Matthew 22

Read Matthew 22.

The parable about the wedding banquet, here in verses 1-14, is about Israel’s rejection of Jesus as Messiah. God the Father invited them to the wedding banquet and everything was ready (vv. 1-4) but Israel was too busy with their own stuff, even getting angry enough to persecute and kill some of God’s servants, the prophets (vv. 5-6).

God judged Israel (v. 7 is a veiled prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70) and turned his attention to inviting us, the Gentiles through the gospel message (vv. 8-14).

Notice, though, that all the “bad as well as the good” (v. 10) were gathered in, you still needed an outfit appropriate for a wedding (vv. 11-12). Jesus did not explain what this meant other than verse 14’s statement that, “…many are invited, but few are chosen.” That statement does not explain the image of the wedding clothes and how it relates to the parable.

As God’s revelation continued to unfold in the New Testament, we can see clearly that the wedding clothes Jesus referenced in verses 11-12 refer to the righteousness of Christ that God credits to us by grace. When you and I put our faith in Christ, God began to treat us as if we are as righteous as Jesus Christ is, even though we are not.

Jesus’s perfect life clothes you like a garment. His atonement on the cross was applied to you when you trusted in him, washing all your sins away. But the perfect life of Jesus Christ was also gifted to you, covering your imperfections and making you acceptable in the sight of God.

You and I have a long way to go before we will actually be righteous in the sight of God. God is working on us to make us righteous people but you still belong at the wedding feast because you are covered by the righteousness of Christ.

This is why you don’t need to worry about “losing your salvation.” You didn’t earn your salvation in the first place. It was given to you by God. You can’t lose the garment of Christ’s righteousness any more than you can lose the shirt on your back. If you’re someone who struggles with feelings of assurance in your faith, let this passage encourage you. Trust in the gracious gift of Christ, not your own performance.

Matthew 13

Read Matthew 13.

This chapter contains several important parables about the kingdom of God. One sub-theme that recurs in this chapter is the truth that mundane things of life often crowd out what is really important:

  • In the parable of the soils, one of the people who heard the gospel did not receive it because “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful” (v. 22).
  • In the parable of the hidden treasure, the man who found it had to sell “all that he had” to buy the field (v. 44). He was willing to do that; however, there are some people who would not do it because it is too much trouble to sell your stuff or what if the owner of the field refused to sell it?
  • Likewise, in the parable of the pearl (v. 45), the merchant had to sell everything to buy the pearl. I wonder what his wife and children thought when they saw the pearl after he sold their house, their clothes and toys? THIS is what we became homeless and poor for? What are going to eat tonight?
  • Finally, in the story at the end, which was not a parable, the people who lived in Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, couldn’t believe in him despite his “wisdom and these miraculous powers” (v. 54). Why not? Because they knew his family and there was nothing remarkable about them.

One human reason why people don’t come to Christ is that they are too preoccupied with the stuff of life–making a living, advancing in their career, raising children or dealing with a difficult marriage, getting infatuated with a hobby, or doing recreational activities.

But these things tempt those of us who are believers, too. Giving to God’s work seems less worthwhile than saving for a downpayment on a new house, new car, or new boat. Reading scripture seems less interesting than watching television and texting a friend is more gratifying than praying.

When you make time for human things but have no time to cultivate your spiritual life, you’re like the person who decided to go to the movies instead of selling everything to buy that field with the buried treasure in it. You’re trading valuable things for things that are worthless.

Where in your life do you need your priorities realigned? What worthless things (or things that are just worth less) are you filling your life up with instead of living for God’s kingdom?

1 Samuel 28, Ezekiel 38, Mark 4

Read 1 Samuel 28, Ezekiel 38, and Mark 4 today. This devotional is about Mark 4.

This chapter contains some of Jesus parables about the kingdom (vv. 1-34) followed by the incident where Jesus miraculously calmed the storm (vv. 35-41).

The parable of the soils here in Mark 4:1-25 describes how failure to receive the gospel is due to the hearts of people, not the seed or the sowers.

The parable in verses 26-29 also teaches about the kingdom of God using a farm metaphor. A farmer scatters the seed into the ground and…. that’s it. He just leaves it there. It doesn’t matter how else the farmer spends his time for verse 27 says, “whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed spouts and grows.”

Once he has done the work of sowing, the land and the seed take over the work and work together. Verse 27c says that the farmer’s planting works even “though he does not know how.” The farmer knows that process of sowing and reaping works, but he didn’t know why it works. He has no idea how the process of germination happens. Neither did I until I read this hideously ugly webpage about it. Once the seed is planted, the process works “all by itself” (v. 28a). If the farmer waits patiently, he will reap the results.

