Category Archives: New Testament

Knowing God without being religious.

Religion does not satisfy the longing of the soul because it does not answer the basic questions of the innermost being. Religious people all over the world are entangled in rituals and ceremonies to get a good report from a god whom they really don’t know. They know God is for real but they do not know Him personally. A lot of people trust their imaginations, while many are satisfied with the myths and legends handed down to them traditionally. In such cases you do not have any historical records or evidences to back you up. 

But for a Christian it is entirely different. His faith is based on the written Word of God, the Bible. The Bible is not a collection of mythological stories. It has been a proven historical document. It gives us a clear understanding of who God is and how we can relate to Him. It tells us that we can fathom God’s person not more than what He desires to reveal to us. So we read thus in the letter to Colossians:

 “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”‭‭.    (Colossians‬ ‭1:15-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬)‬ 

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Danger of Hypocrisy

 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. (Mt.23:1-22)

Beware of the Pharisaical attitude because it will invite God’s wrath up on us. Jesus pronounced condemnation on the Pharisees because they were hypocrites and they displayed a false piety. The religious are often politically motivated.

Characteristics of Hypocrites
The word ‘hypocrite’ comes from the term that referred to a stage player in a drama or theater. It meant ‘pretender’ or ‘actor’. People playing the role of someone else or acting like someone they really are not. It may be an art but it is falsehood and pure lie. Jesus’ contention about the religious ones was that:
-They preach but do not practice
-They burden others but never even try to carry it themselves
-They do everything to get people’s praise (v. 5)
-They desire greatness, power, titles and position (Mt. 23:6-12)

Not to follow their example
Hypocrisy is dangerous and attracts God’s judgment because it hinders other people from entering the kingdom of heaven. Jesus warned His followers about following the Pharisees’ example.

1. They hinder others from entering the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 23:13)
By the way they live, disregarding the Word of God, they themselves may not enter the kingdom of God. More serious than that is the issue of not letting others in. They become stumbling blocks to others. Remember, Jesus warned such people saying it is better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied to their neck (Mt. 18:6). They are like the dog in the manger. The dog will not eat the hay and neither will it let the cattle eat it.

2. They convert people but make them worthy of hell (Mt. 23:15)
They introduce others into their sect and confuse them with their philosophy of life and thus make them double hell-worthy.
our ministry is not as important as our life. God is more concerned about our life in Him than our service for Him. Being is above doing in God’s economy.

3. They overturn priorities and misguide others (Mt. 23:16-22)
Religious people do their religion to suit their convenience and to their benefit. Faith is not to satisfy ourselves or to please others, but to please God. Shuffling priorities to suit our convenience in the things of God is disastrous. They will be majoring on the minors and neglecting the non-negotiables. Many churches over emphasize the negligible issues and neglect the crucial. This deviation is prompted by the enemy of God’s kingdom.

We are to shun hypocrisy for it will make us stumbling blocks to people and bring us to judgment.

Interpersonal relationships

 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Mt. 18: 15-20)

Jesus taught the importance of unity of mind and Spirit in experiencing the power and the presence of God. He told the disciples how to handle interpersonal conflicts within the congregation. If someone hurts you or offends you, you must go to the offending brother privately and tell him his mistake. If he does not listen, then have one or two responsible brethren come along with you to talk to him again. If he still does not care, bring the issue before the congregation. If he refuses to listen to the church and correct himself he must be excommunicated.

Church discipline
This sounds harsh but that is the principle on which the church should settle interpersonal issues. Christians must be willing to forgive as the Lord forgave but sin should not be condoned for any reason. This is how the church should maintain Christian discipline.
To the people outside you may just forgive and not strive to correct them as you do with your own brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. In 1Cor. 5:9-11 Apostle Paul admonishes the believers not to associate with a Christian brother who lives in sin.

Power of two in agreement
When the body of Christ is in the unity of the Spirit it has the power to do things in the authority of its Head, Jesus Christ.

Power of God is released
Even just two people with the oneness of mind and Spirit ask God for something it will be done.

Presence of Christ is promised
Because when two or more are coming together in the name of Jesus Christ He will be there with them.

Dare not be stumbling blocks!

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 18:1-14)

Principle of Humility
The principles of God’s kingdom are radically different from all of the worldly principles. People of the world are so pre-occupied with the thought of being great and powerful. Everyone wants to be great or close to the one who is great. However, the values of the Kingdom of God are diametrically opposite to this. Humility is the mark of greatness in God’s economy. Those who volunteer to be humble in the presence of God and in the midst of people will rank better in heaven.

