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Posts tagged ‘Sadducees’

Spirit and Truth, Right Brain and Left Brain.


Michael Brown
Michael Brown

The more I interact with my cessationist brothers and sisters, the more I see that in many ways, we are passing each other like ships in the night, and it has nothing to do with one side being committed to the Lord and the other not.

Instead, it seems as if we sometimes have fundamentally different ways of looking at the same things—fundamentally different perspectives and, in a sense, fundamentally different “spiritual personalities.”

How can we better understand each other, learn from each other and serve together to glorify Jesus and touch a dying world? I take an entire chapter in my just-released Authentic Fire book to address this very question.

Now, to be perfectly clear, I am absolutely convinced that the Scriptures testify clearly to the ongoing nature of the gifts of the Spirit. In fact, the longest chapter in Authentic Fire is devoted to studying that issue in depth.

At the same time, it is clear to me that both charismatics and cessationists have unique contributions to make to the church and to the world and that there are personality traits unique to each camp.

With this in mind, I propose that we take a few minutes and make a real attempt to understand each other better, putting aside our theological differences and focusing instead on our “spiritual personalities.”

Now, there is no question that one person’s strength is often another person’s weakness, and vice versa. Some people are totally analytical, others totally intuitive. Some people love to confront; others love to comfort. Some are didactic teachers, others motivational leaders. Some people are born to invent, others to research and record patents for inventions; some are born to lead armies, others to care for the elderly—and you had better believe these respective giftings are quite different.

It’s the same thing in terms of our spiritual personalities, and the better we understand each other, the better we can be of help to one another. As Paul wrote in Romans 12, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (Rom 12:4-6, ESV).

One believer is circumspect and sober but can tend toward skepticism; another believer is willing to step out in faith but can tend toward gullibility. Each one needs the other.

Consider the words of Jesus in John 4:24, where He said that “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit [or Spirit] and truth.”

Obviously, there is total harmony between spirit (or Spirit) and truth, and it is not a matter of either-or but of both-and. At the same time, Jesus is describing two elements here, spirit (or Spirit) and truth, and on a certain level (and I’m simply using this text here to make a point rather than claiming that this was what Jesus meant), charismatics, who are people of the Spirit, can put more emphasis on spirit/Spirit, whereas cessationists, who are people of the truth, can put more emphasis on truth. Both are equally essential.

Consider also the Lord’s rebuke of the Sadducees in Matthew 22:29: “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (NIV). Knowing both God’s Word and God’s power are essential for spiritual soundness and fruitful ministry. Knowing one without the other leads to errors and extremes. Knowing neither is fatal. Jesus emphasized the importance of both.

But it is possible (and all too common) for believers to be so heavily into the Word (in terms of studying the Bible and learning the original languages and getting into proper exegesis and theology) that they lose the vibrancy of their fellowship with the Lord and lack greatly in the empowering of His Spirit (although this ought not be the case, since both biblical study and spiritual passion should go hand in hand).

On the flip side, it is possible (and all too common) for believers to be so heavily into the things of the Spirit (in terms of wanting to see God’s power touch a dying world and cultivating worship and intimacy with God) that they become sloppy in their study of Scripture and doctrinal foundations (although, again, this ought not be the case).

I know that my Scripture-expositing, cessationist brethren sometimes listen aghast to the charismaticeisegetics of some TV preachers, while our Spirit-filled, charismatic brethren look aghast at the power-depleted ministries of some cessationist colleagues.

Why not have both the accurate Word and the power of the Spirit? And can you really have an accurate understanding of the Word without acknowledging the Spirit’s power for our day? And can you really walk in the fullness of the Spirit without being grounded in the Word?

The truth is, as much as there is some “charismatic chaos,” there is also some “Baptist boredom.” One group sometimes falls into fanaticism, the other group into formalism, and both are equally wrong and dangerous (although each group sees the other’s weaknesses as being far more dangerous, tending to exaggerate them as well because they seem so foreign).