Although the farmer didn’t know how the seed germinates, he knew that it would germinate if he planted it. He did not have to understand the process to benefit from the process.

A lot of effective processes work this way. You do not have to understand the process to benefit from the process.

So what was Christ teaching us about his kingdom here? He was teaching that God will sow the gospel into the world and then it will bear fruit. You and I, the sowers, don’t need to understand how it works nor do need to do anything else but plant the seed. We don’t need to “know… how” (v. 27c); God uses the gospel to his work “all by itself” (v. 28a).

Many of us never witness for Christ or we stop witnessing for Christ because we fear failure.

But the only way to fail is not to plant or not to reap. If we stay in the farmhouse, we will fail. If we plant the seed of the word, Jesus said it would work “all by itself” (v. 28).

When was the last time you tried to invite someone to church? When did you last open a spiritual conversation with someone and tell them about Christ? The kingdom is growing and when Christ returns, the harvest will come.

Are you planting anything?

Genesis 18, Nehemiah 7, Matthew 13

Read Genesis 18, Nehemiah 7, and Matthew 13. This devotional is about Matthew 13.

The Parable of the Soils and Christ’s interpretation of it takes up most of this chapter of Matthew, from verse 1 through verse 23. In addition to that parable, we have:

  • The Parable of the Weeds (vv. 24-30, 36-43).
  • The Parable of the Mustard Seed (vv. 31-32).
  • The Parable of the Yeast (v. 33)
  • The Parable of the Buried Treasure (v. 44).
  • The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price (vv. 45-46)
  • The Parable of the Dragnet (vv. 47-50).

The Parable of the Weeds and the Parable of the Dragnet have the same message–many people who look like they belong in Christ’s kingdom and think they belong in it will be excluded from the kingdom at the judgment (vv. 40-43, 49-50).

The Parable of Buried Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price also have the same message and it is the one I want us to consider today.

These parables are straightforward: a man finds something valuable but under-appreciated so he liquidates everything he has–his house, his farm animals and equipment, his wife’s jewelry, the fillings in his teeth if necessary–to buy the valuable treasure or pearl of great price.

And he does it “with joy” (v. 44)!

Wouldn’t it be a pain to get rid of everything you own and be homeless with just the clothes on your back? Yes it would, unless you were going to get something of greater value than all of that stuff.

This is what Jesus said the kingdom of heaven would be like. It is so priceless, such a treasure, that you and I should give up everything to get it. Of course, the cost of the kingdom is not paid to God. God paid the cost for your entry into the kingdom in Christ because you and I could not do it ourselves.

No, the cost Jesus is referring to here is the cost of not going our own way and doing our own thing. If someone gave you an all-expenses paid trip around the world for one year, the trip is a free gift. But to experience that gift you’d have to quit your job. You might have to sell your house because you wouldn’t have any income to pay the mortgage, maintenance, taxes, etc. You would also pay a non-financial cost of missing out on things at home while you are gone.

This is what Christians “pay” for following Christ. When we receive the free gift of salvation, we give up the right to direct our own lives. Jesus is now the boss; he decides what morals we live by and his kingdom dictates the decisions we make with our lives.

His lordship is what leads some people to literally sell everything and move to a different city or a foreign country to start churches. They understand the value of the kingdom and the joy and rewards that await so they are less focused on accumulating some material things in this life and more focused on serving Jesus in this life in order to benefit the coming kingdom of Christ.

Maybe God has put a desire in your heart to serve him in some way but the “cost” of doing so seems high. You know you’ll lose some free time that already seems in short supply. Or, you know that it will cost money or that you won’t advance in your career or whatever.

Christ here calls us to consider what is truly valuable. His kingdom, his work, is so much more valuable than the cheap plastic trinkets that seem so valuable to us now. Let’s take a few moments and re-assess what we’re living for, what is important, what is worth investing in, and what is worth liquidating for the greater value of serving our Lord Jesus Christ.

Luke 19

Today we’re reading Luke 19.

Today’s passage described the beginning of the final week of Jesus’ life. Just before Christ entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (vv. 28-44), he told the disciples the parable of the ten minas (vv. 11-27). The purpose of this parable, according to verse 11 was, “because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” In other words, Jesus told this story to prepare his followers for a gap of time between then and when his kingdom would arrive.

The parable accomplished three things. First, it slightly foreshadowed Christ’s rejection and and crucifixion. That is suggested in verse 14 where the subjects of the king sent a delegation to try to prevent him from becoming king. In every age, everyone who rejects the Lordship of Christ is trying to prevent him from being king; that applied especially to those who plotted against Jesus to see him crucified.

