People Are Messy

15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. Matthew 23:15

The Pharisees, caught up in legal traditions and outward conformance to the law, did not have pure motives when they proselytized the nations. There was no care or compassion for the people in the least. It was about them and not the furtherance of Judaism.

Early in my missionary career, I remember thinking and perhaps only half jokingly stating that missions would be great if it didn’t involve people.

People are messy.

People have problems that we seem ill equipped to solve.

Missions involves thinking outside the box about people’s problems.

Missions is and has always been about people. Even projects that church groups take on foreign soil (construction, medical, educational, etc.) is ultimately about serving the people in country.

Right now you’re probably thinking of some missionaries who are in tough situations, probably brought on by this Covid-19 virus. They need wisdom and a different kind of thinking to continue ministering the same way they’ve been doing prior to February.

Would you pray that God would pour out his wisdom generously on them?

Pray also for your local pastors that they too would follow God’s guidance on ministering during these tough times.

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The First Woe

13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Matthew 23:13-14

In the first of a series of woes to the religious leaders, Jesus points out that they would not be entering the kingdom of heaven and prevent others from doing the same.

I’m certain they thought they were first in line for heaven and that God Himself would roll out the red carpet.

This is the kind of confrontational Jesus we don’t hear about often. He was also doing it in front of His disciples to show them how it was done.

When the Son of God tells you that you won’t be in heaven, that’s a serious thing. John the Baptist was equally as poignant and look where it got him!

Earlier Jesus told His disciples that they would be handed over to the rulers and God would give them the words they needed to say (Matthew 10:19).

Most of us don’t expect to stand in front of leaders to be held accountable for what we’ve said on behalf of the Gospel.

We find ourselves ten days before a Presidential election. Things could drastically change depending on who is in or who gets in. The House, 1/3 of the Senate, and the Presidency are at stake. Antifa has threatened violence regardless of who wins.

There’s a lot going on in this country. As Christians, we need to be in constant prayer over what we say, who we support, and the activities surrounding this election.

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The Others-Centered Lifestyle

8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23:8-12

“The greatest among you will be your servant” is a stunning statement, isn’t it? It’s such a different way of thinking from the world’s point of view.

The world teaches us to “be the best you can be because you’re worth it” and “go for the gusto.”

Me me me me me.

The kids growing up today only know that life is all about them. The “helicopter” parents didn’t help matters.

But back to the point of these verses.

Serving others can come in many forms.

God wants us to have servant hearts, even in leadership.

But it goes beyond servant hearts. We are to serve others, not just want to serve others.

Again, we find our role model in Jesus Christ.

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:6-8

Meditate on these words today. Ask the Lord what you can do today to live out “the greatest among you will be your servant.”

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A Most Radical Object Lesson

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. Matthew 23:1-7

Jesus here is warning us against proud people in general and proud religious leaders specifically.

Pride is insidious. It’s easy to recognize in others but difficult to see in ourselves.

The opposite of course is humility.

Jesus Himself had reason to be boastful. After all, He was the second Person of the Trinity, the Bright Morning Star, the Root and Offspring of David, healing people, casting out demons. You name it; Jesus had done it.

But He didn’t need to boast. It wasn’t in His nature to boast.

No, He humbled Himself to come to this filthy place to become like one of us. Talk about humility!

That was the most radical example of an object lesson you’ll ever see.

And what was that lesson?

Ultimate obedience to the Father.
Humility.
Servanthood.
Divinity taking on human skin.

With the exception of ‘Divinity taking on human skin, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:36b

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The Grand Mystery

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

“The son of David,” they replied.

43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.”‘

45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. Matthew 22:21-46

It was now Jesus’ turn to question the religious leaders, to get them thinking about Messianic things.

With their response, Jesus just answered the question, “How can the Messiah be both Son and Lord of David?”

Jesus is both, and it was very clear to the leaders that He had “pulled another fast one” on them. Actually, He were merely illuminating and elucidating the Scriptures they already knew.

It is a grand mystery, isn’t it? God and man in one flesh, the divine and mortal. Revelations 22:17 speaks of it also, “the root and offspring of David.”

Jesus silenced these leaders with the Word of God, the very Scriptures these Pharisees had been studying all their lives. They may have even memorized significant portions of the Law and the Prophets but there was a disconnect.

I encourage you to hide more of the Word of God in your heart. Start with a verse or two and keep building on it. Make it a part of you.

As they say, rinse and repeat.

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