Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Holiness to Dogs and Peals before Swine

Matthew 7:6 "Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces" (NKJV).

Last week, we learned from Matthew 7:1-5 about "Good Judgment". A person with GOOD judgment follows a particular process before approaching someone else in judgment. First, he examines himself for any sin in. He prayerfully searches the Scriptures to see if his life is in line with the Lord. Second, he determines if the "splinter" in his neighbor's eye is of eternal significance. Is his brother/sister truly overtaken by some sin or are they simply living contrary to a personal preference? Third, a person with GOOD judgment prays for their neighbor; realizing that Jesus is their ultimate Judge and, if they truly belong to Him, He has promised to sanctify them and conform them to His own image.

  1. Holiness & Pearls

Jesus warns us, "Do not give what is HOLY…nor cast your PEARLS". Just what is our Lord referring to here? It must be something that is in our possession as believers if He is commanding us NOT to give it.


There are two requirements for something of this world to become Holy; first God chooses a person, place, or thing for Himself, second people recognize God's choice and reserve that person, place, or thing for God's chosen purpose.

Sacrifices were often used to sanctify the holy thing. The tabernacle and the temple were made by man but according to God's instructions and for His purpose. Everything used for worship in the OT was never used for anything else.

We know that Jesus came to be the ultimate holy sacrifice for our sin. He shed His innocent blood that we might find forgiveness and live forever with Him in His kingdom. This Bible tells us that all who receive His gracious gift of salvation are now "set apart" to serve Him and live for Him.

1 Peter 2:9 says, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a HOLY nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light".

Romans 12:1-2 says, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, HOLY, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 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.

1 Peter 1:15-16 says, "But just as He who called you is holy, so be HOLY in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy'"

To be holy means that all we are and all we have belongs to God, and that every aspect of our lives is to be shaped and directed toward God. Our warning for holy things is to avoid using them for a purpose that God himself has not chosen.

Jesus compared His kingdom to precious pearls in Matthew 13:44-45, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it" (NKJV).

Christ's Kingdom is the most precious possession on planet earth; nothing compares. In fact, what price tag would you place on your eternal salvation? It's PRICELESS! The symbolism of pearls in God's Kingdom tells us it is precious, worth more than all our earthly goods.

So, how is holiness and the pearls of God's kingdom measured out in our everyday existence? In other words, how and where do we make investments of these commodities we have in Christ? I propose at least four - our: Trust, Time, Treasure, and Testimony.

If you think about it, these are the investments of our daily lives. We trust certain people and certain systems, we spend our time doing certain things, we spend our money on certain things, and we share our testimony along the way. All of these resources are considered "pure" and "precious" to God because we belong to Him.
1 Cor. 6:19-20 reminds us, "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's" (NKJV).

Everything we have and do is a stewardship from God. We can either waste or invest it. There are a number of Scripture passages that instruct how and where we can invest these resources, but Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:6 how and where they will be wasted…

  1. Dogs & Pigs

The symbols of dogs here are not the family pets, but the wild feral animals which live on the edge of town. They usually traveled in packs and were very dangerous. In fact, if you were to travel to places like Cambodia and Guatemala even today to visit some MANNA feeding centers in outlying areas you would be warned to "STAY AWAY from the dogs".

Matthew 15:21-28

21 Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed." 23 But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, "Send her away, for she cries out after us." 24 But He answered and said, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" 26 But He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs." 27 And she said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." 28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

Jesus refers to a Canaanite woman who is a Gentile, as a dog. When know from the OT that Messiah was to be a light to the Gentiles, but he was first fulfilling God's promise to Israel. Yet this woman instead of being insulted, accepts His rebuke and asks in all humility if He would just let the crumbs of his grace and mercy save her demon-possessed daughter. Jesus was so impressed by her humility and faith that her daughter was instantly healed. Jesus had still not chosen the gentiles, because he must first be rejected by the Jews, to fulfill all prophecy. Only later would he instruct Peter and Paul, then demonstrate by the Holy Spirit that salvation is also for the Gentiles.

The only thing worse than being called a "dog" was to be called a "pig" (It's still pretty insulting today). Under the dietary laws given by God for Israel, the pig was a forbidden, unclean animal. Jesus uses these strong comparisons to warn us that there are those who would treat the holy and precious things like our: trust, time, treasure, and testimony with disrespect and hatred.

If we offer the pearls of God's kingdom to "swine" they will trample in the mud your most sincere efforts and then turn and tear at you with their tusks.

Peter portrayed false teachers in the same way in 2 Peter 2:9-22. We don't like to think that there are actually folks in the world that have been "reserved for judgment", but even Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 10:14-16, "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment, than for that city. Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves".