Wouldn’t it be great if, through learning from each other and listening to each other, we could produce fire and faithfulness, power and precision, energetic worship and exegetical wisdom? After all, aren’t we commanded to love God with all our heart and all our mind and all our soul and all our strength?

Just think of what happens when there is holy cross-pollination! To the extent that we have both Word and power, truth and Spirit operating in our lives, it will be life-giving for us and helpful for others.

(Excerpted and adapted from Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, where I give practical examples of how this works out in our daily lives in the Lord.)

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

MICHAEL BROWN

Michael Brown is author of Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or at @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.

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10 Characteristics of a Religious Spirit.


 

Here are a few practical characteristics of religious spirits and how they can be recognized.

1. Religious spirits have no authority in Jesus ChristJesus hated religious spirits. Jesus was not a religious person, and He did things that shook the religious kingdoms of the earth. Acts 19:13–16 tells the story of seven sons of a man named Sceva. They were referred to as “vagabond Jews and exorcists.” In other words, they were religious. The story reveals that they had no power over unclean spirits.

2. Religion steals the youthful joy of young people in serving Jesus; it makes the elders become demonically old. In Matthew 19:14, Jesus forbid His disciples from stopping the little children from coming to Him. I do not believe in an age of spiritual accountability. Everything that has breath must praise and serve the Lord (Ps. 150:6). Children must be raised up in the things of God so that they will not depart.

The Bible only has one account whereby a prophet is called “old.” In the Book of 1 Kings, a man from Judah prophesied against the altar at Bethel. The king ordered that the man from Judah be seized. The king’s arm froze as he pointed to the prophet from Judah, and the king could not pull his arm back to himself. The king asked the man from Judah to pray that his arm would be healed.

He prayed, and the king was healed. Rumors of the authority of the prophet from Judah spread, and he was summoned by an “old prophet.” This prophet was not necessarily old in age but actually washed up. He was spiritually or demonically old! (See 1 Kings 13.)

3. Religion is an anti-evangelism spirit. Matthew 23:15 warns the religious sects of the church that they lose more souls than they win. Their converts become doubly as hellish as them.

4. Religion is antichrist. Religious people (the Pharisees and the Sadducees) killed Jesus.

5. Religious people have no joy and, ultimately, no power! Nehemiah 8:10 declared that the joy of the Lord is our strength. It denotes that the person who lives in the dwelling place of the Lord (the place of joy—in the presence of the Lord there is fullness of joy) is reinforced with power.

6. Religious spirits breed bondage and condemnation and block true liberty. (See Galatians 5:1; Romans 8:1.)

7. Religion creates a form of godliness through regimen and repetition. Second Timothy 3:5 warns us to avoid people with forms of godliness.

8. Religion corrupts and perverts. It promotes an unrealistic standard that cannot be obtained because of the dictates of the flesh. This is why true worshipers worship in spirit and in truth. The law was a schoolmaster that taught us that in and of our fleshly natures, we cannot obey the commandments of God. This is why we were given a new (and better) covenant. The laws of God are now written in our hearts and not on tablets of stone. Trying to live by the dictates of the tablets of stone alone only opens the doors to corruption and perversion through religious spirits of failure. This is why perversion and corruption are multiplied when men attempt to serve God by their own power and by their guidelines. (See Hebrews 8:7–13.)

9. Religion stems from the root of spiritual schizophrenia. One minute the people blessed the name of the Lord and cried, “Hosanna to the Highest!” In another breath they yelled, “Crucify Him!”

10. Religion hinders positive relationships by putting a bad taste in the mouths of unbelievers, taking the fire out of marriages, stopping the flow of God in worship fellowships, and making children hate serving God.

To sum it all up, judgment will start at the house of God. Remember, it was religious spirits that nailed Jesus to the cross. Let us not religiously or repetitively serve God. We must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Selah!

By KIMBERLY DANIELS

A sought-after conference speaker, preacher and powerful prayer warrior, Kimberly Daniels pastors Spoken Word Ministries in Jacksonville, Fla., and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with her husband, Ardell. She is a recently elected city councilwoman in Jacksonville as well as the author of numerous books, including her book, Spiritual Housekeeping (Charisma House), from which this article is adapted.

