"Watch therefore, for youknow neither the day nor the hour.
"For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away." - Matthew 25:13-15, ESV
Sometimes you'll see the stories in the news of the investors - brokers or hedge fund managers - who lost all of their clients' money in some scheme. Sometimes they get fired, sometimes they end up in jail and sometimes they choose to end their lives in shame. In today's passage, Jesus tells a story about three servants who were entrusted with their master's money, to invest wisely while he is away on a journey.
Each talent mentioned in this parable was a large sum of money, weighing as much as 75 pounds. If these were gold talents, then they were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each. If they were silver talents, they may have still been worth $10,000 or more each. For us, these talents represent the resources and opportunities Jesus has given us to advance His kingdom.
What have you been given by Jesus? Do you feel like the man who was given five talents, greatly blessed by God with education, opportunity and financial resources? Or do you feel more like the two-talent servant, blessed with much but not necessarily wealthy? I doubt many people reading this blog would have the right to feel like the one-talent servant, but maybe you do. Maybe you feel like God has hardly given you any resources you can use for His kingdom.
However much you have been given, you have been entrusted with something: You have your life, your relationships, your time, your educational background, your financial resources, your understanding of spiritual things, your church, etc. If we really think about it, most of us have indeed been greatly blessed.
How much you have is not the question. What you do with what you've been given is the only thing that matters. So, what are you doing with what Jesus gave you?
Are you praying for the people you know who don't know Jesus? Are you looking for ways to share the Gospel with them? Are you supporting solid Gospel-proclaiming ministries with the financial resources you have, starting with your home church? Are you looking for opportunities to invite people to church? to share Scripture with them? Are you teaching a Sunday School class or leading a Bible study? Are you looking for ways to serve the poor in your community? to support missions around the world?
One day, the Master will return and the accounts will be settled. I know none of us want to be that poor servant who buried his talent in the ground out of fear.
Prayer Based on Psalm 57:
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to You, O God Most High, to You, my God, for You fulfill all of Your purpose for me. You will send from heaven and save me; You will put to shame him who tramples on me. You know my enemies and how tempted I am to believe lies and run after my own destruction.
You will send out Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness! My soul is in the midst of lions - the devil prowls like a roaring lion, seeking to devour; I lie down amid fiery beasts—the world and its destructing ways, my flesh and its deceptive lusts.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!
But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. . .Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
- Matthew 24:36, 42-44, ESV
No one knows when Jesus will come again. Jesus really could not have been more clear about this truth, but still people have made their predictions. I remember a book I saw in a Christian bookstore on clearance in the year 1990. It was called, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988.
About five years ago, Harold Camping made the news with his bold and public prediction that May 21, 2011 was the final judgment day. This was followed by a bold prediction of Earth Destruction Day on Oct. 21, 2011, complete with the slogan: "The Bible guarantees it!" No, the opposite is true: The Bible guarantees that no one knows the day and hour.
Know this for certain, then: Whatever date someone publicly predicts will be the date of the Second Coming of Jesus, Jesus will not come on that day!
So, if we can't calculate the date of Jesus' Second Coming, what can we do? Some people have jokingly said, "Jesus is Coming: Look Busy!"
Jesus doesn't want us pretending to be busy so we can impress Him when He comes. But He is certainly coming soon. When is "soon"? As Aslan says in Narnia, "I call all times 'soon.'"
Jesus wants us to "be ready." What does that mean? Here are some things we can reasonable deduce from the teachings of Jesus in this passage and elsewhere:
Be believing. Jesus wants us to keep our faith in Him, trusting in Him. He said, "Believe in God; believe also in me.In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." (John 14:1-3)
Be worshiping. God desires our worship because He desires us and He knows that our hearts were made for Him. To paraphrase John Piper: We are most satisfied when we glorify Him and He is most glorified when we are satisfied in Him.
Be serving. Jesus has called us to serve one another, just as He has served us. He is our servant-Savior, and we follow Him when we serve others.
Be loving. Jesus taught us that the most important commandments were to love God and love our neighbors. Then, He added a new commandment, that we are to love one another in the body of Christ the same way that He has loved us. (John 13:34-35)
Be obeying and repenting. The wicked servant in today's passage (vv. 45-51) takes his master's delay as an excuse to sin and abuse his authority and abuse his fellow servants. Jesus warns us not to be like that servant. Instead, we need to strive to be faithful and obedient to His will and to repent quickly when we fail.
It's as simple as this: Jesus says, "Hold on, I'm coming!" - “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” - Rev. 22:7, ESV
Prayer from Psalm 56:
Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me; my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.
