Teaching Us Along the Way

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. Matthew 19:1-2

Again, we see Jesus being followed by the masses wherever he went. This was the social media word of mouth 2000 years ago. It was quite effective.

Not at all diminishing Jesus’ “drawing” power, but I suppose some in the throngs had no idea what was going on so they followed just to follow the masses. For the vast majority, though, they knew exactly who they were following.

On the way and in Judea he healed. He healed where He prior to this and He healed afterwards. Healing seemed to be the physical expression of what He desired to do spiritually. He had their undivided attention after He healed.

As He walked, he taught His disciples, and the teaching had to filter down to the people as well. They weren’t following Him just to watch Him heal but because He had important, life-changing things to say.

As we read Scripture, we don’t absorb everything at once.

We understand little by little and it’s different depending on where you are in life when you read it.

We’re not following Him just because He heals and saves others. No, we continue to follow Him because He saved us and He can teach us everything we need to lead a godly life in Christ (2 Timothy 3:12).

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Settling Accounts with Others

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Matthew 18:23-36

When we read this story, we know who we should be routing for, we know the outcome, but we always end up realizing He was talking about us when we have unforgiving hearts.

Forgiveness is complicated because we all live messy, complex lives with a lot of moving parts beyond our control (i.e., people).

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as forgiving someone regardless of what they have done to us. That, I believe, circumvents God’s restoration aspect of forgiveness. In other words, you shouldn’t let someone off the hook without them acknowledge their role in the hurt. Obviously if that person is no longer in the picture at all, then God will give you grace to forgive.

God still commands us to forgive. It doesn’t make it an easy or pleasant task, but He’s commanded us to do it for very good reasons, namely that you won’t harbor bitterness.

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How Many Times, Lord?

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22

Some translations indicate that the math is actually seventy times seven which would be 490 times.

The major point, though, is beyond three or four times is too many, let alone 77 or 490! We become very impatient when forgiving people, especially for the same actions.

You can forgive the person but trusting that person is a different matter. If someone lies to me, I can and will forgive but I won’t be so quick to believe him next time. The more he does it, the less I am to believe.

Similarly, if a spouse is unfaithful, it doesn’t mean the other spouse can’t forgive. Trust has been broken and restoration will take time. The other spouse can forgive but she won’t – nor should she – trust him until sufficient time has passed. If the unfaithfulness happens again, divorce proceedings are probably in the works. At that point, the issue is trust alongside forgiveness.

The disciples wanted to do the least amount of forgiving possible. They tried to nail him down to a number. The number seven seemed to be reasonable to them, and probably to us as well.

But God’s view of forgiveness is different.

Remember that He has forgiven us our sins, all of them. Yes, we sinned against others and against Him.

“How many times will you forgive us, God, seven?”

Thankfully no.

Much much more than that.

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Keeping Short Accounts with God

15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:15-20

If you’ve ever confronted someone about their sin, you know how difficult it is – or should be. In other words, you shouldn’t get any glee out of the action. You also know that your life had better be in order first lest the finger is turned back on you accusing you of some egregious sin (not a prerequisite but you can do it with a free conscience. No one likes to be confronted about their ways – no one.

But God’s plan for restoration is sound: private, semi-public/semi-private, and then public.

Normally the grievance will not make it to the public sphere, unless, of course, that someone didn’t follow this plan. If it gets to the public, the person will probably have left the church being too embarrassed to remain.

That’s why it’s important to keep short accounts with God, examining your life frequently to make sure there is nothing in your life to hinder your relationship with God. God will impress upon your heart about things you’ve said or done.

It’s also why it’s important to listen to those promptings or uneasiness when you go before God. He will lead you in the right path to restoration no matter how small. 

God is faithful.

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Pray Them Home

12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:12-14

The imagery in this parable is vivid.

The shepherd is out in the fields calling, searching for that lost sheep. The sheep knows its voice, as the scripture says later. The shepherd knows the dangers the sheep will face if he doesn’t find him soon. He knows that coyotes and wolves could easily devour a small sheep without a second thought.

Similarly, Jesus does not want any of those children to perish. Unfortunately, life rears its ugly head and the forces of evil seek to destroy the innocence long before is necessary.

We see this destruction in our schools, on the television, in movies, and in music. The willful and harmful indoctrination of alternate lifestyles and behaviors began in the 1960s and has incrementally worked its way into those institutions.

Today’s children face battles that you and I have never faced nor would we want to. The pressures and burdens placed on these children by parents and teachers alike are a lot for kids to bear.

This generation of children will need our generation to pray them through a lot of junk. We know the dangerous teachings: homosexuality, transgenderism, Islamism, witchcraft in literature, “if it feels good, do it,” exploring and experimenting with early childhood sexuality, and tearing down the fundamentals of Christianity.

Not all of these are taught in school every year, but in 12 years they will get an unhealthy dose of each.

Now that we know how to pray for these children, we need to pray these kids through their formative years, beginning today.

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