Did the Crucifixion Take God by Surprise?.


The phrase “God has a plan” has become something of a cliché—with a negative connotation for many people. But in the circumstances leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, the Gospel accounts provide confirmation that God does indeed have all things well in hand.

Far from being surprised or swept along, Jesus carefully orchestrated the events of the Passion Week (His last week on earth). This doesn’t mean He manipulated those responsible for sending Him to the cross; rather, He brought out their seething hatred and true responses to His teaching.

According to Acts 2:23, the crucifixion progressed according God’s prior intent, and the Passion Week allows us a glimpse at just how this happened. With His arrival during the Triumphal Entry, Jesus came as the promised Messiah at exactly the right moment in history (see Daniel 9). The common people welcomed Him with Messianic shouts of “Hossana,” something completely intolerable to the Pharisees. However, the elite Sadducees enjoyed control of the Sanhedrin (the religious council), and even this type of welcome did not move them.

So, Jesus took His message to them. On Monday, He cleansed the Temple of moneychangers for the second time during His ministry and then staked His rightful claim to His Father’s House. In fact, He wouldn’t even permit merchandise to be carried through the Temple (Mark 11:16). The Sadduceesdid notice someone invading what they considered to be their turf.

Thanks to the superficial favor of the crowd, Jesus kept the leaders of Israel at bay for several days until the time appointed by God. And even then, those same leaders still feared the crowd’s response enough to conduct a nighttime trial and to take Him to the Romans for death by crucifixion rather than by stoning, just as the Old Testament had shown.

The wickedness of humanity put Jesus on the cross, but none of the events took Him by surprise. He had warned His disciples when, where, and how His death would come because God had planned it before the earth had form.

Adapted from the lecture notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition atShepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).

Dr. Doug Bookman

Push Bad Teaching Out of Your Brain.


Man headache
(© Ffloarea | Stock Free Images )

My mother’s cakes and pies were so delicious that, in her younger days, friends urged her to open her own dessert shop. Unfortunately, Mom didn’t have any daughters—only four boys—but she still recruited us to roll out the dough, faces covered in flour.

She would put the dough half way up the side of the pans, pop them in the oven, and then we’d watch the cakes and breads rise as their mouthwatering aromas wafted through the house.

The yeast that made Mom’s bread rise is the same yeast that Jesus had in mind when he warned the disciples to guard themselves against the teaching (didache) of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Jesus said, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6).

The Pharisees were like the legalists of today; the Sadducees like the cultural Christians of today.

Yeast, which means “bubble, boil, foam,” is a fungus that, when worked into bread, converts fermentable sugars in the dough into carbon dioxide bubbles that form into gas pockets.

Here’s the problem: Bad teaching is like “a little yeast that works its way through the whole batch of dough” (Galatians 5:9). The problem is that it gets stuck in our brains, like the gas pockets from yeast. That’s why Jesus warned his disciples, then and now, that we need to guard against the yeast—like influence of any teaching, however microscopic, that distorts the gospel of Jesus.

Two Approaches, One Gospel

Charles Finney and Dwight L. Moody were two of the greatest evangelists and revivalists in American history, but their approaches could not have been more different.

Finney’s eyes could bore a hole through any veneer of self-sufficiency or pride. He preached sin and repentance. In his own words, “My object was to bring them to renounce themselves and their all, and give themselves and all they possess to Christ.” An estimated 500,000 people were converted by his preaching, when America’s total population was only 23,000,000. That would be like 6,500,000 converts today.

Finney, a stern, sobering figure, said, “It is of great importance that the sinner should be made to feel his guilt, and not left to the impression that he is unfortunate. I think this is a very prevailing fault, particularly with printed books on the subject. They are calculated to make the sinner think more of his sorrows than of his sins, and feel that his state is rather unfortunate than criminal.”

Finney was all about the sin of it!

