jesus was not limited by his own experiences and ability to test. Peter’s faith was placed objectively in Jesus and so He just accepted what Jesus said.

We need to have this kind of objective faith. Jesus is going to say some things that seem odd to us. He is going to say some things that may not mesh with our experiences. He is going to say some things that we cannot scientifically test. The question is will we recognize that He is greater than us? Will we recognize that we can place our faith in Him and not in ourselves? Will we just trust Him and do what He says? Will we simply accept what He teaches? Or will we put Him to the test saying we will only believe Him if we can prove what He says through our own experiences?

Did Peter have doubts? I think it is clear he did. He expressed the doubts. He was shocked when the fish came. However, despite his doubts, he placed his faith in Jesus and just accepted what He said.

Can we do the same?

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Overcome the Flesh by Following the Spirit, Not the Other Way Around

Galatians 5:16 really struck me in my personal Bible reading this week.

Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

Paul did not say, “If you don’t gratify the desires of the flesh, you will walk by the Spirit.” Rather, he says, “If you walk by the Spirit, you won’t gratify the lusts of the flesh.” Do you see the difference?

The first says if we quit doing fleshly things, we’ll start walking according to the Spirit. The second says if we walk according to the Spirit, we’ll stop doing fleshly things. The difference is subtle but powerful.

Sadly, I followed that first path for years. I wanted to walk by the Spirit so I tried everything I could to stop doing fleshly things. I had accountability partners. I talked to people. I came up with plans. I established tricks. I made commitments. I signed pledges with myself. Anything I could think of to motivate me to stop following fleshly desire, I did. But I kept coming up short, just like Paul in Romans 7:15-20. It was just like banging my head against a brick wall over and over again.

God’s promise is not if we stop desiring or doing fleshly things then we’ll have the Spirit and walk in the Spirit. Rather, His promise is if we start walking in the Spirit then we’ll overcome the fleshly desires.

Therefore, Galatians 5:19-21 is not provided to show us what we must not do if we want to walk in the Spirit. Rather, the list is provided to show us the kind of things we’ve been fighting against that God will overcome in us if we simply start walking according to the Spirit. We want to overcome these because if we continue in them, we’ll not inherit the kingdom of God.

Throughout Galatians, walking by the Spirit is connected with faith. Galatians 3:2 says, “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” Galatians 3:11 says, “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Galatians 3:14 says, “…so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”

Herein is the struggle. It is possible to establish a set of rules but not really have faith. In that case, we try and try to live up to a checklist set of rules, but we find we never actually measure up to it. From this perspective, though we know God’s rules, we are actually relying on ourselves. Our faith isn’t in God, it’s in us. However, if instead we work on our faith in God’s word, God’s love, and God’s power, our faith will guide us to rely on Him, living according to the Spirit and the Spirit’s revelation. In turn, that will cause us to overcome the flesh and its desires.

So, don’t try to get to the Spirit by overcoming the flesh; overcome the flesh by following the Spirit.

 

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Help My Unbelief!

I know we all believe. How many of us are willing to admit our unbelief? In Mark 9:24, the father of the demon-possessed boy did exactly that. “I believe, help my unbelief.” That seems a paradox, but it accurately describes where most of us are.

Think about it. If, as II Peter 1:5, 8 says, we must increase our faith, then there is still some unbelief in each and every one of us. That doesn’t mean we are lost, it just means we have to grow our faith.

The point is not really about how much we believe in God’s existence. I think that is pretty much a yes or no question. Either we do or we don’t. The issue is more about whether we actually believe Him. Do we believe His way really works? Do we believe He really has our best interests at heart? Do we believe Him so much we are willing to simply do what He says without modifying it with our desires and designs?

The New Testament is filled with teachings against sins, flaws and defects. It says we should get rid of resentment and bitterness (Ephesians 4:31). It says we should not pursue vengeance (Romans 12:18-19). It says we should turn the other cheek when someone slaps us (Matthew 5:39). It says wives should not separate from theirs husbands and husbands should not divorce their wives (I Corinthians 7:10-11). It says we should pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17). It says we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25). It says we should seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33). It says we should not let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:26). It says we should let no corrupting talk come out of our mouth (Ephesians 4:29). It says so much more.

Do we really believe all this? If so, why do we let corrupt talk come out of our mouths? Why do we hold grudges, resentments and bitterness against our spouses? Why do we miss assemblies or part of the assemblies for recreation and entertainment? Why do we seek to get even? Again, this list could go on.

We need to come to grips that in those moments when we violate these passages, we are essentially saying, “God, I don’t believe you. I know what you have said, but I think I have a better way.” I have done it time and again. I know you have as well. The point is not to compare notes to see which of us is better and who believes more. The point is for each of us to realize we are just like the man in Mark 9:24. Yes, we believe. But we have unbelief. There is only one place to turn to fix that. Turn to the Lord. Can you cry out to God, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief”?

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