Strength in Weakness
It is the simple principle of allowing God to have His way in your life. Let God direct your entire being. Let the power of God be demonstrated in and through you as you walk in total submission to His will. As apostle Paul says, when we are weak God’s power is revealed in us. In other words, unless we acknowledge our weakness and helplessness in working for His kingdom, His power will not be available to us. When His power comes to our aid we will do great things for Him.

Key to the Kingdom
Jesus made it clear to His disciples that one needs child like humility to accept His offer of salvation which depends purely on His merit and not on the merits of the recipient. It requires humility to accept one’s sinful, lost condition and his/her need for the Savior.

Causing others to stumble
Jesus warned those who mislead innocent people or cause others to sin with serious consequence. They will be inviting God’s wrath up on themselves. We should literally get rid of things in our lives that may cause others to stumble and sin.

God’s love for the erring child
Every child is precious to the Father. When one sins and grieves Him, the Father seeks to restore that one. There is greater joy in the family at the return of a wayward child. God desires that no one should be lost

Power of Faith in Jesus

 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. (Mt. 17: 14-27)

A man brought his epileptic son to Jesus’ disciples and requested them to deliver him. The disciples could not. Then the man fell on his knees before Jesus and pleaded for mercy up on the child. He chided the faithlessness of the disciples and healed the boy by rebuking the demonic spirit that was oppressing the boy.

It moves mountains for you
When the disciples asked why they could not cast it out, Jesus told them it was due to their lack of faith or weaker faith. If their faith was as solid as a tiny mustard seed they could move any obstacle from their way and nothing would be impossible for them.

Jesus was disturbed at the fact that they behaved as if He was going to be with them for a long time, overpower the Romans and establish the kingdom God had promised. This was a bunch of slow learners, or rather, they had to unlearn a lot of things before they could understand the mission of their Master. So Jesus foretells them again about the climax of His mission-His death and resurrection.

It demonstrates the power of God to others

Peter was confronted by the authorities regarding the payment of the  Temple tax. Jesus tried to clarify to him that He is above those Laws by the fact that He is the Son of God. He is greater than the Temple and in fact He is the reason for the Temple. He is the object of worship in heaven who became the perfect Lamb of God to be the perfect sacrifice that would satisfy the justice of God for all ages. He taught them that submission to authority rather than rebellion is God’s way in the New Covenant. He demonstrated both His supremacy and His integrity through the provision of the tax money.

Jesus Christ the Incomparable

And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Mt. 17: 1-13)

This is a passage that vividly portrays Jesus as the Son of God and superior to all the heroes of the Bible. Living with Jesus for a couple of years already the disciples could not recognize Him at times. However, when two people appeared before Jesus on that mountain they could without a doubt say they were Moses and Elijah. Even the glorious appearance of the Lord Jesus did not make as much impact as the presence of these two heroes.

Never equate Jesus to any other human
Peter so moved by the sight expressed his desire to be there for longer. He offered to make tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. He still has not understood that the one with whom they were living is the God of Moses and Elijah, the Creator God who became human. He equated Jesus with them and proposed similar dwelling places for all.

Apostle Paul reminds us that Jesus Christ is the only mediator between man and God (1 Tim. 2:5). There is no other advocate who can argue our case before the throne of God. All others are His creation and He is the very God who stepped down into time to save us.

God commands us to listen to Jesus
As soon as the suggestion to put the saints on the same pedestal as Jesus was put forth, God audibly corrected them, as at the time of His baptism, saying Jesus was His beloved Son and they should listen to Him. By hiding the heroes under the clouds God focused their attention on His Son and the Savior of the world.

Focus on Jesus and follow Him.

Influence of the Religious System

You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. (Mt. 16:1-12)

The Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes were the three sects among the Jews. Pharisees were the most popular during Jesus’ time. They strictly followed the written Law and the traditions of the elders, who, according to them, have the authority to explain and interpret the Law. Each party tried to explain the Law in detail as per its view and lay down rules for others to follow. They tried to influence people by their ideology and exert authority over them. This often made life difficult for ordinary people. Incidentally, Pharisees and Sadducees could never get along theologically and ideologically. Pharisees believed in angels and the bodily resurrection of believers while Sadducees did not believe any of this. They felt that Jesus was gaining influence among ordinary folks and found Him as a threat to their authority.

Artificial Unity
To attack Jesus leaders of these two parties came together. This was an unholy union with a common agenda. They tried to test Jesus by asking Him for a sign from heaven. He exposed their plan by telling them to interpret the signs of the times as they interpret the signs of nature. Calling them evil and adulterous generation He pointed to Jonah as the only sign for them.

Evil leadership spreads its evil influence
Jesus told the disciples to be alert against the evil influence of the religious system. They are often politically motivated and not spiritually moved. Those who follow Jesus should keep away from the religious system that would enslave them.