The second thing the parable accomplished was to begin preparing his followers for his ascension. Although Jesus would receive a Messianic welcome in verses 28-40, he would not literally become king over Israel during this time. As we saw in verse 12, the parable alluded to Jesus leaving, becoming king, then returning.

The third thing the parable accomplished was the main point of the parable which is to instruct us about what to do while we wait for Jesus’ return. Our waiting for Jesus’ return is not like waiting for a plane to depart. In that situation, people just sit around until the plane is ready to be boarded. Instead, we “wait” for Jesus like a pregnant woman and her husband wait for the baby to be born. They “wait” in the sense that time passes, but they also should be preparing during that time–deciding on a name for the baby, preparing a nursery, buying baby clothes and supplies and so on. Similarly, we are waiting for the time to arrive when Jesus will return, but this parable commands us to be productive with the time. Before he left this earth, Christ commanded his disciples to make disciples, baptize and teach them. Instead of sitting around waiting as the wicked servant did in verses 20-21, we have the opportunity to invest in Jesus’ kingdom by obeying his great commission. There are great rewards promised for those who produce for his kingdom (vv. 17-19), so this parable challenges us use the power Christ gave us, obey the commission he left us, and watch as God uses our faithfulness to his word to produce more and more believers who will enter the kingdom.

So, how are you involved productively for the increase of God’s kingdom? Have you figured out your spiritual gift and found a place to use if for God’s glory? Are you making the most of the opportunities you receive to share the gospel? Are you going on faith that God will use you if you invest into his kingdom as he commanded?

Matthew 13

Today we’re reading Matthew 13. Well…, I already read it but I’ll give you a minute to catch up. Go.

OK, now that we’ve both read Matthew 13 we both know that Matthew recorded some of Jesus’ kingdom parables in this chapter. I preached on the Parable of the Soils (but from Luke) a few Sundays ago. At the end of this devotional I give you a link to the audio & video of that message.

The Parable of the Soils and Christ’s interpretation of it takes up most of this chapter of Matthew, from verse 1 through verse 23. In addition to that parable, we have:

  • The Parable of the Weeds (vv. 24-30, 36-43).
  • The Parable of the Mustard Seed (vv. 31-32).
  • The Parable of the Yeast (v. 33)
  • The Parable of the Buried Treasure (v. 44).
  • The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price (vv. 45-46)
  • The Parable of the Dragnet (vv. 47-50).

The Parable of the Weeds and the Parable of the Dragnet have the same message–many people who look like they belong in Christ’s kingdom and think they belong in it will be excluded from it at the judgment (vv. 40-43, 49-50). The Parable of Buried Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price also have the same message and it is the one I want us to consider today.

These parables are straightforward: a man finds something valuable but under-appreciated so he liquidates everything he has–his house, his farm animals and equipment, his wife’s jewelry, the fillings in his teeth if necessary–to buy the valuable treasure or pearl of great price. And he does it “with joy” (v. 44). Wouldn’t it be a pain to get rid of everything you own and be homeless with just the clothes on your back? Yes it would, unless you were going to get something of greater value than all of that stuff.

This is what Jesus said the kingdom of heaven would be like. It is so priceless, such a treasure, that you and I should give up everything to get it. Of course, the cost of the kingdom is not paid to God. God paid the cost for your entry into the kingdom in Christ because you and I could not do it ourselves. No, the cost Jesus is referring to here is the cost of not going our own way and doing our own thing. If someone gave you an all-expenses paid trip around the world for one year, the trip is a free gift. But to experience that gift you’d have to quit your job. You might have to sell your house because you wouldn’t have any income to pay the mortgage, maintenance, taxes, etc. You would also pay a non-financial cost of missing out on things at home while you are gone. This is what Christians pay for following Christ. When we receive the free gift of salvation, we give up the right to direct our own lives. Jesus is now the boss; he decides what morals we live by and his kingdom dictates the decisions we make with our lives. This is what leads some people to literally sell everything and move to a different city or a foreign country to start churches. They understand the value of the kingdom and the joy and rewards that await so they are less focused on accumulating some material things in this life and more focused on serving Jesus in this life in order to benefit the coming kingdom of Christ.

Maybe God has put a desire in your heart to serve him in some way but the “cost” of doing so seems high. You know you’ll lose some free time that already seems in short supply. Or, you know that it will cost money or that you won’t advance in your career or whatever. Christ here calls us to consider what is truly valuable. His kingdom, his work, is so much more valuable than the cheap plastic trinkets that seem so valuable to us now. Let’s take a few moments and re-assess what we’re living for, what is important, what is worth investing in, and what is worth liquidating for the greater value of serving our Lord Jesus Christ.

If you want to watch or listen to my message on the Parable of the Soils (but from Luke 8), click here.