D. L. Moody, no doubt influenced by Finney, started his career with much the same approach. During his first trip to England, he met a young preacher, Henry Moorhouse, who came to Chicago and preached in Moody’s church while Moody was away on business.

When he returned home, Moody asked his wife how the young Englishman got along.

“They liked him very much,” she said, and then Moody wanted to know, “Well, did you like him?”

“Yes, very much, although he preaches a little differently from you.”

“How is that?” asked Moody.

“Well,” said his wife, “he tells the worst of sinners that God loves them.”

“Then he is wrong,” said Moody.

At that, his wife simply said she thought Moody would approve when he heard for himself. And that he did. That night the church was packed, everyone brought their Bibles, and Moorhouse went through the Bible proving God’s love.

Moody said, “I never knew up to that time that God loved us so much. This heart of mine began to thaw out; I could not keep back the tears. It was like news from a far country: I just drank it in… I used to preach that God was behind the sinner with a double-edged sword ready to hew him down. I have got done with that. I preach now that God is behind him with love, and he is running away from the God of love.”3

Moody’s career saw hundreds of thousands of converts, and millions more inspired in their walks with God.

So which is it? Are you a desperate sinner who needs to repent, dangling by a slender thread over the fires of hell? Or are you a much loved child running away from the love of Father who delights in you?

On a plain reading of the Bible, there is no doubt that both are true. And virtually every distortion of the “good news of the kingdom of God” is a corruption of the “both/and” of these two great ideas: sin and grace.

The Legalistic Approach

In my ministry, I regularly meet people crippled by legalistic upbringing. The “tells” are always the same. They’ve been pounded about sin, shamed for not obeying “the rules,” guilted for not performing, been made to feel they are an embarrassment to God, and convinced, “I am not worthy.”

It’s bad teaching, much like the yeast of the Pharisees–the legalists of their day.

The error is: Sin without grace = legalism.

The Licentious Approach

I also regularly meet people crippled by licentious upbringing. The “tells” are just as revealing. They’ve been taught the universal Fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man—that man is basically good, life is a raw deal, “You’re really a good person,” and you “deserve” better.

This too is bad teaching, like the yeast of the Sadducees—the licentious of their day.

The error is: Grace without sin = license.

The Grace-Based Approach

The only really happy Christians I meet are the ones 1) convinced and “feel” that God delights in them and, 2) keenly aware that their hearts are, as Jeremiah said, “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).

This is good teaching: God’s grace for man’s sin.

The principle is: Grace for sin = liberty

So there you have it: legalism, license, and liberty.

What Does This Mean to You?

First, you will suffer if you buy into even a microscopic change to the teachings of Jesus. Guard yourself against the “yeast-like” influence of any teaching that distorts God’s love or man’s sin. Any teaching that short-shifts God’s amazing love is a “legalistic” corruption of the gospel, and will grind people down. Any teaching that leaves out sin will lead to the “licentiousness” that turns them into the lukewarm Christians that grieve Jesus.

You may be more wired to start with sin. Your approach might be characterized as, “Sin that needs grace.” I get that—we need to repent. That works, but if that’s you, be careful to always make the transition from sin to the solution—God’s love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Moody was right about the power of God’s love to draw us in.

You may be more wired to start with grace. Your approach might be characterized as, “Grace for sin.” That works too, and if that’s you, be careful not to make light of sin. Finney was right. We do need to help people understand that the problem the gospel solves is not merely that they are unfortunate, but sinners who need a Savior. That goes for long time Christians too. Everyday we need to humbly repent and renew ourselves in surrender to the Lordship of Jesus.

Second, if you have been “yeasted,” find a church that preaches the “whole” gospel. And if you are prone to self-deprecation, consider a church more wired to start with God’s love. But if you are prone to self-aggrandizement, consider a church more wired to start with man’s sin.

Third, protect yourself by knowing what keeps you in right relationship with God and right relationship with others—whether church, small groups, private mediations, or lunch with a friend.