Jesus has called us to wisely discern both where and how we invest the things entrusted to us for His Kingdom. We go and give and preach the gospel to all nations for the glory of God, but instead of shaking trees for the green apples to fall, we search for those who are ripened and ready by the Holy Spirit of God.

Instead of wasting all of our God-given resources trying to teach a dog the difference between prime rib and his own vomit; and training a pig to stay clean and wear fine jewelry we should be vigorously investing in those whose spiritual eyes are being opened by the power of the Holy Spirit. Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

If you've been pouring your trust, time, treasures, and testimony into someone's life that just seems now even more antagonistic, needy, and resistant than ever perhaps it's time to turn them over to God and invest in someone else. Be wise as serpents, harmless as doves. Pick ripe fruit, plant in fertile soil, and invest where there is good return.

"Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge"
(Proverbs 14:7).

"Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out, even strife and dishonor will cease" (Proverbs 22:10).

Questions to Consider:

  1. Have you ever encountered someone that has been aggressively disdainful of the King and kingdom you represent?
  2. How did God "ripen" you to the gospel?
  3. When do you think a person is most "open" to the precious message of the kingdom?






Monday, July 15, 2013

Don’t Judge Me

Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)
1 "Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 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? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

Jesus' words about judging may be the most-often-misquoted text from the Bible. People frequently apply it as if it were a flat command against all moral judgment, quoting verse one alone and out of context. In fact, people use it to judge what they consider a judgmental attitude on the part of another. Jesus, however, gave these words as one negative application of the Golden Rule. That is, we should not treat others as we do not want to be treated. We should seek to measure ourselves and others by the same standards


First of all using verse one alone is false, YOU WILL BE JUDGED!


"And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before the throne, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hell delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hell were cast into the lake of fire; this is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." Rev. 20:12-15


The Greek word "krino" usually translated "Judge" means to pick out, prefer, approve or select. An unbelieving friend first introduced me to the term "cafeteria Christian", to mean those who pick and choose what parts of the Bible they will accept and reject. Of course when we condemn one sin and wink at another we bring great discredit on the church. Instead we must learn to judge righteously.


  1. Be Advised: not a command, but a guideline

1 "Judge not, that you be not judged.

Nobody wants to be judged, but yet we all are guilty of being judgmental. Jesus condemns in this passage the pick-and-choose judgment of the self-righteous; and makes that clear to everyone who takes the time to read past verse one. We are called to judge many things: 2
Timothy 2 tells us to rightly divide the word of truth; 1 John 4 tells us not to believe every spirit or every messenger, but to test them and judge what is true. A pastor as the shepherd must guard the flock from wolves in sheep's clothing, even teachers are required to grade their students and account for their actions (Hebrews 13:17). Jesus advises us that our judgment must be consistent.

  1. Be Aware: there is a flip side to judging others

2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

When we judge others, we are setting the table for how we would like to be judged in return. When we judge quickly and with harshness, we will be judged in the same way. When we judge with grace and love, we will likewise be judged accordingly. Measure for measure.

Jesus is laying the ground work for what he is going to mention in a few verse later in the passage. This is the negative application of the Golden rule(vs.12): In other words: Judge unto others the way you would want to be judged.

When we judge others we should take in consideration how we would like to be judged ourselves. In essence, this thought should be our primary motive when called upon to judge… If it was me, how would I want to be judged?

  1. Be Attentive: take inventory of yourself, there is something that needs tending.

3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?
4 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?

First we should notice the question in vs. 3 - Why do you look at the speck in your brothers eye? This needs to be answered as soon as we look at someone. Why do I even care? Why do I need to form an opinion about what I see in others? Why does their sin make me feel what I feel, to go and cast judgment? Getting to the root of this issue will help us move to the next question.

Did I consider the plank in my own eye? Our response is usually "What Plank? What problem? I don't have a problem!" Listen to verse 4 in the NLT "How can you think of saying to your friend, 'Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you can't see past the log in your own eye?"

When we look at others and see a speck… Jesus is saying that it should trigger something in us to first look and evaluate ourselves. This is incredibly important, if we don't do this we are simply showing favoritism to ourselves. It is as if we are saying "I am not in need of correcting my problems, but I do need to fix others." On the other hand, if we do this first and take care of our plank, not only will we be better off but also so would they.

  1. Be Appropriate: first thing first

5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

Fill in the blank: That church is full of a bunch of _________________! (hypocrites) Is it true that most of our culture writes Christians off as a bunch of hypocrites? Why? Could it be because Christians have completely botched the spirit of this passage for far too long? Are Christians more willing to point out the problems in others rather than themselves? Are we more willing to point out the problems in the world rather than our own homes? The problems at our work rather than our attitudes and behavior? The problems with our children rather than our ability to parent properly?