Will Jesus Really Come Again? When? How Will We Know?
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. . . So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. - Matthew 24:14, 26-27, ESV Jesus promised His disciples that He would come again and bring the end of this age, to judge the living and the dead, to gather His own to Himself forever, to bring a final end to sin and suffering. But will He? When? How will we know when He does? Lots of people have written books, made predictions and made money off of this topic, but what did Jesus Himself say? 1. Jesus said the Gospel would first be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all ethnic groups (nations). This is the single condition or timeline Jesus ever told us related to His Second Coming. He said that the Gospels had to be proclaimed world-wide, to every people group, every ethnic group. While we still have hundreds and hundreds of unreached people groups who have not heard the Gospel, the interest of every Christian who wants to see Jesus face-to-face is clear: Advance the Gospel to those who have never heard. Make sure the testimony of Jesus reaches the ends of the earth. 2. Jesus told us not to be alarmed (v. 6). False prophets, doomsday predictors and even false Christs have all arisen, just as Jesus predicted. None of them has surprised God or altered God's plan. If we belong to Jesus, we are safe and secure and have no reason to fear anything or anyone. 3. Jesus said things would get worse for Christians before the end. The followers of Jesus have always faced persecution and opposition in this world. Jesus said it would only intensify before the end. This is not a sign that God has lost control, but that everything is happening according to plan. God's people are always safe in His hands, even if we are mocked, ridiculed, demonized or violently persecuted. 4. Jesus said the whole world would know when He comes again. The Second Coming of Jesus won't be a secret, so don't believe anyone who says otherwise, The whole world will see Him and every knee will bow before Him when He comes. 5. As Christians, our call is clear: Keep trusting in Jesus and endure to the end. We cannot let the world shake our confidence or disturb our peace, which is secure in Christ. No matter how lonely or difficult it may become, we must hold to Jesus, knowing that He is always holding us. This great worship anthem will help remind us of the truth as we wait: Prayer Based on Psalm 55: Heavenly Father, we need You to hear our prayer and to attend to our pleas for mercy. Whether we realize it or not, we live in hostile territory and we face opposition from enemies all around us. The truth is that even many of those who call themselves Christians and who claim to worship You in churches hate those who hold to Your truth and slander us publicly, calling us bigoted and hateful and prejudiced and evil. They compare us to racists and Nazis because we uphold Your truth that You have created us male and female and that You have created marriage and the family according to Your design and for Your purposes. But we face other, even more deadly, enemies. Our own hearts, drawn to sin, threaten to derail our faith and testimony. The world's enticements and empty promises tempt us to forsake Your for wealth or pleasure. Guard our hearts and minds in You. But I call to God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me. (vv. 16-18) Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. (v. 22) I trust in You, my Lord. I believe Your promises. Keep me and sustain me, according to Your goodness. I pray this in Jesus' name and ask for all of Your people, Amen.
"See, your house is left to you desolate.For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” - Matthew 23:38-39, ESV One of the most heart-breaking aspects of the Gospels is watching the Jewish people reject their long-awaited Messiah and come under God's judgment as a result. For most of Jesus' ministry, the crowds of common people flocked to Him and surrounded Him, while the religious leaders stood far off, judging Him and plotting against Him. But by the end, the leaders had turned the crowds against Him. The Jewish people cried out for the Son of David to be crucified. Jesus made the consequences of their rejection very clear: "Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down." In His parable of the owner and tenants of the vineyard, the wedding feast and others, Jesus made it clear that the kingdom of God was going to be taken away from the Jewish people and given to others, to the Gentiles. The nature of the kingdom has been transformed from a geo-political power associated with a single ethnicity to a world-wide movement of people from every tribe, tongue, people and nation. But is the story over for the Jewish people? Have they played their part and been set aside permanently? No! Jesus said that Jerusalem would not see Him again until they say (again), "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." This was the proper and triumphant cry on Palm Sunday. It was too quickly changed to "Crucify! Crucify!" Jesus said it will rise again from the lips of the Jewish people before they see Him again face-to-face. Zechariah the prophet foretold this day, the merciful turning of the hearts of the Jewish people to their Messiah: "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn." - Zechariah 12:10, ESV Paul also tells of this turning of the Jewish people to their Messiah in Romans 11:
Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” (vv. 25-27, ESV) So, pray for the Jewish people. God has not set them aside forever. He will bring them back to Himself through Christ. And work hard to advance the Gospel to the nations, for God says the Jewish people will turn to Him once "the fullness of the Gentiles has come in." Prayer Based on Psalm 54: O God, save me by your name, and vindicate me by your might. O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth. For strangers have risen against me; ruthless men seek my life; they do not set God before themselves. Selah Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. He will return the evil to my enemies; in your faithfulness put an end to them. With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good. For he has delivered me from every trouble,
and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies. Heavenly Father, You have indeed saved me and vindicated me by Your mighty Right Hand, Jesus Christ. He took my sins upon Himself on the cross and rose again to conquer sin and death. But still my enemies surround me and seek my destruction. Still my own flesh runs after sin. Still the world tempts and entices. Still the devil mocks, accuses, tempts and shames me. You alone are my Helper, the Upholder of my life. I know You will rescue me. I know You can and will strengthen and fully deliver me, from the power of sin and, one day, from the very presence of sin in my life. And so I thank You. I praise You. I freely offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving and I seek to offer why life as a living sacrifice, freely and fully dedicated to You. In Jesus' name, Amen.
