Against the Flow

Monday, December 28, 2015, 9:11 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “In Faithfulness He Leads Me.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Matthew 11:12-19, 28-30 (NIV84).

Forcefully Advancing (vv. 12-15)

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears, let him hear.

John the Baptist was called of God, even before he was born, to be the messenger prophesied about in the Old Testament who would prepare the way for the ministry and ultimate life sacrifice of Jesus Christ – our Messiah, Savior and Lord (God). Jesus gave his life up for us on the cross so that we might be forgiven our sins and be delivered out of slavery to sin. The prophets of old, as well, foretold the coming of the Christ, our Messiah, who would take away the sins of the world. In addition, the law was put into effect to lead us to Jesus Christ until he came. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all the law and the prophets. And, he is the embodiment of the kingdom of heaven, which is concerning his life, death, resurrection, ascension into heaven, his sending of his Spirit, the life of the church (his body), his coming again to judge and to take us to be with him forever, his millennial kingdom reign on the earth, and the new heavens, the new earth, and eternity with God in glory.

Although many translations translate verse twelve to say that the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and that violent men take it by force, neither the context of the passage, nor the Greek language bear that out, from what I can tell. While it is true that violent men are advancing against the kingdom of heaven, against our Lord, and in opposition to his gospel of salvation, and in hostility toward his servants and witnesses, I don’t believe that is what is meant here. In context, this is speaking of John as a messenger of God, preparing the way for Christ, and of the prophets who came before him, who were also God’s messengers. These men, in the power of God, advanced the kingdom of God forcefully, i.e. persuasively, powerfully, insistently, and urgently, and with much determination, faithfulness, and purpose of heart and mind. They did this by being obedient to God’s leading, his call on their lives, and by telling the people what God gave them to say.

This is what we should be doing, too. As Christ’s Body, his representatives, and his messengers in this world, we should be safeguarding, upholding and defending the truth of God’s Holy Word against all evil and opposing forces, in particular against all that would malign the word of God and would try to bring it into disrepute, or that would try to distort the truths of scripture in order to deceive and to persuade people to follow after lies. We should also be maintaining and continuing in our walks of faith with Jesus Christ, and we should not be guilty of straying from his word or from our pure devotion to him. We should be faithful and steadfast in faith. Our very lives, as well as our words, should be influencing the world around us away from lifestyles of sin, and to faith in Jesus Christ – to repentance and obedience to his commands – all in the power and working of the Spirit of God within us. We should be giving the world the message that Jesus came to set us free from our captivity to sin, and that he will empower us to live for him in his righteousness. Amen!

This Generation (vv. 16-19)

“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

“‘We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.’

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”’ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.”

There are always going to be people in this life who will not approve of us, and who will find something about us they don’t like. There will be those who think we should act a certain way or do certain things which fit in with the culture or with what they might consider to be the norms of society. If we are different (unique), they might think us strange, weird, quirky, crazy, extreme, or whatever tag they might assign to us, as they did to Jesus and to John. But, different is not necessarily bad. It is perfectly ok to go against the flow, providing you are going God’s way and not the way of sin. In fact, God’s messengers throughout Biblical history were not popular, not generally well received, and not accepted by society as a whole. Yet, there will be those who will try to convince you that there is truth in numbers, and that if you seemingly stand alone that you must be wrong, but that is bad theology.

The majority is not always right. In fact, scripture teaches that the way to heaven is narrow, and that few find it, but that the way to destruction is broad, and that many travel that path to their own demise. Many are teaching that we must immerse ourselves in the culture of our day, and that we should blend in with the world so the world will accept us, with the premise that they, too, will accept the message of the gospel of salvation. Yet, the gospel is opposed to this sinful world and to blending in with our culture. It teaches us to come out from the world of sin and to be separate, and to touch no unclean thing. God commands that we be holy, which means to be set apart (unlike, different) from the world, because we are becoming like Christ. And, God’s grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return. A godly life is a life separate from the world, and set apart unto God and his service.

So, we will face pressure to conform to the ways of this world and to compromise our faith and convictions in order to not stand out, but to be accepted by others. Yet, it is not for the acceptance of humans that we live, breathe and worship God with our lives. It is God’s approval we must seek, not the praise of humans. We might be mocked, hated, made fun of, disapproved, rejected and persecuted for our stand for Christ and for his gospel, and for our commitment to “forcefully advancing” the kingdom of heaven, but that is ok. God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in times of trouble. He will give us all we need to endure, to stand strong, to fight the enemy with the armor of God (Eph. 6), and to keep on keeping on in sharing the gospel of our salvation, even against great opposition. We just need to trust him, rest in his love and in his promises, and never ever give up!

Rest for the Weary (vv. 28-30)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

In Faithfulness He Leads Me

An Original Work / March 20, 2013 / Based off Various Scriptures
(Ps. 26:3; 86:11; 91:4-5; 111:7-8; 119:73-76; Is. 25:1,4&9; 42:6-7; Hos. 2:16-20)

Teach me Your ways, Lord, and I’ll walk in them.
Give me a pure heart. I’ll fear Your name.
Your love is always, ever before me.
Continually I’ll walk in Your truth.
You will cover me with feathers.
Under Your wings I’ll find refuge.
My Lord’s faithfulness will be my
Comfort and my shield.
The works of His hands are faithful and just.
Trustworthy are all of His precepts.

Your hands have made me, and they have formed me.
Give understanding of Your commands.
I have put my hope, O Lord, in Your word.
Your teachings, O Lord, are righteousness.
Lord, in faithfulness You have
Afflicted me so I may learn of
Your unfailing love and comfort
And Your truthfulness.
You are my husband; You have betrothed me
In love, compassion and faithfulness.

O Lord, You are my God, I’ll exalt You.
In faithfulness You’ve done wondrous things.
You’ve been a refuge for those who’re needy;
A shelter in storms; shade from the heat.
This is the Lord, we trusted in Him,
Let us be glad and rejoice
In His salvation which He
Provided through the Lamb.
Open the blind eyes; free all the captives.
Tell them of Jesus: “Be born again!”

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