The simple truth of the matter is that the world, our culture, and communities have witnessed first-hand us in the church being self-righteous and irresponsible.

Our Responsibility:

First: Fix me. Deal with me not them, I need to look in the mirror and make adjustments. Fix what is wrong with me. Correct me. Repair and resolve me. You may say "But how will this fix their speck"? It's not about them, it's about you.

Second: Wait to see clearly. (step #1 may take a while to take effect). What should we do during this time? Pray for them? Serve/minister to them (w/o motive)?

Third: then go to a brother, and remove the speck from your brother's eye, help them. When I am willing to fix me first, then I am able and empowered to lovingly talk with them.

We are not supposed to hypocritically judge each other, but we are supposed to love each other and help remove the speck of dust out of our brother's (brother: implies a relationship, not necessarily a genetic relationship, but one that is spiritual and founded on love). Take note of the placement of the instruction to "remove a speck" in this passage. Of the 5 verses/sentences, it is the last one, and it is only half of the last sentence. Jesus is putting emphasis on the first 4 ½ verses and desires us to do the same before we begin speck removing in others.

Is there a perfect Christian in the room? No, so we do need someone to help us get the speck out, this is an action that is needed in the Christian community. But first, and most importantly, look in the mirror so we can see clearly. When we go to a brother for "speck removal" consider the following passages:

Galatians 6:1 (NLT)
1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.

James 5:19-20 (NLT)
19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back,
20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.

When it comes to casting judgment the goal is always restoration… and this should be reflected in our spirit when we go to a brother.

"Here is a good rule for reprovers; first reform thyself" - Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary.

The flip side: If you think you are the one being judged, before you resist the judgment, consider for a moment that maybe you are being confronted by someone who loves you. Maybe they have been where you are and they do have your best interest at hand.

No matter how many times you hear "Don't judge me" this passage will never be a call to become permissive, passive and uncaring about the sin that destroys so many lives. This is a call to humility, repentance, and compassion. Judge yourself because Jesus will judge you. Judge yourself so that you can repent. Judge yourself so that you can see clearly help others.

There is no doubt we live in a morally permissive culture; and if Satan can have his way the church will fall silent on the subject of sin and let the world go to Hell. Sadly too many of us won't judge others because we are unwilling to go through the pain of first judging ourselves.
I do not endorse a legalism that turns personal conviction, or personal preference into moral law. But if we live righteousness, and virtuous lives then we will learn to judge with the wisdom and compassion that Jesus showed.

The modern world wants us to accept everyone just the way they are. A friend of mine posted a picture on-line of a church sign where they bragged of being an "open and accepting congregation". I replied that " I openly accept that God is right, and men need to repent". I regularly tell people that Jesus loves you just the way you are; but he loves you too much to leave you that way. "While we were still sinners Christ died for us", but never so that we would stay sinners.

1 Thessalonians 5:22-24

22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. 23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is he that calls you, who also will do it.

Whereas the Lord's Prayer says "forgive us as we forgive", so this one says "judge us as we judge".

The judgment that comports to the righteous of Christ is humble, consistent, compassionate, and blameless. May we all learn to judge like that.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

God or Money

Matthew 6:19-24

30 June 2013

Lay Up Treasures in Heaven

19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The Lamp of the Body

22 "The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

You Cannot Serve God and Riches

24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.


This week we turn to a familiar passage of the Sermon on the Mount. There are countless lessons, sermons, and studies based upon You cannot serve God and Money. This phrase has led to many discussions about the usage of money and the Christian Life. It is important for us to consider it as well, not just because money is an important topic, but also because it is an important part of the argument for practicing righteousness that Jesus is presenting in the Sermon on the Mount.


We need to remember that this passages comes in the section of the Sermon prefaced with Matthew 6:1. "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven." The issue of "practicing righteousness" is also apparent in the way we deal with our own money. Previously the sermon spoke of how one's gives money, so when we look at this passage we must keep in mind that the topic is more concerned with the way in which the Christian handles his/her's own money, and from that we can also include the possessions with which one spends one's money.


In general we must make the point in this lesson that there is a righteous way to handle your money and possessions and there is an unrighteous (or self-righteous) way to handle it. We will walk through this passage thought by thought to show how we are to practice righteousness with our money and possessions.


Invest in what Lasts

When we come to this text the first thing that we must notice is the imperative that sets off the section don not lay up. This phrase is important to notice because it is a command. Jesus is talking to us directly and telling what not to do. In this command one is confronted with the age old decision of obeying or not, but before that decision is to be made the reasoning for such a command are given as well.