The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat,so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
- Matthew 23:2-4, ESV
How many times have you heard people say that the church is full of hypocrites? What do they mean by that? What is hypocrisy? I'm afraid that too often "hypocrite" can be used like the word "legalistic," as a weapon to silence those with whom we disagree. Today passage in Matthew is Jesus' longest rebuke of the scribes and Pharisees and also the best teaching in the Bible to help us understand what hypocrisy really is.
The word "hypocrite" comes from the Greek theater and refers to those who wear the mask and play a part on the stage. It essentially means someone who pretends to be something they are not, usually to gain power or favor or social status.
From Jesus' condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees, we can compile a list of character qualities of a true hypocrite:
1. Hypocrites proclaim things which they have no intention of doing themselves. "For they preach, but do not practice." - v. 3
2. Hypocrites only do religious things for a show to impress others. "They do all their deeds to be seen by others." - v. 5
3. Hypocrites look for loopholes so they don't have to keep their commitments. "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’" - v. 16
4. Hypocrites major on the minors and totally neglect the majors. "You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!" - v. 24
5. Hypocrites only care about the outside appearance of their lives and not the internal state of their hearts. "For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence." - v. 25
6. Hypocrites angrily oppose those who truly speak the word of God. "Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town." - v. 34
So, based on these descriptors, is the church full of hypocrites? Sure, some churches at some times are. But so is the world. It's part of our human nature. But notice also what hypocrisy is not: Hypocrisy is not sincerely believing and trying to follow the Lord, but still falling into sin and falling short of your best aspirations.
Most believers that I know sincerely believe in the Lord and desire to follow Him and honor Him with their lives, but they also struggle with ongoing sin in their lives. They will readily admit that they are sinners who fall short and are not trying to pretend they are something else other than they are.
Are there exceptions? Absolutely! The church is home to real hypocrites. And all of us can be tempted to play the hypocrite at times, especially when we're ashamed of our sinful behavior and so we pretend that we're doing better than we are. The good news of the Gospel gives us grace to admit when we're broken, inadequate and falling short. We will never be self-sufficient, and we don't have to pretend that we're so good that we don't need Jesus. Jesus frees us from hypocrisy and invites us into a life of authentic, humble discipleship fully dependent on Him!
Prayer Based on Psalm 53:
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good. God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. Heavenly Father, we cannot possibly save ourselves. Our hearts are naturally sinful and selfish, denying You and doing only what pleases ourselves. We only confess our helplessness to be righteous or to please You in any way. Have those who work evil no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God? There they are, in great terror, where there is no terror! For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you; you put them to shame, for God has rejected them. Father, when we look around us at this world that You have made and at the people who bear Your image, we are stunned by the violence of those who oppose You and Your people. Militant Islamists execute Your people, steal their homes and burn their churches. Militant atheists mock and ridicule Your people and blaspheme Your name. You oppose those who oppose You. Bind them and keep them from harming Your people and thwarting Your Gospel's advance in the world. Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad. We look to You for our salvation, O Lord! You alone can restore the fortunes of Your people. You alone can give us a joy that surpasses all of our circumstances and strengthens us to live for Your glory! We love You, O Lord, and we look to You to keep Your promises and bless Your people. In Jesus' name, Amen.
"But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God." - Matthew 22:29, ESV
We human beings are always trying to bring God down to our level, to make Him more manageable. Man-made pagan religions create gods that look and act very much like very powerful and somewhat spoiled humans. Voltaire said, "If God has made us in his image, we have returned him the favor."