Protect yourself from the yeast of bad teaching. Don’t let it get stuck in your brain. Guard against any teaching that distorts the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Pat Morley is the Founder and CEO of Man in the Mirror. After building one of Florida’s 100 largest privately held companies, in 1991, he founded Man in the Mirror, a non-profit organization to help men find meaning and purpose in life. Dr. Morley is the bestselling author of The Man in the MirrorNo Man Left BehindDad in the Mirror, and A Man’s Guide to the Spiritual Disciplines.

Source: CHARISMA Magazine/ NEW MAN.

Patrick Morley/Man in the Mirror

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself, Part 1.


Matthew 22:34–40

But when the Pharisees heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they gathered themselves together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

The Incredible Context of This Commandment

My main concern in this text is the commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But it is surrounded by such stupendous statements we would be foolhardy to plunge into it without pondering these surroundings. So it is going to take us two weeks at least to deal with this text.

The Great and Foremost Commandment

The two stupendous things I have in mind are, first, the greatest commandment in the Word of God. In verse 36 a Pharisee asks Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus answers by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5,

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.

Then he adds his own words to put the commandment even higher than the question required. The question was, “Which is the great commandment?” and Jesus says, “This is the great and foremost commandment.”

So the first stupendous thing surrounding the commandment to love your neighbor as you love yourself is the commandment to love God as the greatest and foremost thing that is in the entire Word of God. The greatest and most important thing you can do is love God—love GOD—with all your heart and soul and mind.

On These Two Depend the Whole Law and the Prophets

The other stupendous thing surrounding the command to love your neighbor as you love yourself is what follows in verse 40,

On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.

Everything else in the Old Testament in some sense depends on these two commandments: the commandment to love God and the commandment to love our neighbor. This is an amazing statement. We have the authority of the Son of God here telling us something utterly stupendous about the origin and design of the entire plan and Word of God.

The Overwhelming Commandment to Neighbor Love

Now those are the two stupendous things we need to ponder before we dive into the overwhelming commandment to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. I say it is overwhelming because it seems to demand that I tear the skin off my body and wrap it around another person so that I feel that I am that other person; and all the longings that I have for my own safety and health and success and happiness I now feel for that other person as though he were me.

It is an absolutely staggering commandment. If this is what it means, then something unbelievably powerful and earthshaking and reconstructing and overturning and upending will have to happen in our souls. Something supernatural. Something well beyond what self-preserving, self-enhancing, self-exalting, self-esteeming, self-advancing human beings like John Piper can do on their own.

Before we take up such a commandment and apply it to our lives, we need to ponder these two stupendous things that surround the commandment. That the commandment to love God is the great and foremost commandment in the Word of God and that all the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.

The Whole Law and the Prophets

Let’s start with verse 40. “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

He Didn’t Have to Say This

First, consider the sheer fact that Jesus said this. He didn’t have to say it. The Pharisee didn’t ask this. Jesus went beyond what he asked and said more. He seems to want to push the importance and centrality of these commandments as much as he can. He has said that the commandment to love God is great and foremost. He has said the commandment to love your neighbor as you love yourself is “like it.” Verse 39: “The second is like it . . . ” That’s enough to raise the stakes here almost as high as they can be raised. We have the greatest commandment in all the revelation of God to humanity (Love God); and we have the second greatest, which is like the greatest (Love your neighbor).

But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He wants us to be stunned at how important these two commandments are. He wants us to stop and wonder. He wants us to spend more than a passing moment on these things. More than a week or two of preaching. So he adds, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” They are 1) the first and the greatest, and 2) the second that is like the first and the greatest. But they are also the two commandments on which everything else in the Bible depends. “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

Now what does this mean? Let me see if I can open a window into heaven by contrasting what Jesus says here (in v. 40) with what he says in Matthew 7:12 and what Paul says in Romans 13. Turn with me to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:12. This verse is better known as the Golden Rule. It is, I think, a good commentary on “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Matthew 7:12: This Is the Law and the Prophets

Jesus has just said that God will give us good things if we ask and seek and knock, because he is a loving Father. Then in Matthew 7:12 he says,

Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Notice that again Jesus refers to the Law and the Prophets like he did in Matthew 22:40. He says, if you do to others what you would have them do to you, then “this is the Law and the Prophets.” InMatthew 22:40 he said, “On these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets.”

