Matthew 16:1-4 ESV
And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.
The Pharisees and Sadducees were religious leaders and teachers of the scriptures within the temple of God at that time. And, the temple of God at that time was a physical building made by human hands, following God’s design and instructions. It was there that people went to worship and to make sacrifices to God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
Today the temple of God is no longer a physical building, for God does not dwell in buildings built by human hands. He dwells in the human hearts of those who are trusting in him as Lord and as Savior of their lives. So, we are now his temple, his body, his church. We, the people of God, are his church, for the church is not a building or an organization or a business of men, but it is a living organism made up of people, who are its living stones.
The Pharisees and Sadducees were also opposed to Jesus Christ. Although they knew the promise God made to Abraham and to his seed, i.e. the Messiah that was to come, when he (Jesus) came, they would not accept him as the one who was to come, the one that they had been waiting for. They refused to believe in him, and so they strongly opposed him.
And, one of the ways in which they regularly opposed him was to try to find ways to trip him up so that they could accuse him falsely of wrongdoing. And, one of the ways in which Satan today opposes the Lord’s followers is via trickery and false accusations, too. And, Satan uses human beings to do his dirty work, too, and some of them are also religious leaders within the temple of God, his church, who have come in by a way other than The Door.
So, these religious leaders within the temple of God asked Jesus for a sign, but he had already given them lots of signs, but they didn’t want to believe in him, so they were not looking to believe in him, but to discredit him. So, this was a trap. And, Jesus knew what was in their hearts. And, so he repeated something he had said before, and that is that an evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but they will only be given the sign of Jonah, which earlier he explained was a sign of his death, burial and resurrection; of his plan of salvation to save human lives (Matt. 12:38-42).
And, the Lord’s plan of salvation for our lives is that, just as he died to sin on that cross and he rose from the dead in victory over sin and the grave, so we, too, must die with him daily to sin and self, and we must live to him and to his righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24; Lu. 9:23-25; Rom. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24).
Matthew 16:5-12 ESV
When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
So, Jesus, knowing what was in the hearts of these religious leaders who were trying to trip him up with his words, so that they could falsely accuse him, warned his followers against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees, which was spreading like gangrene. And, what was their teaching? It primarily had to do with externals, i.e. with following a bunch of rules and regulations which made people look clean on the outside but which did not change their hearts and their lifestyles.
And, we have such teaching again today which deals primarily with externals, but does not change people’s hearts nor impact their lifestyles much at all. And, that is this teaching that says that you can profess faith in Jesus Christ at one point in time in your life and you are good to go from that point forward no matter how you live your life. They give the appearance outwardly of having a relationship with Jesus Christ, but by their lifestyles they deny him.
As well, their faith is largely based in humanistic philosophy and human-based religious practices, many of which are traditions passed down from generation to generation, thought to be signs that one is genuinely saved, but scripturally they have no backing.
And, one of those practices says that it is a sign that people have truth faith in the Lord Jesus if they attend religious services in buildings called “church” on a weekly or even more regular basis.
But, God does not dwell in buildings built by human hands, thus the building or the organization or church denomination is not the church, so there is nothing sacred about going to these buildings or attending these gatherings in these buildings, which today are largely a mixture of the world and the church, with a large focus on man-made religion and marketing schemes.
And, attending “church” does not make anyone a true follower of Jesus Christ any more than attending school makes one a true student. Yes, we are commanded in scripture not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, but this is not talking about attending meetings at buildings called “church,” but which are truly just businesses of men marketed just like any other business of men, made to appeal to and to attract the flesh of man.
The gathering together the scriptures are talking about is the gathering together of those who are true followers of Christ for the purpose of the teaching of the Word, fellowship, prayer and the breaking of bread.
And, those gatherings can take place anywhere on any day of the week, including on the internet via Christian discussion sites or Christian blogs, etc. For, these gatherings also are to involve the body, as a whole, working together to encourage one another in the faith and to help one another to maturity in Christ, our Lord. And, on the internet there are many opportunities for doing just that, not just to a localized body of fellowship in Christ, but to the universal body of Christ throughout the world.
True Followers of Christ
So, you don’t have to attend something called “church” that is not the true church in order to be a true follower of Jesus Christ. And, attending such a gathering also does not automatically make you a true follower of Jesus Christ, nor does a mere profession of faith. What makes us true followers of Christ are not externals and not mere professions of faith in Jesus, but they are lives given to Jesus Christ, making him Lord (owner-master) of our lives.
What makes us true followers of Jesus Christ is leaving our lives of sin behind us to follow our Lord Jesus in obedience to his commands. This is not a requirement for absolute sinless perfection, for if that could be attained, Jesus would not have had to die on that cross. But, what is required is that, by the Spirit of God, we walk (in lifestyle) according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God and that we no longer walk according to our sinful flesh.
Yet, there are many teachers of the Word of God today who are saying that we don’t have to repent of our sins, and that we don’t have to follow our Lord in obedience to his commands, for they equate that to works-based salvation. And, many of them have reduced even the sharing of the gospel of our salvation to doing good deeds in order to bless people, while they discourage and even disparage the actual preaching of the gospel of repentance and obedience to Christ for forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God.
So, what our Lord is saying here is that we are not to listen to those who are preaching externals as our path to salvation while they do not preach repentance and obedience to Christ, i.e. heart transformations of the Spirit of God away from living to sin and self in order to follow our Lord in surrender and in obedience to him and to His Word.
For, we must know that we are all going to reap what we sow. If we sow to please the flesh, from the flesh we will reap destruction (decay, death). But, if we sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit we will reap eternal life (Gal. 6:7-8; cf. Lu. 9:23-25; Rom. 8:1-17; Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Jn. 1:5-9).
Awaken the Dawn
An Original Work / January 15, 2013
Based off Psalm 57 (NIV 1984)
O my God, have mercy on me!
In the Lord, my soul takes refuge.
In the shadow of Your wings, Lord,
I find shelter till the storms pass.
I cry out to my God Most High.
He fulfills His purpose for me.
He sent His Son to die for me,
So I could be saved.
I am in the midst of lions;
Men whose teeth are spears and arrows;
Whose tongues are sharp; words accusing.
They spread a net, my feet to catch.
They dug a pit, in hopes I’d fall.
O God, be exalted o’er all.
Let Your glory shine to all men,
So they may be saved.
Steadfast is my heart, O my God;
I will sing of all Your wonders.
Awake, my soul! Sing praise to God!
Early I will rise and praise Him!
I’ll praise God among the nations;
I will sing among the peoples.
God’s love reaches to the heavens,
So we may be saved.
Thursday, June 27, 2019