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Jesus gave ten examples to help us understand that the kingdom is a matter of the heart. We will explore the first three here. As with most examples, it should be easier to identify the sayings we can be doing to build stronger houses, and that is a good thing. However, we must remember that Jesus’ focus remains on our hearts, not our performance; the goal is to be made into a kingdom citizen, not to make or justify ourselves.

Guarding Our Tongue

As you might expect, the sayings of Jesus are contrary to the ways of the world. In fact, they serve as a means of inspection: Has our house been weakened and compromised by conformance with the world? With the Holy Spirit’s help, the sayings of Jesus can get us back on the right track – being transformed.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

One of the more subtle and pervasive worldly deceptions can be found in the way Christians use their tongues. What we hear in the world tends to find its way into our vocabulary. In between the hearing and the saying, our minds are at risk of being conformed to the world.

It is time we went on the offensive in this regard. For most of us, there is a lot of conformance that must be undone; and replaced with the image of the glory of the Lord (2Corinthians 3:18). Before considering the following passage, ask the Holy Spirit to use it to renew your mind.

You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.” But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, “Raca!” shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, “You fool!” shall be in danger of hell fire. Matthew 5:21-22

The way we live with our brothers and sisters in Christ – particularly in the way we speak to one another – carries far greater consequence than we believe; for if we believed this passage, we would be truly fearful about the words we throw around at each other. James 3:6 warns that the tongue is a fire. Perhaps we should consider the “hell fire” it can be for those of us that fail to guard it. Read the rest of this entry »

Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16

Just the other day, I discovered – no, I was shown – that there has been a bit of lawlessness hidden away in my mind. I have seen the symptoms of it, but did not know they were connected to something so profoundly evil.

Understand me: I did not know the lawlessness was there until the Holy Spirit revealed it to me. It was small and carefully hidden.

Indeed, the symptoms themselves are minor to look at (i.e., no gross sin). Only those closest to me would have noticed them. In fact, the worst of them – a presumption of what is just and fair – would be accepted by the modern world; perhaps even encouraged and applauded.

But, thank God, I am not of this world.

Once the lawlessness was revealed, I began to understand the true ugliness and danger of it. At its heart was a self-centric perspective. In this case, the determination of justice and fairness were wrapped around my selfish opinions.

It has been a sobering and frightening revelation that these relatively minor symptoms were rooted in lawlessness; for lawlessness leads to deception and to our Godward love growing cold. The lawless are cursed to an eternity of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

That is my confession. Here is my profession of faith. Read the rest of this entry »

Bible with Cross ShadowIn our last article on the sayings of Jesus, we discovered that His “judge not” is the pronouncement of guilt, sentence and punishment for the sin in our brother (or sister). Such judgment is reserved for God. We also learned that this saying does not excuse us from our responsibility to lovingly help our brother identify and remove the sin in His life. In fact, Jesus immediately described the first step in that restoration process.

Here we will learn the process for helping our brother find the grace to live a life without sin, for his benefit and that of the church. As we begin, it is important to recognize a few things:

  1. Identifying and addressing the sin in a brother is not judgment. It is an act of love; that he might not face the judgment of God (1Corinthians 5:1-5; James 5:19-20). Conversely, to ignore or accept sin in a brother is to not love him.
  2. To hold our tongue when God has made us aware of sin, makes us guilty of that sin, and subject to God’s judgment of it (Ezekiel 3:16-21).
  3. The primary meaning of krinō is “to separate, put asunder”. This is very similar to the meaning of sanctify: to cleanse, purify and separate from profane things; and dedicate to God. God’s children are to be instruments of sanctification for the church.

This may come as a surprise to you. You may be experiencing a resistance to it – even a strong one. Be encouraged to prayerfully consider your responsibility to your brother, the church and, most of all, to God. One of the primary reasons for the spiritual weakness of the church in America is our failure in this area.

Also, be encouraged that the Father knew the challenge this would be for His children. He graciously gave us a process for it, beginning with our own sanctification.

And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5

God is intentional and shrewd in His orchestration of our relationships. Very often He puts people in our lives to help us see the sin in ourselves. We would be wise to consider every sin we notice in someone else as a sin God is trying to remove from our own eye. Here’s an interesting thought: The only way to see your eye is in a mirror.

Therefore, once we have noticed a sin in our brother, our first step for his restoration is to ask God to search our hearts; to see if there is any wicked way in us (Psalm 139:23-24). Whatever time it takes, this step must be completed before moving on. Read the rest of this entry »

Bible with Cross ShadowFor if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15

This may be the most direct, easily understood and often taught saying of Jesus. So, why is the church so divided over the trespasses of others? It is tragically ironic that such a saying – and the consequences of not doing it – has had so little response in the church. Perhaps the easy, once saved always saved, gospel has turned this saying of Jesus into an option.

So, let me ask you: What does it mean if the Father does not forgive someone’s trespasses? Will He allow such a person into His presence? Does the blood of Jesus somehow make this saying of Jesus null and void? If so, then we would have to surmise that this saying is only for the lost. That is the only way it would make sense.

No, there is something more going on here. Jesus was speaking to His followers then; and this is for us now. Let’s not be so naive to think that we are free in this area. Let’s not underestimate the consequences.

Whatever your opinion on the conditions for salvation, certainly we can agree that the consequences of even one unforgiven trespass will be tragic. Perhaps we should take some time for a heart examination.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24

Humbly yours and forever His,

Bible with Cross ShadowTherefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. Matthew 5:23-26

This saying is about as straight forward as they come: If anyone, brother or adversary, has something against you, do all in your power to be reconciled with them. In the kingdom, alienation invalidates our offering to God (see Romans 12:2). In the world, it simply does not end well for us; nor for those who depend on us. If we have wronged an adversary, the challenge will likely be in the area of our trust in God to protect us as we pursue reconciliation in the way Jesus has instructed.

As threatening as an adversarial situation may seem, we should be most careful about this with our brothers and sisters in Christ; for the consequences are much greater. Where those in the world are less likely to let something go, those in our fellowship are apt to forgive and move on. Their forgiveness does not mitigate the requirement for our initiating reconciliation with them; nor does it reduce the consequence for our failing to do so.

The beginning point in both of these situations is the same: Commitment to do the sayings of Jesus, in faith and obedience. This is the solid foundation that will ensure the stability and strength of our house in the storm.

Humbly yours and forever His,

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