In this passage, we see the Sadducees and the Pharisees both trying to shrink God down to their level. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection and denied many of the supernatural aspects of God's rule over creation, including angels. So Jesus told them that they were ignorant of the Scriptures and the power of God and then told them that believers in the resurrection will be like the angels, thus confronting both of their God-shrinking errors at once.
The Pharisees tried to shrink God by making God's Law a matter of a list of rules, hundreds of regulations to keep daily. But God's Law is both simpler and so much larger than the Pharisees list of regulations. By pointing to the heart of the Law - loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself - Jesus clarified God's righteous standard and showed how small and petty the Pharisees' attempts at obedience were.
Then, after Jesus corrected both the Sadducees and Pharisees, He then challenged their shrunken view of the Messiah. The Messiah was not merely the son of David, as they thought, but was actually David's Lord.
We need to examine the ways in which we are tempted to reduce God, to bring Him down to a manageable size. Do we deny His absolute sovereignty over everything, including salvation? Do we deny His absolute holiness? Do we deny the eternal nature of His justice? Do we deny His rule over every detail of our lives? Do we fail to give Him the thanks He is due?
In whatever ways we're tempted to shrink God, we need to repent and allow Scripture to correct and inform our view of Him. The Gospels and the Psalms are great places to get a truer picture of our Great God!
Prayer Based on Psalm 52:
Heavenly Father, why do men boast of evil, denying Your righteous and sovereign rule?
Your steadfast love endures all the day.
The tongues of the wicked plots destruction,
like a sharp razor, these workers of deceit,
love evil more than good,
and lying more than speaking what is right because they are deceived by the father of lies.
They love all words that devour,
and my deceitful tongue often leads me to want to join them in lies.
Forgive me, O my Father!
Mighty God, You will break all lies forever with Your truth;
You will snatch and tear the wicked from their security;
You will uproot Your enemies from the land of the living.
The righteous shall see and fear,
and shall laugh at them, saying,
“See the people who would not make
God their refuge,
but trusted in the abundance of their riches
and sought refuge in the lies and sins that led to their own destruction!”
Father, as I meditate on this Psalm, my heart breaks for my country, our culture and the rising generation. Have mercy while there is still time!
But I am like a green olive tree
in Your house, O God.
I trust in Your steadfast love
forever and ever.
I will thank You forever,
because You have done it.
I will wait for Your name, for it is good,
in the presence of the godly.
Hear me and strengthen my trust in You, Father, in Jesus' name, Amen!
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’For many are called, but few are chosen.” - Matthew 22:11-14
Who doesn't love a good feast? Apparently, if it's a wedding feast and God the Father is the host and Jesus is the bridegroom, lots of people just can't be bothered. They pay no attention and go about their normal, boring lives as if no fattened animals have been slaughtered and no tables have been set.
We can see the reality of this parable all around us. The God of the Universe has sent His only Son, who has lived perfectly, died sacrificially and risen victoriously for one reason: to glorify God by providing full and free salvation - forgiveness, reconciliation with God, adoption into God's family, eternal life. But most people simply don't care. They're not hostile; they're just too busy with their lives to be interested. They use words like "religion" and "church" to make salvation seem as man-made and boring as possible.
And then, sadly, there are some others who think they can crash God's party on their own terms. These "Wedding Crashers" think religion is a way to earn eternal life. They have ignored the terms of God's wedding invitation and despised the wedding garments which Jesus lived and died to earn for them. Instead of the perfect robes of Christ's righteousness, they come in the filthy rags of their own righteousness, thinking their own good works will count the same as the finished work of Christ.
Sadly, when the wedding feast truly begins, they will find out how wrong they are. They will see how poorly clothed with ridiculous rags they truly are. The pathetic inadequacy of their own righteousness and attempted good deeds will be clear, but it will be too late.
So, what about you? God has prepared the wedding feast for His Son. The Bible calls it the wedding supper of the Lamb. Your clothes for attending are the robes of perfect righteousness earned by Jesus Himself. He offers them to you free of charge, to be received by faith. The only catch is you have to see your own sin and realize how impossible it would be for you to dress yourself for the wedding in your own righteousness.
Are you too busy to notice or care?
Are you still convinced God will accept your good deeds as good enough to get you into the feast?
Or are you trusting in Jesus alone for your salvation? Are you confessing that Christ and Christ alone in your righteousness and your salvation? Can you sing this song truly, from the heart?
Prayer Based on Psalm 51:
What a great prayer of repentance!
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right[b] spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Do good to Your church in your good pleasure; build up the faith and unity of Your people; then we will offer You the right sacrifice, a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips giving thanks to Your name, our lives lived as living sacrifices for You.