Friday, July 29, 2016

How To Be Blessed



1 One day as He saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around Him, 2 and He began to teach them. 3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. 4 God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. 6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. 7 God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. 9 God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. 10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. 11 God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are My followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way. 13 You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. 14 You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:1-16 (NLT)

When large crowds from Galilee, Syria, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed Jesus (Matthew 4:23-25), He now takes them to a mountain. On that mountaintop, Jesus teaches and explains His Kingdom law for them (Matthew 5:1-2). Scholars call Jesus’ inaugural Mountain teaching the “Sermon on the Mount” and encompasses Matthew 5:1 through Matthew 7:29. The Sermon on the Mount gives a detail explanation of “Repent” (Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17) and shows in detail the repentant lifestyle that characterizes people of God’s Kingdom. With John the Baptist and Jesus’ announcement to “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” people were naturally asking, “How do I qualify to be in God's Kingdom?”  

The Sermon on the Mount opens with a series of formula-like sayings or proverbs of how to receive God’s blessings (Matthew 5:3-12). There are nine such sayings, also called Beatitudes from the Latin word for “blessed.” These Beatitudes are not separate, spiritual qualities people may choose but rather a unified portrait a blessed soul of God. Together, these beatitudes reveal the portrait of a Kingdom citizen who acknowledges God as their King.

What does a Kingdom citizen look like?

·         Poor in spirit because they know they have no righteousness of their own
·         Mourns and grieves over their lack of personal righteousness
·         Humble and not prideful nor arrogant
·         Hunger and thirst for a righteous life that pleases and glorifies God
·         Merciful and kind to others and not selfish and unforgiving
·         Pure in heart who actively seeks to please and obey God’s Word
·         Peacemaker who works peace in the world
·         Persecuted for seeking and obeying God

Amazingly, these Kingdom citizens are like the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was “meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29; see also Philippians 2:5-8) and trusted wholeheartedly in God the Father and His Word (Matthew 4:1-11). Moreover, Jesus sought to do God’s will and obey His Word (see e.g., Matthew 26:39; John 4:34). Though Jesus was the friend of sinners, preached peace, and showed unending compassion for others, He was unjustly despised, rejected, and persecuted (see e.g., Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Matthew 16:21; Matthew 27:27-31). As our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Father is compassionate, merciful, patient, loving, faithful, holy, and forgiving (see e.g., Exodus 34:6-7).

Kingdom citizens may not fully receive all Kingdom blessings while on earth. Seven of the Beatitudes state that Kingdom citizens will receive their blessings in the future (“for they will be”) (see Matthew 5:4-9, 11-12) while two of the Beatitudes state that Kingdom citizens receive their blessings and gladness during their lifetime (“for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs”) (see Mathew 5:3, 10). Thus, some of God’s blessings are ours NOW, while other blessings are forthcoming in the future. Nevertheless, Kingdom citizens also receive God’s Kingdom living within their hearts and the blessings of God’s Holy Spirit (see e.g., John 7:39; John 14:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 11:16-17; Acts 19:2).

Even more, Kingdom citizens are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14). Kingdom citizens stop the moral decay and corruption of the earth and shine Jesus’ light of goodness into a dark world (Matthew 5:13-16; see also 1 Corinthians 13:4–7). Because Kingdom citizens seek to stop corruption and darkness, they are often persecuted, rebuked, and hated by the world (Matthew 5:10-12; see also John 15:19). Yet, it is such good, righteous, and pure character that Jesus calls blessed because Kingdom citizens bring glory to God in heaven (Matthew 5:11-12, 16; see also 1 Corinthians 10:31; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 1:9-11; 1 Peter 2:11-12).

Thus, Jesus encouraged Kingdom citizens not to become discourage by the world’s hatred nor compromise their righteousness. Instead, Kingdom citizens must shine their light in such a way that others may see their good works and deeds and give GLORY TO GOD (Matthew 5:13-16; see also Ephesians 5:8; Philippians 2:15; 1 Peter 2:12).