Take notice here that the first commandment is not mentioned in Matthew 7:12. Loving God with all your heart is not mentioned. Treating others the way we would like to be treated, he says, “is the Law and the Prophets.”

We must be careful here. Some people over the centuries have tried to take sentences like the Golden Rule and say that Jesus was mainly a profound teacher of human ethics; and that what he taught is not dependent on God or any relationship with God. They say, “See, he can sum up the whole Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets, in practical human relationships: the Golden Rule.”

I say we must be careful here, because thinking like that not only ignores the great things Jesus said about God elsewhere and the amazing things he said about himself coming from God to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45); it also ignores the immediate context. Verse 12 begins with “therefore” (dropped in the NIV):

Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them.

What this shows is that the Golden Rule depends on what went before—on our relationship to God as our Father who loves us and answers our prayers and gives us good things when we ask him (Matthew 7:9–11). In fact this is a very profound key to how we are able to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. So God is here upholding the Golden Rule by his fatherly provision. His love for us and our trusting, prayerful love back to him is the source of power for living the Golden Rule. So you can’t turn Jesus into a mere teacher of ethics.

But still, Jesus does say that treating others as you want to be treated “is the law and the prophets.” He does not say that loving God “is the Law and the Prophets.” Why does he say it in this way? I think what he means is that when you see people love like that (fulfill the Golden Rule), what you are seeing is the visible expression of the Law and the Prophets. This behavior among people manifests openly and publicly and practically what the Old Testament is about. It fulfills the Law and the Prophets. Loving God is invisible. It is an internal passion of the soul. But it comes to expression when you love others.

So loving others is the outward manifestation, the visible expression, the practical demonstration, and therefore the fulfillment of what the Old Testament is about. So there is a sense in which the second commandment (to love your neighbor) is the visible goal of the whole Word of God. It’s not as though loving God is not here, or that loving God is less important; rather loving God is made visible and manifest and full in our visibly, practically, sacrificially loving others. I think that is why the second commandment stands by itself when the New Testament says that love fulfills the law.

Romans 13:8–10: Love of Neighbor Fulfills the Law

Let’s look at one other text that points in this direction.

Look at Romans 13:8–10.

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 For this, ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.

Two times (vv. 8, 10) Paul says that the command to love our neighbor is the “fulfillment of the law.” This is what Jesus meant when he said (in Matthew 7:12) that treating others as you would like to be treated “is the law and the prophets.” And, just as in Matthew 7:12, Paul doesn’t say that the law is fulfilled in loving God and loving neighbors. He only says that if you love your neighbor, you fill up the law. I think this means the same as Matthew 7:12, Loving our neighbor as we love ourselves is the visible expression and manifestation and practical completion and fulfillment of all that the Old Testament was about, including love for God. Love for God comes to visible manifestation when we love others. Or you could say, our love for God is “fulfilled” when we love others.

We know Paul saw this practical love as utterly dependent on our relationship to God. In Romans 8:3–4 he says,

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh [= self reliance], but according to the Spirit [= God-reliance].

In other words, fulfilling the law—loving our neighbor as we love ourselves—is not something we can do on our own. We do it by the Holy Spirit. And we saw last week that Paul teaches God supplies the Spirit to us through faith.

So it’s the same as in Matthew 7:12. When Jesus and Paul say that loving our neighbor as we love ourselves is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, they don’t exclude our love for God and his love for us; they assume it.

Matthew 22:3740: On These Two Hang . . .

But let’s go back to our text in Matthew 22:37–40. Here Jesus DOES mention both love for God and love for neighbor; and he explicitly says (in v. 40), “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Why? I want to suggest that he is saying something different here than in those other texts (Matthew 7:12Romans 13:810). Here he does not say that these two commandments “fulfill” the Law and the Prophets, or that they “are” the Law and the Prophets. He says that the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments. Verse 40:

On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.