Knowing Christ

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him,“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. Mt. 16:13-28

Today we have millions of people who claim to know Jesus Christ or who profess faith in Him. Believing in Jesus has to be qualified in Biblical terms. Simply because someone carries a Christian name, or goes to church frequently, or prays, or reads the Bible, or involves in Christian service, he or she does not necessarily know Jesus Christ. Many are deceiving themselves by their assumption that they know Him.
The disciples of Jesus did not really know their Master almost until the end of His earthly ministry though they walked with Him more than three years.  Jesus had to confront them in many ways to clarify their understanding. Here, Jesus asked them about people’s understanding of His person. They related to Him that they thought He was a prophet, the reappearance of John the Baptist, Elijah or Jeremiah. But then He asked them about their understanding and Peter confessed the He was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.

Personal dimension
Jesus reveals to the disciples that it is not by human wisdom that one can recognize the Savior, but by the revelation from God Himself. This is the only way to know Him. Otherwise one can only know ‘about’ Him. Peter spoke out his personal conviction, his faith in the person of Jesus as the Savior sent by God. This personal conviction and confession is the foundation of Christian faith. The Church of Jesus Christ is built up on this confession of individuals.

Divine intervention
The apostles had the first hand experience of knowing Jesus. They conveyed it to the church through their inspired writings, the Gospels, letters, etc. As we read it we are confronted with this same truth and the Spirit of God would open our eyes to see Jesus as He really is. No one can know the Savior Jesus Christ without the help of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 6:44). Then, as we know Him as He is, we must confess Him as our own Savior and Master.

Unfailing Communication
Peter was congratulated for the confession of his personal conviction. But in no time he received rebuke too. It shows how vulnerable we are and how cautious we must be in discerning the intuitions we get before we speak it out. Peter had the revelation from God about the Savior but he the next moment his impulsive reaction was motivated by the devil himself. So we need to set our minds constantly on God and the things of God and intently listen to His prompting and recognize it. Jesus asserted that His sheep would hear His voice (even in the midst of the noisy herd) and follow Him (Jn. 10:26-28).

Losing to gain
The Kingdom principle is opposed to the worldly principles. Jesus calls His followers to set their minds on the things of God, to lose their grip on the earthly to gain what is heavenly, to forgo the temporal to gain the eternal. All the wealth, the fame, the power, the luxury, the pleasures this world can give is momentary. Thus, they must willfully carry their voluntary cross of denying these momentary gains and follow Him daily to get the eternal reward.

 

God who cares

Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way. (Mt. 15:29-39)

Jesus often retreated to the mountains but the crowds wouldn’t leave Him. They primarily seek Him for the benefits they receive, but that is natural. Jesus was compassionate and kind to the people. He demonstrated the power of God among them so that they would recognize Him as the promised Messiah. However, they imagined the Messiah to be a political leader who would usher in the kingdom promised to their fathers.
Jesus healed every sick person who came to Him without exception.

Jesus was concerned about people and their well-being  He wanted to feed the hungry. He was also teaching His disciples to trust Him for the necessary resources in their ministry. This and the previous miracle of multiplying five loaves for five thousand men were to strengthen their faith in His ability to provide. He can multiply the little we have, provided we willfully place it into His mighty hands for His use.

Prayer of faith

She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (Mt. 15:21-28)

Jesus was approached by a Canaanite woman with a request to heal her daughter. She was weeping and pleading. She addressed Jesus as “Lord” and “Son of David” signifying that she believed that He was the Messiah who came in the line of king David. She also recognized His power over the demonic world.

Persisting through the Lord’s silence
However, Jesus did not respond to her, probably not even with a look. As she kept on weeping and requesting the disciples insisted that the Lord should do something. Jesus makes it clear that He was sent to the lost sheep in the house of Israel. He was the promised Messiah and King of the Jewish people.

Persisting through humiliation
She would have heard Jesus’ response, so she came and knelt in worship before Jesus, pleading for help. Then Jesus makes a statement that would have hurt her ego. He was looking down up on her in comparison to the people of Israel. It was humiliating.

Of course, the Canaanites were wicked in the sight of God. They had inherited a curse from their forefather Noah (Gen. 9:25). God told the children of Israel to drive them out of the land as they occupied it. We read in the Bible that they did not drive out the Canaanites from many places.

The Canaanite woman could have been conscious of her dignity in front of the people and quietly left. In stead, she was willing to accept the humiliation and even the status of a dog. She knew that God had promised salvation and blessings to His beloved people the children of Israel and others can have only what may fall off their table. She knew what Jesus was trying to remind her in regard to the promise of God and she responded appropriately in confidence that even dogs feed on what falls from the children’s table.
God honors such confidence in His character. The woman had such strong faith that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a merciful God and the blessings of Abraham would spill over to the gentiles too. Her faith was rewarded.