References
Holy Bible NIV 2011 (Grand Rapids, MI: Biblica, 2011).
Ross, Mark E. Let’s Study Matthew (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009).

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Beginning of Greatness



12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He returned to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, He went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This fulfilled what was said through the prophet Isaiah: 15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles--16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” 17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near (has come).” 18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19Come, follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him. 23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about Him spread all over Syria, and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures (epileptics), and the paralyzed, and He healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed Him. Matthew 4:12-25 (NIV)

After passing His test and temptation against evil (Matthew 4:1-11), Jesus began His public ministry. Luke’s Gospel also adds that Jesus was filled with the power of Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14). As the forerunner of Jesus, John the Baptist has completed his work, and he must now decrease (Matthew 3:1-12). Jesus must increase (John 3:30). Jesus did not begin His public ministry in Jerusalem, but instead, He went into Galilee of the Gentiles as predicted by the prophet Isaiah (Matthew 4:12-16; see also Isaiah 9:1-2; Isaiah 42:6-7). Matthew has already shown that God’s Word controlled every detail of Jesus’ life (e.g., see Matthew 1:22-23; Matthew 2:17-18). Galilee was a mixed population of both Jews and Gentiles in northern Israel and stressed God’s desire for the universal outreach of the Gospel’s message to all people (Matthew 4:15; see also Matthew 28:19). In Galilee of the Gentiles, Jesus continued the urgent message began by John the Baptist: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (come)” (Matthew 4:17; see also Matthew 3:2). God’s sovereign rule and reign had now come with the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:23), and Jesus was calling people to turn to God.

Jesus moved from His hometown of Nazareth to Capernaum, a busy city in northern Israel (see Matthew 2:23; Matthew 4:12-13). Capernaum became Jesus’ headquarters during His public ministry in Galilee (Matthew 4:13). Moreover, Jesus’ move also fulfilled Old Testament prophecy that states the Messiah will be a great Light to the world (Matthew 4:12-16; see also Isaiah 9:1-2; Isaiah 42:6-7; Luke 1:78-79; John 1:4-5, 9). Jesus spent most of His public ministry in Galilee of the Gentiles - a mixed population of both Jews and Gentiles (Matthew 4:15, 23).

Walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus called His first disciples, two fisherman brothers by the names of Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew (Matthew 4:18). Jesus told Peter and Andrew to “come, follow Me” and He would make them “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Evangelism was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry (see Matthew 28:18-20). At once, Peter and Andrew left their nets and followed Jesus (Matthew 4:20). Going further, Jesus saw two more brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John (Matthew 4:21). Once again, Jesus called out to James and John to follow Him, and the two brothers immediately left their boat, their father Zebedee, and followed Jesus (Matthew 4:22). As examples for all to obey Jesus’ calling, these four brothers followed Jesus without delay or hesitation. We too must obey and follow Jesus immediately when He calls. Jesus’ demand is urgent: Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (come)” (Matthew 4:17).

How did Jesus bring His Light into the world? Jesus’ public ministry involved three important tasks: teaching, preaching, and healing (Matthew 4:23; see also Matthew 9:35; Matthew 11:1, 4-5; Matthew 12:15; Matthew 13:54; Matthew 14:34-36; Matthew 15:30-31; Matthew 19:2). During His ministry, Jesus taught the people and proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom. Also, Jesus healed every physical, emotional, and spiritual disease and affliction (Matthew 4:23). He healed those who were ill with various diseases, suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures (epileptics), and paralysis (Matthew 4:24). Nothing could withstand the presence and power of Jesus’ healing! At Jesus’ first advent, Jesus’ healing of every disease and affliction gave an amazing foretaste of the age to come (see 1 Corinthians 15:42-43; Philippians 3:21). When Jesus’ returns and finalizes His earthly Kingdom, Jesus will make all things new, wipe away every tear from our eyes, and heal all our afflictions and pain (Revelation 21:4). Our momentary sorrows will turn into joy and dancing (John 16:20).