Now this is a window into heaven, if you have eyes to see. When he says here that the Law and the Prophets depend (literally: “hang,” like a stone around the neck, or a snake on the hand, or a man on a cross) on love, this is the reverse of what those other texts were saying. They were saying that the Law and Prophets lead to and find expression and fulfillment in love. But here inMatthew 22:40 Jesus is saying the reverse: love leads to and finds expression in the Law and the Prophets. The Law and the Prophets are hanging on—depending on—something before them, namely, God’s passion that this world, this history of humankind, be a world of love to God and radical, other-oriented love to each other.

Illustration

Let me see if I can put this in a picture, so that you can see it more plainly. It is so important, if we are going to grasp the magnitude of the significance of love in our midst, as we move forward into the practical expressions of it in our preaching and in our life together at Bethlehem.

Let’s picture the inspired history of redemption from creation to consummation as a scroll like the one John saw in Revelation 5. This is the Law and the Prophets (and the New Testament). The story of God’s acts and purposes in history are told in this scroll, along with God’s commandments and promises. Matthew 7:12 and Romans 13:8–10 tell us that, when the people of God love their neighbor as they love themselves, the purpose of this scroll is being fulfilled. Its aim is being expressed visibly, manifested practically so “that people can see our good deeds and give glory to our Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). So the scroll is leading to love. Love is flowing from the scroll.

But then Jesus gives us an incredible perspective. He lifts us out of history and out of the world for a moment and shows us the scroll from a distance. Now we can see it whole—the Law and the Prophets, the Old Testament, the story of redemption, the purposes and acts of God in history. And what we see is that the scroll is hanging by two golden chains, one fastened to each end of the scroll handles. And Jesus lifts our eyes to heaven, and we see the chains run up and disappear into heaven.

Then he takes us up to heaven. And he shows us the ends of the chains. They are fastened to the throne of God. One chain is fastened to the right arm of the throne where the words are inscribed: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind.” And the other chain is fastened to the left arm of the throne where the words are inscribed, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

And Jesus turns to us and says, “The whole scroll, the whole Law and the Prophets, the whole history of redemption and all my Father’s plans and acts hang on these two great sovereign purposes of God—that he be loved by his people, and that his people love each other.”

I believe it would not be too much to say that all of creation, all of redemption, all of history hang on these two great purposes—that humans love God with all our heart, and that from the overflow of that love we love each other.

Which means that love is the origin (Matthew 22:40) and the goal (Romans 13:810) of the Law and the Prophets. It is the beginning and the end of why God inspired the Bible. It’s the fountainhead and spring at the one end, and the shoreless ocean at the other end of the river of redemptive history—remembered and promised in the Word of God.

God’s Word to Us This Morning 

God’s word for us this morning is that we take with tremendous seriousness this season of dealing with love at Bethlehem. That we let this picture stun us and remake our priorities. That we get alone with him and deal with him about these things. That we not assume that we fully know what love is or that it has the proper centrality in our lives. He is saying: All of Scripture, all of his plans for history, hang—HANG—on these two great purposes: that he be loved with all our heart, and that we love each other as we love ourselves.

    • By John Piper /Desiring God

Ingratitude Brings Spiritual Blindness.


But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 2 Peter 1:9

The failure of the nation of Israel to be grateful is the underlying explanation for their missing the promised Messiah when He came. You could never have convinced the ancient scholars in Israel that Messiah—a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15)—could turn up and not be recognized by them.

The problem with both the Pharisees and Sadducees in Jesus‘ day was that they were arrogantly confident each would be the first to know it when that promised anointed One came.

But when He came—right under their noses—they missed Him entirely. They thought their judgment against Jesus was due to their brilliant minds, but that wasn’t it. It was because they were blinded by the God to whom they had not given thanks.

Sadly, Israel had a long history of being ungrateful. And that ingratitude ultimately resulted in their being struck blind. Saul of Tarsus, a remarkable exception, said so:

God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day. —Romans 11:8

The judgment of blindness upon Israel can be traced to their failure to be thankful.