In this passage we are told not to lay up treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. This last phrase points out the temporary status of the things that we have on this earth, including money. Everything that we have will fall apart at one point. The clothes we buy will wear out, the gadgets we gather will be obsolete in a year, even the larger investments, like homes and vehicles, will ultimately fail us. The things of the earth are temporary; they can be destroyed, decayed, or stolen and we are left without them when that happens.


If you follow the idea of fasting and prayer to express your dependency upon God, then you can understand that our finances also express our dependency on God, and a desire for His eternal kingdom.


In comparison to not laying up temporary treasures on earth is the command to lay up treasure in heaven. The basic meaning of this is that what we have in heaven is eternal. Nothing can break it, destroy it, or steal it. The treasures of heaven are those things serving God. Our relationships with God's people, our investing in God's work, and ultimately our relationship with God Himself, all are treasures we can lay up, investments in the eternal. What we have in heaven will last forever.


This text is very similar it 1 John 2:15-17:


Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.


In this passage we also have a negative command: to not love the world. When one love's the world one is incapable of loving the Father. There is a mutual exclusivity between the two. Moreover, this text in 1 John indicates that what is in the world is passing away. The Greek language here indicates a downward spiral. Thus, we can say that the things of this world are not worth investing in because they are progressively getting worse. Temporary things are a bad investment.


The close of this section of Scripture states it simply: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. An illustration we used here before is to imagine carrying all your valuables with you in a duffle bag. And anytime you set that bag down your focus would be constantly drawn to that bag. To watch it, keep it and protect it. In that behavior is the natural understanding that earthly treasure can be lost, devalued, even destroyed as with all temporary things.


Consume what is Healthy

The next paragraph in the text seems to be odd at first reading. It may appear that Jesus is now just quoting proverbs to His audience, but that is not true. Though this is proverbial, it is nevertheless germane to the topic. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!


There is a behavior called tunnel-vision, which is being so focused on one thing that you miss all the other things around us. If your focus is already on the light of God's kingdom, then that focus will enlighten everything you do. But if you can only see the temporary, and focus on those things then your life will full of darkness.


Think of the current campaigns to stop texting and driving. The campaign is important because when we are texting our eyes' attention is on our phone instead of on the road in front of us. In a way we have darkened our eyesight to that which is most important in the moment: keeping watch on the road.


Though our eyes are small they take in much around us that aids us in our bodily tasks. It is also true of our spiritual lives. The things we allow ourselves to see have a great effect on the way in which our spiritual life functions. If we allow ourselves to consume the evils of the world, the lusts of the flesh and the lusts of the eyes and pride of life, (as 1 John said) we will be left with something that will fade away and darkness is all we will see. On the other hand, if we choose to focus on that which is light, that which is Holy, then we will have great light and will be able to see better.


This illustration of the eye has direct implications to the money and possessions we have in life. If we look to them to fulfill the God shaped vacuum we all have in our hearts (Pascal) then we will find ourselves groping around in darkness. However, if we look to God and His righteousness then we will know the proper way to utilize the possessions and money that God has afforded us in this life.


Choose what is Holy

Finally, we are given the task of making a choice. In the beginning of this passage the two imperatives leave us with a choice. The final part of this passage finalizes the extent of that choice.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

At first glance this passage seems to have the treasures we are laying up as neutral things of the world. We may believe they are just things and we should lessen some and increase others. However, this last sentence denies such a reading. The treasures we lay up can become Masters for us. In other words we can become slaves to money or be slaves to God. Dave Ramsey likes to say that money makes a good servant, but a terrible master. He uses this to emphasize making a budget every month so that your money goes where you tell it and nowhere else.


Though the word-choice of slave is important for it shows that, though we can choose between which masters we have, that is the extent of our choice. If we choose to seek money (Mammon as a personification of wealth) then we must know that serving money will dominate our lives. If we choose to seek God then make ourselves a servant if Him and His kingdom. There is no middle ground. One cannot have the proverbial cake and eat it too. A choice must be made between God and Mammon.


There is a fine line between owning things and having things own you. Once we buy these things they have to be maintained and insured, and if we finance them, then they have to be paid off. Use extreme caution concerning material possessions. Always remember they are temporary, corruptible, and depreciate constantly. We must not forget that it is difficult for a rich man to enter heaven. (Matt 19:23) This does not mean that owning things is bad, God blesses us in diverse ways. What it means is that we must not let our hearts turn from God to the temporal things of this world.


Where is your treasure and where is your focus? These things reveal who or what really has our heart. The First commandment is to love the Lord with our heart, soul, mind and strength. Lord means Master, so the relationship is clear. If God has your heart it's easier to fix the things where we stumble. But if our affections are on this world, and God only has a small slice of our life; then we lose our motivation to focus on and serve the eternal. We become eternally blind.