With His teaching, preaching, and healing, Jesus’ fame grew and large crowds from Syria, Galilee, the Decapolis (Ten-Cities), Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed Him (Matthew 4:24-25). Jesus was reaching the nations in Galilee of the Gentiles! 

References
ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Ross, Mark E. Let’s Study Matthew (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

Thursday, July 21, 2016

God’s Scriptures



1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil (tempter). 2 For forty days and forty nights He fasted and became very hungry. 3 During that time the devil came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But Jesus told him (devil), “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took Him (Jesus) to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, 6 and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order His angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you will not even hurt your foot on a stone.’” 7 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the LORD your God.’” 8 Next the devil took Him (Jesus) to the peak of a very high mountain and showed Him the kingdoms of the world and all their glory. 9 “I will give it all to You,” he said, “if You will kneel down and worship me.” 10 “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the LORD your God and serve only Him.’” 11 Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus. Matthew 4:1-11 (NLT)

After His baptism, Jesus left the crowds surrounding John the Baptist in the Jordan Valley, and the Holy Spirit led Him into the solitary wilderness to be tempted and tested. Both Jesus’ baptism and the wilderness temptation are closely connected. Jesus’ baptism and the temptation are in the desert (Matthew 3:1; Matthew 4:1). Furthermore, Jesus’ baptism and wilderness temptation focus on Jesus as the Son of the living God (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 4:3, 6) and emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16; Matthew 4:1).

Jesus’ experience of forty days in the wilderness corresponds to Israel’s experience of forty years of testing in the wilderness desert (Matthew 4:2; see also Deuteronomy 8:1-5, 16). Like Israel of old after passing through the Red Sea (Exodus 15:22), Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness after His baptism in the water (Matthew 4:1-2). However, during Israel’s time in the wilderness testing, the people continually grumbled and complained against the living God and turned toward disobedience and unfaithfulness (e.g., see Exodus 15:24; Exodus 16:2; Exodus 17:3; Numbers 14). Despite numerous proofs of God’s power and glory, the ancient Israelites rebelled, disobeyed, and did not trust God’s provision. Because of Israel’s disobedience and unfaithfulness, the Lord God was angry with that ancient Israelite generation, and they did not see God’s rest (see Psalm 95:7-11; 1 Corinthians 10:9).

Fortunately, Jesus succeeded where Israel of old failed. During the time of wilderness temptation and suffering, Jesus continually trusted in God and the leading of His Spirit, despite difficult circumstances. Jesus revealed He was the true Son of God who was faithful and obedient to God and His Word despite suffering and temptation (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). When tempted by evil, Jesus responded with three quotations from Deuteronomy linking His experience to Israel’s experience in the desert (Matthew 4:4, 7; 10; Deuteronomy 6:13, 16; Deuteronomy 8:3). As Jesus revealed, if we will resist evil and temptation and continually trust and worship God, evil will always flee (Matthew 4:10; see also James 4:7-8). Jesus resisted evil by standing firm on God’s Word, setting an example for His followers (see also Ephesians 4:27; Ephesians 6:11; 1 Peter 5:6-9). Jesus learned that God would provide all He needed (Matthew 4:11).

Jesus’ temptation and suffering revealed His divinity and humanity (Matthew 4:2). In the wilderness, Jesus was tempted and suffered like all humans (Matthew 4:2), and He experienced the same weakness and fears as all humans (e.g., see Isaiah 53:3). However, Jesus never sinned against God (see Hebrews 4:15-16; Hebrews 7:26; 1 John 3:4-5). Thus, Jesus secured all humankind’s salvation and redemption by wholeheartedly obeying God. As the Representative for all who believe and trust in Him, Jesus fulfilled all righteousness on behalf of His people (Matthew 3:15; see also Romans 8:3-4; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus is our sinless Savior (1 Peter 2:22)! Because Jesus has suffered when tempted, He can help those who are being tempted to remain faithful to God (see Hebrews 2:18).

During Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, Jesus was empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16; Matthew 4:1; see also Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 42:1; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38). Followers of Jesus are also to be empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit (see e.g. James 1:2-5; Galatians 5:16-18, 22-23). Jesus defeated evil by using a weapon that everyone has at their disposal: “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17; see also Hebrews 4:12). God’s Word brings life, wisdom, and blessings (see e.g. Deuteronomy 4:5-6; Deuteronomy 30:19-20; Deuteronomy 32:46-47; Luke 11:28; 2 Timothy 3:15-16).

10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. Ephesians 6:10-18 (NLT)

References
New Student Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).
ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Kingsbury, Jack. Matthew As Story (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1988).
Ross, Mark E. Let’s Study Matthew (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009).

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Jesus Is God’s Son



13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.
14 But John tried to deter (prevent) Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness (all God requires).” Then John consented. 16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:13-17 (NIV)

The baptism of Jesus was a significant and necessary event. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that when Jesus presented Himself for baptism, John protested and tried to discourage Jesus from baptism for John knew Jesus was the Coming One and the Lamb of God (Matthew 3:11-14; see also John 1:29-35). Rather, John said that he needed to be baptized by Jesus (Matthew 3:14). Jesus replied to John that His baptism was necessary to fulfill all righteousness that God required (Matthew 3:15). With His baptism, voluntarily identifies Himself with sinful humanity and fulfilled all the righteous demands of the law (e.g. see 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus fulfilled all the righteous requirements of God, and God was well pleased with Him (Matthew 3:17).

Having passed through the baptismal waters, Jesus is revealed as the unique Son of God by the voice from heaven and the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16-17; see also Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 42:1). All three Persons of the Holy Trinity are clearly revealed with Jesus’ life and baptism (Matthew 3:16-17; see also Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9). Jesus’ baptism was not to overcome sin because He was already sinless (see e.g., Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22) but to equip Him for His work as the Messiah-King. The baptism of Jesus inaugurates and empowers His public ministry.

The title “Son of God” is especially important. Matthew has already revealed that Jesus is the Messiah-King of Israel, the Son of Abraham, and God with us (Matthew 1:1, 16, 23; Matthew 2:2; see also Luke 1:68; Luke 7:16). Jesus was conceived by God’s Holy Spirit and therefore, He is God’s unique Son (Matthew 1:18, 20, 23; see also Matthew 3:16-17; Luke 1:35; John 1:18). As the unique Son of God, Jesus is God (Matthew 1:23; see also John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus’ life revealed the righteous life God required – a life wholly devoted to God and love for others (see Matthew 22:34-40). Through our faith and acceptance of Jesus’ righteousness, we are also saved and declared righteous (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:3-4, 9-13) and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live righteously as God requires (see Romans 8:1-4).

To prepare the way for the ministry of Jesus, John the Baptist appears in his appointed role of “forerunner” (Matthew 3:3; Matthew 11:10). As forerunner, John is “Elijah” in the sense and he prepares the way for Jesus’ public ministry (Matthew 11:14; Matthew 17:10-13). The mission of John is to “restore all things” (Matthew 17:11). To accomplish this mission, John proclaims the message of repentance (Matthew 3:1-2). At the heart of this summons, John acknowledges that Israel has lost its way, and Israel needed to turn from evil and place their wholehearted trust and obedience in God (Matthew 3:1-2; see also 1 Kings 18).

With John’s preaching, many people from Jerusalem, all of Judea, and all over the Jordan Valley went out to see and hear Him (Matthew 3:5). Some of the people came to John with sincerity of heart while others came as spectators (Matthew 3:6-7). John urged the people to prove by their daily lives and their good fruit that they have genuinely repented and faithfully turned to God (Matthew 3:3, 8; see also James 2:14-26). In other words, John encouraged the people to think differently and change their conduct for God’s Kingdom has come with Jesus!

References
ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Kingsbury, Jack. Matthew As Story (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1988).
Ross, Mark E. Let’s Study Matthew (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009).