If it is said that the people in ancient Israel dutifully maintained the sacrificial system, it has to be said also that they missed the point. In much the same way people can go to church in a self-righteous and dutiful manner and suppose they are worshiping God.

The final consequence of Israel’s failure to remember was that they missed the greatest promise ever given. The penalty for ingratitude is incalculable. This is true for an individual, the church, and any nation.

Excerpted from Just Say Thanks! (Charisma House, 2005).

By R. T. KENDALL.

What If Jesus Disagreed with Your Theology?.


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“I am not saying my theology is 100% right, I’m just saying I don’t know where I am wrong!”

I have heard this statement repeated many times. Each time the implication is: if we knew where we were wrong then we would change.

Without doubting their sincerity I often wonder how open to theological correction we really are? I find it interesting and instructive that as the Lord Jesus walked and talked among people he was regularly challenging people’s theological conclusions. This type of doctrinal and practical pushback was not well-received. In fact, you could say that Jesus was rejected and ultimately crucified because of inflexible theological conclusions.

In the gospel of Mark, chapter 12, we read of this type of session. In fact it was a prolonged session of  Bible Q & A with Jesus.  At this point it should have been obvious to anyone with a pulse that you don’t get into a Bible Trivia match with the Son of God. At any rate they persist. Question after question comes. And graciously, answer after answer follows.

In one exchange we read of the Sadducees making up a scenario of a woman whose first husband dies and then she marries his brother. This story repeats itself until she has successfully married and buried all seven of the brothers. The question then comes down to whose wife she will be in the resurrection.

The side-story of course is that the Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection from the dead. Their questioning betrays any pretense for learning while they disclose their true motive to paint Jesus as a fool.

The ever-articulate and everlasting champion at Bible trivia answers them with precision leaving little doubt as to the heart of the issue:

Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.” (Mark 12:24-27)

The answer that Jesus gives shows that their theological blind-spot was due to insufficient knowledge, understanding, and application of biblical truth. Jesus puts his sovereign finger in their chest and says, “You are quite wrong” (v.27).

We know how they and others took such unvarnished truth-telling; they foamed with anger plotted for his destruction (Mark 3:7).

While we cannot prevent the fact that we are and will be wrong on occasion, we can work to prevent the wrong responses. Here are some basic guidelines for being open to theological examination.

1.  Realize that you do not know everything. This is as easily agreed with as it is forgotten. Too many times we find ourselves postulating to defend our perceived omniscience rather than overcome our fallen understanding.

2.  Remember that God uses the Scriptures to confront and grow you. This is the point of 2 Tim. 3:16-17, the Scriptures must confront us in our sin and conform us into Christlikeness.

3.  Prioritize prayer and confession before reading and studying the Word. In James 1:20-21 we are reminded of this priority of examining our hearts for sin, repenting of it, and then receiving the Scriptures.

4.  Resist the urge to score points. On occasion I have found myself caught up in theological debate and caring very little about the conquest of the truth and instead I was about the conquest of Erik. Our burden must be for all men (ourselves included) to be complete in Christ (Col. 1:29).

5.  Remember that God uses people for your growth. When you upload all of the passages in the NT that remind us of our need for one another (Heb. 3:13) it becomes foolish to try to shut people down when they may be on an errand to serve you.

6.  Don’t try to be too cute. I think this was what the Saduccees were about. Remember what and who we are talking about.

7.  Don’t argue with Jesus. This goes without saying, but it happens.

8.  Remember to be thankful for what you do know. There is not one single ounce of biblical knowledge, understanding or true lasting joy that does not come from the hands of sovereign benevolent grace. Therefore, we are to be thankful and not prideful for anything that we truly know.

May God grant hunger to learn and humility in learning.

By Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is pastor at Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Nebraska. He and his wife, Christie, have six children. You can follow Erik on Twitter @erikraymond and read his blog at OrdinaryPastor.com .

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